On January 8, 1980, an informant (possibly a Milwaukee Sentinel staffer) said that Frank Ranney used an assumed name and was actually named Frank Ranelli. He had used both his money and Teamsters money to buy the White Gull Resort in Door County, the Tumblebrook Country Club in Waukesha County, and the Jack-O-Lantern resort in Eagle River, Wisconsin. The latter was originally a place Jimmy Hoffa and Allan Dorfman used to entertain politicians. The informant recalled that a Milwaukee Vice Squad captain had been there, as well as Inspector Dolan. The resort is not open to the public and has its own security force. Many Detroit mobsters were known to frequent the resort.
Frank Balistrieri was secretly recorded on January 9, 1980 making threats concerning Sally Papia. “I told her I’m going to drop both pimps, the pimp and the bodyguard, right on the doorstep. The only reason I told her that, because I’m not going to do it right now. See, now let them concentrate on that end. But Jimmy Jennaro, you know, he knows something or something… All of a sudden he stops hanging around here, and he’s not doing anything to promote our places.” Presumably, given Jennaro’s history with prostitutes, he was the “pimp”. Jennaro managed Balistrieri’s Ad Lib night club from 1965 until 1972, when he left to manager Sally’s. The bodyguard was likely Frank Trovato, known as “the enforcer”. The same day, Balistrieri was recorded talking to his son Joseph about the Teamsters and which candidate for judge would get the Teamsters’ support. (News articles suggest that Frank is implying a judge would get Teamsters backing if the judge did something for Frank; without seeing a transcript, I don’t know how true that is.)
In a January 10, 1980 conversation, Sam Librizzi, in responding to Frank Balistrieri concerning the status of delinquent wagering accounts, stated: “Now Dennis (Librizzi) owes us thirty-seven hundred. It’s on the slip there. What he gave me last week.” Librizzi made reference to “Feller’s 290” in reporting to Balistrieri on the status of amounts owed by various persons to their gambling business. Frank Balistrieri and Sam Librizzi discussed setting up a sports bookmaking operation that would accept wagers on upcoming basketball games. The profits and losses from such an operation were to be split four ways between Sam and Dennis Librizzi, Frank Balistrieri, and Peter Picciurro. Sam Librizzi was the one who suggested the idea to Balistrieri, and in the course of this conversation referred to the fact that his brother Dennis had already opened up such a bookmaking operation in which Balistrieri and Sam Librizzi were included as partners. Librizzi further advised that he and Dennis were going to “combine” customers and “rent an office”. Balistrieri told Librizzi that basketball gambling was “a proposition I can’t refuse.” Balistrieri also discussed a cordless telephone that could be 3,000 feet from the source, suggesting Librizzi (or someone else) could be taking calls across the street and the FBI would raid the wrong building.
In a telephone conversation on February 14, 1980, Micelli and Sam Librizzi discussed reduction of an amount owed by one of Micelli’s betting customers to Librizzi. At one point in this conversation, Librizzi told Micelli, “Yeah. But I see him all through the Football season, this was from . . .” In response, Micelli stated, “I understand, see, but I was waiting, as long as you got a little piece of money coming, that’s the time to pay.”
In a telephone conversation on February 18, 1980, Ed Feller told Sam Librizzi that due to the volume of bets, “[I]t seemed like football, for crying out loud.”
In a telephone conversation on February 22, 1980, Micelli advised Sam Librizzi that, “I just got through talking to my partner…”
The FBI Unit Chief came to Milwaukee for meetings on February 26 and 27, 1980 to discuss Operation Bellwether. Also there was SAC John Glover, the ASAC, and the undercover agents (presumably Gail Cobb and Joseph Pistone). At this time, search warrants were discussed, and it was decided that the searches for the most part would not unravel undercover investigations in other regions. However, it was determined there was no way to go forward without revealing Joseph Pistone’s secret identity as an FBI agent. Therefore, he was told to get his New York LCN contact (Sonny Black) outside of New York and reveal his identity. At the same time, another agent would talk to Sonny Black’s boss and explain the situation. (This was done to pull Pistone out without the mob retaliating on Sonny Black for bringing Pistone into the Bonanno Family or suspecting Black of being an informant, which he was not.)
In a telephone conversation on March 1, 1980, Micelli told Dennis Librizzi that he gave the “book” to the “other guy” because he (Micelli) was going to “leave in the next thirty-six hours.” In a telephone conversation on March 4, 1980, an unknown individual relayed a series of wagers to Sam Librizzi. These wagers were recorded by Librizzi on a bet slip under the account designation “Match”.
On March 1, the Milwaukee FBI Office finalized discussions of where search warrants would be executed against Frank Balistrieri. Places mentioned were La Scala and Leonardo’s Pasta House, where Balistrieri was believed to be a hidden owner. Also,a business office at 1504 East North Avenue, which was the headquarters for three different vending companies.
On March 3, 1980, Judge Robert Warren was presented with a 29-page affidavit and 78-page affidavit in support of searches on the Balistrieri operation. The next morning, very early, an agent met with Warren and inked in six minor changes to affidavits. At 7:30am, Warren put the agent under oath and made him swear to all the information in the affidavits. He did. At 1:30pm, the agent had to track down Warren again for four more changes. Warren was in Brown County (Green Bay) at Judge Parins’ office. The changes were made and the agent again swore under oath to the affidavits.
On March 5, 1980, at 8:45am, agents called Warren in Judge Parins’ office and made the final arrangements. Warren requested that an inventory of anything seized be brought to him when he returned to Milwaukee on March 8. Around 10:00am, search warrants were executed for Frank Balistrieri’s home, the Shorecrest Hotel office and the law office of Joseph Balistrieri. After knocking and calling, Balistrieri would not answer the door, and agents knocked in his front door with a sledgehammer. He immediately came downstairs, was handed a search warrant, and then called Joseph Balistrieri, who arrived twenty minutes later. The FBI seized documents (charting sheets and bet slips) from Frank Balistrieri’s bedroom in his residence on North Shepard Avenue in Milwaukee. Most of these documents were in the handwriting of Sam Librizzi. They reflected wagering activity on football games played on October 13, 1979, on October 14, 1979, and on October 15, 1979. $7,130 in cash was found in Balistrieri’s bedroom. Another document seized in the raid was one giving Joseph and John Balistrieri the option of buying half of Allen Glick’s Argent Corp for $30,000. Also seized were three address books. Entries were found in multiple books for Frank Ranney in Boca Raton, Coral Springs, Fish Creek, Pewaukee, Egg Harbor and Las Vegas. Agents found a Remington 12-gauge shotgun and a Winchester semi-automatic .22 rifle in a closet. Joseph Balistrieri told the agents, “This is my house and those are my guns.” An agent made a phone call and it was decided to not seize the guns. While searching a book shelf, Joseph joked with the agents that when they searched his office, they would find Penthouse magazines. He told them, “My mother would have a heart attack if she was here while you’re searching her house.” He then clarified (again), “This is my house.” The search took until about 3:00pm, and at various times different agents stopped by, including Special Agent in Charge John Glover. At one point, Joseph Balistrieri called a second attorney who stopped by (maybe John?).
Agents entered the Shorecrest business office around 10:01am and met Antonina Balistrieri, who said she was the hotel manager. She refused to have them enter until her son arrived, and Joseph arrived at 10:07am. They asked to have the safe opened, and both Balistrieris declined. At that point, Joseph left to go to his residence (see above). Joseph returned at 4:15pm under a court order and opened the wall safe in the presence of SAC John Glover. Agents found four manila envelopes each labeled “50”, with $50,000 in cash inside them (for a total of $200,000). This money was counted in the presence of Balistrieri’s attorney, James Shellow. The FBI suspected this might be skim money. Various bank statements, ledgers and canceled checks were collected. Attorney Shellow was upset with the agents, threatened to photograph them (it does not appear he did), and at one point even called the police asking to have the agents arrested for criminal trespass. At 8:00pm, the FBI had to call Warren back in Green Bay because the $200,000 was not included in the original search warrant. With a tape recorded telephone call, and US Attorney Joan F. Kessler present, he authorized the seizure of this money.
Allen Glick called Snug’s on March 6 and Joseph answered the phone. “Allen, I have to talk to you. We had a little episode here yesterday.” They then agreed it would be better to meet in person, in New York, than to speak over the phone.
On March 10, 1980, Joseph was secretly recorded telling John, “You know what the sum and substance of it is now, brother John… any hope of being legitimate is gonna be automatically erased. You might as well get that into your mind now. The time to make our move was in 1975 when we were absolutely clean and there was no bullshit. I mean, now we listened to him, we did it his way, and we were absolutely corrupted. There’s no way in the world now that we’re ever gonna be legitimate. I hope you understand that. When we were legitimate, before the taint, when we could’ve answered any question they gave to us, he didn’t want to do it. Now it’s too late. Now it’s impossible for us to ever achieve any type of legitimacy, and that’s something he’s gonna have to swallow.”
The $200,000 seized from the Shorecrest was sent to the Milwaukee Office on March 17, 1980 after being tested at FBI headquarters. A number of bills were pulled out and marked as having possible value because they had latent fingerprints. Also of interest was a series of bills that had sequential serial numbers from the San Francisco Treasury. These bills, printed in 1974, could narrow down the dates that the Balistrieris acquired the money.
Nick George Montos was found in contempt of court in Milwaukee on March 18, 1980 and put in Waukesha County jail.
On March 28, 1980, bugs were till active at the Shorecrest and picked u pa conversation between Frank, Joe and John. In discussing potential “vulnerabilities”, Joseph explains to his father that there should be nothing wrong with how they interacted with Best Vending. He stresses that the contract wasn’t even signed or executed, so there’s no risk of “conspiracy”.
On April 4, 1980, a special agent flew out of St. Louis to be on Milwaukee on April 7 in order to take part i na special assignment there related to Operation Bellwether.
The Department of Labor checked on April 24, 1980 and neither Frank Ranney nor Roy Lane had filed with the DoL as labor consultants. The government believed they were acting as consultants without filing, which would be illegal.
On April 25, 1980, the FBI analyzed a hair that had been found taped to the dynamite under Vincent Maniaci’s hood. There were similarities and differences between this hair and a hair sample from Nick Montos. They needed a further sample from Montos to double check.
Rudolph Porchetta lied on his renewal application for La Scala and the Brass Rail on May 12, 1980. He claimed he had never been convicted of a crime, but he had violated the state’s beer credit law in 1973. When this was discovered, Porchetta was convicted of two felony counts of false swearing.
John Balistrieri purchased guns from Liberty Guns on May 20, 1980.
The FBI and US Department of Labor interviewed a member of Local 200 on June 6, 1980 regarding Frank Ranney. The man said Ranney was “the finest, most honest man I ever knew” and he was also “brilliant and efficient”. The man said he had never met Frank Balistrieri and did not know of any connection between Balistrieri and Local 200 or the pension fund.
Although previous searches failed to turn up Frank Ranney’s ownership of the White Gull Inn in Fish Creek, on July 8, 1980 the FBI received more allegations that Ranney had formerly owned the property in order to “give his wife something to do”. By July 31, they found the resort’s abstract and confirmed that Ranney had owned the property many years ago.
The FBI interviewed Door County Sheriff Hollis J. Bridenhagen on July 31, 1980 concerning Frank Ranney. He said he recalled Ranney and his wife very well, and said Mrs. Ranney operated the White Gull Inn, and it was a completely legitimate business. After they sold the business, Ranney built a beautiful home in Egg Harbor. They had no employment in Door County. Bridenhagen recalled that he was serving subpoenas on Andrew Lococo and his associates around the time that Peterson Shipbuilders in Sturgeon Bay was building Lococo’s tuna boat, the Margaret L. Bridenhagen said during this time Ranney moved to Florida, and he suspected that Ranney did not want to get mixed up in the Lococo mess, as Teamster Pension funds were rumored to have financed the boat. Bridenhagen said Ranney’s wife was originally from Door County and married Frank after her first husband died. Bridenhagen further said he heard a rumor that one time Frank Balistrieri was denied a loan, so Ranney called and said if the loan was approved the bank would see a big deposit from the Teamsters. Bridenhagen stressed this was only a rumor (though we now know it was basically accurate).
A man came to the FBI at 4:56pm on August 24, 1980 to report that he had personally witnessed the abduction of Isadore Pogrob twenty years before. At 7:30pm, an agent called the Ramada Inn to see if the man was serious and not pranking, and he assured the agent he was. However, when the FBI went to the Ramada the next day, it was found that the man and his female companion had checked out at 10:20am.
The man was found on August 28, and said he had personally seen Pogrob put in a 4-door white 1960 Cadillac with Illinois license plates by two large Italians in their 30s. This happened at 3rd and Wells. He said he did not want to come forward at the time for fear he would be hurt, and only called the FBI because he had been drinking.
On September 1, 1980, Nick Montos was transferred from Waukesha County to Walworth County jail in Elkhorn after an anonymous phone call threatened his life.
On September 3, 1980, an informant said “the Wisconsin Dells” was financially backed by the Chicago Outfit and Frank Balistrieri drove to Baraboo on Sundays to meet with a man there. (Personally, I think this sounds ludicrous.)
The man from the Ramada Inn was contacted again on September 5 and asked if he would be willing to undergo hypnosis. He said he would consider it. On September 12, he said he had decided not to undergo hypnosis for personal reasons.
An informant told the FBI on September 11, 1980 that he believed the Detroit Mafia was backing Alpine Valley financially. Where exactly this idea came from, who knows? The manager there was Fred Cimino.
On Thursday, October 2, 1980, the federal government sought immunity for Michael Enea, a business agent for Teamsters Local 200. They were hoping to force him to testify before a federal grand jury. Enea’s attorney, David Uelman, fought the request, saying the grand jury’s confidentiality had already been breached by the Milwaukee Journal. Federal Judge Evans set a hearing for October 8. Also on October 2, Evans granted immunity to Esther Ridgway, an employee at Leonardo’s Pasta House (1601 North Jackson) and ordered her to testify on October 14.
On October 2 (or possibly 8), 1980, an informant told the FBI that Louie Volpentesta had been a “capo” in the Kenosha family of the mob, and a man named Covelli was now the figurehead. Volpentesta had worked at AMC but was also a fence and a troubleshooter. In the 1960s, the head of Kenosha mob was Dominic Tirabassi, who owned a large excavating company. The informant believed his two sons now had control of the rackets in Kenosha. The source said that Balistrieri had no control over Kenosha, and that the Kenosha family is quiet and runs more like a corporation than a criminal enterprise. (How accurate any of this is, I don’t know. Tirabassi was never investigated in the 1960s to my knowledge, though it is true his family was later involved in the scandal-plagued Dairyland Greyhound Park. I don’t know who Louie Volpentesta was, unless the informant meant Peter Volpendesta. And where does Pepe Madrigrano fit into all this?)
On October 6, 1980, an informant said that Frank Balistrieri had once tried to buy into Tubby’s Lounge in Racine in the 1970s. The owner allegedly took Balistrieri into the basement and showed him that the foundation wasn’t sound and the building was held up with beams. It would be a poor investment. Balistrieri did not press the matter.
On October 8, 1980, Enea was granted immunity and ordered to appear on October 22. This same day, the federal grand jury returned its first indictment, a perjury charge against Angelo J. Martellano, a bartender at Snug’s. Martellano had told the grand jury he did not accept wagers at Snug’s, when in fact he had taken a $50 Super Bowl bet from undercover agent Dale Farmer (claiming to be Donald Franks). Martellano was released on $5000 bond, and told the media the indictment was “all wrong”. He said the $50 bet was between him and Farmer, not as part of any ongoing gambling scheme. (Although he ended up getting convicted, the appellate court agreed that “accepting wagers” was not accurate to describe this one bet.)
On October 15, 1980, the Teamsters sued Morris Goldman, Inc (342 North Broadway) for failing to pay $7791 in pension fees for the “Sunshine Fund”. They also sought out $850 attorneys fees and $40,000 in punitive damages.
Morris Goldman, Inc (342 North Broadway) burned down on November 24, 1980. An investigation determined the cause to be arson by gasoline.
On Wednesday, December 3, 1980, Angelo Martellano, maitre’d at Snug’s, was convicted of perjury charges after lying under oath about accepting a $50 bet from undercover FBI agent Dale Farmer (who used the name Donald Franks).
In one of the strangest informant moments ever, someone (a “former source”) spoke with the FBI on December 19, 1980 and told them there was an underworld group called the “Bain Slush” or “Nain Slush” and they had hitmen all over the country. He then proceeded to list off the names of the hitmen in cities all over the country, including Juneau, Alaska; Diamond Head, Hawaii; and Milwaukee. In the report, the agent questioned this source’s “veracity”.
An informant spoke with the FBI about Joseph Madrigrano on January 18, 1981. According to the source, Madrigrano was a member of the “Kenosha mob” and served as the coordinator between Frank Balistrieri’s Mafia activity in Milwaukee and Louie Volpentesta’s mob activity in Kenosha. The source believed that Volpentesta died around mid-1979. This may have been the same informant as October 2. (Note: While the author has no doubt that there was a separate criminal group in Kenosha going back to the early 1900s, with a bit of overlap, what is shocking is that I have never heard of Volpentesta, and he seems to have completely escaped the notice of the FBI who were more focused on Madrigrano, Iaquinta and DeCesaro. Who was this mysterious “boss” of the Kenosha mob? Peter Volpendesta lived until 2011, so he is probably not this “Louie”.)
