It was the 1970's. Traditional organized crime in Chicago - variously known as the “Mob,” the “Outfit,” or the “Syndicate” - was near its pinnacle of power. Police payoffs, crooked politicians, corrupt local government workers, labor union control, and business “fronts,” enabled the Mob to successfully execute its business plan - to conspire together and make money through any means possible - regardless of legality. And the mobsters made money, although some made a lot more than others.
The RICO statute (i.e., the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act) was still in its infancy and it would be years before the Federal government was adept at snaring the Mob’s vast criminal enterprises with RICO’s formidable jaws. Even so, some of the government’s first Mob busters had been chasing down mobsters one-by-one since the days of Al Capone. (No, not the Federal Bureau of Investigation - FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover refused to even acknowledge the existence of the “Mafia” until 1957 when the New York state police broke-up the largest-ever Mafia meeting in upstate Apalachin.)
It was the IRS! Yes, some of the earliest mob busters were agents of that much maligned Federal agency, the Internal Revenue Service. Commonly known as “special agents,” in the 1970s the criminal investigators of the IRS worked out of what was then called the Intelligence Division. As you might expect, their mission was to investigate suspected tax fraud and evasion. At the time, most members of the Chicago Mob rarely felt obligated to report all their income on their tax returns, although after Capone’s conviction on tax evasion, some took the precautionary approach of either having a legitimate “front” occupation or reporting some of their income without disclosing its sources. Since they were criminals to begin with, IRS Intelligence generally viewed Outfit members as “the usual suspects.”
That brings us to Chuckie English. Of Italian descent, Charles Carmen “Englise” [or “Inglesia” - depending on which source you believe] was born on November 7, 1914. By the age of 19, English had earned his first arrest. During the ensuing years, he would be arrested for robbery, extortion, hijacking, conspiracy, loan sharking, gambling, counterfeiting phonograph records and their trademarks, and murder.
Luckily for English, he became a very successful businessman - not legitimate, but very successful. After making a modest living as a low level Mob operative, English’s career began to blossom in the 1950s when he hooked-up with up-and-comer Sam “Momo” Giancana, who went on to be the boss of the Syndicate from the late 1950s through the mid-1960s.
Exhibiting true entrepreneurial instincts, English utilized the Lormar Distributing Company to monopolize the distribution of records to juke box operators in the Chicago area. To achieve this feat, English had the Mob’s soldiers and various corrupt union officials intimidate juke box operators into buying records only from Lormar - and at price above that charged by other distributors. To further increase his profits, rather than selling original recordings, English had original records cheaply duplicated by the thousands and then put counterfeit manufacturers’ labels on them. And of course, he didn’t bother making royalty payments to anyone.
In the early 1960s, English and his brother, “Fat Sam” English, incorporated the Rim Rock Ranch near Phoenix, Arizona. Previously a dude ranch, they purchased it for about $330,000 and it blossomed into a multi-million dollar enterprise dabbling in real estate, construction, loans, and expansion of their jukebox operations. In his spare time, English also made some extra money working as a bookie, gambler, and loan shark. He even found time to work with Dominic “Butch” Blasi, another lieutenant of Syndicate boss Sam Giancana’s, in the takeover of construction firms, and jukebox and cigarette vending machine companies in Will County, south of Chicago.
In the mid-1970's, some of English’s business activities raised questions in the mind of IRS Special Agent John Olivero. A fellow Italian who was six years English’s junior, Olivero was acquainted with English, having known him from Chicago’s Montclare neighborhood where they both grew-up. Nevertheless, an old neighborhood acquaintance wasn’t something that held back an IRS special agent from looking into someone’s business affairs.
So with questions in mind, and knowing that at least some answers would be forthcoming from English’s financial records, Olivero obtained a subpoena. To accompany him, Olivero called Special Agent James McGuire. In his late 20's at the time, McGuire was no novice agent, but he still considered Olivero - who was in his early 50's, as one of his mentors. And in the 1970's, Olivero was one of the most experienced Mob investigators in IRS Intelligence.
