October 21, 2019 – There hasn’t been much to laugh about for Chicago mob legend Joey (The Clown) Lombardo the last 15 years or so. Lombardo, 90, passed away in prison over the weekend, nearly a decade and a half into his life sentence for the 1974 gangland slaying of mafia associate Danny Seifert, a man who felt so close to Joey the Clown he named a son of his after him. But nonetheless was on the verge of testifying against him in federal court.

The man they called the Clown for his sense of humor was one of the American mob’s most colorful characters of the past half-century, earning an equal reputation for both brutality and a quick wit. He got his start as a teenage caddie on the golf course for Outfit heavyweights like Tony (Big Tuna) Accardo and John (Jackie the Lackey) Cerone in the late 1940s.

According to FBI and court records, Lombardo lorded over the Chicago Outfit’s Grand Avenue crew from the early 1970s until he was indicted in the epic Operation Family Secrets case in April 2005, putting to rest well over a dozen mafia-related murders that dated back to 1970 and closing the case on the infamous Spilotro brothers slaying depicted in the Martin Scorsese-film Casino. He was promoted to consigliere in 1992, per federal documents. Along with the Windy City mob’s then-acting boss James (Jimmy the Man) Marcello and Outfit hit man and loan shark Frank (Frankie Breeze) Calabrese, Joey the Clown was convicted at a 2007 trial and sent to prison for the rest of his life.

Calabrese died of cancer in December 2012. Joey the Clown had to endure the final several years of his incarceration at the Florence, Colorado “Supermax” facility for the nation’s worst, most dangerous criminals.

“Joey didn’t deserve that, he was a frail old man, he could barely move a limb and he’s got to be locked in a cage 23 hours a day? For what?” remarked a Chicago mob figure.

Lombardo was formally inducted into the Chicago mafia in the months after he allegedly carried out the September 11, 1965 murder of bookie, Schiller Park hotel owner and suspected-snitch Manny Skar and promoted to capo of the Westside-based Grand Avenue regime in 1973, according to Lombardo’s Chicago Crime Commission file. He was put in charge of the Outfit’s robbery, pornography and Las Vegas rackets and for a short time, he headed an elite enforcement wing for the crime family’s most powerful bosses, per the CCC file.

Joey the Clown co-owned a fiberglass company with Danny Seifert and they were indicted the following year for fraud and money laundering tied to a Teamsters union pension fund loan they had received to start the business. Seifert was gunned down in front of his wife and child outside his Bensenville plastics factory on the morning of September 27, 1974 after it became known Seifert intended on taking the witness stand.

Lombardo is believed to have been one of the gunmen on the scene that morning. In 1982, he was arrested for bribing a U.S. Senator and skimming money from Las Vegas casinos and would have to do ten years in prison. When he got out in 1992, Lombardo ran a one-page add in the Chicago Tribune newspaper pronouncing his innocence of any affiliation with La Cosa Nostra and asking people to contact his parole officer if they see him breaking the law.

“The character Joey the Clown was real, that’s how he was, it wasn’t an act,” said a former G Man who worked the Grand Avenue crew. “He was a real character. And he was also a real killer.”

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