City Hall had a meeting on January 21, 1981 and they subpoenaed Frank Balistrieri and his two sons to be there. At issue was whether a “collusive agreement” existed over the ownership of Leonardo’s, La Scala, the Brass Rail and Snug’s. The police could not find one but the FBI insisted one existed. Officially, Balistrieri had no interest in these restaurants, but he was alleged to have a hidden interest. State law prohibited a convicted felon from owning a restaurant with a liquor license. Also subpoenaed were Rudolph Porchetta (licensee of La Scala and the Brass Rail), Ester Ridgeway (Snug’s employee), Leonard Drewek (Leonardo’s licensee), Nancy Capitani (La Scala manager), Kathy Nusslock (Snug’s bookkeeper) and Antonina Balistrieri.
Local 200 held their annual Christmas party on Sunday, January 25, 1981 at the Red Carpet Inn. Mayor Henry Maier was there, as was Frank Balistrieri. When Maier became aware that Balistrieri was present, he immediately left. Balistrieri allegedly provided the entertainment, accordionist Dick Contino and a dance band.
A Milwaukee field office of the Organized Crime Strike Force opened on February 23, 1981. US Attorney Thomas E. martin, 30, and two investigators made up the staff, which reported to the Chicago office. Martin was a former law clerk for Judge John Reynolds while attending UW-Madison, and the Milwaukee office essentially had one goal: take down Frank Balistrieri.
An FBI agent visited Frank Stelloh’s residence (5743 South 116th Street) on April 7, 1981. The agent wished to talk to him about two friends from Waupun. Stelloh said he had no friends. When asked to look at photographs, he declined and said without looking that he did not know the people in the images.
On Thursday, May 7, 1981, an agreement was submitted to the Wisconsin Supreme Court to have attorney Jack Goldberg’s law license suspended for a year. Goldberg had been the personal representative in the estate of grocer Harry Zimmer. While handling the estate, $119,000 went missing. Goldberg had already agreed to reimburse the estate for its loss.
There was a mob meeting from May 14 through 17, 1981 at Eau Claire. Men from New York, Pittsburgh and Grand Rapids, Michigan were there, including Joseph Campagne of Brooklyn. (Not sure what actually happened here, or who was all there, but it was somehow connected to Frank Buccieri.)
On May 22, 1981, the FBI called Joseph Caminiti at N76 W14993 Menomonee Manor Drive, Menomonee Falls on a pretext to see if he was still living there (he was).
Section Chief Sean McWeeney granted the Bureau emergency authority on June 4, 1981 to place a body recorder on someone (redacted) to monitor Frank and Joseph Balistrieri in the hopes of catching them being involved with the corruption of public officials. Apparently (based on the heavily-redacted record), they were attempting to make a payoff to a female government employee. Around this time (and this may be the same thing), payoffs were going to someone (possibly an alderman) for the favorable granting of vending licenses, effectively requiring anyone who wanted jukeboxes to go through Carl Dentice, a Balistrieri employee.
The week of June 20, 1981, Joseph and Judy Catalano went on vacation in Wisconsin Dells. While gone, a mosaic that Joseph had purchased from the Vatican in March was stolen, along with a $300 topaz ring. Catalano said the artwork (simply titled “Madonna”) was designed by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo in the 17th century, and had cost him $150,000. But Gerald Nordland, director of the Milwaukee Art Center, said this was highly unlikely. Murillo did paintings, not mosaics, and his colors were different. Most likely, he said, the mosaic was a reproduction and valued at no more than $15,000. The night of the burglary, a neighbor on Titan Court in Menomonee Falls called police. They initially found nothing wrong, but left a note for the Catalano family to call. The note was found by Judy’s daughter from a prior marriage and the police came back, finding a door pried open. (30 years later, Joseph Catalano wrote a novel called “Mosaic” about the theft, among other things. In the novel, Catalano admits the theft was faked in order to get the insurance money. Whether this is the true story or not, I have no idea, as the novel is full of so much nonsense it is hard to tell fact from fiction.)
On July 26, 1981, reporter Walter Fee caught up with Kurt Amidzich, who had come to the media’s attention as a victim of Sally Papia years earlier. Amidzich, who was said to be operating Schlehlein’s at the beginning of 1981 apparently no longer was. According to Matt Schlehlein, Amidzich “has nothing to do with the place at all.” Fee claimed that during the brief time Amidzich was attached to the restaurant, he had not paid any rent or put his name on any of the licenses.
On July 31, 1981, reporter Walter Fee dropped the bombshell in the Milwaukee Journal that the FBI had “infiltrated” the Milwaukee Mafia. The specifics Fee offered were vague, but spoke of a “dummy corporation” set up in 1978. This was, of course, Gail Cobb’s Best Vending. Fee also claimed the FBI “compiled voluminous information about the inner workings of Balistrieri’s business enterprises.” Fee spoke to Joseph Balistrieri, who said, “I knew all about it; my brother John knew all about it. We wrote a letter to him. We knew he was trying to entrap us. He wanted us to do something illegal, and we wouldn’t buy it. He talked like a creep. I said this guy’s either a creep, a hoodlum or a cop. Either way, we don’t want to do business with him.” Fee’s article said the agent had no prior involvement in organized crime investigations, which was false: the agent (Cobb) had been involved in listening to wiretaps on Balistrieri in the 1960s. Stephen Glynn, an attorney for Frank Balistrieri, also thought what Cobb tried was entrapment and was “something quite different from merely providing an environment in which criminal activity could occur.”
Much of John Alioto’s restaurant building was destroyed on August 15, 1981, in a fire that took the lives of two members of the Wauwatosa Fire Department, paramedics James Lorbeck and Lawrence Schampers. Lorbeck, 42, and Schampers, 38, died after they were trapped in the basement where the fire started.
On October 1, 1981, a federal grand jury hands out numerous indictments. Frank, Joseph and John Balistrieri on extortion, fraud, and tax charges. A separate indictment came down against John Balistrieri and Thomas J. Cannizzaro for mail and insurance fraud. Among other things, Joseph and John were said to have “unlawfully seized control of Alioto Distributing from one Connie Alioto, the lawful owner of Alioto Distributing, by fraudulent misrepresentations and extortionist threats.” John was alleged to have altered Alioto’s books and made fabrications. Charged with multiple violations of gambling laws: Steve DiSalvo, Peter Frank Picciurro, Salvatore Anthony Librizzi, Dennis Librizzi, Carl Micelli, John Piscuine, and Eugene Kawczynski. Charged with single counts of violating gambling laws: Joseph Volpe, Richard Panella, George Kopulos.
On October 16, 1981, less than a year after his appointment and less than a month after the Balistrieri indictments, US Attorney Thomas E. Martin was charged with picking up a hitchhiking 14-year old boy in September and bringing him to his house (3334 North Cambridge) for sexual relations. Perhaps because he was a government attorney, Martin was only charged with two misdemeanors.
Balistrieri submitted his first motion for recusal on October 26, 1981, shortly after Judge Warren’s assignment to the case. The affidavit accompanying the motion set forth various statements and actions attributed to Judge Warren during the period from 1969 through early 1971, when he was Attorney General of Wisconsin. According to the affidavit, Warren believed that Frank Balistrieri was the head of the Mafia family in Wisconsin. Warren allegedly set into operation a systematic program, or “vendetta,” designed to ruin Balistrieri and to destroy businesses with which he or his relatives were associated. As a part of this program, Warren moved to dissolve certain Balistrieri-linked corporations for failure to file annual reports, saying that this “crackdown” was an effort to keep the crime syndicate out of legitimate business in Wisconsin. Warren also sought injunctions against four Balistrieri-linked taverns for not having workmen’s compensation insurance.
On November 18, 1981, the FBI used a recording device and caught a “lengthy conversation” between Tony Pipit, Nicolo Safina and others discussing narcotics and prostitution.
The FBI spoke with the Kenosha County Sheriff’s Department on December 21, 1981. There was discussion that six months prior a man from Des Plaines, Illinois was bringing “video games” to the Fantasy Inn in Kenosha. Somehow, this man and the inn were also tied to prostitution. The same man, who had Chicago Outfit connections, was also putting vending machines in the Howard Johnson and Budgetel of Kenosha, among other places. (The record is very redacted.)
Benedetta Balistrieri, Frank’s daughter, followed her second husband, Johnny Contardo, a former lead singer for the band Sha Na Na, to Hollywood in 1982.
Anthony M. Pipito was convicted of being party to the crime of burglary on January 20, 1982. Judge M. J. Barron sentenced him to two years probation and ordered Pipito to get psychological counseling.
On February 3, 1982, the Milwaukee FBI office was expecting a call fro man informant to further discuss the relationship of Frank Balistrieri and Nicolo Safina, specifically regarding the financing of narcotics. The call never came. Later the same day, an anonymous caller said that if the FBI wanted to find their informant, they could call a certain number. The number given belonged to a funeral home.
On March 1, 1982, two undercover officers were in the Sweet n’ Sassy Bar and purchased cocaine and marijuana from an unnamed black male. The man also offered them his “girl” for prostitution. The FBI’s plan was to get to know this man, the bar’s bartender, and from there get to know Nicolo Safina, who they believed was either supplying or financing the narcotics.
On March 18, 1982, someone (probably John Candela) traveled to Italy. This was reported to the FBI by Fond du Lac chief of police Mel Heller, who noted that a new passport was filed with the FdL clerk of courts.
Two undercover FBI agents had planned to use a recording device on April 14, 1982 against Nicolo Safina, preferably at the Sweet n’ Sassy Bar. A last-minute change in work assignment canceled the meeting.
Rudolph Porchetta planned to sell the Brass Rail (744 North Third Street) to Jack Scardina, 25, in May 1982. Scardina lived in the Shorecrest Hotel, earning an alleged $60 per week (he was receiving unemployment insurance at the time). He was a former bartender at Leonardo’s (the tavern at 1601 North Jackson Street owned by Peter Balistrieri’s son-in-law). Scardina dropped his bid to operate the Brass Rail in June 1982.
In 1982, Sally Papia signed a document known as the “1982-1985 Hotel Agreement” (1982 agreement), a purported collective bargaining agreement with Local 122. The 1982 agreement was supposed to apply to all eligible employees. But not all of Sally’s eligible employees were enrolled in the union. Instead, Papia submitted the names of seven employees, from all job classifications, to include on the union’s membership rolls. Papia told these employees that she had submitted their names to Local 122, and she also paid their membership dues.
The practice of carrying a limited number of Sally’s employees on the union’s membership rolls began long before 1982; the arrangement had existed under a series of contracts with Local 122 dating back to the early 1970’s. The arrangement allowed Papia to avoid full unionization (and the costs associated with it).
The Pillsbury Company (4400 North Port Washington, Glendale) was burglarized on June 12, 1982. Stolen from the property was a National Controls G2000 scale, used for measuring grain and valued at $2003. Who committed this burglary is unknown, but the scale turned up in Anthony Pipito’s condominium two years later.
On July 14, 1982, the FBI sent the DEA a sample of a substance they believed to be cocaine. They also asked that the container be returned for fingerprint analysis. The drugs were believed to belong to Nicolo Safina. The sample, weighing 27 grams, were taken off an unnamed defendant October 21, 1981 in Milwaukee.
The October 4, 1982 car bombing of mob associate and the Stardust Casino’s Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal, in Las Vegas, was attributed to Balistrieri. Rosenthal’s Cadillac was parked in the parking lot of Tony Roma’s (620 East Sahara Avenue) and he survived only because a metal plate was installed under the driver’s seat.
On October 7, 1982, the FBI went to the Milwaukee Police Department to retrieve evidence from the bombing of August Palmisano and attempted bombing of Vincent Maniaci. The leg wires and alligator clips from the Palmisano bombing were still in evidence, though the ones from the Maniaci bombing were not (despite being written on the evidence inventory report). The inventory sheet did note six-foot red and white lead wires to be disposed of within thirty days. On October 12, the agents spoke with the detective who handled the Maniaci bombing at his home (he had retired) and the detective informed them that the last time he saw the wires and clips was in September 1981 when he retired, and they were still in the bomb room. He had intended to mount them to a display board, but never got around to it. On October 19, the bomb room was searched and nothing was found. The agents were advised that since the detective’s retirement, they had purchased a new bomb truck and only items absolutely necessary were kept. Photos of the Maniaci evidence were found, however, and they showed that the clips were not identical with he ones used in the Palmisano bombing.
John Anthony Zarcone was convicted of unlawful use of a telephone on November 9, 1982. Judge William Gardner put him on six months probation.
A bomb exploded at Giovanni’s restaurant (managed by Max Adonnis) in January 1983, but no one was injured.
Testimony was given before a federal grand jury in the Eastern District on July 19, 1983. One man (name redacted) denied that he had been given orders not to testify to the federal grand juries in 1979 and 1980 investigating the attempted murder of Vincent Maniaci. He also refused to answer questions concerning his association with Steve DeSalvo.
Balistrieri’s second motion for recusal was filed on July 20, 1983. It incorporated the previous affidavit and included a new affidavit from one John Forbes. Forbes stated that he was then in the Federal Witness Protection Program, that he was then serving a sentence for burglary, and that over his life he had been charged with a number of crimes and convicted of several. He stated that in 1963 he became acquainted with one Herbert Krusche, a criminal investigator for the Wisconsin Department of Justice. According to Forbes, from 1968 through 1970, during the period when Robert Warren was Attorney General, Krusche asked Forbes to conduct a number of undercover investigations of Frank Balistrieri and persons alleged to be associated with him, in return for help in connection with criminal charges then pending. On several occasions in 1969 and 1970, Forbes related, he wore a body recorder or electronic listening device at Krusche’s request and monitored conversations of Frank Balistrieri and of his lawyer, Roland Steinle, among others. Krusche allegedly asked Forbes to break into someone’s apartment and plant a bug and to break into the basement of the Kings IV restaurant and plant a bottle of stolen liquor. On one occasion Krusche allegedly asked him to break into Steinle’s office and bring back any files he could find on Frank Balistrieri. Forbes stated that he complied with this request and brought back one file. According to Forbes, he met Robert Warren only once, in a meeting with other high officials of the Wisconsin Department of Justice. Forbes stated that he had made a tape of a conversation with someone about fixing a case pending against Forbes, then went with a reporter to the Attorney General’s office and turned over the tape. According to Forbes, someone stated that they could not use the tape “because it might be considered illegal or an entrapment or something of the sort.”
Forbes continued: “I made a statement to the effect I did not understand why they were concerned about it, in light of the number of times that I wore a bug for Mr. Krushe [sic] and went in places for him. Someone, I think [the Head of the Criminal Division], said “You better not talk about that.” [An assistant to Attorney General Warren] then asked if I had declared it on my Wisconsin tax return and kept a record of it. I said “no.” [The assistant] said “well, we did.” I understood this conversation to mean that I ought not to talk what [sic] I had done for Krusche [sic]. Attorney General Warren was present during this conversation. I do not remember any specific comments made by him. Except about entrapment etcetera. [sic]”
Balistrieri filed a third motion for recusal on August 16, 1983, attaching the affidavit of one Terrence Joseph Donley. According to Balistrieri, Donley contacted attorney John Balistrieri on August 11 after having read an article in the previous evening’s paper concerning Judge Warren’s denial of the previous motion for recusal.
In the affidavit Donley stated that he worked for the Wisconsin Department of Justice from June through September 1970 as an “undercover operative.” According to Donley, his immediate supervisors included Robert Warren. In Donley’s presence Warren allegedly swore that he was going to get Frank Balistrieri no matter what. Warren was alleged to have said, in substance, “If it’s the last thing I do, I’m going to put Frank Balistrieri back in prison for the rest of his life.” According to Donley, Warren frequently made statements of his intention to get Frank Balistrieri. Donley stated that a special detail of the Department of Justice under the supervision of Dan Hanley and under instructions from Warren was assigned to the Milwaukee detail on Frank Balistrieri and organized crime, and that it was the purpose of this detail to bring criminal charges against Frank Balistrieri. According to Donley, Warren would get upset if nothing was found. Donley stated that Frank Balistrieri and organized crime were among the top priorities on the Attorney General’s budget.
Balistrieri filed his final motion for disqualification on August 22, 1983. It included all the previous motions and supporting documents as well as new affidavits of Frank P. Balistrieri, John J. Balistrieri, and John C. Tucker, Frank Balistrieri’s attorney.
In his affidavit Frank Balistrieri stated his belief that Judge Warren had personal bias and prejudice against him. He reiterated the factual allegations of previous affidavits. The only new factual material we find is a paragraph stating that Balistrieri did not previously know Terrence Donley and did not give him anything for his affidavit, and a paragraph stating on information and belief that Judge Warren had said at a recent social gathering that he was delighted to be sitting in judgment in the case because he will have an opportunity to “put Frank Balistrieri away.”
The affidavits of John J. Balistrieri and John C. Tucker concerned the circumstances under which Terrence Donley came forward and gave his affidavit. John Balistrieri stated that he had never met Donley before and gave Donley nothing of value for his affidavit. They both stated, in substance, that news reports found in the Milwaukee Public Library confirmed certain statements that Donley had made regarding his background and his position as an informant for the State of Wisconsin during 1970.
The gambling case was reassigned to Judge Terence T. Evans, and the trial commenced on August 29, 1983.
