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The Enemy

The Monsters Behind Chicago's Mob Wives

Behind every good Chicago Mob Wife is a monster who did horrible deeds. We'll let VH-1 describe the wife and we'll describe the monster.

RENEE FECAROTTA RUSSO: Renee is a strong independent businesswoman who was raised by her uncle, "Big John" Fecarotta, following the death of her father. An alleged loan collector and hit man for The Outfit, Fecarotta was Renee's mentor and best friend until being gunned down by fellow mobster Nick Calabrese. Fiercely loyal to his memory, Renee still abides by the "code": never associate with rats . . . take it to the grave.

BIG JOHN FECAROTTA: Renee's mentor and best friend knows something about graves - he was a suspect in at least two murders before biting the dust himself. "He was gunned down while being chased by at least two men through an alley on the Northwest Side," according to Illinois Police and Sheriff's News.

"Fecarotta apparently believed he was being taken to participate in a 3-man hit team. [He] was wearing gloves and was carrying two weapons, one an unloaded .38, when he was shot four times, and a final time in the back of his head, at the doorway of Brown's Banquets Inc., a bingo hall at 6050 W. Belmont Ave in Chicago . . .

"Fecarotta was a juice loan collector for crime syndicate loan sharks. He was a business agent and organizer for Local 8 of the Industrial Workers Union, although federal officials charged he was a ghost employee. He lost the union job in 1982 during a federal probe of the union . . .

"Fecarotta was ranked the number 3 man behind Angelo LaPietra, First Ward and Near South Side rackets boss who was serving a 16-year jail term, at the time."

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Fecarotta was also reportedly responsible for botching the burying of the Spilotro brothers in an Indiana cornfield. That's probably why he was killed.

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Addendum:

"[Russo] owns Eye Candy Optics in the Ukrainian Village neighborhood," the Tribune reports. "The show has been filming at her store (in addition to The Fifty/50, Roots Handmade Pizza, Hubbard Inn, Fishman's Fabrics, Brunch and Newport Bar & Grill), and she said she hopes to see a bump in sales when the show premieres in June."

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NORA SCHWEIHS: Nora is back in Chicago to take care of some unfinished business. Nora's father, Frank "The German" Schweihs, was reputed to be one of the most notorious hit men for the Mob. Schwiehs, whose alleged "hits" were not limited to the Mob, has long been rumored to be responsible for the death of Marilyn Monroe. Shortly after his death in 2008, the government confiscated his remains before he could be properly buried. Nora has returned to Chicago to learn the whereabouts of his body. Despite growing up hearing stories of his viciousness and brutality, Nora idolized her father and she continues to defend him . . . even to his grave.

FRANK SCHWEIHS: So much to idolize.

"Recently, federal prosecutors played a series of secret recorded conversations between Schweihs and adult book store owner William 'Red' Wemette from the late 1980s," Steve Warmbir reported for the Sun-Times in 2007. "The recordings formed the foundation of a case in which Schweihs was convicted of shaking Wemette down for street tax. In the Family Secrets case currently on trial, prosecutors used a selection of the recordings to show jurors how street tax worked and to show Schweihs referring to Joseph 'Joey the Clown' Lombardo as a man high-up in the Outfit hierarchy.

"Schweihs has a way with words - and threats. He is often referred to as the hitman other Outfit hitmen feared.

"In no particular order, here are five of his top chilling or unsettling statements.

1. On the fate of a street tax collector Schweihs didn't like: "I think he's gonna open up a hotdog stand in Alaska."

2. Schweihs reassures Wemette that he's safe from harm as long as Schweihs protects him: "No, you don't have to be afraid, you got my word on that. There ain't no one gonna fucking touch you unless they knock me down first, and I'm not an easy guy to knock down, Red. You're with us, you're with me and there ain't no one gonna fuck with you - case closed! You got my fucking solemn promise on that."

3. Schweihs tells Wemette he won't be around for a while: "I - I won't see you for a while. I gotta - I got a fucking hit. I gotta go somewhere - something come up. So I don't know when I'll see yas."

4. Schweihs on the likelikhood that a rival gangster Mike Glitta sent someone to shake Wemette down, after Schweihs had already claimed the business: "Now, if Mike sent this cocksucker, sent this cocksucker here to bother you, Mike's in some fucking serious trouble, Red! Cause he has no excuse, he knows better. He knows this fucking joint is spoke for. And I don't think he would be that stupid to try and step on my fucking pecker or the people I'm affiliated with. Do you understand?"

5. On the need to make a competitor of Wemette's see the need not to mess with him: "He was told not to, but I don't know if he's goofy, or if we have to make a believer out of him."

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Addendum:

"Schweihs, who was said to be so psycho scary that even other tough guy mobsters went out of their way to avoid him, died of cancer in 2008 while waiting to go on trial in the landmark Operation Family Secrets case," Mark Brown writes in the Sun-Times.

"Nora Schweihs, 48, is said to be a piece of work herself. I've only managed to get her on the phone a couple of times - both occasions resulting in her angrily yelling at me that she didn't know what I was talking about and to never call again.

