Joseph “Joey the Clown” Lombardo came up the usual way in Chicago organized crime. As a young man he was a bold and clever thief gravitating to high end items like jewelry and because of his toughness he was a collector of “juice” loans. Lombardo was actually nicknamed Lumpy because of his ability to put lumps on people who were not paying back the “vig” or interest on the mob loans. He was arrested for hanging a construction worker from a beam in a basement and beating him senseless. Lombardo was subsequently tried and acquitted of this crime and many others during the 1950s and 1960s. Chicago courts were not unfriendly to members of La Cosa Nostra or as they call it in Chicago, “The Outfit.” In the 1970s, he had risen to the level of capo or boss of a crew known as the Grand Street crew with about 30 “soldiers’ under him.
Joey was tapped to help oversee Chicago mob interests in Las Vegas for Underboss Joseph “Joey Doves” Aiuppa. He soon began spending most of his time with Teamster’s official Allen Dorfman. You can hear him threaten casino owner Morris Shenker in the featured video in the top section on the front page.
When the Las Vegas skim investigation brought Lombardo, Aiuppa and other Midwest mob bosses down, Lomabrdo spent about 14 years in prison. When he was released he placed the following classified ad in the Chicago Tribune:
“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.” Joe Lombardo.
In 2007, after a Chicago Outfit guy named Frank Calabrese came forward to testify, Joe Lombardo would face his last judge and jury. He was convicted in 2007 for an old murder and for taking part in Outfit loan sharking, extortion and racketeering and sentenced to life in prison.
I met Calabrese at Mob-Con 2013 and he was a very interesting guy. I recommend his book, Operation Family Secrets. He talked about how the real mob guys acted, how they related to law enforcement, how they conducted family life and how they conducted Outfit business. Frank was born into a mob family and his father was asking him to take over his crew when Frank had enough. He actually wore a recording device or “wire” on his own father.
During his talk at Mob-con, he explained how mob guys never drove expensive flashy cars nor wore flashy clothes. I say “true that.” He said they would drive under the flight pattern at airports to lose airplane or helicopter surveillance and I say again “true that.” He said if they realized they were being followed, the good mob guys wold not tip to the surveillance crew that they had been spotted. The mob guy would drive into a multi-level garage and drive out in another car and again I say, “true that.” I asked him if they had a Mafia School that taught these techniques.
Frank obviously was torn emotionally about wearing a wire on his father and his uncle. He made it clear that was the only way he could get out and be a normal father for his own children. He did not want to do to his kids what had been done to him by his father.