Chicago Outfit

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Chicago Outfit
Founder Big Jim Colosimo
Founding location Chicago, Illinois, United States
Years active 1910–present
Territory Chicago metropolitan area and other parts of Illinois. Other territories are in Nebraska, Indiana, Las Vegas, Florida and Southern California[1]
Ethnicity "Made men" are people of Italian descent, and other ethnicities as associates.
Membership 28 members, 100+ associates[2]
Criminal activities Racketeering, gun running, bribery, conspiracy, arson, burglary, coercion, labor racketeering, hijacking, loansharking, drug trafficking, fencing, fraud, money laundering, murder, illegal gambling, assault, battery, extortion, threats.
Allies Five Families, Detroit, Cleveland, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Patriarca and Los Angeles crime families, and the Outlaws[3][4]
Rivals Various Chicago criminal groups that rivals it for power.

The Chicago Outfit (or simply the Outfit), also known as the Chicago Mafia or the Chicago Mob, is an Italian American crime syndicate based in Chicago, Illinois. Dating back to the 1910s, it is part of the American Mafia. Originating in South Side Chicago, the Outfit rose to power in the 1920s under the control of Johnny Torrio and Al Capone, and the period was marked by bloody gang wars for distribution of illegal alcohol during Prohibition. Since then, the Outfit has been involved in a wide range of criminal activities including loansharking, gambling, prostitution, extortion, political corruption, and murder. Following Capone's conviction for income tax evasion, the Outfit was run by Paul Ricca and Tony Accardo for over 60 years.

Although the Outfit did not have a monopoly on organized crime in Chicago, they were by far the biggest criminal organization in the Midwestern United States. The Outfit's control at its peak reached throughout the western and eastern United States to places as far away as California and Florida. Higher law enforcement attention and general attrition led to the Outfit's gradual decline since the late 20th century. The Chicago Outfit is currently believed to be led by John DiFronzo.



The early years of organized crime in Chicago in the late 19th and early 20th centuries were marked by the division of various street gangs controlling the South Side and North Side as well as the Black Hand organizations of Little Italy.

Big Jim Colosimo centralized control in the early 20th century. Colosimo was born in Calabria, Italy, in 1877, emigrating to Chicago in 1895, where he established himself as a criminal. By 1909 he was successful enough that he was encroaching on the criminal activity of the Black Hand organization.[5] Since its founding, the Chicago Outfit has been operating in order to keep and expand its status and profit throughout the Chicago area, among others.

His expanding organization required the procurement of extra muscle. This came in the form of Colosimo's nephew Johnny Torrio from New York. In 1919, Torrio brought in Al Capone, thus providing Capone's entrance to Chicago. In time, Colosimo and Torrio had a falling out over Torrio's insistence that they expand into rum-running, which Colosimo staunchly opposed. In 1920, Colosimo was killed on Torrio's order. Torrio reportedly brought in New York colleague, Frankie Yale, to murder Colosimo. Al Capone has also been suspected as Colosimo's assassin.

Torrio brought together different parts of Chicago criminal activity, with a lasting effect on Chicago in general, and Chicago crime in particular.

Al Capone's empire[edit]

During the Prohibition era, Johnny Torrio, competed with other gangsters in Chicago for the bootlegging business. Despite this, Torrio was able to reach a truce with Dean O'Banion, the leader of the Irish North Side Gang. The Chicago Outfit operated in South Chicago while Dean O'Banion operated out of the North Side. Torrio also had allied with the Sicilian Genna crime family that operated out of Little Italy in the city's center. The truce with the North Side fell apart and on November 10, 1924, Dean O'Banion was killed by Frankie Yale and two Genna gunmen. Hymie Weiss took over the North Side Gang and on January 24, 1925 Torrio was severely wounded in an assassination attempt. After recovering in the hospital and serving a one year jail sentence, Torrio handed off control to Capone and retired. In 1926, Capone had Hymie Weiss killed. Capone's accession led to a bloody war for control of the bootlegging rackets in Chicago during the 1920s. This accumulated to the St. Valentine's Day Massacre. The war was widely covered by the press and turned Capone into a national figure.