On September 7, 1983, FBI agents began their testimony in the trial of Frank Balistrieri, Salvatore Librizzi, Dennis Librizzi, Steve DiSalvo, Peter Picciurro, Carl Micelli, and John Piscuine. Defense attorney Stephen Glynn, representing Sam Librizzi, took a bold approach. He said, “Number one: Sam Librizzi is a bookmaker.. (But) this is not a gambling case. The gambling in this case is by the government.” Defense attorney John Tucker, representing Frank Balistrieri, noted that of the 550 taped conversations the government made, not a single one was a recording of Balistrieri. He said Balistrieri was not the boss but that “the buck stopped with Sam Librizzi.”
On September 8, 1983, Agent Geir Magnesen testified that the FBI’s code name for the assault on Frank Balistrieri was Operation Bellwether. He also explained that the search of Sam Librizzi’s house began with a trick. They had a female agent go to his door and pretend to have car trouble. Once the door was opened, the rest of the agents could make their way inside to search for cash and gambling slips. Librizzi, during this search, offered no resistance.
September 9, 1983: FBI agent Gail T. Cobb testifies that a second agent, Joseph Pistone, was offered a job in bookmaking by Frank Balistrieri. Frank said had that a man named Sam “wasn’t doing a good job”. Sam was probably Salvatore Librizzi. Cobb also testified that Steve DiSalvo had claimed it would take a large effort to kill all of the “stoolies” in Milwaukee.
On September 12, 1983, Agent Cobb testified he had paid Benny Ruggiero $27,000 because “I wanted to go into business in Milwaukee” and to “stay in business you had to pay the mob money.” The defense objected to the word “mob”, and on cross-examination defense attorney John Tucker got Cobb to admit hedid not know if any of the $27,000 went to Balistrieri or just stayed in Benny’s pocket. On September 13, the defense was denied a motion for mistrial because the word “mob” had been used in testimony by agent Cobb.
On September 14, 1983, Joseph Pistone testifies that Frank Balistrieri offered him a job, as he was “looking for an individual to oversee his day to day operation” of the alleged mob boss’s bookmaking enterprise. Balistrieri was “looking for someone he could trust.” The FBI also introduced a document identifying Peter Balistrieri as the underboss of Milwaukee organized crime.
On Thursday, September 22, 1983, Special Agent William Holmes (a gambling expert) testified that although Balistrieri had probably not been directly involved in bookmaking, he did provide the financial backing. “A boss does not have to be knowledgeable. If you’ve got the money, you can be a backer.” Holmes testified that the day-to-day decisions were made by brothers Salvatore and Dennis Librizzi. The defense tried to make Holmes look foolish by asking him when the Rose Bowl was played, and he did not know. Holmes said he did not need to know about sports to know about gambling.
On September 27, 1983, Judge Terrence Evans denies the defense motion for a mistrial when a recent Milwaukee Sentinel article headline states “Judge says evidence is against Balistrieri”. The jurors are not sequestered for the trial. Also on September 27, Antonina Balistrieri, wife to Frank, testified about a raid on her home in 1980. She was visibly angry with prosecuting attorney John Franke. She testified, “I was very upset. They went into my personal things. They went into my personal drawers. I was very upset.”
On September 28, 1983, gambling expert John Foy, a former police officer and IRS agent hired by the defense, stated that Frank Balistrieri made no management decisions for a gambling business run by Salvatore Librizzi. Foy said, “Balistrieri is not knowledgeable. Balistrieri doesn’t know what is going on. Mr. Librizzi is running the operation.” Foy pointed out that Librizzi would change the odds without Balistrieri’s input or authority.
On October 3, 1983, John Franke made his closing argument in the Balistrieri gambling trial. He said, “The bucks did not stop with Sam Librizzi. They went to the managing partner of this operation, Frank Balistrieri. When the going gets rough, he is the boss, and he gives orders.” On October 4, defense attorney John Tucker told the jury, “This case is a disgrace. It’s a disgrace to our system. The evidence against Frank Balistrieri is nothing.”
John Monteleone appeared before Judge Evans in the Eastern District on October 5, 1983 regarding his previous refusal to testify to the federal grand jury. The judge ordered Monteleone to testify under grant of immunity.
October 9, 1983: Frank P. Balistrieri was convicted of five gambling and tax charges but acquitted of five other counts stemming from a sports betting ring. Balistrieri, 65 years old, was accused of heading a betting operation from 1977 to 1980 that grossed at least $2,000 a day. The five-week trial stemmed from a government investigation that had included wiretapping of the Shorecrest Hotel, owned by Balistrieri’s son, Joseph, and a raid on Frank Balistrieri’s home in which Federal Bureau of Investigation agents knocked the front door open with a sledgehammer.
Two others were acquitted on all charges. One acquitted man was Peter Picciurro, whose attorney William Coffey told jurors in his closing statement that the court wanted to “grind Peter Picciurro up and spit him out because he’s in their way and they want Frank Balistrieri.”
On October 11, 1983, Balistrieri and his two sons were indicted in Kansas City on charges of skimming over $2 million in unreported income from the Fremont Hotel and Casino (in downtown Las Vegas, Nevada) and the Stardust (in Winchester, Nevada), both associated with Argent Corporation (owned by Allen R. Glick, a San Diego real estate investor). This was the first case in which federal authorities had successfully connected mobsters from four different states. While awaiting sentencing on extortion and bookmaking charges, Balistrieri claimed to be innocent.
Benjamin Ruggiero pleaded guilty in November 1983 and was sentenced to 11 years in prison, presumably lowered thanks to his involvement in catching the Balistrieris.
John Monteleone appeared before the federal grand jury on November 1, 1983. He read a brief statement indicating that he had refused to testify in 1979 solely on the advice of his attorney, but refused to answer any questions despite acknowledging that he had been immunized by Judge Evans. The government immediately asked that Monteleone be held in civil contempt and incarcerated. At a hearing that same day, Judge Evans ruled that Monteleone’s prepared statement did not comply with his obligation to testify, held him in contempt and sent him to jail, informing him that he could “purge himself of contempt at such time as he convinces me that he is willing to appear before the grand jury and answer questions as asked.”
Over the weekend of November 12-13, 1983, the IRS used 17 search warrants in Wisconsin to gather evidence on gambling and organized crime. The warrants were executed in Milwaukee, Kenosha and Delavan.
On January 5, 1984, Dennis Librizzi filed a motion seeking permission to file, as timely, an additional motion for a new trial. The motion alleges that the factual information supporting the January 5, 1984 motion for a new trial did not come to the attention of his counsel, Robert E. Sutton, until December 31, 1983. The information used for the motion was that juror Douglas Plinska knew FBI agent James McDermott despite answering that he did not know any federal agent during jury selection.
At a hearing on January 16, while under oath, Plinska said he played on about 40 to 50 softball teams over the last 15 to 20 years, and that he turned 35 last year and joined, for the first time, a team in the “35 and over” league sponsored by the City of Brookfield. The team included about 15 “hard core” members who showed up for most games, and 3 or 4 others who only showed up for a few games. The team played about 14 games during the season, all on Monday nights. Plinska explained that he did not know McDermott except for the fact that McDermott was also on the team. They did not socialize together, and he did not know McDermott’s occupation until the team banquet was held on October 15, 1983, six days after Plinska’s duties as a juror in this case had come to a close.
On January 17, 1984 the government brought Monteleone once more to the grand jury room. The prosecutor reminded him that he had already been held in civil contempt and noted that his refusal to testify “[could] also be considered a crime as well as a civil matter.” Monteleone again declined to answer any questions. Three days later the grand jury’s term expired and Monteleone was released. He had served two months and three weeks on his civil contempt citation.
March 1, 1984: Jury selection for the extortion trial of Frank, Joseph and John Balistrieri begins in Green Bay due to the extensive publicity in Milwaukee.
On March 6, 1984, Joseph Pistone testified during the opening phase of the prosecution’s case. Defense attorney Stephen Glynn opened by saying, “Much of what Mr. Franke said the evidence would show, it’s just not there. It’s simply not going to happen. We’re not on a Hollywood set. I’m not representing Al Pacino, who is the son of the Godfather.”
Special Agents went to Fox River Gardens Restaurant (11802 218th Street, Bristol) on March 7, 1984 at 4:00pm. They were running surveillance related to a drug matter. Two men arrived at the restaurant in a gray Cadillac, with Illinois license plates reading “FOX RG”. An Oldsmobile from Illinois also arrived. The agents went inside, watched the men there make various calls from the lounge, and then left at 6:30pm. (This business’ registered agent was Charlotte Ann Giovingo, same address as the restaurant. The business address was in Wheatland, Wisconsin, west of Bristol. Her husband was Salvatore J. Giovingo of Rockford, who passed on December 27, 1988. Salvatore was connected by the FBI and DEA to vice at two Kenosha clubs.)
March 8, 1984: A hidden microphone picked up a 1980 conversation between Frank Balistrieri and his two sons where he suggests shooting FBI agents. FBI undercover agent Gail Cobb also tells of how the Milwaukee Police Department found out his identity through a fingerprint check. Cobb had applied to be a Milwaukee police officer in the 1950s. His superior told him that the police would cooperate in keeping his identity secret. His fingerprints
were to be kept in Chief Harold Breier’s safe.
On March 9, 1984,n Pistone and Cobb both testify that Frank Balistrieri told them “No one lived to take the witness stand against me”, according to Cobb. Balistrieri joked that all the informants in Milwaukee had remote starters in their cars. Cobb says that he immediately got one installed in his car.
March 12, 1984: Cobb is cross-examined by the defense and admits that a vending machine contract signed with Frank stated that Frank would have no controlling interest in the business.
On March 14, 1984, Cobb testified that the Balistrieris sent him a notice of contract termination on October 4, 1980 after they had found out about his undercover investigation. He also acknowledged that he was never threatened or coerced by the Balistrieri brothers. When he claimed that he was told to hide the option agreement in a pipe, defense attorney Albert Krieger pointed out that no taped conversation exists where such a suggestion is made.
March 15, 1984: Agent Cobb admits during testimony that he was involved in a 1964 investigation of Frank Balistrieri. He had monitored wiretaps which were considered illegal at the time.
The Morris Gem Company on 47th Street in New York was robbed by two armed men on March 15, 1984 and between $500,000 and $1.75 million in gems were taken. They were recovered by police two days later. The owner’s son confessed to authorities that the incident was an insurance fraud scheme that involved Anthony Pipito and Joseph Basile. How the men were connected to New York is unclear, but a wiretapped conversation between the two had Pipito upset about the “kid” confessing, saying they would “ship him to Japan.”
On March 16, 1984, Barbara Bertram, Frank Balistrieri’s former girlfriend, testified that Frank said of Cobb, “Nobody crosses a Balistrieri and gets away with it. We’re going to get him.” A former secretary for Joe, she had lied in a 1980 grand jury investigation and was upset about it so she became a government witness.
On March 17, 1984, Barbara Bertram testified that she carried a hidden microphone to meetings that she had with Frank Balistrieri in 1982. The defense attempts to discredit Bertram by calling her a woman who “drank heavily, was not accurate with information, and possessed loose morals”. Bertram admitted that she had a reputation as a party girl and was not good at remembering dates. Security was tight for her appearance in court.
On March 19, 1984, the defense asked for a mistrial because Agent Cobb had made veiled references to organized crime during testimony. Stephen Glynn, John’s attorney, said, “This stink (about organized crime) that Mr. Franke has brought into this court has so pervaded this trial it has made it impossible for my client to get a fair trial.” References to mob killings in New York, which had nothing to do with the case or the Balistrieri family, had been brought up. Judge Evans later denied the motion.
On March 20, 1984, it was revealed that Frank Balistrieri offered Agent Joseph Pistone a job to run his bookmaking business. Balistrieri had said the current people were good but old. “He said he needed younger men who knew today’s business world,” Pistone testified. Defense attorney Marvin Segal objected that this testimony wasn’t relevant — Frank had already gone to trial for gambling, which had no connection to the alleged extortion.
On March 26, 1984, John Balistrieri testified that Agent Cobb pressured him and his brother through their father to go into the vending business together. He said, “It was becoming annoying. I wanted to get him off my back.” The next day, he testified that his family considered suing the FBI for its leaks to the media. “The newspapers seemed to have more information on the grand jury than we did. It was far from secret.”
On March 30, 1984, Ex-vending machine business owners Jane Alioto and Peter Picciurro say that they willingly handed over the management of their businesses to John Balistrieri. They both said that they retained ownership.
On April 2, 1984, Joseph Balistrieri testifies that he took only advice from his father. He ran his businesses, including the Shorecrest Hotel and Snug’s, independently from his father. “I’ll take advice, but I’m my own man. My business has always been my business. But that didn’t mean that he (Frank) didn’t take every opportunity to tell us what we were doing wrong and how to do it better.” Joseph also said of Notre Dame’s all-male student body that it “provided me a deep and abiding appreciation for the opposite sex.” Regarding Agent Cobb, Joseph said, “He fell all over himself trying to get this agreement. He never said ‘I don’t like this.'”
On April 3, 1984, outside the presence of the jury, prosecutor John Franke and Joseph Balistrieri got into heated exchanges about the existence of the Mafia or Cosa Nostra. Joseph believed it to be a myth created by the government “in order to hold people up to scorn and disdain. It’s a fantasy that the FBI uses to convince juries. It’s a label and I object to it.” Balistrieri told Franke “people like you might be out of a job” if it weren’t for this myth.
On April 5, 1984, prosecutor John Franke gave his closing argument. He said of Joe and John, “Their function was to legitimate the illegitimate. As a consequence, much of what they did was legitimate. The government is not asking you to convict because they are the sons of Frank Balistrieri, because their name is Balistrieri. The government is asking you to convict because the evidence shows they were participants in conspiracy.”
On April 6, 1984, John Balistrieri’s attorney Stephen Glynn reminded the jury of the concept of reasonable doubt. “The government has to go right through the wall,” he said. “It has to smash it down, every single brick, if at the end of the case you have one reasonable doubt remaining, you must acquit.”
A US District Court jury began deliberations on Saturday, April 8, after hearing from federal prosecutor John Franke about death threats, protection payoffs and the inner workings of the mob.
On Monday, April 10, 1984, Frank P. Balistrieri, described by the Federal Bureau of Investigation as the head of organized crime in Milwaukee, was convicted of extortion for trying to take control of an vending machine business run by undercover FBI agent Gail T. Cobb. Also convicted were his two sons, Joseph, 43, and John, 35. A fourth defendant, Michael SaBella, 73, a restaurateur and reported member of the Joseph Bonanno crime family in New York, was found not guilty.
Anthony Pipito, Jr. moved into a Jackson Street apartment with his father and his father’s girlfriend (Gail Shill) on April 17, 1984, after his release from a halfway house for a prior non-drug conviction.
On May 24, 1984, Federal Judge Terrence T. Evans upheld the extortion convictions of Frank, Joseph and John Balistrieri. Evans wrote, “After listening to Ruggiero on tape, it became quite obvious, I believe, that Ruggiero indeed was a mobster. The government believed that it might be helpful to demonstrate that the Balistrieris, particularly John and Joseph, knew that Benny Ruggiero was a mobster from New York City and not the third base coach for the New York Mets. The very nature of the charge was that undercover FBI agent Gail T. Cobb was told that he could not enter the Milwaukee vending machine business without the approval of the mob and that, if he did, harm would come his way. Ruggiero’s motives, of course, were not altruistic. He looked at Cobb and saw dollar signs. He used Cobb to get money by holding himself out as someone who could arrange for Cobb’s safety while conducting his business free from interference in Milwaukee. Ruggiero, working through others, particularly a contact on the East Coast, arranged a meeting in Milwaukee with the boss of the mob. Frank Balistrieri, again according to Cobb, was angry and felt insulted that Cobb had opened up a vending machine business in his town without his permission. Cobb testified that he was put in fear by Frank Balistrieri’s statement to him. To be sure, some errors were committed during the trial of this case. It would, of course, be difficult to try a case of this type for six weeks and not have some errors creep into the record. But the defendants are entitled to a fair trial, not a perfect one, and I do not believe that their rights to such a trial were infringed. On this point, it is interesting to note that the jury did in fact demonstrate that it was thoughtful when it decided to acquit a co-defendant, Michael Sabella, alleged by the government to be Benny Ruggiero’s boss.”
On May 29, 1984, Frank Balistrieri was sentenced to four years imprisonment and a fine of $4,000 on the conspiracy, four years imprisonment and a fine of $10,000 on one of the illegal gambling counts, four years imprisonment and a fine of $4,000 on the other gambling count, and one year imprisonment and a fine of $1,000 on each of the two tax counts, with all the sentences of imprisonment to run concurrently. His sons were convicted of extorting a vending machine businessman and each received two years in prison and lost their licenses to practice law. “The first time I heard the word ‘Mafia’ was when I read it in the newspapers,” Frank said in a 10-minute pre-sentence speech to Judge Evans. He said that the convictions were results from a “conspiracy between the press and the government”, with the news media “inflaming and poisoning the community against me.”
At Frank Balistrieri’s sentencing, a letter from Vincent Maniaci was entered into evidence. Maniaci wrote, “I wish to inform you that I have no knowledge or any indication whatsoever that Balistrieri was involved in the death of my brother, August Maniaci. In addition, I have no knowledge or reason to believe that Balistrieri attempted to kill me by placing a dynamite bomb in my automobile. I have no reason to fear any harm from Balistrieri. I have been living openly in Hawaii for over seven years. During that time, no harm has come to me nor has there been any indication that I was in any jeopardy whatsoever from Balistrieri. During the past seven years, I have traveled to Milwaukee three times. I have never been afraid to travel to Milwaukee for any reason whatever. During my past trips to Milwaukee, I did have occasion to meet with Balistrieri and our relationship has always been a cordial one. No harm befell me during my past visits to Milwaukee, nor was there ever any indication of any danger to me or my family. I have no reason to believe that my relationship with Balistrieri will be anything other than the continuation of the long-standing friendship we have enjoyed in the past.”
