January 1, 1929
|Other names||Joey the Clown|
|Conviction(s)||Bribery, Racketeering, murder|
Joseph Patrick “Joey the Clown” Lombardo Sr. (born Giuseppe Lombardi; January 1, 1929), also known as "Joe Padula," "Lumbo," and "Lumpy", is an imprisoned American mafioso and a high-ranking member of the Chicago Outfit crime organization. He was alleged to be the Consigliere of the Outfit.
Born Giuseppe Lombardi, Lombardo was one of 11 children born to Italian immigrants, Mike Lombardi, a butcher, and Carmela Lombardi. The family, which immigrated from Bari, Italy, was known to be very poor. Lombardo, a high school dropout, at some point changed the final letter of his last name. He joined the Outfit in the 1950s.
Chicago Outfit career
Lombardo began his Outfit career as a jewel thief and as a juice loan collector. In 1963, Lombardo was arrested and charged with kidnapping and loan sharking, but he was acquitted after a factory worker who had owed $2,000 and who was behind on his payments could not positively identify Lombardo. Lombardo hung out with other Italian mobsters at the "Red Velvet" in Palos Hills, Illinois. The acquittal was Lombardo's 11th in 11 arrests. Lombardo, who by the late 1960s was referred to as an "up-and-comer" in the Chicago Outfit along with Angelo J. LaPietra (known as "The Hook"), would take over the Outfit's operations in Las Vegas in 1971.
In 1974, Lombardo was charged with embezzling $1.4 million from the Teamsters Union pension fund, along with Allen Dorfman, Anthony Spilotro and several others. However, the charges were dropped after the main witness, Daniel Seifert, was killed outside his plastics factory in Bensenville, Illinois two days before his scheduled court appearance. In 1974, Lombardo was implicated by government informant Alva Johnson Rodgers in the deaths of Seifert (the Teamsters' witness), Robert Harder, Sam Annerino, and Raymond Ryan, over a 15-year period. Lombardo was also accused of personally murdering disgraced police officer and turncoat informant, Richard Cain. Lombardo managed to escape even an arrest on all these charges, except for his conviction in the Seifert murder, in 2007.
Extortion and bribery
In 1982, Lombardo was charged with the extortion of $800,000 from construction owner Robert Kendler and the attempted bribery of Nevada US Senator Howard Cannon to get Cannon to stop or at least delay legislation regulating the trucking industry. Lombardo ultimately was convicted after a co-defendant agreed to testify against him. In 1983, Lombardo was sentenced to 15 years for his role in the bribe conspiracy. (Also convicted in the same case was Allen Dorfman, a major figure in the Teamster pension fund scandals of the 1960s and 1970s. Dorfman was murdered shortly after his conviction.) In 1986, Lombardo was convicted of maintaining hidden interests in several Strip casinos (including the Stardust Resort & Casino) and for skimming over $2 million in proceeds from 1974 until 1978, and was sentenced to 16 years—later reduced to 14 years. The $2 Million was invested into building the Old Neighborhood Italian American Club, in Chicago on 31st and Shields. The original Club was a store front on 26th street. The Club Founder Angelo La Pietra, was a power force in helping control Chicago Politics and Unions. Today the Club still carries a force in Chicago.
Life after prison: 1992-2006
After Lombardo was released from federal prison on November 13, 1992, he took the unusual step of taking out a small classified ad in the Chicago Tribune that read: "I never took a secret oath, with guns and daggers, pricked my finger, drew blood or burned paper to join a criminal organization. If anyone hears my name used in connection with any criminal activity, please notify the FBI, local police, and my parole officer, Ron Kumke."
Indictment, disappearance, and Family Secrets trial
In 2003, Chicago newspapers began reporting that federal investigators were looking into solving old mob murders. In 2003, the FBI swabbed Lombardo for DNA. Federal authorities also notified Lombardo during the probe that his life might be in danger.
