Gerald Scarpelli and the Wild Bunch

May 27, 2019

scarpelli Gerald “Gerry” Scarpelli was a Chicago Outfit hit men who specialized in armored car heists and bank robberies. Early FBI records show him as a member of Al Pilotto’s Chicago Height’s crew, but it is known that he later reported to “Nagall” Joe Ferriola, and later Ernest “Rocco” Infelice of the Taylor Street/Cicero crew. He was a known associate of Jerry Scalise, James Peter “Duke” Basile, and the Outfit hit crew The Wild Bunch. Scarpelli preferred robberies to murder but followed orders when given. His small-time “scores” often angered Infelice, who felt Scarpelli was drawing unwanted attention on the Outfit. Scarpelli smoothed things over with the bosses by being a consistent and steady hitman.

Scarpelli made several attempts to “go legitimate,” first by investing several thousand into a jewelry boutique, and when that failed, he worked at a shipping company owned by his brother. He ultimately wanted to own an auto salvage yard, but as a felon, licensing would have been difficult to obtain in Illinois. To make ends meet, he had a partnership with a small-time, unsuccessful bookie, and had his Outfit salary.

Scarpelli’s first arrest was in 1960 for robbery and served three prison terms through the years, but it was in the 1970s he did his major work. He was arrested in 1972 for armed robbery, but given probation, then he violated probation in 1973 with another armed robbery in Illinois, for which he received 15 years, but claimed his confession was made under duress. Released from prison in 1976 after the US Supreme Court ruled in his favor in Gagnon v. Scarpelli, he immediately worked as a hitman for many Outfit leaders and was a member of the Wild Bunch. He is credited with numerous murders for which he would have received orders, most notably Ned Bakes, a Capone-era mobster whose real name was Ignacius Spacchesi, who was once wanted for questioning in the murder of Bugsy Siegel.

In 1977, Chicago Heights lieutenant Al Tocco sought out his former associate, Gerry Scarpelli and the Wild Bunch for assistance in the Chop Shop Wars. Scarpelli and his partner Scalise killed junkyard owner Richie Ferraro and later his partner Frank Theo, both of whom were close to Scalise. Scarpelli would go on to commit several more murders as part of the Wild Bunch, finally taking part in ending the group with the murders of former partner Tony Borsellino and Petrocelli, with whom Scarpelli fell out.

Despite Scarpelli’s close ties to Petrocelli, Butch attempted to use his position to rob from Scarpelli. In the late 70s, Scarpelli and Duke Basile teamed up to rob two Brinks trucks. The first was in October of 1978 in Hammond, IN, the second was for $346,000 April of 1979, in Tinley Park. In addition, they robbed a Brinks courier in the lobby of a bank in Elmwood Park for $324,000, all of which netted him over a million dollars. After these armed robberies, Butch Petrocelli claimed “street tax,” in the name of the Outfit, but didn’t kick back to his bosses. This tax created a rift between Scarpelli and Petrocelli and Scarpelli demanded justice from Cicero capo Joe Ferriola, who knew nothing about the tax. This was the final straw for Butch Petrocelli.

Scarpelli spent the 1980s hustling, committing small robberies, and working for the Cicero crew. Throughout 1986 and 1987, he worked with Duke Basile on a number of robberies, often describing his Outfit work. Throughout this time, Basile was an FBI informant wearing a wire. At one point, the FBI trailed Scarpelli and Basile to a safe garage where vehicles and weapons were stored. They observed Scarpelli storing several firearms in preparation for a robbery that the FBI had set up in a residence the FBI had wired for sound. The FBI then returned to the garage and rendered the weapons inoperable.

After Scarpelli and Basile committed the robbery in Michigan City, the FBI approached him and advised him of his situation. Scarpelli initially refused to cooperate but agreed in time. He spent several hours speaking to the FBI describing the daily activities of the Outfit and offered to wear a wire, but because he was a murderer, the FBI would not release him. On the record, Scarpelli complained about the bosses, and the difficulty making real money. He stated murder was just business, and he was not compensated for it.

Scarpelli later recanted his earlier statements and complained that they were not the product of free-will. When his legal appeals against his testimony were found to be without merit, Scarpelli went to the correctional center shower and hanged himself. The FBI later stated that much of the information given has proven to have been deliberately false.

 

Murders:

 

  • Richard “Richie” Ferraro: 6/13/1977, junkyard owner who refused to comply with Outfit tax on chop shops. Ferraro’s body was never found; he was declared dead in 1984. Jerry Scalise worked in Ferraro’s junkyard. In addition, per a 1990 memo by US Atty Dean Polales, Ferraro was killed on land owned by Charles Cruz, whose body would be found in 1997, 50 yards from the Scalise junkyard in Dupage County, IL
  • Frank Theo: 7/15/1977, partner and associate of Richie Ferrara, a known associate of Jerry Scalise.
  • Mark C. Thanasouras: ex-CPR district captain who served 18 months for shaking down businesses for protection rackets, had recently given testimony about crooked officers and Outfit members, cut down by two masked men with shotguns
  • Richard Crofton: 12/22/1977, manager for South Side Catering, associated with John Lourgos, who also had business dealings with Mark C. Thanasouras. Owner of Southside Catering, Theresa Schaffer received death threats and her car was bombed. Rita Payonk, who was shot in the head (2/6/76), was a book-keeper for a restaurant owned by late John Schaffer. Crofton was killed by two masked men while a third drove a white Camaro.
  • George Christofalos: 3/11/1979, known racketeer who came into competition with Tony Borsellino. Borsellino received approval to execute Christofalos. Jerry Scalise, Gerry Scarpelli, and Tony Borsellino waited for the victim outside the L&L #2 Club at Rt 41 and Buckley. Scarpelli pinned down on-lookers, while Borsellino shot Christofalos. Scalise drove.
  • Tony Borsellino: 5/22/1979, higher ranking Butch Petrocelli blamed missing revenue on Borsellino and threw in a bit about him speaking to the police for good measure. Likely, both are true: Butch was lying, and Borsellino was skimming. Borsellino sought help from Frank Calabrese who asked Angelo LaPietra if Borsellino could switch crews. LaPietra stated that the only way to save Borsellino was for Calabrese to sacrifice himself in his place. Tony Borsellino would have trusted Scarpelli
  • Gerald Carusiello: 9/28/1979, a driver for Joey Aiuppa, and partner of Tony Borsellino, Carusiello is a loose end to both the burglary murders
  • Michael Oliver: 11/14/1979, a porn shop owner in competition with Vito Caliendo, who works under Butch Petrocelli. Butch orders crew to smash up shop, but at some point, Oliver is shot. He is buried in DuPage County. Killed by Robert Sarno, Gerry Scarpelli, Jerry Scalise, and Sal Cataudella

By Camillius Robinson

 

This podcast was done with the assistance of Camillius “Cam” Robinson, a Chicago based writer and mob historian.

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