Others fell for their involvement in Balistrieri’s illegal gambling ring. On Wednesday, May 30, 1984, Steve DiSalvo, 65, was sentenced to eight years in prison. Salvatore Librizzi, 41, was sentenced to one year and one day in prison and fined $15,000. Carl “Matches” Micelli, 64, was put on three years probation and fined $5,000.
Peter Balistrieri: 1984-1997
Dennis Librizzi, 36, was sentenced on June 4, 1984, to imprisonment for a year and a day for conspiracy to conduct an illegal sports bookmaking operation and to three years probation for failure to file certain tax forms, on condition that he pay a fine of $15,000 during the probationary period. This same day, Frank Balistrieri was transferred from the Waukesha County jail to the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Chicago.
On Tuesday, July 10, 1984, a federal grand jury indicted Michael A. Enea, 51, of Elm Grove on eight felony counts: two counts of violating federal labor laws and six counts of making false statements to commercial lending institutions. Enea had been the business agent and organizer for Teamsters Local 200 for ten years.
On July 16, 1984, the FBI heard a rumor that Frank Balistrieri had put a contract out on Benjamin Ruggiero for introducing him to undercover agents, and also under the fear he was talking to the government. The next day, New York agents spoke with an informant they had in the Bonanno Family, and he confirmed that such a contract was put out by Balistrieri and that it was approved by the bosses in New York.
On July 30, 1984, Joe and John were each sentenced to 8 years and given $20,000 in fines for their extortion convictions. Prior to the sentence coming down, John addressed the court saying, “I respectfully state that I am not guilty. I am innocent of all the charges brought against me.” He called the jury “rural and unsophisticated” and noted, “I feel I would have been better judged by a jury that knows the score than one that doesn’t know the game. Under the prosecution’s techniques, a discussion of baseball would be considered sinister if the words steal and hit were used.” Joseph spoke, too, saying, “The fact of the matter is I am a convicted criminal because government agents conspired to make a criminal. I ask the court, would I be standing here if the FBI had left me alone?” Following the sentence, Judge Evans commented, “Their predicament lies with their father… Joe and John got too close to their father. It’s tragic that they did. Frank Balistrieri’s presence permeates these proceedings. Frank Balistrieri is a criminal and a criminal of the highest order. He is a crook, pure and simple.”
Robert J. Ziarnik took over as Milwaukee Police Chief in September 1984. He was considered to be more serious about organized crime than his predecessor, Harold A. Breier. Breier maintained that “no prosecutable evidence of organized crime existed in Milwaukee”, which proved to be false. How much impact Ziarnik had is tough to say, as organized crime had already decreased by the time he took control.
According to payroll records, Anthony Pipito was paid $500 per week between September 1, 1984 and November 3 by Troy Trucking. The FBI would later argue that this was just a cover provided by Pipito’s brother, who owned the trucking firm, and no actual work was done.
Anthony Pipito, Jr. moved to a condominium at 1633 North Prospect Avenue on September 4, 1984, his father joined him in October 1984, and both continued to reside at this address.
In October 1984, Anthony Pipito called a Milwaukee deputy sheriff at work and asked him to run a license plate number for him, which he did. He then offered the deputy an $800 necklace for $400, and the deputy drove to Pipito’s house in a squad car where he was witnessed by federal agents examining something, presumably the necklace.
On October 24, 1984 at 4:45pm the sheriff’s office raided a Pierce Street apartment and recovered 1.5 pounds of cocaine. Also confiscated was $11,000 in cash, gambling records and a small revolver. A 34-year old Milwaukee man was arrested and held on $5000 bond.
On October 24, 1984 Chief Judge Reynolds of the Eastern District of Wisconsin authorized the interception of telephone conversations from the residence of Anthony Pipito.
Circuit Judge Gary A. Gerlach issued a search warrant October 25, 1984 for the apartment of John Bowers, 34, 3494 North Pierce Street. The request specified they were looking for cocaine and paraphernalia. That same day, police used the search warrant around 4:45pm with their drug dog Mac. Recovered was 1.5 pounds of cocaine worth $250,000, some in folded paper and some in plastic bags. Also taken was an Ohaus triple beam balance scale, 16 videocassettes, two bank books, three photo albums, gambling notes, a revolver and various other odds and ends. Over $13,000 in cash was seized. A 26-year old woman was in the apartment at the time of the raid, but was not arrested.
On October 26, Anthony Pipito was recorded at 11:39am saying, “They found two pounds, almost two pounds of stuff on him… and so there must be somebody that really knows his fucking business operation. Because they, they never make fucking raids at that time of night.” At 8:33pm, he was recorded saying, “We’re closed for tonight… yeah, we had a little problem yesterday… one of my guys got cracked last night… we’re gonna do all that business during the day.” He was clearly referring to Bowers.
Anthony Pipito was secretly recorded on November 8, 1984 making a threat against the New York jeweler and even talked of how to dispose of his body.
Anthony Pipito left Milwaukee for Florida on November 16, 1984, and returned on November 23, 1984. Joseph Basile returned by car the following morning with a load of cocaine, which he delivered to Pipito. Pipito packaged the cocaine immediately. Charles Grier telephoned Pipito on November 24, 1984, and asked Pipito, “How was your trip?” Pipito said that his trip was “good” and asked Grier if he wanted to stop by, to which Grier replied that he was “thirsty as hell” and “could use about four beers.” An FBI agent testified that approximately 40 minutes later that same evening he saw a black male leave Pipito’s condominium complex and enter a Cadillac parked in front of the entrance.
FBI agents picked up Pipito’s trash on November 24, 1984 and found a cash register receipt from Sheridan Shop Rite for Ziploc bags and a 6-pack of Pepsi, bank deposit slips, and a Delta Airlines boarding pass for Atlanta. This was enough evidence to get a warrant from Judge John Reynolds.
Anthony Pipito spoke with his girlfriend, Cheryl Kane, on the phone on November 24, 1984. He said, “I don’t want nobody seeing you when there’s some kind of transaction going on. Because if anything should ever happen down the line, then they say she was there, you know, this girl was there, you know. Then that puts you in position where they can subpoena you to go to court, you know, and it’s not a very pleasant experience, you know.”
Anthony Pipito spoke with his girlfriend, Cheryl Kane, on the phone on November 27, 1984. He asked her, “Know what you would make in a year if you [did] what I did?” “About a thousand a day?” she guessed. “$1.2 million a year in income.” “Hard to believe.” “That’s be your profit. Your in-the-pocket income, net profit.” The next night, Pipito told his girlfriend, “I make on the average of $24,000 a kilo.” He then said he sold about five kilos (or eleven pounds) a month.
Pipito’s Prospect Avenue condominium was searched by law enforcement authorities a week later during the evening of November 30, 1984. 121 officers were involved in the search — 50 FBI agents, 5 DEA agents, 11 IRS agents, 12 DCI agents, 19 Milwaukee police officers, 18 Milwaukee County sheriff’s deputies, and 6 other local officers.
Approximately five and three-quarter pounds (2,636.81 grams) of cocaine was found in his condominium’s basement storage locker. The cocaine was packaged in separate bags and varied in purity from 72 percent to 90 percent. Substances used to dilute (“cut”) the drugs were also found in a storage locker, as well as countless paraphernalia such as test tubes, a National Controls electronic scale, plastic baggies and more. Police also found Milwaukee police badge 526 (which belonged to a retired officer and was reported missing between 1948 and 1952), Milwaukee County Sheriff stationery, two pipe bombs, a disassembled Stevens 12-gauge shotgun and two handguns (380 Barretta automatic and P-38 automatic). 6000 shares in Denning Mobile Robotics were seized (valued at .31 per share for a total of $1860), as well as $66,337 in cash. Also, 50 shares in AT&T (valued at $1056) and 6561 shares in Telefonos de Mexico. Prescriptions were found for penicillin and theophylline (an asthma drug). A sales listing for Trinny’s Place (3316 West Lincoln Avenue) was found, suggesting he was looking to purchase the restaurant. A new plum Cadillac Eldorado was seized.
Also on November 30, agents search the East Troy home of Peter Pipito, Anthony’s brother. In a safe they found $150,000 which he claimed was from the sale of gold and silver coins. He later acknowledged he was storing it for his brother, but believed the money came from gambling and not drugs.
On December 1, 1984, the agents opened safety deposit box #2305 at Heritage Bank (177 East Silver Spring) in Whitefish Bay and found another $105,000 in cash.
Anthony Pipito was formally indicted on December 27, 1984 on five cocaine-related charges, including conspiracy. Also indicted were Joseph Basile, 44, and Gail M. Schill, 31. Pipito and Basile faced 100 years in prison, while Schill faced 35 years and was free on $5000 bail.
FBI agents returned to Anthony Pipito’s condo (1633 North Prospect, Apartment 10A) on January 7, 1985 and confiscated the premises as well as the appliances inside. These were valued at $97,000.
The Milwaukee vice squad arrested 14 people in drug raids on Thursday, January 10, 1985. Eleven of the people had no mob connections and were dealing in marijuana, cocaine and heroin. At 5pm, a rental car was pulled over at Kilbourn and VanBuren that contained two Milwaukee men and a Colombian connected to Pipito. In the trunk was a duffel bag containing one kilogram of cocaine. (The Milwaukee men were not identified in the newspaper other than as being from the North Side.)
Anthony Francis Pipito, 47, married Cheryl Lynn Kane, 27, on Monday, January 14, 1985 inside the Waukesha County Jail, exchanging gold rings. Circuit Judge Patrick L. Snyder conducted the ceremony. Best man was George Kelepouris and Deborah Clifton was maid of honor. Also present were Lisa Kane, the bride’s sister; Lisa A. Schaning of Milwaukee; and Joseph Graff of Greenfield.
On January 16, 1985, a black woman boarded a flight in Milwaukee that was destined for Miami, and then on to the Bahamas. This woman was connected to Nicolo Safina, and the FBI suspected she was picking up more narcotics for him. Those running surveillance in Milwaukee described her as “nervous”. Agents expected her to return to Milwaukee that same day, and kept dogs handy for the purpose, but she was not seen returning at any point that same day.
On January 17, 1985, Anthony F. Pipito gave an interview with Milwaukee Journal from the Waukesha County jail. He had been accused of running a $1 million a year cocaine operation. Milwaukee District attorney E. Michael McCann described Pipito as being involved in organized criminal activity. “I’m in a Catch-22 situation,” Pipito said. “What’s happening is, first the government arrests me and, at the same time, confiscates every means of value and property that I have. Then they want me to proceed with a lawyer, which I can’t hire without the means. It’s like draining the gas from your car and telling you to drive home. The money they took out of the apartment, until they prove that’s illegal money, I should be able to use it for my defense. The government has the manpower and the strong arm, and some idiot judge that will sign the warrant to take anything they want to take.” Regarding his wife Cheryl, Pipito said, “We met, we dated, we’d grown fond of each other and we fell in love. We decided that, for my birthday December 10, we would fly to Vegas and get married.” His arrest put a damper on that plan.
Anthony Pipito filed a motion for the return of his property on February 14, 1985. He argued that the government had confiscated $321,315 without due process and it was creating an economic hardship, as well as making it difficult to pay attorney’s fees in order to mount an adequate defense. Pipito asked the money returned, plus interest.
On March 6, 1985, the FBI took Anthony Pipito’s palm print in a padded room at the US Marshals office. His attorney objected, saying “everyone knew” why they wanted the print, and it was not because of his cocaine arrest. (Pipito had been tied to at least four gangland slayings.) Pipito had to be restrained to a board as government agents took the prints — he resisted to the end.
Anthony Pipito and nine others were indicted on March 26, 1985 on a superseding indictment for violating the Controlled Substances Act. Of the ten indicted, seven were summoned, one was arrested, one was in prison in Miami, and one was a fugitive. Although the FBI records are redacted, it seems the fugitive had fled to Las Vegas.
Anthony Pipito was arraigned on the new superseding charges on Friday, April 5, 1985 — rather than the original six charges, he now faced 17 of the total 23 charges presented. Defense attorney Robert E. Sutton called the indictment “one of the most unbelievable documents I have ever seen” and the charges included “all kinds of things that weren’t in the other” indictment. He accused the government of “piling on” charges, hoping “something’s got to stick.” Nine others were also charged: Joseph V. Basile, 44, 2140 West Kendall Avenue; alleged supplier Gustavo Restrepo of Chicago, 31; Cheryl L. Pipito, 27, 7600 Donna Court; Peter J. Pipito, 52, 1512 Stone School Road in East Troy; Anthony M. Pipito, 21, 1466 North Farwell Avenue; John H. Bowers, 34, 3494 North Pierce Street; and Gail M. Schill, 31, of 4186 South Kinnickinnic Avenue. At large were Michael Moriarty, 37, 556 North 61st Street, and Edgar Gomez, 42, another Chicago supplier. Specifically, the new indictment outlined that Pipito received cocaine from Gomez and Restrepo in Chicago and brought it back to Milwaukee where it was sold by Schill, Bowers and Moriarty. Pipito’s son helped store the cocaine (agents found six pounds in his apartment). Cheryl Pipito helped package the cocaine, and Peter Pipito put his brother on the payroll of his trucking company to mask his income, as well as hiding $150,000.
Max Adonnis was stabbed outside of Giovanni’s on April 10, 1985 by Paul P. Waterman, 30. Adonnis was stabbed in the heart and abdomen. Waterman, who experienced blackout seizures and suffered from “organic personality syndrome”, claimed not to remember the incident. Police said it may have been the result of a dispute Adonnis had with Waterman’s family in 1966, when Waterman was 11. (The “dispute” was allegedly a home invasion, and possibly the cause of Waterman’s mental problems.) At the suggestion of Adonnis, Waterman was put on probation.
Gustavo Restrepo, 31, was charged on April 16, 1985 with being Anthony Pipito’s cocaine supplier and he pled not guilty. Restrepo was an illegal immigrant from Colombia. He also faced charges in Miami. US Magistrate Robert Bittner ordered Restrepo held without bond, and he faced 44 years in prison and $415,000 in fines. Pipito’s other supplier, Edgar Gomez of Chicago, was still a fugitive.
John Monteleone appeared before Eastern District judge Thomas J. Curran on April 18, 1985. He pleaded not guilty to charges of criminal contempt, and was released on $2500 personal recognizance. As a condition of his release, he was limited to travel in Illinois and Eastern Wisconsin.
Sally Papia’s cozy arrangement with Local 122 began to unravel in early 1985. Joann Calarco, a waitress at Sally’s, had incurred significant medical expenses the past October, and was facing additional expenses in January. Calarco discussed her predicament with her mother, who advised her to contact Vince Gallo, a long-time family friend. Gallo was Local 122’s business manager, having replaced Phil Valley, the old business manager (and the union official with whom Papia mainly had dealt in the past) in 1984. Calarco explained her situation to Gallo who, much to Calarco’s surprise, told her that Sally’s was unionized and that she was eligible to join Local 122 and receive health benefits. Before allowing Calarco to join the union, however, Gallo told Calarco to inform Papia that she wished to join.
When Calarco told Papia that she intended to join the union, Papia became angry. Nevertheless, Calarco joined. After Calarco joined Local 122, two other waitresses joined, and other Sally’s employees became interested in joining (principally to take advantage of the union’s health benefits). At about this same time, Papia began to receive notices from the administrator of Local 122’s employee benefit plans about employer contributions she had failed to make under the 1982 agreement. Also around this time, the FBI began to investigate Papia’s relationship with Local 122. Sally Papia told FBI agent Roger Trott that Gallo was “pressuring” her to unionize Sally’s. To combat this pressure, Papia’s attempt to avoid full unionization moved to a different tack.
Shortly after Papia spoke to the FBI agent, Papia and Gallo began negotiating a new contract for the period beginning in 1985. During these negotiations, Gallo pressed Papia to submit all her eligible employees’ names to the union. Papia resisted this because of the cost of paying union benefits for all her employees. Instead, Papia submitted twelve names to Gallo for union membership. However, Papia did not inform these twelve employees that they would be listed on the union rolls. Papia also prepared twelve Local 122 membership cards for these employees, forged their names on them, and submitted them to the union.
On May 6, 1985 an associate of Anthony Pipito was arrested and immediately turned over to immigration authorities. He appeared before a magistrate in Miami the next day.
On May 11, 1985, Anthony Pipito called Michael Moriarty collect from the county jail. DEA agent Robert Hartman, who was posing as a drug dealer, was around at the time and overheard the call. After the call, Moriarty turned to Hartman and offered to buy a kilo of cocaine for $32,000. After some negotiation, they settled for $35,000. On May 15, they met again at a truck stop south of Milwaukee. Moriarty brought $34,700 in a shoebox, and told Hartman to bring the drugs to an apartment at 7600 West Donna Court. The utilities at the apartment were in the name of Cheryl Kane, Pipito’s wife.
On May 13, 1985, the DEA increased their involvement with the Pipito case (though the records are too redacted to know what thy up to).
FBI agents from the Milwaukee office were in Miami from May 15 to May 17, 1985 in order to interview the associate of Pipito there.
