We have an incredible story to share in today’s episode. It revolves around three burglars, Jerry Scalise, Art Rachel, and Bobby Palia, who were connected to the Chicago outfit. These individuals were planning to break into the home of the deceased leader of the vicious Chinatown crew, Angelo “the Hook” La Pietra. However, this case is even more intriguing because La Pietra was already deceased, yet his widow was still residing there.
At the same time, the FBI was conducting an investigation into these criminals. As a former cop, I can tell you that catching criminals in the act is an exhilarating experience. In 2010, the FBI had been closely monitoring Scalise, Rachel, and Palia, who were known to be highly skilled thieves. The FBI obtained audio intercepts of their conversations, which further piqued their interest.
Interestingly, these intercepted conversations hinted at the possibility of solving the infamous Marlboro Diamond Theft that had taken place in 1980. Scalise and Rachel, the leaders of the group, were involved in this diamond theft in London, where the Marlboro Diamond, worth millions of dollars, was stolen and never recovered.
The FBI also overheard the burglars discussing their plan to break into La Pietra’s house. They even mentioned using toothpaste to hide any holes they would drill. The FBI’s primary interest, however, was gathering information about the whereabouts of the stolen Marlboro Diamond.
As it turns out, the decision to target La Pietra’s house was fueled by the discovery that a high-ranking mob member, Nick Calabrese, possessed a considerable amount of cash and diamonds. This inspired the thieves to target La Pietra’s widow, as they believed valuable items would be inside the house.
This wasn’t just a typical burglary but a full-blown home invasion. The FBI had been diligently tailing these criminals and collecting evidence against them. Finally, in early April 2010, the FBI made their move and apprehended Scalise, Palia, and Rachel outside La Pietra’s home.
The burglars were caught red-handed with various tools such as drills, blades, a ladder, tool bags, black tape, and flashlights. They seemed to have all the necessary items to carry out their intended robbery. The presence of glass cleaner could have been an attempt to remove fingerprints, while the black tape was likely intended to restrain both the widow and the housekeeper.
Deciding when to intervene in a crime is always challenging for law enforcement. In this case, with evidence of the criminals’ plans and witnessing their movement towards the target location, the FBI decided it was time to take them into custody.
Scalise, Palia, and Rachel were all charged with attempted burglary and a gun possession charge. They received equal sentences for their involvement in the crime.
Catching criminals in the act is a thrilling experience for law enforcement, especially when it involves dismantling an entire crew. We appreciate your support and also like to remind you to be cautious of motorcycles on the road. If you or someone you know is dealing with PTSD, we recommend reaching out to the VA for assistance.
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Chicago Outfit Burglary Gone Wrong
[0:00] Well, hey, guys, welcome all you wiretappers back here in the studio. Gangland wire again.
The story of the night or actually the whole plot or Jerry Scalise and a guy named Art Rachel and Bobby Palia, all three of whom were Chicago outfit burgers.
[0:18] Broke into or were in the process of breaking into Angelo the Hook La Pietra’s home.
Now, La Pietra was dead at the time, but his widow was inside.
And I don’t know, these guys, I guess, will never know why they did it, why they felt the freedom to break into his home.
I’ll explain why they wanted to and go on from there and about the FBI investigation that was following along at the same time.
And I’m telling you, as a cop who has caught guys in the act, caught a crew in the act a couple of times of committing their crime, there is no greater thrill.
There’s no bigger… Look at that. yeah, in catching somebody in the middle of doing their high.
So listen up. I think this is a great story, folks.
Unsolved Jewelry Theft and the Monk’s Criminal Past
[1:05] In 2010, Chicago FBI agents were monitoring three professional thieves.
The leader of the group was Joseph, and they called him the monk, Scalise, and Arthur the brain, Rachel, and Robert Puglia.
And these audio intercepts became dynamite because they led the investigators to think they might solve the most famous unsolved jewelry theft ever.
[1:30] That’s the Marlboro Diamond Theft. 1980, the monk, Jerry or Joseph Scalise, and the brain, Arthur Rachel, had been arrested in a large diamond theft in London, England.
The Marlboro Diamond was taken and never recovered, and it’s never been recovered to this day.
And neither were any of the other diamonds that were taken that day.
That theft was, I think, between…
Three and five million dollars. It was like something out of a movie.
Now Scalise was a longtime Chicago outfit soldier who had specialized in auto theft rings and chop shops.
He was also part of what at one time was a well-known Chicago outfit hit team.
[2:06] Then their nickname was the Wild Bunch. Arthur Rachel, he was a mob associate from way back. Obviously the smart one from his moniker.
The investigators were listening to these guys talk in 2010.
They heard him talk about breaking into, of all people, a deceased boss of the Chicago outfit, Angelo LaPrieto.
Plotting a Home Invasion: Targeting Angelo La Pietra
[2:27] He was also called the Hook.
And they were talking about breaking into his house and he was dead.
But still, I’m not sure if this would have been kosher for them to break into a deceased mobster’s house.
I think they thought they could get away with it. They caught him casing Angelo LaPrieto’s house also.
[2:44] They really perked up when they heard him talking about what they’d learned from British thieves when they’re in the British prison for the Morro Borro diamond theft.
They said they needed to hide some holes that they drilled in order to make it easy to get into the house when they went in.
