Butch Petrocelli and the Wild Bunch

May 20, 2019
Butch Petrocelli

William “Butch” Petrocelli Image by Annoyatorium

Don’t forget to buy me a coffee on Venmo at ganglandwire. This week, Chicago writer and Outfit historian, Camillius “Cam” Robinson and I talk about Butch Petrocelli and the Wild Bunch. As a special bonus in the sho0w notes, Cam has written a short piece with additional facts and stories about Butch and this feared hit team of young Turks in the Outfit.

I had a great time talking with Gary on Gangland Wire. I thought it might be helpful to include a bit more information on our buddy Butch as a companion to the podcast. I’ll expand further on the Wild Bunch as a whole in future blog posts.  If there are any other areas of mob interest, whether Chicago, New York, or parts in between, comment below, and I’ll do what I can.

William “Butch” Petrocelli was born on Taylor Street in 1938 to Aurelio and Assunta, immigrants from Abruzzi, Italy. He was the eighth of nine children, and while Aurelio dug ditches in Chicago, Butch wondered if maybe there were better ways to make a buck. His older brother John would go on to become a sergeant in the Chicago PD, joining the force in 1954, but by 1957, Butch was given probation for cartage theft, a new hobby he had picked up with his good buddy, a young Harry Aleman. They were off to an early start.

Butch spent most of the 60s as an Outfit member-in-training, collecting juice loans, and protection money…he didn’t mind getting a little rough. By 1969, Butch and Harry got in trouble for roughing up a contractor over a couple of thousand dollars owed to the Outfit. Even with first-hand testimony from undercover officers, the case never even made it past the grand jury. Membership has its privileges.

 

In 1971, Sambo Cesario was blown away by two masked men. Between 1973-74, Butch and Harry, and their new pal Jimmy Inendino were robbing houses with a stolen sheriff’s badge. Then in 1974, Harry’s uncle, Joe Ferriola came out of prison, and Turk Torello wanted to crack down. There would now be a street tax on all book-making, gambling, and loan-sharking in the city. Joe Ferriola knew just the men for the job: Butch Petrocelli, Harry Aleman, Tony Borsellino, and Harry Aleman…The Wild Bunch was born.

 

One after another, recalcitrant bookies fell, either in line, or on the pavement, the Wild Bunch weren’t picky, but they were effective. Chris Cardi, Nick Galanos, Tony Reitinger, the hits just kept coming. In 1977, the Feds tried to serve a warrant on Butch for illegally purchasing firearms. He sped from the scene, leading them on a chase through the city, until he finally lost them in the Old Neighborhood. That charge was dropped too.

 

His brother John, the cop, was diagnosed with cancer in 1978, and Butch was at the hospital almost every day, even driving John to the Mayo Clinic when he didn’t seem to be improving. John died later that year. Butch’s marriage had also broken up by that time.

 

As a reward for his efficiency, Butch (seen with Rocco Infelice) received control of all three race tracks in the Chicago area. Meanwhile, “Jimmy I” and Harry both got 30 years on a RICO charge for the burglaries Butch took part in. Butch looked out for his friends, To help out the Alemans, he took over Harry’s collections…then he had Tony Borsellino killed.

 

1980 started badly for Butch, and ended worse. Eleftherios Valentzas, a well-liked restaurant owner and bookmaker, was shotgunned to death after agreeing to testify against the Petrocelli crew—the bosses weren’t impressed. Then the $100,000 Butch put together for Harry’s family seems to have gotten misplaced. Finally, he threw a huge

Butch Petrocelli

Image by  Ross Stanger   Christmas party in a Gold Coast hotel for the whole Outfit; this was Butch’s mob now…or so he kept telling people.

It probably wasn’t a surprise when Angelo LaPietra and Joe Ferriola called Butch to come in for a sit-down. I likely was a surprise when Frank Calabrese threw a rope around his neck and slit his throat. Butch was bound up in a sleeping bag and left in his red 1977 Ford LTD, with the white Landau roof, and left at the 4300 Block of West 25th Place. Nick Calabrese tried to burn the car, but forgot to leave the window open and the fire went out, but not before doing a hell of a number on Butch’s face.

Butch Petrocelli

Image by Annoyatorium

In 1989, when Harry Aleman appealed his sentence claiming he must have been an informant. Harry didn’t think it was fair that he got caught while Butch went free. The judge disagreed. The

last anyone in Chicago heard of Butch Petrocelli officially, was when Frank Calabrese was charged with his murder in 2007.

 

-Camillus Robinson

Don’t forget to listen to Aaron on the Big Dumb Fun Show.

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