Raking in vast amounts of money Capone and his men were largely immune to prosecution because of witness intimidation and the bribing of city officials. They also paid off numerous cops to avoid arresting his men. By the end of his reign, Capone had successfully expanded the Chicago Outfit throughout metro Chicago. One of the prime areas of interest was in Canada, the main source of alcohol which the Outfit was smuggling into the States. This illicit alcohol was then distributed to all the brothels of Chicago. During prohibition, this was one of the greatest sources of income for the Outfit. The boss controlled the heads of various divisions of the Outfit through a system of subordinates placed throughout the various levels of the organization. Anyone who betrayed the honor of the organization was executed. Unable to convict Capone of any meaningful criminal activity, Treasury agents had him arrested for tax evasion and he was sentenced to 11 years in prison in 1931.

From Nitti through Accardo[edit]

Capone's hand-picked successor, Frank Nitti, nominally assumed power. In truth, power was seized by Nitti's underboss, Paul Ricca, who was acknowledged as "boss" by the leaders of the growing National Crime Syndicate. Ricca would rule the Outfit, either in name or in fact, for the next 40 years.

Over the next decade, The Outfit moved into labor racketeering, gambling, and loan sharking. Geographically, this was the period when Outfit muscle extended its tendrils to Milwaukee and Madison, Wisconsin, Kansas City, and especially to Hollywood and other California cities, where The Outfit's extortion of labor unions gave it leverage over the motion picture industry.

In the early 1940s, a handful of top Outfit leaders went to prison because they were found to be extorting Hollywood by controlling the unions that compose Hollywood's movie industry, and the manipulation and misuse of the Teamsters Central States Pension fund.[6] There were also allegations that The Outfit was involved in strong-arm tactics and voter fraud at polling places, under Salvatore Giancana in the 1960 presidential election. In 1943, the Outfit was caught red-handed shaking down the Hollywood movie industry. Ricca wanted Nitti to take the fall. However, Nitti had found, years earlier while in jail for 18 months (for tax evasion), that he was claustrophobic, and he decided to end his life rather than face more imprisonment for extorting Hollywood. Ricca then became the boss in name as well as in fact, with enforcement chief Tony Accardo as underboss—the start of a partnership that would last for almost 30 years. Around this time, the Outfit began bringing in members of the Forty-Two Gang, a notoriously violent youth gang. Among them were Sam "Momo" Giancana, Sam "Mad Sam" DeStefano, Felix "Milwaukee Phil" Alderisio and Fiore "Fifi" Buccieri.

However, later in 1943, following the "Hollywood Scandal" trial, Ricca was sent to prison for his part in The Outfit plot to control Hollywood. He, along with a number of other mobsters, was sentenced to 10 years in prison. Through the "magic" of political connections, the whole group of Outfit mobsters was released after three years, largely due to the efforts of Outfit "fixer" Murray "The Camel" Humphreys. As a condition of his parole, Ricca could not associate with mobsters. Accardo nominally took power as boss, but actually shared power with Ricca, who continued behind the scenes as a senior consultant—one of the few instances of shared power in organized crime.

Accardo joined Ricca in semi-retirement in 1957 due to some "heat" he was getting from the IRS. From then on, Ricca and Accardo allowed several others, such as Giancana, Alderisio, Joey Aiuppa, William "Willie Potatoes" Daddano and Jackie "the Lackey" Cerone to nominally serve as boss. Most of the front bosses originated from the Forty-Two Gang. However, no major business transactions, and certainly no "hits," took place without Ricca and Accardo's knowledge and approval. By staying behind the scenes, Ricca and Accardo lasted far longer than Capone. Ricca died in 1972, leaving Accardo as the sole power behind the throne.


Along with the voting allegations, The Outfit was involved in a Central Intelligence Agency-Mafia collusion during Castro's overthrow of the Cuban government. In exchange for its help, the Outfit was to be given access to its former casinos if it helped overthrow Fidel Castro in (Operation Mongoose or Operation Family Jewels).[7] Having failed in that endeavor, and facing increasing indictments under the administration of President John F. Kennedy (JFK), the Outfit is the subject of conspiracy theories regarding the JFK assassination and that of JFK's brother Robert Kennedy.

