We talk with Mike Byrne, Administrator of the popular Facebook group The Chicago Outfit – Old and Current News Articles. Harry “The Hook” Aleman was born Harry Peralt Alemen on January 19, 1939 in Chicago. He has been accused of as many as 18 murders by the Chicago Crime Commission and most folks believe that number is way low. He was an important tool in the Outfit’s enforcement of street tax on bookmakers and other gray area businesses like porn shops and the bar business. If you remember our friend Red Wemette talking about Frank “The German” Schweihs being the collector and enforcer for Joe Lombardo and the Grand Avenue Crew, then Harry Aleman was the collector and enforcer for Joe Ferrolia and his Taylor Street Crew.
Aleman’s mother was Italian, his Mexican father was a native of Durango, Mexico. Aleman grew up in a 3 floor brownstone style building at 917 S. Bishop Street in Chicago that was owned by his maternal grandmother. All the extended family of uncles, aunts and cousins lived here just west and south of the Loop. who became, as Aleman put it “sort of a Mexican godfather” who was allegedly involved in narcotics trafficking.
Years later in a probation interview Harry Aleman described his father Louis Aleman as “sort of a Mexican godfather” who was allegedly involved in narcotics trafficking. His mother Mary was an abused wife and Harry would become the target of his father’s angry fists as he grew up. Harry once stated, “My father was hard on me, extremely hard,”
“He beat me every day until I left home. He used his fist or a horsewhip. If I looked at him the wrong way, he beat me. If my mother stepped in, she got hit herself.”
Harry was given a respite from his father’s abuse when Louis Aleman went to prison for a 4 year robbery bit from about 1946 to 1950. Young Harry Aleman excelled in Crane Tech high school from 1951-1955. He was a halfback on the football team, a member of the physics club and took up boxing at the North Side Duncan YMCA club. His boxing career gave him his nickname “The Hook” because he had a devastating left hook. He graduated in 1955, rare for a hoodlum of that generation, and enrolled in the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts and graduated in 1958 with a commercial art diploma. It seems that Harry Aleman had displayed skill at painting and this ability will provide him with something do during his subsequent incarcerations.
Aleman’s official police record starts after graduation from the Academy of Fine Arts. He told the probation officer that during this time he sold race track tout sheets and worked at the produce markets on the Near West Side, where he sold produce and was able to sell some of his drawings. In 1960, his police record shows he was arrested for malicious mischief, in 1961, gambling, in 1962, possession of burglary tools assault and criminal damage. In 1965 he was arrested for aggravated assault. In 1966, grand theft auto and armed robbery. In 1968, criminal damage to property in 1969, aggravated kidnapping.
In 1960, Harry became infatuated with a beautiful young spunky widow named Ruth Mustari who worked at a Rush street bar. When he first met Ruth, she was having trouble with a former boyfriend named Richard Fanning. On December 10, 1960, Mr Fanning was found beaten and stabbed to death near his South Side home. In 1964, he married Ruth Mustari, a widow with four children. Ruth’s first husband, Frank Mustari, had been an Outfit connected mobster as well. He was killed in 1957 in an attempted murder of a hijacker and tavern owner. In this case, his victim was armed and shot first. The man was killed a few months later. Ruth was the ultimate mob wife. She always stood by her husband’s story that he was a commercial artist and that, in true mob tradition, the family was dead broke most of the time. A great story on Ruth the classic mob wife happened in 1976. Harry Aleman was indicted for the murder of Billy Logan, Ruth came to the Cook County Jail with a suitcase containing $350,000 to bail him out, not realizing that she needed only $35,000.
In later years a friend of Harry’s named Lou Almeida went into the witness protection. Almeida who has served time for armed robbery, grand theft, burglary, and bond jumping, recalled that he and Aleman grew up together near Taylor Street and Racine. He remembered how Aleman met his wife, Ruth. She was working in a State Street nightclub club and all the neighborhood guys loved Ruth because she was so beautiful. He remembered Harry as a very slim physically fit guy who wore sharp suits and skinny little ties in the fashion of the times and they called him `The Sheik’ because he dressed nice. Almeida recalled. “Everybody looked up to him because his family was supposed to be in the Mafia.” The two young hoodlums hung around in the neighborhood pool hall on Taylor Street. He remembered Larry liked to bet on the horses and he always had money and nice jewelry and clothes. Almeida said He remembered that Aleman was a strict father to his adopted children. On one occasion Almeida remembers that Harry asked him to give one of his adopted sons a good beating because the kid was getting drunk and staying out late. Harry didn’t want to beat him up because Ruth would be angry.
The couple had no biological children, and in later years Ruth Aleman once said, “He was wonderful to my children, He took the kids to Kiddieland, to dinner, on picnics, camping. He always had time for the kids. In the Cook county probation interview Harry said of his step children, “I raised them, I consider them my own. I couldn’t be any closer if they were my own blood. I love my kids. I love my wife. I have six grandkids–this gives me hope.” Harry always came home for dinner and asked the children about their day and how they were doing.
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