In the wake of the death of Chicago mob street boss John (Johnny Apes) Monteleone in January 2001, the upper echelons of the Outfit fractured, resulting in tensions that didn’t completely seize until a half-decade later with the kidnapping and murder of crime family underboss Anthony (Little Tony) Zizzo in the late summer of 2006. The 71-year old Zizzo disappeared 10 years ago last week on his way to a lunch-meeting downtown on Rush Street he thought was to resolve the long-simmering dispute. He was last seen by his wife leaving his Westmont home on the afternoon of August 31, 2006.

Monteleone was the Outfit’s Southside capo and overall day-to-day boss from 1993 until he died of natural causes in 2001 at the age of 77. His passing set off fireworks within the Chicago mob’s Cicero crew. Monteleone’s rackets spanned the Windy City’s Southside and Westside suburbs, home to the Outfit’s Cicero crew, the local mafia’s “county seat” for decades prior to Monteleone assumed power in the early 1990s. As soon as the heavily-respected Johnny Apes died at the beginning of the New Millennium, the Cicero regime got the nod to take over the syndicate again, per an internal Chicago Crime Commission report dated 2009.

The pressing question became what part of the Cicero crew was the Chicago mob’s new leader going to come from? Battle lines were formed, according to the CCC report, pitting Little Tony Zizzo and his best friend James (Jimmy the Man) Marcello against Michael (Fat Mike) Sarno. At the time of Monteleone’s death, Sarno was on the streets, while Marcello and Zizzo were on the verge of being released from federal prison.

“After Monteleone was gone, there were two sides within the Cicero group jockeying for control,” recalled one retired FBI agent. “It got pretty heated. Johnny Apes was the glue in that Borgata for a while. His absence was felt.”

Johnny Apes’ reign through most of the 1990s was relatively peaceful. Compared to the decades of the past in the Windy City, the 90s was a veritable love fest with minimal mob carnage.

"Johnny Apes" Monteleone

“Johnny Apes” Monteleone

Marcello and Zizzo spawned from the wing of the Cicero crew once belonging to former Outfit don Sam (Wings) Carlisi. Sarno hailed from the wing of the crew once headed by former underboss Ernest (Rocky) Infelise. All three were busted for racketeering offenses in the 1990s, Sarno going down with Infelise and his brigade of menacing foot soldiers known jokingly as the “Good Ship Lollipop” in 1990 and Marcello and Zizzo being brought down alongside Carlisi in a December 1992 indictment.

Carlisi died in prison of cancer in 1997. Infelise also died behind bars of natural causes (2005).

The indictment described Marcello as Carlisi’s second-in-command and Zizzo his No. 3 in charge. Both Marcello and Zizzo came from formidable Midwest mafia lineages – Marcello’s dad was slain Outfit loan shark Sam (Sammy Big Eyes) Marcello, Zizzo’s father was Frank (Frankie Cease) Zizzo, a Chitown mafia sub-unit chief tasked with overseeing gambling and juice loans in Northwest Indiana. Jimmy Marcello, per FBI informants, “made his bones” in the mob in the late 1970s by killing the debtor that killed his dad. Marcello and Little Tony Zizzo were inducted into the Outfit in the same 1983 making ceremony, according to FBI documents.

Fat Mike Sarno got out of prison in the fall of 1999 and quickly reestablished himself as an up-and-coming player on the street in Cicero. Zizzo walked free on October 24, 2001. By the end of the next month violence would breakout.

Immediately following Johnny Monteleone’s death earlier in the year, Zizzo and Marcello sought to assert their authority on the outside from behind bars, dispatching their top muscle, the highly-feared Anthony (Tony the Hatchet) Chiaramonti to all the other Outfit heavyweights to let everyone know the crime family’s acting boss and acting underboss positions belonged to them, clearly marking their territory.

Some didn’t listen.

Marcello still had another two years to serve, but knew Zizzo was about to be released and would hold the fort down in his place. Less than a month after Zizzo was sprung from the joint, Chiaramonti was murdered. Informants have told law enforcement, Sarno played a role in setting up the hit contract.

Chiaramonti had run all Sam Carlisi’s loansharking operations and was known as a wildcard of a gangster with a hair-trigger temper, but he was well liked. He was busted with Carlisi, Marcello, Zizzo and others in 1992 and went to prison for six years, reemerging on the streets in 1998, where he was rumored to be difficult to keep a lid on, especially in the aftermath of Monteleone’s death. Tony the Hatchet, nicknamed for his weapon of choice on collection jobs, was rumored to be openly campaigning for stewardship of Monteleone’s Southside crew. Even Marcello and Zizzo had trouble keeping Chiaramonti in check.

According to sources with knowledge of the hit, Sarno pounced, taking advantage of the opportunity to leverage the situation to his advantage, using it as a chance to get rid of his competition’s main enforcer. Tony the Hatchet didn’t help his cause when he got into a public shouting and pushing match with notorious Outfit strong arm and reputed assassin Francis (Frank the German) Schweihs in the days before his slaying on the afternoon of November 15 2001 witnessed by an FBI surveillance team outside a Cicero diner.

Schweihs, who represented the crime family’s Grand Avenue crew on the city’s Westside, was meeting with Chiaramonti to instruct him to “calm down, stop stepping on everybody’s toes, wait until Jimmy (Marcello) comes home in two years and you’ll get what’s coming to you,” per one source. Frank the German was accompanied to his lunch meeting with Chiaramonti by Jimmy Marcello’s half-brother Michael (Big Mickey) Marcello of the Cicero crew.