"[Schweihs'] daughter certainly has the bona fides for the show. Her ex-husband, Michael Talarico, was a mob bookmaker and nephew of mob boss Angelo 'The Hook' LaPietra. In fact, when Talarico testified for the prosecution against Frank Calabrese Sr. in the Family Secrets trial, he told the jury he was still working as a bookie.

"There's a rather unflattering mugshot of Nora Schweihs on the Internet arising from a 2004 DUI arrest in Florida, where she and her father both used to live. She was also charged in the incident with resisting arrest and felony possession of cocaine. She was convicted on the DUI, but the other charges were dropped."

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PIA RIZZA: Pia may have a mouth like a trucker, but she's spoken zip about her father since she was a little girl. Vincent Rizza was a dirty Chicago cop who worked for the Mob, testified against the Mob and then went into the Witness Protection Program. Pia has struggled all her life to hide from the shame of having a "rat" for a father. It's been especially difficult to avoid the judgments and finger pointing in a town that celebrates the folk heroes and glory days of the Mob.

VINCENT RIZZA: I guess being a rat is more shameful than being a dirty cop.

"Vincent Rizza, a former Chicago police officer, testified that during the end of 1974 and the beginning of 1975, while still an officer, one of his bookmaking operations was raided by the police," state appellate court judge Allen Hartman wrote in Illinois v. Aleman.

"Rizza met Aleman, Jimmy Inendino and Johnnie Mancella in the spring or summer of 1975, and was told by Aleman that he owed $40,000 in back 'street taxes,' plus $ 1,000 per month thereafter for his bookmaking operation. 'Street taxes' are monies paid to members of organized crime in order to protect the existence of the illegal operation.

"Following Aleman's intrusion into Rizza's illicit business, Rizza met with Angelo LaPietra who, according to Rizza, also had ties to organized crime. LaPietra's negotiations permitted Rizza to pay Aleman $1,000 in street taxes plus a couple of hundred dollars per month for office expenses. Aleman and Inendino would cover all operation losses and the profits would be split. As part of the deal, Rizza also had to report other independent bookmakers to Aleman. One such independent bookmaker was Anthony Reitinger.

"Rizza did not pay street taxes directly to Aleman after May of 1976, but continued to pay them to Joseph Ferriola, identified as Aleman's uncle. In the early winter of 1977, Aleman told Rizza that his murder indictment 'was all taken care of,' and that 'committing murder in Chicago was okay if you killed the right people.' He later told Rizza that he was going to request a bench trial 'because the case was all taken care of'; going to jail was not an option; and he was not going to jail. Still later, Aleman told Rizza the case was going
'fine.' Rizza noted that the newspapers were crucifying him and the case looked bad. Aleman responded that the case was "taken care of."

"On cross-examination, Rizza admitted that he had used cocaine frequently during the late 1970s and that he had committed perjury as a Chicago police officer and in his federal criminal drug case."

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CHRISTINA SCOLERI: As an unemployed divorced mother of a 9-year-old, Christina is struggling to provide a stable environment for her daughter. Christina is the daughter of Raymond Janek, a one-time thief and alleged fence for the Mob. Serving 20 years off and on for various offenses, Janek finally went straight in 1987, and his relationship with his daughter remains distant. Christina's father is a reminder of her own unstable upbringing, and she's determined not to repeat the sins of her father.

RAYMOND JANEK: I can't find anything on Ray, so he was either very good or inconsequential.

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Addendum:

"[Scoleri is the] daughter of a small-time Cicero-area hood described to me as a 'knockaround guy,'" Brown writes.

"Scoleri's father shows up so infrequently in our news clippings that I'm not quite comfortable mentioning him by name with the rest of this crowd. Scoleri, by the way, is her married name."

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LEAH DESIMONE: Leah is the over-protected daughter of William "Wolf" DeSimone, a supposed "associate" of the Mob, but Leah's keeping mum. Leah never knew, and knew never to ask what her Dad did for a living. Leaving one day in a suit, Wolf would return days later in street clothes with no explanation and none expected. Now "retired," Wolf still keeps tabs on his little girl. But as vigilant as he is of her safety, Leah is equally secretive of her Dad's profession . . . if you're "connected," you NEVER talk about it!

WILLIAM DESIMONE: I couldn't find anything on him in the clips, either. The show's already losing steam.

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Addendum:

"The outgoing DeSimone," the Trib report says, "joined the show because she felt it was her calling. She was already referring to her Twitter followers as 'my fans' last week, even before reaching the 150 followers mark."

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Comments welcome.

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1. From Red Wemette:

Nora is a real piece of work. I remember her sitting in court during her father's trial in October of 1989. Her brother was there too. She sat there with composure all through the trial. Her brother James, dressed in a suit and tie, began to fall apart, first taking his jacket off, then taking his tie off and then just slumped down in his seat. During the search of his house in Lombard, where his father was staying, the FBI recovered $100,000 of stolen money from a bank robbery in Texas. When the trial was over, his father lunged at the Tom Knight, the AUSA, telling him, "Don't you dare fuck with my kid." However Nora remained cool, calm and collected. She is her father's daughter. What do people think about this being entertainment?



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Posted on March 27, 2012


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