On April 25, 2005, Lombardo, along with 13 other defendants was indicted as part of the federal government's Operation Family Secrets investigation, which lifted the veil on 18 killings since the 1970s that federal investigators had attributed to the Outfit. Lombardo was indicted for his role in at least one murder, as well as for running a racket based on illegal gambling, loan sharking and murder. Although Lombardo had known for weeks that an indictment was coming—agents had visited his machine shop on Chicago's Near West Side several months earlier and taken DNA swabs—he was not under surveillance by federal agents in the weeks leading up to the indictment. And as federal agents rounded up the 14 defendants on April 25, 2005, they realized that Lombardo had disappeared and become a fugitive.
While Lombardo's whereabouts were unknown, he wrote letters to his lawyer, Rick Halprin -- but directed toward the judge in the trial—in which he claimed to be innocent, requested a very minimal bond, offered to take a lie detector test, and asked to be tried separately from the other defendants in the Family Secrets case—all requests that Judge James Zagel denied.
The first letter from Lombardo surfaced on May 4, 2005 and was four pages long and riddled with spelling errors. "I am no part of a enterprise or racketeering . . . have no part in the poker machines, extorcinate loans, gambling and what ever else the indictment says," the letter read. "About the 18 murders in the indictment, I want you to know that I was not privy before the murders, during the murders, and after the murders, and to this present writing to you." Lombardo also told Zagel in the letter, "I am not a violent man in anyway shape or form. I do not own or have any weapons of any kind. if the F.B.I. should find me I will come peacefully and no resistance at all." Lombardo also asked Zagel for "any ideas or suggestion of what I should do," and said the judge can "notify my lawyer" who can "reach me by the media." In August and September 2005, Lombardo sent more letters to his attorney, indicating that he had been following local news coverage of a state hearing involving allegations that the mayor of Rosemont, Illinois had met with several members of the Chicago Outfit. In response, Halprin quipped of his still-at-large client's newspaper-reading habit: "I doubt that he has a home subscription."
The FBI then offered a $20,000 reward for information leading to Lombardo's capture. After nine months at large, a bearded, unkempt Lombardo, with long hair and having gained some weight, finally was captured by FBI agents on January 13, 2006 outside the Elmwood Park, Illinois home of his longtime friend Dominic Calarco. Federal agents had been tipped off to Lombardo's whereabouts after Lombardo had visited dead Outfit mobster Tony Spilotro's dentist brother, Patrick Spilotro, for a decaying tooth. At his arraignment, Lombardo pleaded, "Not guilty." He also revealed that he had atherosclerosis and had not seen a doctor while he was at large because "I was--what do they call it? I was unavailable," prompting laughter in the courtroom.
During the trial, which was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Mitchell Mars, T. Markus Funk, and John Scully, Lombardo took the unusual step for a mobster of taking the stand in his own defense, denying any involvement in the Seifert murder and claiming to have been at a police station at the time of the slaying, reporting the disappearance of his wallet. However, federal prosecutors noted Lombardo's fingerprint on the title application for a car used in the murder of Seifert. In addition, prosecutors pointed out that employees of an electronics store identified Lombardo as the purchaser of a police scanner used in Seifert's murder.
Conviction and sentencing
On September 10, 2007, Lombardo was found guilty of racketeering, extortion, and loan sharking. On September 27, 2007, the same jury found Lombardo guilty of the 1974 Seifert murder. Lombardo continually professed his innocence, telling Zagel at a sentencing hearing on February 2, 2009 that "I was not given a fair trial and now I suppose the court is going to sentence me to life in prison for something I did not do. I did not kill Daniel Seifert and also I did not have anything to do with it."
On February 2, 2009, Zagel sentenced Lombardo, seated in a wheelchair and wearing an orange prison jumpsuit, to life in prison for the convictions. "Mr. Lombardo, you are not like the toxic creature I've seen forming in one of your co-defendants," Zagel told Lombardo, referring to Chicago Outfit hit man Frank Calabrese, Sr., whom Zagel had sentenced to life in prison the previous week. "You evidence some balance and judgment and based on the evidence before me, some ability to charm people. In the end, we are judged by our actions and not on our wit or our smiles....In cases like these, the things that matter most are the worst things we do. The worst things you have done are terrible, and I see no regret in you. I think you felt you were engaged in a game in which you drew satisfaction in how you played the game....It wasn't a game," and it involved, "the destruction of a human life." Judge Zagel agreed with federal prosecutor T. Markus Funk, and sentenced Lombardo to life.