Around May 22, 1985, the defense attorney for some man involved with Anthony Pipito approached the Milwaukee Strike Force to work out a deal. The client was debriefed twice by the FBI and “extensive meetings” were held between the prosecution and defense in order to form a plea agreement “which would on its face be acceptable to the criminal element in general, the general public, the remaining defendants and counsel”. (I take this to mean that he would get a reduced sentence, but not so reduced that it was obvious to the mob that he was talking.) The Milwaukee Office, following their debriefings felt he “could substantially assist in the investigation of traditional OC and narcotics matters, both in Milwaukee and elsewhere.” He had “a vast knowledge of information relating to the narcotics scene in Milwaukee and Chicago.” Who was this new informant, knowledgeable on narcotics and organized crime? We can only guess. We do know that among other things he spoke about a bribery case (File 58B-MW-214).
On June 15, 1985, the 1982 agreement expired. Negotiations over a new contract continued. A couple weeks later, Papia had ballots prepared for her employees to indicate whether or not they wanted to join Local 122. Each ballot contained a line for the employee to sign. All employees except one (including the twelve employees whose names Papia had submitted to the union) voted against joining Local 122. Papia sent copies of most of these ballots to Gallo. She did not, however, send copies of the ballots signed by the twelve employees whose names she had previously submitted to Gallo.
At 3:00am July 13, 1985, the Sport and Shield Shooting Supplies (5235 North 124th Street) was robbed. The files are redacted, but it seems someone connected to Anthony Pipito stole one or more guns during this robbery.
Monteleone was found guilty of criminal contempt by a 12-member jury in Eastern District of Wisconsin court on August 7, 1985. He had refused to testify following a judicial grant of immunity.
An FBI agent observed James Jennaro meeting with Joseph Balistrieri at the Shorecrest Hotel on August 27, 1985 at 1:46pm. At 5:43pm, Balistrieri was seen meeting with Vincent Gallo.
FBI agents ran surveillance on August 29, 1985 from 10:50am to 2:35pm at the Shorecrest Hotel. In the early afternoon, Vincent Gallo was seen meeting with Joseph Balistrieri in Snug’s. John Balistrieri was also seen in Snug’s, but not as part of the meeting.
On August 29, 1985, the Milwaukee FBI office sent a memo to Washington outlining their plan for Nicolo Safina. They had tracked him and his telephone records, and had enough to prosecute him for cocaine trafficking. The plan was to confront him with the evidence, and rather than arrest him, ask him to cooperate to find other suppliers. He was also to be asked to have his restaurant and residence searched willingly, to avoid the publicity of a federal warrant. Lastly, Milwaukee considered the idea of seizing Safina’s business, which they felt may be worth as much as $1,000,000.
In September 1985, Frank Balistrieri was tried in Kansas City, Missouri with eight other associates for skimming an estimated $2 million of the gross income of the Argent Corporation from Syndicate casino operations. Federal prosecutors further accused Balistrieri of skimming the unreported income and distributing it to organized crime figures in Kansas City, Chicago, Milwaukee, and Cleveland. In failing health, Balistrieri pled guilty to two counts of conspiracy in exchange for dropping federal charges, which included attempting to conceal ownership of a casino to skim profits and interstate travel to aid racketeering. He also attempted to shield his sons, John and Joe, from any charges.
On Tuesday, September 24, 1985, during his opening statement, prosecutor John Franke told a jury that Anthony Pipito had been making $1.2 million a year on his cocaine deals. He would buy it for $30,000 a kilogram and then sell it for $2000 per ounce. “He approximately doubled his money,” said Franke. Pipito’s suppliers were named as Edgar Gomez, 42, and Gustavo Restrepo, 31, of Chicago. His sellers were identified as Gail Schill, Joseph Basile, Michael Moriarity, E. J. Halverson, John Bowers, Robert Prescott and five others only known by nicknames. Defense attorney Robert Sutton called the government’s case a “fantasy” created from “invasions of privacy” that were “unprecedented and unparalleled”. Attorney Michael Mandelman represented Peter Pipito and said the charges against Peter were “a sham… he’s being dragged down with his brother. I don’t think my client even had a good idea what cocaine was before mid-October.”
The prosecution rested its case against Anthony Pipito and his co-defendants on October 7, 1985. The judge in the case, Thomas J. Curran, ruled that the prosecution presented a strong enough case that it would continue and be turned over to the defense. No charges were dropped against anyone at this point. He did make a small concession, however. Curran ruled that Pipito could have a Cadillac, an Oldsmobile and $31,000 in cash returned to him, because there was no clear indication these were directly tied to drug sales.
Peter Pipito testified on Tuesday, October 8, 1985 that the first time he knew his brother was involved in drug dealing came on November 28, when Anthony asked to use Peter’s semi truck to haul drugs. Peter said he warned his son Jeffrey not to get involved, because they could lose the trucking business (Troy Town Trucking), and when Peter’s wife was told about Anthony, she became very upset. Peter said he had heard once before that Anthony was involved in drugs and confronted him on it, and Anthony denied the charge. Peter said he once saw Anthony return from the race track with “a shopping bag full of money” that he “dumped… on top of the kitchen table”. Prosecutors did not believe Peter was ignorant and cited a recording where he asked Anthony, “What end of it are you in? Transportation end or selling it or what?”
Peter Pipito testified further on Wednesday, October 9, 1985 that he held on to $175,000 in cash for his brother Anthony so that it would not have to be reported to the IRS. When the FBI found the money in his safe in November, he said it was from cashing in gold coins, but now testified, “I just didn’t know what to say about that money in the safe.” He said he believed Anthony had acquired it gambling, as he had been a high-stakes gambler all his life, not from dealing drugs. Peter also said he had put Anthony on his trucking company’s payroll for $500 per week so that Anthony could get credit cards, but did not require him to actually show up for work.
Cheryl Pipito testified on Tuesday, October 15, 1985 that she did not know her husband was a drug dealer until a few days before his arrest. She allegedly thought he made his money from trucking and gambling and from working in an after-hours establishment. She did not question him about his income “because I really didn’t care to know.” Pipito denied ever buying, selling or using drugs, but did say she once helped package some cocaine and had twice counted out cash. “I guess I just closed my eyes,” she told Judge Thomas Curran. A tape was played where Anthony said he had “bags” for her, and she told Curran she thought this meant grocery or garbage bags, as she was doing plenty of cooking and cleaning. (In the context of the conversation, Cheryl was either flat-out lying to the judge or was incredibly stupid.)
In late October 1985, it came to light that Frank Balistrieri had spoken to Cleveland mob figure Angelo Lonardo while in prison at Lewisburg, Pennsylvania. Lonardo told the FBI that Balistrieri used his influence with the Teamsters Union to get more than $87 million in loans from the Central States Teamsters Pension Fund to purchase Las Vegas casinos in the 1970s.
On November 4, 1985, Walter Fee wrote in the Milwaukee Journal that Milwaukee organized crime was “in transition”. One unnamed law enforcement source called the situation “a big question mark” and saw “potentially some sort of vacuum”.
On November 7, 1985, Allen Glick, former president of the Argent Corporation, told a federal court jury that Frank Balistrieri said he would be killed if he tried to fire mob representatives from the Stardust, the Las Vegas casino that he owned. Glick further alleged that it was Balistrieri who insisted that Glick hire Chicago mobster Frank Rosenthal as casino manager in the first place. Rosenthal told Glick that if Glick got in his way, he would “never leave the corporation alive… the people I represent have power.” Glick testified that he telephoned Balistrieri. “I told him that I wanted to know what he had gotten me into. When I told Balistrieri what Rosenthal said, he acknowledged that Rosenthal made an accurate statement. Balistrieri suggested that I heed Rosenthal’s advice. He also impressed upon me that my life hinged upon doing what was right for the corporation.” Glick believed that Rosenthal would be forced out when the state denied him a gaming license. This was true, but he soon found out — through a private detective — that employees were regularly meeting at Rosenthal’s home to get their orders after Rosenthal was no longer allowed to be employed. Somehow Balistrieri found out, and arranged to meet Glick at the MGM Hotel. “He said I had committed an act that was frowned upon — the worst thing I could do — hiring the private detective.” According to Glick, Balistrieri said, “I don’t know if I can prevent anything happening to you. If it happens again, I cannot prevent it.”
On November 13, 1985, Allen Glick testified that Frank Balistrieri did not threaten him or ask him for money. (He was, however, threatened by Frank Rosenthal and Nick Civella.) The two never had “any confrontation”. Glick said he had initially approached Balistrieri because “he was the most influential person who could help me obtain the loan.” Glick also said that Joseph and John Balistrieri “never made demands” on him and did not see the brothers at all between 1976 and 1979. In fact, Glick acknowledged making $70 million in profit when he sold the Stardust. Prosecutors tried to argue that a 50% option agreement was evidence that the Balistrieri family had a hidden interest in the casino; Glick said, however, that such an agreement was common, and was never carried out anyway. (Glick testified that he thought the option was “voided”; as recently as 2015, John Balistrieri had suggested the option was still valid, though what this means when there is no casino is unclear.) The trial was delayed when Frank complained of dizzy spells after he was told that his appeal for his bookmaking conviction had been turned down by a Federal Appeals Court. The court also upheld the convictions of Steve DiSalvo and Dennis Librizzi.
On November 19, 1985, Anthony Pipito was sentenced to 121 years in prison for his involvement in a cocaine trafficking conspiracy. The federal judge, Thomas J. Curran, told Pipito, “You have the morals of an alley cat and your concern for human beings would make Idi Amin look like an altar boy by comparison… I cannot find a single mitigating or redeeming feature in your personal history.”
On November 23, 1985, James Licavoli, the head of the Mafia in Cleveland, died at the federal prison in Oxford, central Wisconsin. Licavoli had connections in both Cleveland and St. Louis, but there is nothing (to my knowledge) connecting him to Milwaukee.
In December 1985, Balistrieri was sentenced to 10 years in prison (to run concurrently with his 13-year sentence from 1984). Close to achieving a seat on the ruling Mafia Commission in New York, Balistrieri was thwarted by this prison sentence.
On Tuesday, December 10, 1985, Judge Curran sentenced Joseph V. Basile, 45, to 22 years in prison for his role in Anthony Pipito’s drug dealing. He further ordered that Basile’s sentence begin in Missouri at a medical facility to treat Basile’s undisclosed health problems. At sentencing, Basile insisted he was a minor player and only caved in because of the money. “I resisted for a long time,” he said. “Every day he’d tell me how much money he made. It was no secret that Tony was in the business… he said brain surgeons don’t make this kind of money.”
On Wednesday, December 11, 1985, Judge Thomas Curran sentenced Gustavo Restrepo, 32, of Chicago to 12 years in prison for supplying Anthony Pipito with cocaine.
On Thursday, December 12, 1985, Judge Curran sentenced Gail M. Schill, 32, to four years in prison and three years probation for her role in Anthony Pipito’s drug business. Prosecutor Eric J. Klumb said Schill was a drug abuser and “a good-sized dope dealer in this city.”
On December 16, 1985, Sally Papia told the village of Mukwonago’s Plan Commission of her intent to build a restaurant. The next day, her nephew Jeffrey Tomaro convinced the Village Board to rezone the proposed site from agricultural to business. As far as this author knows, the second restaurant was never built.
Leonard J. Drewek, son-in-law to Peter Balistrieri, left for work on December 26, 1985 but never made it to his job at Kohl’s Food Store at 5656 North Port Washington Road. The store called his wife, Benedetta, to say he never came in. He also did not pick up his paycheck on the 27th. Benedetta reported him missing on January 2. Police found his car at the Amtrak station at 433 West St. Paul Avenue. Exactly one month after he left, he called his parents to tell them he was alright, but would not reveal where he was.
On January 6, 1986, Joseph and John Balistrieri were acquitted by Judge Joseph Stevens of charges of skimming from the Stardust casino. Defense attorney Russell Stewart said, “The judge decided that the government’s evidence was nothing more than suspicions.” Prosecutor John Franke said the acquittal was thanks to Allen Glick. “His testimony was very damaging to Frank but not as much to the brothers… the government was aware it was going to be an uphill battle with regard to Joe and John.”
On January 30, 1986, the City of Milwaukee sued Joseph and John for $36,859 in unpaid property taxes. Targeted were Joseph’s Carmencita Enterprises (1962 North Prospect Avenue) and John’s H&G Amusement (1504 East North Avenue).
January 31, 1986: Joseph and John B. begin their prison terms for their extortion convictions.
A confidential informant in Sherman, Texas told the FBI on February 6, 1986 that Steve DiSalvo told him about a time that him and Frank Stelloh (who DeSalvo called “a legend” in the prison system) were wiring a car to explode. DiSalvo also complained about the failure on Balistrieri’s part to help him get out of prison. DiSalvo said “we made the Balistrieris” and “we did a lot of work for them, but they aren’t helping.”
On Tuesday, February 11, 1986, federal judge Thomas Curran sentenced John Monteleone to four years in prison for refusing to testify in front of a grand jury after being granted immunity. Curran called Monteleone’s silence “a serious attack on the judicial system” and “deprived the grand jury of vital information”.
On March 3, 1986, the US Marshals took custody of stock in the name of Anthony Pipito and his associates. They claimed 12,000 shares of Denning Mobile Robotics, 19,683 shares of Telefonos de Mexico, 3750 shares of Continental Illinois and 50 shares of AT&T. Clearly Pipito had been investing his profits.
An undercover agent purchased $275 worth of cocaine from Max Adonnis, or one of his associates, on May 10, 1986. After testing it, they found it was 53% pure, with the drug being “cut” with lidocaine and ephedrine. On May 22, $300 of cocaine was purchased, and tested at 62% pure. On july 15, the purchase was increased to $550 worth of cocaine, coming back 76% pure and mixed with lidocaine. On August 7, an agent again bought $550 worth of cocaine, testing at only 44% pure. This operation was continued through the following year (see May 1987).
On May 22, 1986, Nicolo Safina pleaded guilty to selling a half ounce of cocaine at his restaurant, Nicolo’s Sicilian Ristorante and Pub (1332 East Brady). An informant had purchased cocaine four times in 1985, but when the authorities searched the residence over the restaurant, all they found was a half ounce, a scale and a notebook. Prosecutor R. Jeffrey Wagner said Safina was part of a trafficking conspiracy, but had been cooperating with the government for the past nine months. Others in the conspiracy were said to be Luz Sanchez (his supplier), John H. Pollock (a customer), Carlos Buitron of Chicago, and Lisa A. Przepiora. “I don’t believe he is a flight risk or danger to society,” Wagner said. Paul Piaskoski, Safina’s attorney, said, “It was a desperate but foolish attempt to save a restaurant that was facing bankruptcy.” Indeed, Safina was $752,000 in debt. As part of his plea, Safina agreed to an interview with the FBI concerning Frank Balistrieri and LCN activity. Internal memos say the talks “did not produce anything of value”.
On July 23, 1986, Judge Robert Warren sentenced Nicolo Safina to three years in prison. “This country is being inundated with cocaine,” Warren said. “It’s getting to the point where it’s a national cancer. It’s important to let people know we’re not going to become a nation of potheads and cokeheads.” Safina agreed to cooperate with the DEA, and four more people were later charged in their role as cocaine traffickers. (The names are redacted in the FBI’s files.)
Cheryl Kane was working as a waitress for Sally Papia in August 1986. After her husband, Anthony Pipito, beat her severely that month, Papia did not allow her to work for a few weeks due to her appearance.
The FBI interviewed an attorney for Local 122’s Health and Welfare Trust Fund on August 7, 1986 at his office at 250 East Wisconsin Avenue. He said he had held the position since May 1979, and in the last three years the Health and Welfare Fund had become insolvent. He said this was because the fund was self-insured. Prior to 1982, it was insured by Mutual of Omaha and was quite lucrative. The fund was currently in debt to the Milwaukee County Medical Complex for $125,000. When asked about Sally’s, the attorney laughed, and said no one knew if Sally’s was unionized or not, and the restaurant was not considered part of the Knickerbocker Hotel so they would be a separate contract. He said he did not think Vincent Gallo had any significant mob connections and he joked that if he wanted to contact them, he could just as easily pick up the phone and call them himself.
The FBI interviewed twelve Sally’s employees on August 13-15, 1986 concerning their signatures being on Local 122 union membership applications. None of the twelve had ever seen the application before, and only one of them was aware that they were in a union.
The FBI executed a search warrant on August 20, 1986, scouring the Local 122’s offices for all files on Sally’s Steak House. Some were found, some were not, and they were told that any election held to unionize Sally’s would have taken place when Phil Valley was running Local 122.
Attorney Fred A. Shapiro, formerly associated with Sally Papia at Enroc Industries (and married to her daughter Candy), was arrested on August 22, 1986 for hiring a client to rob a Glendale drug dealer of his cocaine and cash. Shapiro had a cocaine addiction, but was unaware his client was working for the police. The attorney was caught on tape saying, “Now we got a piece (gun). Now we’re gonna start getting some names. We’re gonna rip off five, six people really fast. Each of us will put 30, 40 grand in our pockets. Sounds like Heaven to me and we’re get free coke all along. That’s what we’re gonna do.” Shapiro was able to supply his client with a .357 Magnum. Another tape had Shapiro threatening the client over the phone, saying, “My wife is going to kill you and I’m going to kill you.” Bail was set at $3000, which Shapiro paid.
