Stubborn, tough-talking Chicago mafia lieutenant Anthony (Tony the Hatchet) Chiaramonti was slain on Thanksgiving eve 15 years ago, November 22, 2001, shot dead at close range in the vestibule of a local fast-food joint, the first victim of a fierce power struggle at the top of the Windy City mob for control of the Outfit’s Cicero crew. The notorious 67-year old gangland enforcer’s murder has never been solved.

Nicknamed for his weapon of choice, Chiaramonti showed up for a meeting at the Brown’s Chicken & Pasta in suburban Lyons Township, Illinois, just outside Chicago, after he ate his holiday meal with his family and met his fate: the Hatchet got pumped full of bullets as he fled a parking lot confrontation with his killer and tried to take refuge inside the restaurant. He never made it in the front door. The assassin fled in a waiting van.

“There was a rift in the Outfit’s leadership on the street back then, Tony Chiaramonti played a very active presence in stirring the proverbial pot,” recalled a retired FBI agent. “The guy got targeted for a reason.”

The Chiaramonti hit was the first salvo fired in what turned out to be a five-year period of unrest and acrimony in the Chicago mafia, pitting two factions of the storied Cicero regime against each other in a quest for day-to-day authority in Outfit affairs and bookended by high-profile mob executions. After acting boss John (Johnny Apes) Monteleone died of cancer in January 2001 and the Outfit’s proverbial county seat swung from Johnny Apes’ Southside stomping grounds back to the syndicate’s historic Cicero wing, intense jockeying amongst the Cicero crew elite for the right to call shots ensued.

One side of the feud was headed by the ambitious and power-hungry Michael (Fat Mike) Sarno, the other perceived heir-apparent James (Jimmy the Man) Marcello, at that time still in prison for another two years on a racketeering conviction. Chiaramonti had been convicted in and served time behind bars for the same case Marcello was locked up for. FBI records refer to Chiaramonti as Marcello’s “main muscle” on the streets. In the weeks prior to Chiaramonti’s killing, Marcello’s second-in-command Anthony (Little Tony) Zizzo, was released from prison. He would disappear in August 2006 and is presumed dead.

Tony Chiaramonti

Tony Chiaramonti

Marcello, Zizzo and Tony the Hatchet belonged to the branch of the Cicero crew that came up under deceased don Sam (Wings) Carlisi, who was indicted and incarcerated with them in 1992. Carlisi mentored Marcello. Sarno was groomed by Carlisi’s underboss Ernest (Rocky) Infelise.

Chiaramonti’s arrest record dated back to the 1960s. His first conviction came in 1967 for hijacking a truck. Throughout the 1980s and early 1990s, Chiaramonti oversaw Carlisi’s loansharking and collections. He was recorded admonishing a debtor for being late with repaying a $5,000 loan after the debtor blamed another man for not paying him what he was owed as an excuse for his tardiness.

“You go find that guy and you put your foot on his throat and tell him to go out and get me my fucking money,” he’s heard yelling. “You think I’m kidding? I have the legal right to break your head right now.”

Grabbing the debtor by the throat, the wire clearly caught the assault on tape.

“Hey, get your hands off me,” the debtor said.

“If you miss one more payment, I’ll bury ya,” Chiaramonti told him.

Chiaramonti began stepping on a lot of toes after he was sprung from the can in 1998, per police documents based on informant intelligence files. On the morning of November 15, 2001, an FBI surveillance unit watched on as Chiaramonti got into a public spat at a Cicero pancake house with Jimmy Marcello’s brother Michael (Big Mickey) Marcello and infamous Westside Outfit strong arm Francis (Frank the German) Schweihs. The argument started at a table inside the restaurant and quickly escalated, spilling over to the parking lot. Tony the Hatchet shoved both Marcello and Schweihs in full view of the two FBI agents stationed in a nearby car prior to speeding off in his brand new $75,000 BMW.

Exactly a week later, Chiaramonti was clipped. Arriving at Brown’s Chicken & Pasta at around 6:00 p.m., he parked his Beamer and went inside to use a pay phone. As he left the restaurant and headed back towards his car, a green minivan pulled up intercepting his progress, causing Chiaramonti to bolt for the Brown’s vestibule with one of the van’s occupants, a burly, gun-toting assailant with a dark-complexion wearing a dark blue Chicago Bears jacket, in hot pursuit. Tony the Hatchet tripped entering the vestibule and the pursuing hit man unloaded five shots into Chiaramonti’s head, chest, neck and shoulder. The heavily-feared mobster was announced dead on arrival at an area hospital.

“Tony was vicious and he died like he lived,” the retired fed said. “There were a lot of people who were afraid of him, but there was also a lot of people who were loyal to him, liked him and trusted him immensely.”

Outfit associate Bobby Cooper has admitted to being the getaway driver in the Chiaramonti hit. Cooper named Fat Mike Sarno loyalist Anthony (Tough Tony) Calabrese as the shooter. Calabrese is in the midst of a 50-year prison stint for armed robbery and extortion. Sources have told the government that longtime Chicago Godfather John (Johnny No Nose) DiFronzo “okayed” the hit on Tony the Hatchet and that Elmwood Park capo Rudolph (Rudy the Chin) Fratto “planned” the details of the homicide.

Tony Calabrese

Tony Calabrese

Jimmy Marcello emerged from behind bars in 2003 and lasted just two years on the street as the Outfit’s acting boss. He was one of the lead defendants in the landmark Operations Family Secrets case, which was handed down in April 2005. Marcello, 73, was convicted of murder at a dramatic 2007 trial.

Sarno, 58, got convicted of extortion at trial in 2010 and is in prison today. He’s considered a top suspect in ordering both the Chiaramonti murder and the Little Tony Zizzo slaying. Zizzo and Sarno locked horns over poker-machine vending routes. Little Tony vanished on his way to a reported sit down with Sarno at a restaurant on ritzy Rush Street downtown.

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