McGuire recalled that it was about 10:30 in the morning on a beautiful summer day when he and Olivero arrived at English’s home at 1131 North Lathrop in River Forest.
River Forest wasn’t [and still isn’t] just any Chicago suburb. Living in River Forest meant status and wealth. The suburb’s residents included doctors, lawyers, union bosses, and, nearby to English’s home, Dorothy Comiskey Rigney, the majority owner of the Chicago White Sox prior to her selling a 54 percent interest to a group led by Bill Veeck. Oh, and let’s not forget that high-level mobsters, such as “the boss” at the time, Tony “Big Tuna” Accardo, lived in River Forest.
So, there were Olivero and McGuire at Chuckie English’s front door, ringing the bell, with subpoena at the ready. When the door opened, McGuire tried not to laugh. There was the sixty-some-year-old, 5-foot 10-inch, 180-pound Chuckie English standing in the doorway wearing nothing but a silk bath robe - at 10:30 in the morning.
Immediately recognizing John Olivero, Chuckie greeted him with a rousing “Johnny!” In turn, Olivero greeted Chuckie with an emphatic “Chuckie!”
After introducing McGuire and some brief small talk, Olivero asked English, “So, how ya doin’ Chuckie?”
With a smirk on his face and glancing fleetingly at the outside of his house, Chuckie raised his hands to his chest with his palms facing out and bellowed, “Hey, who the f--- says crime doesn’t pay!”
Today, 30 years after the fact, those moments are still clear in Jim McGuire’s mind. (Sadly, John Olivero died the day after his IRS retirement party in May 1980.)
On February 13, 1985, English dined at Horwath's Restaurant in suburban Elmwood Park. Horwath’s was a favorite hangout of the Mob’s hierarchy. Reportedly, English had left Chicago for Florida some years prior and ran a small gambling operation there. He had led a much less lucrative existence since his main source of his success, Sam Giancana, was assassinated in the basement of his home in 1975. Thus, English’s presence back in Chicago at a time some law enforcement authorities considered him a retiree, was somewhat of a mystery. As English left the restaurant and was walking to his parked Cadillac, two assailants wearing ski masks shot him in the head and escaped. Chuckie English was dead at age 70.
Maybe English was right. Crime does pay - at least for a while.
Olivero’s Work Surfaces Posthumously
While investigating the siphoning of funds from the Teamsters’ Central States Pension Fund in May 1973, Special Agent John Olivero interviewed Daniel R. Seifert, the former president of International Fiberglass, Inc. in Bensenville, IL.
Although Seifert had been International Fiberglass’ president, then-Outfit lieutenant Joseph Lombardo was in-charge of the company’s operations and he represented the principal shareholders (i.e., Lombardo’s fellow co-conspirators).
Lombardo had told Seifert in September 1971, that a check was coming-in to International Fiberglass and he should let him know when it did. In October, a $5,250.00 check was received from Gaylur Products, a company which to Seifert’s knowledge, had no reason to issue a check to International. Lombardo instructed Seifert to deposit the $5,250.00 check, issue a bogus sales invoice to Gaylur, and write two checks to him (Lombardo) for $1,000.00 and $4,250.00, recording the payments as back wages.
Following the interview, Olivero prepared a hand-written affidavit which was sworn-to and signed by Seifert.
Olivero could not have foreseen that Seifert’s cooperation would lead to his murder less than a year-and-a-half later in September 1974. With the death of the government’s key witness, Lombardo would walk away from that particular case.
But justice had a long memory, and over three decades later in the government investigation dubbed “Operation Family Secrets,” Lombardo would be convicted of racketeering conspiracy for his part in the murder of Daniel Seifert.
The affidavit Olivero took from Seifert that day in 1973 would become an exhibit in the 2007 trial of one-time Mob boss Joey “the Clown” Lombardo.
Copyright 2007 R. M. Burton