The FBI interviewed a Mrs. SanFilippo on September 3, 1986 concerning her employment at Sally’s Steak House. SanFilippo said she had been employed there for six years and was currently on a leave of absence because she was nine months pregnant. She had disagreements with Sally Papia in the past, but was told she could return to work when she was ready. As for the union, she was not aware that anyone at Sally’s was in the union until about a year ago. She had first heard rumors about a union six years ago, but was told that it was “hush hush” and not something to talk about. She had extensive surgery in October 1984, and at that time was told she could pay back dues at Local 122 in order to have the health insurance fund help her with bills. When Sally Papia found out that SanFilippo had joined the union, she called her into a meeting with Jimmy Jennaro. Jennaro told her she should keep her mouth shut and not tell the other employees. Papia told the other employees that SanFilippo was a “nitwit”. SanFilippo told the agents she feared and distrusted Papia and believed that Papia had tape-recorded phone conversations they had.
On approximately September 16, 1986, the Milwaukee FBI Office requested an “emergency” electronic recording (body wire) to monitor Max Adonnis. They believed he was involved in “a large scale burglary ring”, “chop shop operations” and “distribution of cocaine on a large scale”. Adonnis was allegedly laundering this dirty money through another individual and then using the proceeds to invest in real estate. The request was granted immediately by Section Chief Nicholas V. O’Hara and was in effect for one month, to expire at midnight on October 16.
Anthony M. Pipito, son of Anthony F. Pipito, testified on Wednesday, September 17, 1986 against five people formerly connected to his father: Isaac Harper, 59; Donna D. Jackson, 29; Larry M. Pawlus, 37; Charles H. Grier, 45; and Peter J. Triliegi, 41, of Richmond, California. Pipito said his role in his father’s business was testing cocaine for its purity using a book called “The Cocaine Handbook”. Pipito saw his father weigh the cocaine and said that roughly ten pounds a week were being sold.
The FBI interviewed a business agent for Local 122 on September 30, 1986. He had been involved in organizing efforts for the Midway Hotel on Port Washington Road, Sheraton Hotel on Mayfair Road and the Anchorage restaurant. None of these was successful. He said generally what would happen is an employee would want to be unionized, the union would come in to take a vote, and then the employer would offer a ten or fifteen cent raise if they voted the union down. As far as he knew, Sally’s was unionized. Neither Snug’s nor the Shorecrest were. Both Budgetel and Big Boy were non-union, but this was because they could not unionize one store without unionizing the entire national chain. Most grievances came from employees of the Mini-Price Motel, who were getting paid less than their contract required.
A white woman who was in frequent contact with Joseph Balistrieri had her photo taken on October 31, 1986. Agents took her photo as she left her home in the morning to go to work, and again as she was walking from her vehicle to her place of employment.
In November 1986, while Nicolo Safina was in prison, a fire started at his restaurant. Both the Milwaukee Police Department and the ATF believed the fire was caused by arson. They had no way to connect it back to Safina, however.
Special agents surveilled the residence of Benny DiSalvo (3321 North Humboldt) on December 22 and 23, 1986. They were trying to find out more about DiSalvo and Harry D’Angelo’s takeover of Anton Jennaro, Inc. produce and investigating rumors that Frank Balistrieri was still getting “a piece of the action” from extortion. All they saw were Benny and his wife (described as “elderly”) in a light color Lincoln Mercury. He was followed on December 24 and seen going to the Brady Street Pharmacy.
The FBI picked up and sorted through Joseph Balistrieri’s trash on December 30, 1986. Among other things, they found handwritten notes, an electric bill and a telephone bill, which was used in front a grand jury.
A special agent stopped at Benny DiSalvo’s residence on December 31 and spoke with him. DiSalvo said his parents were from Sicily and he had visited there. He said that while he recently retired from Pabst, he had been in the construction business for many years, including the 12 years he lived in the Sheepshead Bay area of Brooklyn. He said he was not related to Steve DeSalvo, but knew him from growing up in the same neighborhood. DiSalvo denied, however, that he knew anything about any organized crime activities.
On January 7, 1987, a confidential source told the FBI that (redacted) was planning to step down from Teamsters Local 200 and might be getting a national position. He said that a replacement was already being groomed.
The use of “emergency” ELSUR (electronic surveillance) of Max Adonnis was again requested on January 9, 1987 and was granted on January 12 by Deputy Assistant Director Robert A. Ricks. (Ricks would go on to be known as the agent in charge at Waco and the Oklahoma City bombing, before leaving the Bureau to become the police chief of Edmond, Oklahoma.) This request stated that Adonnis was “heavily involved in all types of illegal activities”, and now specified that the money he laundered was being invested in Arizona. On January 21, the Milwaukee Office reported that they had failed to use the recording device.
On February 2, 1987, a special agent visited Benny DiSalvo in the hopes of turning him into a “137” (informant). DiSalvo said he knew Frank Balistrieri, Steve DeSalvo and Harry D’Angelo, as he grew up with them. He denied knowing anything about any criminal activity. He said he was retired and simply lived with his wife and daughter.
The FBI interviewed a woman (name redacted, possibly Vincent Gallo’s ex-wife) on February 21, 1987. She said she had formerly been employed by the Red Carpet Hotel and was a member of Local 122. She had participated in their health insurance program and had no complaints about that. She ended up quitting when Red Carper would not allow her a dinner break and the union would not handle her grievance. She said she had been married to her husband for twelve years until their divorce 11 years prior. When they were first married, her husband was a bricklayer. He grew tired of the undependable work and went into business with a Sicilian bricklayer from New York and they opened Termini’s on South Howell. Upon going into the restaurant business, her husband became “cold, secretive and paranoid”. The restaurant burned down, and her husband went to work for Nicolo’s, where he met Joe Balistrieri. At that point, her husband started coming home late and receiving phone calls from other women. He became more “dictatorial” and “moody” and she found a revolver in his dresser drawer which he said was for protection. She was concerned because they had two children. Her husband quit Nicolo’s and started working at Snug’s. She would visit with the children and Joe Balistrieri was “always a gentleman” to them. The woman and her husband occasionally dined at Giovanni’s, Gaetano’s and Sally’s. He would sometimes take trips to Kansas City with Frank Balistrieri, but she did not know why. She recalled that her daughter was married at Selico’s (6869 West Forest Home Avenue) and it was somewhat embarrassing because her husband had a “Mafia table” set up for his connected friends. At this point he had become an employee of Local 122 and had underwent a vasectomy so as not to have any more children.
A confidential source told FBI agents on February 25, 1987 that he believed Milwaukee was now completely under Chicago’s control and that there was no Milwaukee boss. He also said Monday through Friday at 8:00am the old-timers (including Benny DiSalvo and Walter Brocca) met at the Islander restaurant on Brady Street. On the weekend, they gathered at the Brady Street Pharmacy.
Around March 1987, Frank Buccieri was believed to be assisting Peter Balistrieri in providing financial backing for Trovato’s Pasta House (owned by Frank A. Trovato Jr.), 1601 North Jackson, which was formerly a Balistrieri-owned restaurant called Pizzino’s. (1601 Jackson, as laid out here, had a long history of mob involvement… a fascinating piece of property.)
An FBI agent telephoned Benny DiSalvo on March 3, 1987 and asked him outright if he was interested in being a confidential informant. DiSalvo insisted that while he did use the Brady Street Pharmacy, he knew nothing of any criminal activities. The agent said if he changed his mind, arrangements could be provided.
The FBI picked up and sorted through Joseph Balistrieri’s trash again on March 5, 1987. Among other things, they found and kept three handwritten notes.
On March 10, 1987, Fred Shapiro filed pre-trial documents in his defense and claimed that he was a victim of entrapment, that the police had paid the informant he was working with to purchase cocaine that fed his addiction. He also had an affidavit from the informant saying that the police were hoping to target Shapiro because he was “dirty”. (The judge refused to dismiss the charges.)
The FBI was approved to conduct electronic surveillance (via body recorder) on Max Adonnis on April 4, 1987 that was good for two months. The approval was granted by Drug Section Chief Frank Storey. Adonnis was suspected of being involved in stolen food stamps and narcotics (cocaine) sales. Apparently, this authority was not used, though an undercover agent did purchase cocaine off of Adonnis on April 16, April 24 and May 8.
On April 16, 1987, an undercover agent purchased $1500 worth of cocaine from Max Adonnis, testing 98% pure. On April 24, 1987, an undercover agent purchased $300 worth of cocaine from Max Adonnis, testing only 18% pure, coming back as phenylpropanolamine (an amphetamine). On May 8, 1987, an undercover agent purchased $1,500 worth of cocaine from Max Adonnis, testing 99% pure.
On May 5 or 6, 1987, Judge Evans rejected Frank Balistrieri’s appeal for a reduction in sentence. Balistrieri claimed he had lung and colon problems that needed medical attention. Evans wrote, “I am not convinced that his condition is so grave that he cannot be adequately treated within the federal prison system.” Evans said such a decision by him “must be exercised with caution as the temptation exists to exaggerate, and in some cases even feign, poor health. I’m not saying that has been done here, but I know that in 1970, when he was 52, Mr. Balistrieri persuaded a judge to reduce his two-year sentence for filing false tax returns to a year and a day because he was in ill health.” Reporter David Umhoefer noted that according to the Chicago Crime Commission, Balistrieri’s long absence would likely mean a greater influence of Chicago hoodlums in Milwaukee.
On May 28, 1987, Joseph and John Balistrieri’s prison terms are cut by three years after they publicly condemned their father.
Fred Shapiro’s charges were reduced on May 29, 1987 to misdemeanor cocaine possession and he pleaded guilty to that. The reduction came after revelations that the key witness had approached the defense and asked for money in exchange for not testifying. He also had a history of drug use, over twenty fraud charges against him, and a 1974 conviction for endangering safety. Shapiro was sentenced to 30 days in the house of correction in Franklin.
On June 3, 1987 the FBI was again approved to use electronic surveillance on Max Adonnis for two months.
The FBI interviewed an employee of Local 122 on June 3, 1987. He said he had come to Milwaukee in May 1982 from Toledo, Ohio to replace a retiring employee who had been an international organizer with the union. The man’s family stayed in Toledo for three years before finally joining him in Milwaukee. He had gone to two meetings at Sally’s and as far as he knew they were always unionized. He said Sally Papia was a “tough nut” and it was commonly known that “she openly berated and was generally hard on her employees.”
On July 29, 1987, Benedetta Balistrieri’s attorney informed the Chicago Strike Force that she wanted to have a meeting with Milwaukee FBI agents concerning “indirect threats” she had received from her brother Joseph. Two days later, she canceled the meeting, but her attorney said he had multipel sources saying that Joseph had indirectly threatened her to stay out of Milwaukee (she was currently in California).
FBI agents interviewed a man on August 12, 1987 who had formerly owned the Town Room Restaurant and the Milwaukee Inn Restaurant. He said that Phil Valley had made a deal with him at the Town Room where only two or three of his employees would have to be unionized. When the man left the Town Room and took over the Milwaukee Inn, he asked Valley if a similar deal could be worked out. Valley said yes, but soon forced him to unionize all the employees. The man said he knew Frank Balistrieri and Valley had been friends and were fight promoters, but he did not know if Balistrieri had any influence over Local 122. Valley frequently ate at the Milwaukee Inn and always paid for his meals.
Jerry DiMaggio’s funeral was held on September 3, 1987.
The FBI interviewed a former employee of Local 122 (name redacted) on September 17, 1987. He said his job had primarily been to assist with organizing in both the office and in the field, but he also handled grievances and distributed booklets. His employment ended when his use of cocaine became overwhelming. He said he had lunch at Sally’s four or five times and was familiar with the restaurant, but was never there on union business. The man said he frequented Snug’s because other union employees did, and this was because Vincent Gallo was close to the Balistrieri family. He said he frequently stayed at the Park East Hotel and used cocaine there with his friends. He named a few people he used cocaine with, but said he never sold it and had stopped using it himself. He said he had purchased his cocaine from a black man who was a student at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. The man said that organizing generally happened when an employee requests it, and rarely because management wants it. He thought of one exception — the Nantucket Shores restaurant in the Astor Hotel — where management wanted their employees organized. He had tried to get Midway Motor Lodge on Port Washington Road organized, but management opposed it and the issue never came to a vote. He recalled that trying to organize Alioto’s was “particularly bitter” and that the owner was a “son of a bitch”. Two further failed attempts were at the Tyrolean restaurant on 108th Street in West Allis and at Kuglitsch’s Bowling Lanes.
Someone associated with Max Adonnis was scheduled to go on trial October 12, 1987, though I can find nothing in the newspaper.
Joseph Balistrieri left the Tallahassee, Florida prison by bus on October 17, 1987 and was temporarily held at a federal prison in Talladega, Alabama. Due to overcrowding, he was being sent to a minimum-security federal prison camp in El Reno, Oklahoma. William C. Neel, a spokesman for the Florida prison, said Balistrieri “was qualified for a camp and we were overcrowded, so we moved him.”
On December 1, 1988, Sally Papia was indicted with two felony counts of paying off Local 122 a total of $4000 “disguised as union dues” to keep her employees off the union rolls. Prosecutor Stephen Liccione said this deal saved Papia’s restaurant $250,000 in health insurance premiums and pension benefits over a five year period. Papia faced ten years in prison and a $500,000 fine if convicted. Defense attorney Franklyn Gimbel said he “planned to bring some legal challenges to this indictment.” The Milwaukee Sentinel noted the Papia investigation was spun off from an investigation into Local 122’s Vincent Gallo, who had formerly been the manager at Snug’s.
Joseph Balistrieri would later testify regarding the Alioto property on North Jackson: “Well, when we came back from our sabbatical in 1989, things were very bad, personally and financially. We no longer had a source of income. We were practicing lawyers, and we had to put our affairs together. John got married. Now he had a wife, and we were just trying to keep what we had from going under. I finally said, look, with the Jackson Street thing — I’m not going to pull this wagon anymore without some kind of compensation. I mean, no more. We used the term no more, niente per niente. That means no more nothing for nothing. I’m not going to charge her a fee, but we have to have some kind of arrangement where we’re going to see the light at the end of the tunnel, because every day she would call John. In fact, he’d come to me with her problems. My life at that time wasn’t a bed of roses either. I had litigation of my own to contend with. I had my own problems that I was going through, and I said enough. Things weren’t as rosy as they used to be. Now we’re convicted felons. We’ve got to take care of business, here.”
On February 28, 1989, Max Adonnis’ car was riddled with shotgun blasts. He was not inside at the time and dismissed the shots as “just vandalism”.
On March 10, 1989, Special Agent Roger Trott testified about conversations he had with Sally Papia. “She said the union and Vince Gallo were pressuring her to unionize her restaurant. She told me it would break her to be unionized.” At one point, Papia gave out ballots to her employees, but had them write their names on them and made the waitresses fear they could lose their jobs. One waitress, Constance Puchert, testified to being scared. Not surprisingly, the ballots came back 59-1 against joining the union.
On March 12, 1989, Sally Papia’s trial switched to the defense phase. Interestingly, not one witness was called, not even Papia herself. Defense attorney Franklyn Gimbel told the court, “We don’t think that there’s anything to defend against. The defense rests.”
Maximillion J. Adonnis was forced to kneel and shot once in the head at Giovanni’s (1683 North VanBuren), a restaurant he co-owned and managed, on Saturday morning, 8:20am, March 18, 1989. The police found him dead, lying in a pool of blood. A cleaning lady, 56, was shot twice in the throat, stabbed in the back and survived. He had just changed the locks the night before, and came in early to let the cleaning lady in or he would not have been there. She said that the two men who came in and shot Adonnis referred to him as “Uncle Max” or “brother Max”. They were identified as two black men, or a black man and a dark-complexioned Latin.
Carla Herbig, a tester for the Metropolitan Milwaukee Fair Housing Council, who is black, went to the Shorecrest at about 5:30pm on April 25, 1989, and met with Angeline Hurdelbrink. After Herbig told Hurdelbrink she was interested in a one-bedroom apartment for May or June, Hurdelbrink showed her apartment 321 and told her the rent was $500 per month. Hurdelbrink did not show Herbig any other facilities in the building.
The next day, Kate Lonsdorf, who is white, visited the Shorecrest. Like Herbig, Lonsdorf told Hurdelbrink she was interested in a one-bedroom apartment for May or June. Hurdelbrink showed Lonsdorf the same apartment she showed Herbig, but told her the rent was $480 per month. Hurdelbrink also showed Lonsdorf the building’s storage and laundry facilities and told Lonsdorf about the building’s restaurant.
Sally Papia Sentenced
On April 28, 1989, Sally Papia was sentenced to 16 months in prison, two years probation and a $10,000 fine for paying off Local 122 to keep her employees out of the union. She had letters from Governor Martin Schreiber (1977-1979), Milwaukee detective Joseph J. Miszewski and 23 others in her favor, but the judge seemingly ignored these. Schreiber wrote, “One could not come away from Sally’s without believing that the restaurant was owned and operated by a person with the utmost integrity and compassion… She and her restaurant have been a credit to our community.” Miszewski said, “I believe that her high moral standards and superior business character have been the No. 1 factor in his successful years as a restauranteur.” (Miszewski had previously been tied to California mob figure Andrew Lococo.) WISN radio personality Larry “The Legend” Johnson wrote, “She is a super lady and has done a lot for our great city.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen J. Liccione said that due to information that came out during the trial, “a few new avenues of inquiry have opened… and we will be pursuing them.” He seemed to be alluding to the fact that no one involved with the union had been prosecuted for the misconduct. Judge Thomas Curran openly questioned why they had not during Papia’s sentencing. Papia addressed the court with a letter at this time, which read in part, “I know I’m not perfect and for sure I’ve made many mistakes over 25 years in business… But I never intended to break any laws. If I did, I’m so very, very sorry… How could I hurt the people helping me grow?”
