July 30, 2022 — Former Chicago mafia associate Chuck Miceli made what could end up being a big stride towards disrupting the integrity of the Operation Family Secrets case convictions this past week, as U.S. District Court Judge John Robert Blakey granted him a pro se hearing on behalf of imprisoned Chicago Outfit boss James (Jimmy the Man) Marcello.
The hearing is set for August 10 to argue motions Miceli personally drafted and has been trying to get the court to hear for the past 17 years. Some of the murders resolved in the Family Secrets case were dramatized in the movie Casino.
The 78-year old Marcello was the No. 1 defendant in the landmark Family Secrets trial back in the summer of 2007. Miceli was denied the ability to testify in the trial by retired U.S. District Court Judge James Zagel. His testimony would have refuted the prosecution’s account of certain murders adjudicated in the case.
Blakey replaced Zagel upon Zagel leaving the bench in 2016. At the time of the widely-covered Family Secrets trial, Miceli, a one-time cop, was in prison down in Florida, serving a 10-year sentence for fraud. Zagel ruled Miceli’s claims unreliable, despite his documented cooperation and verified veracity in past state and federal criminal and corruption probes.
One of the murders Miceli says he can shed fresh light on is the 1974 killing of mob associate turned informant Danny Seifert.
Miceli says he watched on from the backseat of his uncle’s car when he was an eight-year old boy as dirty Chicago Police Department officer Rick Madeja shot Seifert, a future federal witness, to death on the morning of September 27, 1974. Madeja was booted from CPD in 1981 after he got busted selling guns and silencers on the black market. Two of the silencers authorities tied to Madeja’s operation were alleged to be linked to the 1975 assassination of deposed Chicago mob boss Sam (Momo) Giancana and the 1983 attempted murder of South Side Outfit gambling chief Ken (Tokyo Joe) Eto, per sources familiar with the Madeja cooperation agreement.
The Chicago Outfit’s then-consigliere Joey (The Clown) Lombardo was found guilty of heading a hit squad that viciously murdered Seifert, his former business partner, on the grounds of his Bensenville plastics factory in front of his wife and son, Joey, named after Lombardo.
Miceli, 56, alleges that Madeja played a role in Family Secrets more than just being the triggerman in the Seifert homicide. Madeja, today 83 years old, denies the accusations.
The lead prosecutor in the Family Secrets case, the distinguished courtroom terminator Mitch Mars, was the prosecutor on Madeja’s case in 1981 in which Madeja cut a deal to cooperate. Mars died of cancer shortly after capping his celebrated career with convictions across the board in Family Secrets.
The Operation Family Secrets case put to bed 18 previously uncharged Chicago mob murders, highlighted by the Seifert and Spilotro hits, stretching back more than three decades. Marcello and Lombardo were the highest profile of the 14 defendants in the case. It was the federal government’s biggest assault against organized crime in the U.S. since the Commission Case in the 1980s that took down the dons of all Five Familiesin the New York mafia.
Miceli grew up around Lombardo, the Godfather of Grand Avenue and longtime capo of Chicago’s West Side. Seifert was readying to take the stand against Joey the Clown, the legendary Tony (The Ant) Spilotro, the Outfit’s crew boss in Las Vegas, and insurance magnate Allen Dorfman in a Teamsters union pension-fund fraud case where Lombardo, Spilotro and Dorfman were accused of fleecing a work pail-manufacturing business in New Mexico being operated under Seifert’s name. Dorfman was in charge of the pension fund for the Teamsters.
The case was dropped after Seifert’s murder. Spilotro and Dorfman were both slain in mob hits in 1983 and 1986, respectively, that took place in the Chicagoland area and garnered national headlines. Jimmy Marcello was convicted of driving Spilotro and Spilotro’s baby brother Michael, to their slaughter inside a Bensenville basement. He was sentence to spend the rest of his life in prison.
The Spilotro brothers were gruesomely beaten, stomped and strangled to death in a double homicide depicted in Casino, Martin Scorsese’s 1995 opus chronicling the real-life mob drama of Tony the Ant’s reign in Vegas. Oscar-winner Joe Pesci portrayed Spilotro in the film.
Marcello became acting boss of the Chicago mob in 2003, according to court records. He hails from the Melrose Park wing of the Cicero crew, per Chicago Crime Commission files. The Bureau of Prisons currently has Marcello locked up in the SuperMax facility in Florence, Colorado, the prison tasked with housing the country’s worst of the worst federal convicts.
Lombardo’s defense attorney, Rick Halprin, failed to notify Lombardo of Miceli’s attempt to testify on his behalf back in 2005 — Joey the Clown was a fugitive of justice at the time. Lombardo didn’t become aware of Miceli’s story until he uncovered it in court records in the final years of his life. According to sources and BOP records, Lombardo was moved to the SuperMax prison in the final years of his life as punishment for trying to place a murder contract on Judge Zagel’s head from his prison hospital room in North Carolina.
Halprin committed suicide in 2013 at his Hyde Park apartment after falling in financial peril. The notoriously colorful yet lethal Lombardo died of throat cancer in October 2019 at age 90. Three months earlier, he hand-wrote a letter/motion to the court pleading for reconsideration of Miceli’s testimony. Besides the Seifert murder, Lombardo was considered a suspect in ordering or personally carrying out at least a dozen gangland slayings.
On the streets, Miceli was affiliated with The Outfit’s Northwest Side crew in the 1980s and 1990s. Miceli’s cooperation with the government began 13 years before the Family Secrets case was filed with the successful prosecution of former Cook County Chief Merrit Board Investigator Jack Novelli in 1992. He put a Gangster Disciples shot caller away for life with his testimony in the murder of Pamela Strauss in Rock Island in a 1996 drug deal gone wrong.
The Latin Kings street gang put a hit out on Miceli in December 1995 and he was subsequently the victim of a brutal home invasion and physical assault that landed him in the hospital for two weeks, per court filings. Part of Miceli’s cooperation included stopping a murder contract put out for New York mob princess and reality television star, Vickie Gotti Agnello, the daughter of the deceased Dapper Don, John Gotti, former celebrity boss of the Gambino crime family. Most of Miceli’s cooperation related to political corruption and dirty policemen.
Questions regarding the integrity of Family Secrets began to arise right away, with the government’s decision not to indict then Chicago mob don John (Johnny No Nose) DiFronzo, despite presenting evidence that placed him at the center of the Spilotro brothers’ execution, among other racketeering acts charged. DiFronzo, 89, succumbed to a battle with dementia in 2018 on the heels of ruling the Outfit in the shadows for almost 30 years from his Elmwood Park base.
Multiple sources claim the case’s star witness, South Side Outfit hit man Nick (Nicky Slim) Calabrese, lied or intentionally misled FBI agents and prosecutors about his participation in at least one of the murders he testified to. The remains of the oldest cold-case victim in the case, Chicago mob loan shark Mike (Hambone) Albergo, have never been recovered even though Calabrese says he helped bury him in 1970. Calabrese mis-identified one of the members of the hit team responsible for killing the Spilotros despite being on the job himself. He flipped in 2002 and became the linchpin to the Family Secrets indictment and subsequent convictions.