Chiaramonti lasted exactly another week. Tony the Hatchet was killed on November 22, 2001, Thanksgiving evening, felled by five gun shots at close range in the vestibule of suburban Chicago fast food restaurant (Brown’s Chicken). Authorities believe Chiaramonti was gunned down by Cicero crew enforcer Anthony (Tough Tony) Calabrese, currently incarcerated for armed robbery. Calabrese’s partner-in-crime, Bobby Cooper turned witness for the government and admitted to being the getaway driver in the Tony the Hatchet hit.

Cooper and Calabrese reported to Sarno and fellow Cicero crew lieutenant James (Jimmy I) Inendino, per the 2009 CCC report. Jimmy I had been locked up on racketeering charges the previous summer. More recently, he’s been tagged by law enforcement as capo of the Cicero crew.

Multiple sources claim in the weeks after Jimmy Marcello got out of prison in the spring of 2003 he and Little Tony Zizzo attended a sit down with Fat Mike Sarno mediated by the Outfit’s then-boss and underboss John (Johnny No Nose) DiFronzo and Joseph (Joe the Builder) Andriacchi, respectively, which temporarily quelled the beef. Marcello became the Chicago mob’s acting boss and Zizzo, his acting underboss. Sarno was capo of Cicero, mafia territory settled by Al Capone himself back during Prohibition in the 1920s.

DiFronzo still reigns as the overall Godfather of the mafia in the Windy City, but at 88 years old he’s basically retired. Andriacchi, 83, remains semi-active in an advisory capacity, per sources.

Long groomed for the throne, Marcello’s reign atop the Outfit was short lived. He was indicted with his younger brother “Big Mickey” and “Frank the German” Schweihs and 15 others in the epic Operation Family Secrets case in April 2005. Schweihs died of cancer before he reached trial. Jimmy Marcello was convicted of murder at trial in 2007 in connection with the infamous Spilotro brothers’ slayings back in 1986 (depicted at the end of the Martin Scorsese-helmed movie Casino).

Marcello lured the Outfit’s Las Vegas point man Anthony (Tony the Ant) Spilotro and his baby brother and protégé Michael to their slaughter, driving them to the Southside residence of a local mobster for what they were told was going to be a making ceremony for Michael and promotion to capo for Tony, however in fact was a kill party – the Spilotro brothers were heinously beaten, stomped and strangled to death in a Bensenville basement by more than a half-dozen Outfit hitmen as a group of Chicago mob dignitaries led by Carlisi watched on with bloodlust and glee.

Informants tab DiFronzo as the coordinator of the Spilotros double homicide, given the assignment by Carlisi, who was the Outfit’s underboss then. DiFronzo was never charged despite Chicago mob turncoat and hitman and Family Secrets star witness Nick (Nicky Slim) Calabrese fingering him as being present at the hit and having organized all the specifics of the murder conspiracy from its’ inception months earlier.

Little Tony Zizzo dodged the Family Secrets bust. He was passed over for acting boss though when Marcello got locked up in favor of Sarno and ill will between the pair persisted. Things are said to have come to a head over video-poker machine routs. With Tony the Hatchet long gone and Jimmy the Man playing his poker in the Big House, Zizzo had nobody watching his back.

Again, according to sources, Fat Mike Sarno used the situation to his advantage, convincing syndicate elder statesmen DiFronzo and Andriacchi that Little Tony had to go. His body has never been uncovered and nobody has ever been charged in Zizzo’s kidnapping and murder  The FBI has named Sarno, Andriacchi and Outfit Grand Avenue crew capo Albert (Albie the Falcon) Vena as suspects in the ongoing Zizzo homicide inquiry.

“Mikey (Sarno) is a savvy motherfucker,” one source tied to Sarno remarked. “With that entire Carlisi crew (Zizzo, Chiaramonti and Marcello) off the map, he had nobody to challenge him, he could put in his own people. He took care of Little Tony and the Hatchet and the G (the government) did him a favor by swooping up Jimmy (Marcello). Once Little Tony was out of the way, Mikey’s path was cleared. Jimmy could only do so much staring at a life sentence in the can and a big, high profile trial coming up (the 2007 Family Secrets trial). In a cut throat world, he cut enough throats to take the top seat. But shit, he still had a target on his back and in this life you can only stay on top for so long.”

Sarno, 58, was convicted of extortion in 2010, sentenced to 25 years in priso, where he sits today. The 83-year old Andriacchi allegedly serves as a trusted advisor to Sarno’s reputed successor as acting boss, Salvatore (Solly D) DeLaurentis out of the Cicero crew’s Lake County branch. Vena, 67, beat murder charges at a trial 21 years ago and is considered by many “the most dangerous man in Chicago.” One popular theory explored by investigators in the Zizzo case is that Little Tony was told by Vena that he was being taken to a sit down with Sarno to be arbitrated by Andriacchi at a unknown location on Rush Street and killed by Vena and others instead.

Andriacchi and Vena are close friends – Vena rose through the ranks of the Chicago underworld in the 1970s and 80s as a go-to collector for the Outfit’s now-defunct Northside crew which Joe the Builder was a leader of. For years, Andriacchi has headquartered his affairs in the Windy City’s trendy Rush Street restaurant and entertainment district. When Andriacchi went from capo to underboss in the late 1990s, the Northside crew was merged with the near-Westside-based Grand Avenue crew.

Even though he wasn’t arrested with Zizzo, Marcello and Carlisi in 1992, Vena’s mentioned more than once in their indictment. Carlisi, per the indictment, through a set of intermediaries (Zizzo and Marcello being two of them) assigned Vena to firebomb a movie theatre that was refusing to join the mob-influenced projectionist union and to an attempted murder conspiracy of a local wiseguy on thin ice with Outfit administrators. Neither the firebombing attack nor the proposed hit contract were carried out.

Leave a Reply