Investigator Mike Koll of the US Labor Department also spoke to the press, saying, “The FBI and my section are hopeful we can seek the prosecution of what we see as a corrupt union… We’re encouraged by some of the judge’s comments that this is a corruption of the labor-management arrangement.”
Carla Wertheim, MMFHC’s associate director, suspected discrimination and decided that more tests would be appropriate. Thus, on April 29, Kim Davis, who is black, visited the Shorecrest and told Hurdelbrink she wanted a two-bedroom apartment. Hurdelbrink responded that no two-bedroom apartments were available. However, Hurdelbrink did show Davis a three-bedroom apartment and told her the rent was $850 per month. Hurdelbrink also told Davis that she might have some two-bedroom apartments after June, for which the rent would be $850 per month.
About one hour after Davis left, Lynn Connolly, a white tester, arrived at the Shorecrest. Connolly, like Davis, told Hurdelbrink that she was looking for a two-bedroom apartment. Hurdelbrink told Connolly that no two-bedroom apartments were currently available. However, Hurdelbrink did show Connolly an office that was to be converted into a two-bedroom apartment that would be available June 1 for $700 per month. Hurdelbrink also showed Connolly a vacant three-bedroom apartment and told Connolly that the apartment could be converted to a two-bedroom apartment which would rent for $875 per month. When Connolly asked about an application, Hurdelbrink gave her one.
On May 5, Carol Cunningham, who is white, met with Hurdelbrink at the Shorecrest and told Hurdelbrink she was interested in a one- or two-bedroom unit. Hurdelbrink showed Cunningham a two-bedroom unit on the eighth floor with a quoted rent of $850 per month, a one-bedroom apartment on the second floor with a quoted rent of $475 per month, and a one-bedroom apartment (with no rent quoted) on the third floor, apartment 321. Hurdelbrink also told Cunningham that two other one-bedroom apartments were available.
The next day, Sheryl Sims-Daniels, who is black, visited the Shorecrest. She told Hurdelbrink she was interested in one- and two-bedroom apartments. Hurdelbrink showed Sims-Daniels apartment 801, a two-bedroom, and told her the rent was $875 per month. Hurdelbrink also showed her apartment 321 and told her the rent was $525 per month. Hurdelbrink did not show Sims-Daniels any other apartments. When Sims-Daniels asked to fill out an application, Hurdelbrink told her she could not because of uncertainty about any apartments being available at the time.
Marva Pattillo (not a tester), who is black, met with Hurdelbrink at the Shorecrest on May 6 and asked about a two-bedroom apartment. Hurdelbrink showed Pattillo an eighth-floor apartment with a lake view. Pattillo told Hurdelbrink she loved the apartment and was “definitely interested” in it, and asked Hurdelbrink what the rent was. Hurdelbrink said she did not know the rent offhand but would find out. Hurdelbrink called Pattillo several days later and told her the rent was $850 per month. When Pattillo returned to the Shorecrest on May 13 to see the apartment again, she told Hurdelbrink that she liked it and would need only a day or two to make her plans final. On May 15, Pattillo called Hurdelbrink to say that she would take the apartment. Hurdelbrink was not in, so Pattillo left a message. Over the next week to ten days, Pattillo called Hurdelbrink often at both the Shorecrest and at home, and left numerous messages at the Shorecrest. But Pattillo’s effort was in vain; when she finally reached Hurdelbrink, Hurdelbrink told her the apartment had been rented.
MMFHC conducted two more tests. For the fourth test, Barry Zalben, who is white, met with Hurdelbrink at the Shorecrest on May 11, 1989, and asked about one- and two-bedroom apartments. Hurdelbrink showed him apartment 801, a two-bedroom apartment, and told him the rent was $875 per month. Hurdelbrink also showed Zalben two one-bedroom apartments; apartment 615, for which she told him the rent was $500 per month, and apartment 308, for which she told him the rent was $475 per month. Hurdelbrink told Zalben that all three apartments would be available sometime between June 1 and June 4. Hurdelbrink called Zalben on May 17, but he did not return her call.
Greg Thompson, who is black, spoke with Hurdelbrink at the Shorecrest about one hour after Zalben. Thompson asked to see one- and two-bedroom apartments and told Hurdelbrink that he would like to move in as soon as possible. Hurdelbrink only showed Thompson apartment 615 and told him the monthly rent was $525. Hurdelbrink brought him up to apartment 801 but did not take him inside; she told him the rent was $875 per month. Hurdelbrink told Thompson that both apartments would be available in July. But a white man named Walter Cain (who was not a tester) ended up renting apartment 615 on May 20, paying $500 per month rent. Thompson asked to fill out an application, but Hurdelbrink told him he could not do so until he put down a deposit.
On the final test, Carl Hubbard, who is black, met Hurdelbrink at the Shorecrest on June 5. Hubbard asked to see one- and two-bedroom apartments; Hurdelbrink, claiming that she could not show him any two-bedroom apartments, showed him only one one-bedroom apartment. She told Thompson the rent for that apartment was $525 per month. She did not say when the apartment would be available, told Thompson his name could be placed on a waiting list, and told him also that he could fill out an application only when he was ready to rent. Hurdelbrink asked Hubbard several times about his “creditworthiness” although Hubbard assured her that his credit was fine.
Ed Valent, a white tester, met with Hurdelbrink at the Shorecrest about two hours after Hubbard. Valent told Hurdelbrink that he was interested in one- and two-bedroom apartments, and Hurdelbrink showed him apartment 204, which she told him would be available on June 15 for a rent of $475 per month. She had previously told him over the phone about two other two-bedroom apartments that would become available later. At the Shorecrest, Hurdelbrink told Valent that he could move into a one-bedroom apartment and then move into a two-bedroom apartment when one became available. When Valent asked for an application, Hurdelbrink gave him one.
On May 21, 1989 around 10:00pm, a white man intentionally rammed the 1974 Mercedes Benz 450 SL of someone parked outside of the Shorecrest (presumably John Balistrieri), causing $3000 in damage. The reason was allegedly because he had been rejected for an apartment application, although when questioned he said he saw two young men driving with black jackets and black gloves, one holding a shotgun. The man was even allegedly shot at, so he tried to run the men off the road. However, his story was refuted by a witness who was walking along Prospect at the time and saw a yellow Oldsmobile slam into the Mercedes in the Shorecrest parking lot without anyone inside. When confronted with this, the man told a new story — that he had argued with another man about two weeks before in a tavern over some money and when he went out to his car found a used pepperoni wrapper, which he took to be a threatening gesture from the “mob”. The man was put on 18 months probation for criminal damage to property.
On July 28, 1989, Betty J. Puntillo was sentenced to two years of probation and given 100 hours of community service after pleading guilty of tax evasion. Puntillo was accused of receiving $60,000 in money owed to her husband John for his gambling business (he was dead). The money came in $500-per-week installments from her husband’s partner, who was not identified in court documents. Also on trial was bartender Eugene A. Schiaffino, who was accused of handling over $12 million in wagers within two years.
The Milwaukee Office of the FBI sent a memo to the Miami Office on September 11, 1989. They believed that at the present time, the Milwaukee Family was largely destroyed due to both Frank Balistrieri and Steve DiSalvo being in prison. They acknowledged there were still people who could step into leadership roles. They had also heard that DiSalvo was scheduled for release in May 1990 and had planned to go into the heroin and cocaine trade.
On September 12, 1989 an informant told the FBI that Jimmy Fazio informed him that Sam Librizzi was booking football.
“Your brothers,” wrote Frank Balistrieri to daughter Benedetta on September 30, 1989, “cannot now or ever justify any of their dishonorable actions and outrageous, disrespectable treatment of you.”
Jeffrey Lee died of complications from AIDS in Room 806 of the Shorecrest Hotel on December 23, 1989. He was 29 years old. Lee was Oprah Winfrey’s half-brother, and the story received some attention because of Oprah’s public statements condemning the homosexual lifestyle.
Robert Puccio died on May 8, 1990 at the age of 75.
Frank Balistrieri’s right-hand man, Steve John DiSalvo, died of brain cancer at age 73 on Saturday, June 9, 1990 at a Las Vegas hospice. He had just been released from the Federal Medical Facility in Springfield, Missouri less than a month earlier.
The FBI contacted Anne Rose Lynch, 83, at her residence (2400 East Bradford Street) on June 14, 1990. She said her husband has died in 1959, so she took up work at the Shorecrest Hotel in 1960, working for Arthur Bruemmer as a housekeeper. Around 1977, she started handling the switchboard and renting apartments out to people, and once boasted being at 98% capacity. She recalled renting to blacks (“colored people” in her words), Indians and Arabs, and said at one point she had seven black maids working there. She specifically mentioned Jeffrey Lee, who had died about six months prior. Lynch also recalled a white man who lived in Unit 614 during the 1970s and 1980s with his black wife and her two sons. She said when Joseph Balistrieri bought the hotel, she continued working for him, along with his brother John and mother Nina. At no point did they tell her how to run the hotel or who to rent to. She left in 1982 to live with her ailing sister in Chicago. Lynch had only positive things to say about the Balistrieris — saying she was even paid full salary for a year after suffering a heart attack — and advised the FBI to talk with Helene Rooney, the day clerk.
Also on June 14, the FBI visited the home of Helene Rooney, 77, at her residence (2002 North Bartlett Street). She said she was originally from Grand Rapids, Michigan and currently lives alone — she was retired and her husband was deceased. Rooney worked full time from 1977 through 1985 as the day clerk, and then became part-time after suffering from pneumonia. Her superiors were Anna Lynch and Antonia Balistrieri, who had put the position in a newspaper ad. She recalled numerous “colored people” and Arabs living at the hotel, and also said that prior to 1985, the hotel had a number of “transients”, but this was resolved by converting the rooms to apartments. She specifically mentioned a black basketball player who lived there prior to purchasing a residence, and also Jeffrey Lee. Rooney did not feel there was any discrimination in the Shorecrest during her time there — she resigned in May 1990.
Helene Rooney called the FBI on June 15, 1990, telling an agent she recalled other black tenants of the Shorecrest Hotel, including some Wisconsin Bell trainees and a woman and her daughter.
Salvatore Librizzi died on June 19, 1990, without having paid his taxes due from his gambling days. Upon her husband’s death, Carole Librizzi took full title to the 307 East Carlisle Avenue property, which would soon come back to bite her — the IRS foreclosed on the home to extract its due.
Joseph P. Balistrieri and Angeline A. Hurdelbrink were subpoenaed to bring all documents related to the Shorecrest Hotel to federal court on July 16, 1990. They were suspected of denying rooms to minorities or charging minorities higher rent. On July 27, the FBI received a series of cassette tapes from Metropolitan Milwaukee Fair Housing Council consisting of interviews from potential renters between April and June 1989.
The FBI opened another RICO investigation on September 14, 1990 to look into the Balistrieri brothers and Joseph Madrigrano. Surveillance logs from FBI file 183A-MW-580 (Vincent Gallo) show the Balistrieris meeting with members of the business community at Snug’s and discussing possible investments in Wisconsin and Minnesota. The Feds also wanted to look into the business connections between Frank Balistrieri and Joseph Madrigrano, attempting to determine if any of their business ventures were funded by illegal income.
In 1991, John Balistrieri and Jennie Alioto discussed the future status of her rental property at 1601 North Jackson Street. Alioto told John Balistrieri that she did not wish to sell because she needed the income from the rental units for her retirement. Alioto told Balistrieri that she would be willing to give him and his brother the option to purchase the property before any other buyer if she ever decided to sell it.
The Milwaukee Journal had a lengthy article on January 13, 1991 discussing the fall of the Mafia coast to coast, and touched briefly on Milwaukee. Lt. Thomas Christopher, head of the Milwaukee Police Department’s Criminal Intelligence Division said, “I’m sure there’s some players around yet, but nothing’s happened to draw attention to them.”
Joseph Balistrieri’s discrimination trial began on Monday, January 28, 1991. Attorney for the Justice Department, Clay Guthridge, said in his opening statement that, “In every case, blacks were quoted higher rents and quoted later availability dates for apartments. There were no signs posted saying ‘no blacks allowed’ and no evidence of racial slurs. But the evidence will show that when blacks came to the Shorecrest, they were treated differently than whites.” Balistrieri, acting as his own attorney, responded, “The Shorecrest absolutely at no time engaged in any discrimination, patterned or otherwise. Five young black people are living at the Shorecrest. One young black man lived down the hall from me.”
The first witness questioned was Carla Herbig, who said she was not aware at the time she was applying for an apartment that she was being discriminated against, but was informed by the Fair Housing organization later. When she found out, she allegedly felt ill. “It’s still persisting, I still feel upset about it. I feel physically upset. I can’t sleep. I feel embarrassed and ashamed,” she testified. Balistrieri questioned whether or not Herbig had actually suffered any “damages”, as she was not aware of any alleged discrimination until after the fact.
The FBI, Department of Labor and the US Attorney met in late January or early February 1991 and decided that after seven years of trying, they would not pursue the prosecution of Vincent Gallo. They did say they would pursue other avenues against the Balistrieri Family, primarily by targeting the underboss (name redacted).
On the evening of Tuesday, February 5, 1991, after 90 minutes of deliberations, the jury returned a guilty verdict against Joseph Balistrieri, ordering him to pay $15,000 — $5000 to the Fair Housing Council and $2000 to each of the five black “testers”.
The Milwaukee Sentinel commented on Joseph Balistrieri in their February 7, 1991 issue. Balistrieri admitted he was “rusty as hell” in court, and the paper said he had “less flash, less flair” and his “glasses were thicker, his hair thinner”. Further commenting on his trial performance, he told them, “Anyone can hit the fastball. It’s the curveball that gets you.” They asked him if he knew Nunzio Ferraro had died. “Two things I never saw Nunzio do,” Balistrieri replied. “I never saw him knocked down and I never saw him pick up a tab.”
On April 5, 1991, the FBI concluded a 60-day surveillance of the Shorecrest Hotel and Snug’s, and had compiled a list of the most frequent visitors to come in contact with the Balistrieri brothers. Most of the list remains redacted, but one visitor was Frank J. Balistrieri of Shorewood, who drove a Toyota Camry with the license plate reading “ASPRA” (the village within the municipality of Bagheria where the Balistrieri family originated).
On April 12, 1991, Judge Thomas Curran handed down an additional $2500 fine on Joseph Balistrieri, and ordered him to adopt and enforce a written renting policy for the Shorecrest to ensure no racial discrimination would happen again.
Scott Heimermann and Edward Piscitello were arrested on April 18, 1991 for the murders of two drug dealers, Muhammad Bin-Walee and Dion Russell. Bin-Walee was associated with the Chicago gang Brothers of the Struggle (an offshoot of the Gangster Disciples). Their bodies were found buried in the basement at 941 South 35th Street. Piscitello’s mother had not seen her son in several years and told the newspaper, “I hope God brings him home safe.” (He was in San Diego at the time of his arrest and was believed to be traveling between San Diego and Mexico.) A former neighbor of Piscitello’s told the newspaper he was a “very unsavory character. We used to watch him very closely. We didn’t trust him.”
FBI agents ran surveillance outside of the Shorecrest Hotel on Friday, August 2, 1991. A car left the south parking lot at 9:00pm, and then Joseph Balistrieri left at 9:15pm. Both cars returned to the lot around 10:00pm. Checks the next two days also found these cars in the parking lot. (Although redacted, the context clues suggest the other car belonged to John Balistrieri.)
Surveillance continued on August 6, 1991 from 11:45am to 2:10pm. Joseph Balistrieri’s red Jaguar was in the parking lot at the Shorecrest. Parked outside of Snug’s was a blue and white Ford Bronco the agents had connected to someone of interest. Various other cars had their license plates written down. At 1:15pm, Joseph Balistrieri exited Snug’s arm-in-arm with another person. They went out to the parking lot and talked with a white man driving a tan Cadillac with Florida license plates.
On November 3, 1991, the Milwaukee Journal spoke with Special Agent Mike DeMarco ahead of Frank Balistrieri’s expected release from federal prison on November 6. He speculated, “I would imagine there would be a welcome back party. That is usually the way it goes. I truthfully feel it would be organized by the sons, but I could be wrong. I still think Frank will be welcomed back by them just because he is their father. I would expect he would move back to Shepard (Avenue) and continue his former lifestyle, which was basically living between Snug’s and a number of other restaurants in Milwaukee. I think he will still continue to have some ties with the members of the other Families in the United States. He had ties in New York, Chicago, Cleveland. No reason to think he won’t and those are the type of things we will monitor.”
On November 6, Mike Nichols of the Milwaukee Journal wrote of Balistrieri’s return home. He described the mob boss as “thin but not particularly frail”. According to Nichols, Balistrieri rode in a prison vehicle from Butner, North Carolina to the Raleigh Airport. From there, he flew by American Airlines to Chicago. Reporters waited for him at Mitchell Airport in Milwaukee, but he avoided that by being picked up in Chicago. A “tall, young man with a beard” gave him a ride in a silver van all the way to his house. Nichols wrote that while in prison, Balistrieri worked as a clerk in the library. Now on the outside, he would be required to report to a parole officer every two weeks until October 1996. As a convicted felon, he would be barred from owning a gun or having contact with other felons. Chief Probation Officer Trudi Schmitt said that they had not decided if contact with family would be restricted — both his sons were now convicted felons, too.