The Outfit reached the height of its power in the early 1960s. With the aid of Meyer Lansky, Accardo used the Teamsters pension fund to engage in massive money laundering through the Outfit's casinos, aided by the likes of Sidney Korshak and Jimmy Hoffa. The 1970s and 1980s were a hard time for the Outfit, as law enforcement continued to penetrate the organization, spurred by poll-watching politicians. Off-track betting reduced bookmaking profits and illicit casinos withered under competition from legitimate casinos. Replacement activities like auto theft and professional sports betting did not replace the lost profits. The Outfit controlled casinos in Las Vegas and "skimmed" millions of dollars over the course of several decades. Most recently, top mob figures have been found guilty of crimes dating back to as early as the mid-1960s. It has been rumored that the $2 million skimmed from the casinos in the Court case of 1986 was used to build the Old Neighborhood Italian American Club, the founder of which was Angelo J. "The Hook" LaPietra.

Operation PENDORF (codenamed for penetrate Allen Dorfman) and the "Strawman" case ended the Outfit's skimming and control of their Las Vegas casinos. These events are fictionalized in the film Casino.

Operation GAMBAT proved to be a crippling blow to the Outfit's tight grip on the Chicago Political Machine. Pat Marcy, a made man in the Outfit, ran the city's First Ward, which represented most of downtown Chicago. With the help of Alderman Fred Roti and Democratic Committeeman John D'Arco, Sr., close Outfit associates, Marcy and company controlled the circuit courts from the 1950s until the late 1980s. Together, the First Ward fixed cases involving everything from minor traffic violations to murder.

Attorney and First Ward associate Robert Cooley was one of the attorneys who represented many mafiosi and associates in which cases were fixed. As a trusted man within the First Ward, Cooley was approached and asked to take out a city police officer. Cooley, who was also an addicted gambler and in debt to certain undesirables, approached the U.S. Justice Department's Organized Crime Strike Force, declaring he wanted to "destroy Marcy and the First Ward."

Cooley was soon in touch with the FBI and began cooperating as a federal informant. Through the years, Cooley kept close with Marcy and the big shots of the First Ward. He wore a wire, recording valuable conversations at the notorious "First Ward Table", located at "Counselor's Row" across the street from Chicago City Hall. The results in Operation Gambat (Gambling Attorney) were convictions of 24 corrupt judges, lawyers, and cops.

Accardo died in 1992.[8] In a measure of how successfully he'd managed to stay out of the limelight, he never spent a day in jail (or only spent one day, depending on the source) despite an arrest record dating to 1922. Compared to how organized crime leadership transitions take place in New York City, Chicago's transition from Accardo to the next generation of Outfit bosses has been more of an administrative change than a power struggle.

21st century[edit]

Higher law enforcement investigations and general attrition led to the Outfit's gradual decline since the late 20th century. The Old Neighborhood Italian American Club is considered to be hangout of Old Timers, as they live out their golden years. The Club's founder was Angelo J. LaPietra "The Hook", who at the time of his death in 1999 was the main Council. On April 25, 2005, the U.S. Department of Justice launched Operation Family Secrets,[9] which indicted 14 Outfit members and associates under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). U.S. District Court Judge James Zagel presided over the Family Secrets trial. The federal prosecutors were Mitchell A. Mars, T. Markus Funk, and John Scully.

As of 2007, the Outfit's size is estimated to be 28 official members (composing its core group) and over 100 associates.[2] Other references report that the Outfit has around 50-60 made members, and then more associates.[1][10] The Chicago Outfit is currently believed to be led by John DiFronzo.

Historical leadership[edit]


Street boss (front boss)[edit]

The position of "front boss" was created by boss Paul Ricca in efforts to divert law enforcement attention from himself. The family maintained this "front boss" deception for the next 60 years.