Lombardo has always kept silent about his family over the years, but his family is rather significant and important;[why?] Lombardo married Marion Nigro in a Catholic ceremony in 1951. Lombardo appears to have two brothers named Ralph and Rocco. His attorney was John Spilotro, whose uncle was Tony Spilotro.
Lombardo kept his family life private and enjoyed spending time with his three grandchildren: Joseph, Michael, and Nicholas Lombardo. Lombardo lived in the same modest condominium building on West Ohio Street, on the Near West Side of Chicago, from the time he was married until he became a fugitive in 2005.
Lombardo and his wife, Marion, divorced in 1991, but Lombardo continued to reside in the same condominium building, moving after his divorce to a basement unit. In 2006, federal prosecutors alleged that Lombardo's divorce was a sham to hide money. "If you think it's a sham divorce, investigate it," Lombardo's attorney Rick Halprin told reporters on February 9, 2006.
Lombardo earned the nickname "The Clown" from his joking nature and from various humorous incidents involving him, including grinning wide for mug shots and for departing a 1981 court appearance at the federal courts building in Chicago holding a Chicago Sun-Times newspaper in front of his face with a hole cut out so he could see. In 2005 Halprin spoke to the Chicago Tribune about his client's nickname saying, "That's a name he doesn't relish, and neither do I. The guy I know is not a clown."
- "The Lost Don"
- "Lombardo gets 'life' in Family Secrets trial"
- "The Lost Don"
- Warmbir, Steve (November 13, 2006). "Clown's defense may be no joke: Could argue he dropped out of conspiracy". Chicago Sun-Times. p. 1.
- Kass, John (July 27, 1999). "The nose shows almost anything goes under Daley watch". Chicago Tribune. p. 3.
- Korecki, Natasha (July 17, 2005). "'The Clown' wasn't fooling around // Lombardo , Schweihs took off well ahead of indictments, feds say". Chicago Sun-Times. p. 7.
- "Hammer drops on mob"
- Marin, Carol; Steve Warmbir (May 4, 2005). "Letter to judge believed to be from Joey Lombardo". Chicago Sun-Times. p. 3.
- O'Connor, Matt; John Chase (September 16, 2005). "More Lombardo letters - Reputed mob fugitive uses local postmark". Chicago Tribune. p. 1.
- "'The Clown' hid near police station"
- Bush, Rudolph (January 18, 2006). "Lombardo pleads not guilty to charges - Appearance has 'clowning' moments". Chicago Tribune. p. 7.
- Olmstead, Rob (August 15, 2007). "Hey, wise guy, cut it out Judge quashes Clown act". Daily Herald. p. 7.
- "Mobster sentenced to 'life'"
- Rocco Lombardo sentenced for tax evasion
- "The Lost Don"
- Warmbir, Steve (February 10, 2006). "Public to pay for Lombardo's defense despite family sale of millions in land". Chicago Sun-Times. p. 16.
- O'Connor, Matt (May 4, 2005). "Judge to Lombardo: No deal - Jurist issues warrant after reading purported letter from mob fugitive". Chicago Sun-Times. p. 1.
- MSNBC.com - Attorney: Reputed mobster 'Joey the Clown' gives surrender terms (Associated Press)
- ABC7Chicago.com - Joey 'the Clown' has a tough time getting medical help in federal lockup by Chuck Goudie
- Lombardo To Be Defended On Government's Dime (Associated Press)
- Illinois Police and Sheriff's News - Wanted: Joseph Lombardo Wanted
- Illinois Police and Sheriff's News - Who's Who in the Chicago Outfit for 1997
- Federal Bureau of Prisons Inmate Locator Website