Joseph R. Isajiw testified on December 4, 1991 about moving to Hawaii to flee the underworld in Milwaukee, particularly his two partners in crime. He eventually decided that the only way to find peace was to turn himself in. “I decided to give my life to the Lord. I gave up drugs, cigarettes and partying. I had peace and I prepared myself for what would happen.” Isajiw said the victims had actually been in the basement on another occasion before they were killed there. “We were target practicing in the basement,” he said. “We asked if they wanted to come and join us.” He also said the murders were instigated by Edward Piscitello. “Ed said he knew some people who wanted these guys taken out. He said there’d be a lot of money involved.” Isajiw further said that tension grew between the killers, as Edward Piscitello was hinting at killing Scott Heimermann, and Heimermann was hinting about killing Pisciello. The two were living together in Florida after fleeing Milwaukee.
Around January 1992, the FBI opened a RICO investigation on Joseph Balistrieri. They believed he was working with Chicago Outfit members to launder money in Miami. Further, they believed Joseph had a hidden interest in three taverns. (The details are very vague due to heavy redacting. John Balistrieri is also mentioned, which only increases the redacting.)
On February 14, 1992, Jennie Alioto and the Balistrieri Brothers met and signed a contract giving the Balistrieris an option to purchase the Jackson Street property after ten years for $125,000. Attorney Greg Gramling prepared the document at the request of the Balistrieris. He testified that he read the document to the defendant in the meeting. Alioto signed the document, but testified that she believed that she was signing an agreement providing the Balistrieris with the first opportunity to purchase the property should she decide to sell it. She also testified that she did not read the contract prior to signing it.
May 1992, Jennie Alioto read the contract for the first time and understood that its terms provided the Balistrieris with an option to purchase. Alioto then phoned John Balistrieri and recorded the conversation. A transcript of the exchange was admitted into evidence at trial for impeachment purposes as to John Balistrieri. Alioto also testified to her own recollection of the conversation: “I told him that that wasn’t what I was supposed to have been signing, that I thought I was signing an offer — I can’t think of the phrase (right of first refusal) — and he told me not to worry about it, he would do right by me, and I said, you put the price in, you put the date in, and I didn’t know anything about it.”
On September 30, 1992, and informant told the Mafia that, “It is very advantageous and prestigious to have a kennel at one of the greyhound race tracks. (Redacted) is extorting the dog owners in return for allowing them to be assigned to a kennel at the tracks.”
On October 5, 1992, the FBI reviewed the list of Mafia associates in Oxford Prison. The list included Frank Schweihs, Salvatore Catalano, Bernard Morgano and John Riggi. With the exception of Schweihs, these men had no ties to the Milwaukee Family. Also around this time, the FBI was shifting its focus away from the (Italian) Mafia and more towards Russian organized crime. Total Milwaukee Mafia membership in 1992 was believed to be 14.
In 1992, Benjamin Ruggiero was released from prison after serving 11 years and sick with lung and testicular cancer. On November 24, 1994, he died of lung cancer at age 68.
On January 14, 1993, a Cook County sheriff followed two men from Chicago to Milwaukee who he was investigating for gambling. The men went to Gardetto’s Bakery (4625 South 6th Street) and came out with a large box. From there, the two men went home.
Frank Peter Balistrieri died of heart-related natural causes on February 7, 1993. Handling the funeral was Schmidt and Bartelt Funeral Service, though callers from the media were informed only that “a Frank Balistrieri” had died, without confirming it was the man itself. Senator Gary George, D-Milwaukee, was one of the notable attendees at Balistrieri’s funeral. Trudi Schmitt, Milwaukee probation officer, commented, “He had continuing health problems from when he was sentenced onward” but his death “was unexpected.”
Joseph Balistrieri’s discrimination case was retried in June 1993 after winning an appeal of his first trial. While the appellate court upheld the ruling that he had been discriminatory, they ordered a new trial to decide damages. They decided that the jury should have been able to decide both punitive and compensatory damages, rather than have Judge Curran decide the punitive amount. In the new trial, Balistrieri chose Dennis Coffey to represent him. The new jury decided that no punitive damages needed to be paid.
An informant reported on November 1, 1993 that “a lot of drug dealers hang out at Alioto’s on Jackson”. They reported on November 10 that Walter Brocca hung out at Gramma Emma’s restaurant on South KK Street. Also, that Joseph and John Balistrieri were the “real power” behind the Hotel Employee Restaurant Employee Union.
An FBI tally on November 30, 1993 declared that Milwaukee had only 14 Mafia members who were still living, most of whom were elderly. They listed Peter Balistrieri as “acting boss”, Joseph Caminiti as consigliere, and everyone else as a mere soldier. Most likely the “Family” ceased to exist and these titles were just given to people as speculation. The biggest Family at the time was the Gambino Family (206 members), and the smallest being New Orleans and Tucson (2 each). All the major Families were in the east, with even Buffalo (49) outnumbering the once-powerful Chicago (48).
On January 25, 1994, FBI agents in Milwaukee and Chicago had a conference to discuss the “Cinisi-Carini faction” of the Sicilian Mafia operating in the Milwaukee area, and suspected of being involved in drugs. Specifically, there was a group who were meeting regularly at a Rockford soccer club. They were also concerned with the International Boxing Organization (IBO), which was suspected of being controlled by the Chicago Outfit. The Balistrieri brothers, Joseph and John, were discussed, and it was decided that although they were not currently reporting to the Chicago Outfit, it would be a good idea to keep an eye on them.
Sally’s Steak House closed in February 1994. Sally Papia and her daughter Caroline “Candy” Papia had feuded many times over the years, and while Sally was the face of the restaurant, Candy was 70% owner because convicted felon Sally could not hold a liquor license. Disagreements reached new heights and Sally quit. When co-receivers Frank Trovato and Frank LaVora (Sally’s cousin) received to keep their positions, ownership reverted to Candy.
As late as August 25, 1994, the FBI was still actively investigating Nicolo Safina for drug activity. On this day, they opened multiple sub-files on him, including one for logging physical surveillance. On August 31, 1994, a subpoena was issued to allow the FBI access to the records for the phones at 7478 South 27th, Oak Creek. There were four phones: Nicolo’s restaurant, one billed to Lillian Sweiter, one billed to Sweitzer, Inc, and a fourth that was redacted in my copy of the FBI record.
Around October 14, 1994, the FBI conducted surveillance around Nicolo Safina’s restaurant for a few days. The two vehicles most often observed were a Lincoln Continental (registered to the restaurant) and a black Camaro.
Matriarch of the Italian community, Jennie Navarro Puccio, died of kidney failure on August 14, 1995 at the age of 87. She had been the daughter of Pasquale and Benedetta Navarro, who came to Milwaukee from Sicily. Puccio was seen as the “matriarch” because she was a past president of the Italian-American Federation, which would become the Italian Community Center. Along with her husband Joseph, she worked for Joseph’s parents in operating a still during Prohibition. Dominic Frinzi, the mob’s top attorney, said of Puccio, “We all looked up to her as the matriarch. She demonstrated leadership and was well liked and respected. She did a lot to enhance the image of the Italian-American immigrant of Milwaukee County… She taught me by her own actions and the work she did, we have an obligation to return some of the talents we have to the community.”
In 1996, Joseph and John Balistrieri unsuccessfully petitioned to have their licenses to practice as lawyers reinstated. A hearing on March 19 had attorneys and judges filing letters against them, citing FBI wiretaps and other documents.
June 3, 1996: Frank LaVora was planning to take over Snug’s restaurant in the Shorecrest Hotel and make it a night club called Frank’s. LaVora had previously managed LaVeer’s tavern and Sally’s Steakhouse when Sally Papia was in prison.
Charges filed on June 14, 1996, alleged that union president Vincent P. Gallo III (1) engaged in actions which violated the injunctive provisions of the Consent Decree by knowingly associating with organized crime individuals, and (2) breached his fiduciary duties to Local 122’s membership by causing the payment of unauthorized compensation increases, bonuses and personal expenditures. Secretary-Treasurer Christine M. Bruce breached her fiduciary duties to Local 122’s membership by causing the payment of unauthorized compensation increases, bonuses and personal expenditures. And Vice President Jerry M. Koskoski breached his fiduciary duties to Local 122’s membership by causing the payment of unauthorized compensation increases, bonuses and personal expenditures.
On August 9, 1996, Hotel and Restaurant Employees International Union Local 122 is placed in trusteeship. Vincent Gallo III, Local business agent, in an agreement with federal authorities is banned for life from union activities after being charged with the embezzlement of $160,000 and with associating with the Balistrieri crime On family. The newspaper called John Balistrieri for comment, and he said, “I don’t have anything to say about that.”
On August 15, 1996, the 12-member Board of Attorneys Professional Responsibility said they felt that John Balistrieri had not taken responsibility for his crimes and was not recommending reinstatement. They were “extremely troubled” by this. During testimony before the Board, Balistrieri had denied being guilty of any crime and later commented, “I broke the criminal law insofar as a jury found me guilty of being a participant in the conspiracy.” The board said that Balistrieri “used his legal expertise to further criminal activity” and were looking for some sort of remorse. Balistrieri fired back that the board “completely ignored my account of the facts” and said he declined to offer any character witnesses because “The Milwaukee news media has a sick and distorted interest in me and my affairs.” His point was that anyone called would have been scrutinized in the newspaper or possibly by the FBI. Two judges, Frank Crivello and John Foley, did submit letters of support on his behalf. Balistrieri also referenced prosecutor Thomas Martin, and pointed out that Martin had his license reinstated after drugging and sexually assaulting a 14-year old boy, which should be seen as a far worse crime.
On August 25, 1996, the Wisconsin State Journal quoted Milwaukee FBI chief Michael Santimauro as saying, “This (takeover of HERE) is a significant accomplishment in getting rid of organized crime influences in unions. The union membership has been the victims, and this gives the unions back to the members.”
On October 10, 1996, John Balistrieri withdrew his request to have his law license reinstated. He feels he is the victim of political prejudice and ethnic prejudice against Italian-Americans in general. When asked if he was planning to reapply, John tells the press, “Quite frankly, that’s none of your business.” His attorney, Bridget Boyle, says she expects that he will try again. An affidavit filed with his withdrawal request said the board’s denial actions “clearly demonstrate a hostile bias against him which affiant (Balistrieri) believes to be the product of political expedience and ethnic prejudice against Italian-Americans in general and affiant in particular.” Furthermore, he wrote that the board’s recommendation was based on “a value judgment rendered intrinsically defective by biased conjecture, prejudicial consideration of alleged criminal conduct of affiant’s father which is imputed to affiant.”
In February 1997, Local 122 of the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees Union installed Mike Gallo as vice president and his nephew Sam Gallo as business manager to run the 1,800-member union. Joy Flannery was also installed as president of the local union. Sam Gallo is the brother of Vincent P. Gallo III.
In June 1997, attorney Thomas E. Martin committed suicide by jumping off the Hoan Bridge, his body found on East Erie below. He left no note, but had placed his driver’s license and business card in the ashtray of his vehicle, which was still running, parked on the bridge above. According to the newspaper, the suicide was probably due to Martin losing his father, prominent Milwaukee surgeon Albert Martin. “Tom had a mental breakdown, unable to cope with the death of the man he loved and respected,” the paper wrote.
Around July 31, 1997, Sally Papia was sued by her Pewaukee homeowners’ association for not removing a fence, clothesline and antenna from her property. “I think it’s ridiculous,” Papia told the press. “I could see if you had a big satellite dish or a big fence that you couldn’t see through. But (my fence) is a cute little vinyl, 3-foot-tall fence.” The case went to court in December, and Papia’s attorney Frank Crivello argued that a “little old Italian lady” was “being treated unfairly”. Regardless, Judge James Kieffer decided she had, in fact, violated her subdivision’s policies. Papia said she would probably comply with the order, but still maintained that her fence was “adorable” and helped keep neighborhood kids from falling into her hot tub or getting attacked by her dogs.
Peter Frank Balistrieri died of natural causes on August 17, 1997.
Antonina Alioto Balistrieri passed away on September 15, 1997. The newspaper gave her a featured obituary, labeling her the “widow of mob leader” Frank Balistrieri. When asked to comment, Joseph Balistrieri said, “My mother was not a public figure.” Indeed, there was some backlash for the article. Sadie Machi, Rita Jennaro and Jean D’Amto jointly wrote a letter asking, “Why couldn’t she be allowed to rest in peace? She was born, lived and died being a very good wife, mother, sister and friend. She is missed by all those who knew and loved her.” Judy Tabat, who claimed to have known none of the Balistrieri family, said she felt “shock and horror” over the obituary, and felt it was “despicable and totally unnecessary”.
Joseph Balistrieri???: 1997-2010
Was there a Milwaukee Mafia after 1997? Was Joseph Balistrieri part of it? This is open to debate. Personally, I think the whole thing is very unlikely.
A reader tells me: “In 2000, I managed a Waldenbooks store in Reno and Joseph Balistrieri came into the bookstore. One of my workers there happened to be from Milwaukee and Joseph recognized her accent. I had no idea who he was at the time. He inquired to my worker if she was from Wisconsin. He then introduced himself, stating that he was a lawyer and that he was in town on business for his father. When he handed my worker his card I thought she might pass out from fear. She literally looked like something from a movie when I say they color all drained from her face and she recoiled from him saying, ‘I know who you are sir – EVERYBODY knows who you are.’ She was terrified when he left and she explained to me who he was. She also said that she had never met or seen any of the Balistrieris in person but the fear she displayed led me to believe he must of had quite a fearsome reputation. In my mind, this makes no doubt that they had business in Reno, although, of course, he did not say what.” Perhaps the reader made a typo on the year. By 2000, Joe was no longer a lawyer and his father was deceased. I have no reason to doubt the incident happened, though perhaps not exactly as described.
In early 2001, Open House Estate Sales was involved in the sale of Frank Balistrieri’s property, with some people even allegedly carrying out arms full of free clothing. His house was assessed at $428,000. Jim Huebner, who showed up for the sale, told the press that, “For a mob boss, he sure had poor taste.” The newspaper seemed to concur, describing the style of items in the house as “vintage 1960s Kmart” and “retro cheesy”.
On February 5, Fred VanHecke was named special administrator of the estate of Antonina Balistrieri. When VanHecke went to visit the woman running the estate sale, “She wasn’t too happy to see me,” he recalled. “In fact, she said something about me ruining her whole day.” VanHecke was brought in by Benedetta Balistrieri, causing Joseph and John to ask a probate court to dismiss him. They claimed Benedetta had no right to the property. Frank Crivello, attorney for Joseph, told the press, “I have no further comment at this time.” Benedetta said that her wedding dress was sold and “I don’t have so much as a baby picture.” Although everything was titled in Joseph’s name, Benedetta said her father maintained control and “secreted his assets for fear of revelation to law enforcement and tax authorities of the extent and nature of his holdings.”fe
In early 2002, the Balistrieri brothers served Jennie Alioto with notice of their intention to exercise their option to purchase the property. Alioto refused to sell, and the Balistrieris sued Alioto for specific performance of the contract. Alioto answered that the Balistrieris fraudulently induced her to sign the contract. The Balistrieris moved for summary judgment, arguing that Alioto’s defense of fraud was barred by the six-year limitation in Wisconsin Statute § 893.93(1)(b) on claims of fraud. The court rejected this argument and sided with Alioto.
Sally Papia and her daughter Candy slid off an icy Waukesha County road on January 1, 2005, as Candy was driving her 1991 Jeep Cherokee. At 3pm, the vehicle left County D and hit a tree, killing Candy instantly. Sally went into a coma and died from her injuries days later at Froedtert Memorial Lutheran Hospital in Wauwatosa. One of Milwaukee’s most colorful figures had died. She had dated a high-profile lawyer, a Chicago mobster, a cop, a banker and was friends with Senator Herb Kohl.
Frank Stelloh died March 8, 2005 at the age of 92.
Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge John Franke resigned his post and joined Milwaukee law firm Gass Weber Mullins on January 1, 2009. Deputy Chief Judge David Hansher called Franke one of Milwaukee County’s best and brightest judges.
Benedetta Balistrieri, the daughter of Frank Balistrieri, died May 27, 2009, in a Los Angeles hospital from diabetes complications at age 64.
Joseph P. Balistrieri, son of Frank Balistrieri, died in October 2010 at age 70.
Anthony Francis Pipito died on December 10, 2010, his 74th birthday. While the FBI connected him to the August Maniaci murder, Pipito was never tried for these crimes and the case remains officially unsolved.
Angelo J. Alioto, son of John Alioto, died February 3, 2011 of complications of pneumonia at age 87.
The Shorecrest Hotel apartment building was sold to a group of local investors in mid-October 2011, resolving a foreclosure lawsuit that Westbury Bank filed in June against the building’s previous owner, Shorecrest Hotel LLC. That company was affiliated with John Balistrieri, whose family bought Shorecrest in 1971. The new buyer, 1962 Prospect LLC, was comprised of James Alan Cadd, Caroline Cadd and Lore Hauck of Milwaukee. The same group owned the historic Astor Hotel, 924 East Juneau Avenue, about one mile from the Shorecrest. In fact, James Cadd lived at the Astor.
Anthony J. “Tony” Schiavo, age 68, son of Madison LCN member James Schiavo and husband of Rose Fucarino, died on Saturday, October 29, 2011 after a long battle with cancer.