Current family members[edit]




  • Robert "Bobby the Boxer" Salerno — Salerno was a former boxing trainer who knew Ernie Terrell very well. In 1995, he was sentenced to life in prison for murder, which he stated he didn't do.[13]
  • Nicholas "Nick" Ferriola — he was sentenced for three years in federal prison for his role in the Family Secrets case. Ferriola is also involved in bookmaking all over Chicago.[14]
  • Michael "Handsome Mike" Talerico — he is related Angelo LaPietra, and was a small-time bookie. Talerico was also once married to former Chicago Outfit hitman Frank Schweihs's daughter.[15]
  • Richard "Richie the Cat" Catazone — during the 1980s, he was involved in an Outfit gambling operation, which included former Cincinnati Reds manager, Pete Rose.[16]
  • Michael "Big Mike" Spano — Spano and his father Sr. had great influence in Cicero, Illinois and controlled the town after Rocky Infelice was convicted during the 1990s.[17]
  • Salvatore DeLaurentis ("Solly D") - He was sentenced to 18 years in federal prison after he was convicted under racketeering, extortion, and tax fraud.[18]
  • Peter Difronzo - Brother of John "No Nose" Difronzo.

Government informants and witnesses[edit]

Name Rank and Year
William Morris Bioff associate (1943)
Ken Eto associate (1983)
Robert Cooley associate (1986)
Leonard Patrick associate (1992)
Nicholas Calabrese captain (2007)

Richard Cain turned informant in 1971, but he didn't become a witness, because he was murdered in 1973 after the discovery of his pact with the authorities.

Outfit associates[edit]

The Outfit is notable for having had other ethnic groups besides Italians as high ranking associates since the family's earliest days. A prime example of this was Jake "Greasy Thumb" Guzik, who was the top "bagman" and "accountant" for decades until his death. He was a Polish Jew. Others were Murray Humphreys, who was of Welsh descent, and Ken Eto (aka Tokyo Joe), who was Japanese-American. The Outfit also had Michael J. Corbitt, who was a police officer.

In popular culture[edit]

The Chicago Outfit has a long history of portrayal in Hollywood as the subject of film and television.



See also[edit]



  1. ^ a b c "Chicago Outfit Chart 2010". 11 February 2014. 
  2. ^ a b "ABC7 WLS : Chicago and Chicago News". Retrieved 2015-01-29. 
  3. ^   Ann Pistone and Chuck Goudie (2009-07-27). "Aging bombing suspect linked to Outfit; Outlaws won't get out". Retrieved 2010-07-26. 
  4. ^ "Chicago News". 2008-08-08. Retrieved 2015-01-29. 
  5. ^ Binder, John (2003). The Chicago Outfit. Arcadia Publishing. p. 9. ISBN 0738523267. 
  6. ^ Binder, John (2003). The Chicago Outfit. Arcadia Publishing. p. 56. ISBN 0738523267. 
  7. ^ Tisdall, Simon (26 June 2007). "CIA conspired with mafia to kill Castro". The Guardian. Retrieved 24 May 2013. 
  8. ^ Baumann, Edward (October 29, 1995). "FORMER FBI AGENT BILL ROEMER TAKES A LOOK AT MOB BOSS TONY ACCARDO". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2015-03-02. 
  9. ^ [1][dead link]
  10. ^ "FBI — The Chicago Mafia". Retrieved 2015-03-02. 
  11. ^ a b c d e f "American Gangland: The Chicago Outfit". 10 February 2014. Retrieved 2015-03-02. 
  12. ^ "The feds draw a bead on "Pudgy"". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2015-03-02. 
  13. ^ "Unmoved By Mobster's Plea, Judge Gives Him Life In Prison". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2 February 2013. 
  14. ^ "Ferriola gets 3 years". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2 February 2013. 
  15. ^ "Chicago mob: From hit men to ‘Wives’". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2 February 2013. 
  16. ^ "Oak Brook Man, 9 Others Ran Gambling Empire, U.s. Charges". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2 February 2013. 
  17. ^ "Murdered shipping executive paid mob figures". The Times. Retrieved 2 February 2013. 
  18. ^ "Lake County Mobster Gets 18 1/2-year Term". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2 February 2013. 
  19. ^ Thomas P. Hunt, New Milford, CT, (1930-10-23). "The American Mafia - Joe Aiello". Retrieved 2011-04-13. 

General references[edit]

External links[edit]