And British thieves had said they could use toothpaste really well to hide holes that had been drilled.
But yeah, toothpaste would harden in the hole but would, you know, would chip right out real quick.
And just… So, boy, when they heard that talk about their time in England, they were really listening up for the whereabouts of the Marlboro Diamond.
They would be heroes if they could find that, but they never did hear him talk about it.
Why were they going after Angelo LaPietra, the hook?
I caught him talking about there was a Chicago outfit guy named Nick Calabrese.
And Calabrese is, if you’re a mob aficionado out there and you have read the Family Secrets trial, you’ll know about Nick Calabrese.
He was really a high up mob guy in Chicago outfit and a killer.
Bureau, after they were starting to make a case on him, they served a search warrant on his house, and they found three quarters of a million dollars in cash and hundreds of thousands of dollars in diamonds inside a hidden safe.
[3:54] This gave the monk and the genius the idea to rob the widow of the former outfit boss Angelo La Pietra, because it really wasn’t going to be a burglary.
They intended, they thought at the La Pietra house, there would be a housekeeper inside and the widow.
So, it was going to be not just a simple unoccupied residence burglary, but a home invasion, which they would have to keep them…hold them…
Prisoner. And the 90-some-year-old aging, widow.
Planning the Robbery and Gathering Information
[4:24] Of a dead mobster and her housekeeper probably were not going to give them much trouble, but they were ready.
They were following them. They knew they were getting ready to do it.
They’d been following them for quite a while. They’d caught them following this.
I think I said this before.
They followed them following around an armored car that they’re planning on robbing and making stops and writing things down about the route of the armored car, caught him casing LaPietra’s suburban mansion.
They listened as they discussed any potential problems they may encounter while they’re going into LaPietra’s mansion.
They’re following him around, and they know they’re getting ready to do it.
FBI Agents Arrest the Suspects at LaPietra’s Mansion
[4:58] Early April in 2010, outside what’s described as a stately brick family home of Angelo LaPietra, FBI agents arrest the 74-year-old monk, Jerry Scalise, and he’s wearing all black as he’s approaching the house, got a black baseball cap, a black windbreaker, a fishing vest with flashlights and gloves stuck in the pockets. He had a bandana around his neck.
There’s another participant, this guy named Bobby Pilea, who’s 70 years old.
He wore black pants, black shirt, black knit hat and black gloves.
And art genius Rachel was the wheel man. He was sitting inside the car that already stolen and was using to case the house.
And he was wearing black gloves and a black knit hat. I mean this stuff is right out of a movie.
Start searching the car. They pull the genius out.
They’ve caught P’Leah and Gleesay as they’ve approached the house.
[5:53] They’re searching the car and they hear the chatter of police dispatches.
They find a scanner to listen to police calls coming out.
Discovering Tools and Equipment for the Burglary
[5:59] They find glass cleaner, three battery-powered drills, tools, blades, a six-foot ladder, tool bags, black tape, and flashlights.
Why would you need all that? I’m not sure about the glass cleaner. Maybe that was the…
Clean off possible fingerprints. The drills and tools and blades were because they knew that this other Nick Calabrese had his cash and diamonds in a hidden safe and so they figured they’d have to break into the safe.
I mean it’s one thing to burglarize a house it would be another thing to hurt the widow of the mob boss.
I don’t think they would have tortured her if she wouldn’t have told them.
They probably would just kept looking and you can only hide things so well.
The tape, I would imagine, was to tape up the widow and the housekeeper.
There’s a point in time when you’ve got all this tape about how they’re planning on doing this.
Then there’s a certain point in time, this is always a problem in law enforcement, is if you’ve got information about somebody that’s getting ready to commit a crime, and somebody else could be in danger when they commit the crime.
You see this all the time on TV, and they let them go on in, and then they pull out the guns and confront them and end up with a gun battle and nobody gets hurt except the bad guys.
Well, in real life, it doesn’t work like that. So it’s always, in law enforcement, it’s always a really difficult call.
[7:16] When do you interrupt a crime? Well, if you get them committed that far into it, that’s enough.
After you’ve got them evidence that they’re planning it, you’ve got evidence that they’ve got all the accoutrements, the tools to do it.
And then when they make that drive to the house and they make that walk from the car up to and around the house, then in order to not take any more chances where somebody would get hurt, then you go ahead and take them off before they actually make entry.
Only on the TV do you let them go ahead and make entry. So they had enough.
The Genius got eight and a half years.
Scalise the Monk got eight and a half years. And Bobby Pulillo got eight and a half years.
They all got the same time. So obviously, it must have been just for attempted burglary and probably the gun charge. That’s five years on the gun charge.
Well, as I said, this is a heck of a story.
And there is no greater thrill for a cop than to catch somebody in the middle of committing a crime.
There is just nothing better, especially if you’ve got a whole crew.
One guy is all right, but you got a whole crew that’s even better.
Watching the looks on their faces, they go, huh?
[8:24] Anyhow, it’s great to have y’all back here and don’t forget, I ride a motorcycle and so look out for motorcycles when you’re out there on the roads.
And if you have a problem with PTSD or a friend or relative has a problem with PTSD, and if you guys have, if you’ve been in the service or they’ve been in the service, contact the VA or go to the VA website.
There’s a hotline that will be of a lot of help. Thanks a lot, guys.