Chicago Tribune

 

 

 

U.S. indicts ex-Cicero police chief

 

2 mob chieftains are also linked to kickback plot

 

By Matt O'Connor and Ray Gibson

Tribune Staff Writers

January 13, 2001

 

 

In the latest federal assault on Cicero, prosecutors on Friday said a former town police chief has been indicted in a kickback scheme with two reputed organized-crime chieftains, an alleged accountant for the mob and a onetime Berwyn police detective.

 

Emil Schullo, formerly Cicero's public safety director, was accused of contracting out town investigative work to a private detective with a shady past in return for kickbacks of 10 percent of the contract.

 

The private investigator, Sam Rovetuso, turned out to be cooperating with federal law enforcement at the time and tape-recorded numerous conversations as he split the profits from the inflated bills with reputed mob figures Michael A. Spano Sr. and James Inendino and Spano's cousin, Peter Volpe, the former Berwyn officer, the charges alleged.

 

The tapes are expected to play a critical role at trial because Rovetuso died of natural causes in 1999.

 

Authorities said the accountant, Gregory Ross, a former veteran criminal investigator for the Internal Revenue Service, was charged with concealing the payoffs and kickbacks from the IRS.

 

Schullo, 54, marks the ninth former Cicero town employee to be indicted in the last 2 years in the ongoing probe of corruption in the long-notorious west suburb.

 

He is running for town president against incumbent and one time ally Betty Loren-Maltese in the Republican primary Feb. 27. Loren-Maltese fired him in 1996, but the two were still close in 1995 when the indictment claims the kickback scheme was hatched.

 

A statement issued Friday by the Town of Cicero said Schullo is scheduled to appear before the Cicero Electoral Board on Jan. 22 to determine if his name would remain on the primary ballot.

 

As a member of the Cicero police force, Schullo was accused of acting as a lookout during a 1979 warehouse burglary while on duty. But a Cook County Circuit judge dismissed the charges in 1983 after determining that the statute of limitations had expired before his indictment.

 

Law-enforcement sources said Spano, 60, of Darien allegedly runs day-to-day operations for the mob in Cicero and is a former associate of imprisoned Outfit boss Rocco Infelice. Spano is general manager of Dispatch Services, a trucking firm in Cicero that has a long connection to several of the town's previous mob bosses, the sources said.

 

Inendino, 58, of Darien, was allegedly associated with infamous mob hit man Harry Aleman in the 1970s, the sources said. Inendino was convicted years ago of operating a loan sharking operation in Chicago for organized crime and sentenced to a lengthy prison term. He has worked at the Taylor-Ogden Currency Exchange, authorities said.

 

At a news conference to announce the latest charges, U.S. Atty. Scott Lassar made it clear federal investigators are busy checking out additional allegations of corruption in Cicero government.

 

"The Town of Cicero has been of interest to federal law enforcement for the last 80 years," Lassar told reporters, "and there are still investigations going on."

 

Four of the defendants—Schullo, Spano, Inendino and Ross—were arraigned Friday in U.S. District Court in Chicago. They pleaded not guilty to the charges and were released on bond, said Assistant U.S. Atty. Mitchell Mars.

 

Spano was given permission to travel to Las Vegas later this month for a Super Bowl party.

 

The fifth defendant, Volpe, 40, is serving a 12-month prison term for a 1999 conviction for stealing hundreds of electronic dartboards and bicycles from a Cicero storage facility. Volpe's mother, Phyllis, formerly an assistant manager at a secretary of state licensing facility, was convicted in the Operation Safe Road federal probe of licenses for bribes.

 

None of the lawyers for the defendants returned phone calls except for Ross' attorney, Kevin Milner. Ross, 54, of Ingleside was indicted in September on separate federal charges accusing him of bilking $3.6 million in an investment scam and has pleaded not guilty to those charges as well.

 

Law-enforcement sources have said Ross became the trusted, personal accountant and friend to some of the Chicago area's most notorious mob figures, including Infelice and Salvatore DeLaurentis, a top Infelice underling.

 

"Greg is no more guilty of these charges than that other nonsense months ago," Milner said, referring to the indictment in September. "We are anxious for trial."

 

According to Friday's charges, Rovetuso was hired by Schullo in late 1995 to investigate whether three Cicero police officers were living outside town in violation of residency requirements.

 

Rovetuso was already cooperating with federal authorities at the time, Lassar said.

 

While acting in an undercover capacity, Rovetuso inflated billings and agreed to kick back 10 percent of the money to Schullo in return for awarding him the contract, the charges alleged.

 

The rest of the excess profits were split with Spano, Inendino and Volpe, authorities said.

 

The scheme resulted in losses of more than $75,000 to the Town of Cicero, according to the charges.

 

In one face-to-face meeting with Schullo in November 1995, Rovetuso showed him the first invoice for $5,400 and how he concealed the 10 percent kickback by listing it under "expense of equipment," the indictment said.

 

Rovetuso ended up reporting the money on his income tax return to make it appear he was the only one profiting from the contract with Cicero, authorities said.

 

The accountant, Ross, was accused of falsely deducting the kickbacks to Schullo as "equipment rental" on Rovetuso's 1995 tax return.

 

Lawyers for the defendants are likely to try to make Rovetuso out to be the only wrongdoer in the scheme, but how much they can attack him remains to be seen since he is dead.

 

Rovetuso had long-standing ties to Cicero. He lived there in the early 1970s and ran unsuccessfully as a Democrat for town supervisor in 1972. He worked as an investigator for the Merit Board of the Cook County Sheriff's Department from March 1972 to April 1973.

 

For a private investigator, Rovetuso had a checkered career.

 

In 1983 a federal informant tape-recorded Rovetuso and two others plotting to kill a former employee who had tipped authorities to a phony billing scheme on a security guard contract with the City of Chicago.

 

Rovetuso was later convicted of obstruction of justice and intimidation of a federal witness and was sentenced to 4 months in prison.

 

He also was convicted of mail fraud for the phony billing scheme and was sentenced to 2 years in prison.

 

State authorities revoked his private detective's license because of the convictions, but that didn't stop Rovetuso after his prison release from returning to detective work and operating International Service Associates of Chicago.

 

In 1997, in the midst of Rovetuso's undercover work for federal authorities, the Illinois Department of Professional Regulation filed a complaint accusing him of operating without a license.


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