Updated news on the Gambino, Genovese, Bonanno, Lucchese and Colombo Organized Crime Families of New York City.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Trial of Chicago mobster Rudy "The Chin" Fratto may be drained of colorful monikers, but it still paints a vivid picture of Outfit activities

Can you really have a federal trial of a reputed Chicago Outfit enforcer without using his nicknames?

We'll find out when Rudy "The Chin" Fratto — charged with helping rig forklift contracts for trade shows at McCormick Place — goes on trial in November.

Some colorful nicknames will not be used, according to recent federal court filings.

That's because Fratto's co-defendant, Inverness businessman William Anthony Degironemo, also known as "Billy D" in the indictment, filed a motion for the nicknames to be removed.

Prosecutors agreed to remove Fratto's nicknames, but they hope to retain the "Billy D."

"It is understood by everyone that Mr. Degironemo was just a businessman who has no affiliation with alleged organized crime," his wily attorney, Joseph Duffy, told me over the phone the other day.

"The government agreed with our motions. References to organized crime will be struck out of the indictment, and the jury won't hear about it," said Duffy, a former prosecutor. "The jury will hear about a businessman seeking a contract at McCormick Place."

There will still be some seasoning in this stew. The Fratto case does involve colorful characters in Chicago and Cleveland, and huge gambling debts, and tough guys in cars, talking about FBI agents as the wind howls outside.

But there won't be mention of the "Chicago Outfit." And no mentions either of "The Chin" or "Cleveland organized crime family."

Fratto has always been polite when I've met him, and as funny as any reputed Outfit enforcer can be after he's been indicted.

But let's admit something. His chin really isn't large enough to support the nickname "The Chin." Actually, it's a smallish chin.

Once I asked him: What's with your nickname "The Chin"?

"I don't know," he said. "I don't know where they got that."

I'm not exactly a chin expert, though I've grown a few chins of my own since I quit smoking. It really doesn't matter what kind of chin a man has — what matters is the grit within — but Fratto's doesn't exactly remind you of that chunk of granite under Rocky Marciano's teeth.

Perhaps equally as sad, the less anatomical nickname "Uncle Rudy" will also be stricken.

According to the indictment, a consultant for a Las Vegas exposition company found himself indebted to Cleveland wiseguys for some $350,000.

The Chin — oops, I mean Fratto — allegedly offered to reason with the Cleveland boys in exchange for the consultant leaking secret information on the forklift contracts. That information allegedly allowed Billy D — oops, I mean Mr. Degironemo — to win contracts at McCormick Place.

The feds still hope to use the "Billy D" nickname, because, according to a partial transcript of FBI recordings, that's what Fratto keeps calling him. For example, as per the court filing:

Fratto: Uh, I'm tryin' to figure out, um, I'm trying to figure out what, uh, you know, what can be done with Billy D, 'cause that, I mean all of them forklifts could really be somethin', but … but you got too many (bleeping) obstacles.

In another FBI recording, Fratto seems unnerved about FBI agent Andrew Hickey and another agent.

Fratto: Andrew Hickey … is that the guy that was there?

Cooperating witness: I don't know. Those two, uh ...

Fratto: Mackey and Hickey … I think those are the ones, they went by Billy D.

CW: They went by Billy D?

To some, Fratto is a quiet suburban businessman with an unremarkable chin who is quite worried about FBI agent Andy Hickey.

But the Chicago Outfit just can't picture Fratto as a victim. They see him as the scary guy. It's been so since at least 1989, when Outfit enforcer Mario Rainone was allegedly ordered to kill another mobster.

According to records and interviews with current and former federal authorities, Rainone arrived at the job site and noticed something strange. Fratto and another reputed mobster, Willie Messino, were parked off to the side.

Rainone didn't believe in coincidences. Mobsters who believe in coincidences often end up in the trunks of parked cars. Rainone figured it was a setup.

So he ran to the FBI, and helped compromise mobster Lenny Patrick on government tape. But when the back porch of Rainone's mother's home was blown to bits, he refused to testify.

In prison, he became one of my most devoted readers, though sometimes he'd call to complain.

"I'm no beefer," he'd say. "I did 15 years in hard joints. I'm no beefer."

These days, Rainone is facing decades more in prison if convicted of a federal gun charge stemming from a 2009 burglary arrest in Lincolnshire. He was arrested with another man, Vincent Forliano, Fratto's son-in-law.

Rainone's son, John Rainone, has also been charged in an unrelated theft scheme involving credit card numbers lifted from restaurants.

And well-known criminal lawyer Joseph "The Shark" Lopez has hit the legal daily double, representing both father and son.

I asked Lopez if federal authorities might be interested in things Mario knows, things that happened long ago, the kind not subject to the statute of limitations.

"Not at all," said Lopez. "This is a gun case. Nobody cares about Mario's history. He's been charged with a gun. That's it. All that historical stuff you're interested in? That's what authors write books about. You should try it and see."

Only if I can use nicknames.



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