Saturday, May 28, 2011

"Operation Family Secrets" by Frank Calabrese, Jr.

This book, which bills itself as a memoir, is more of a mystery than anything else. Frank Calabrese, Jr. was born into the family of Frank Calabrese Sr., a major player in the Chicago "juice loan" rackets of his time. He taught his son everything he knew. Actually, he probably taught him too well. I say that only because Frank, Sr. continues to serve out a life sentence for the crimes he committed with his son, while the younger Mr. Calabrese walks free.

Frank, Jr., agreed to "wear a wire" while serving time in the same prison with his father. Getting his father to open up and talk about past crimes, as well as the crimes he intended on committing when he was released, gave the FBI everything it needed to shut down the Calabrese crime family, which operated out of the suburbs of Chicago. It also gave them enough to imprison the elder Mr. Calabrese for the rest of his life, and sprung the doors for Frank, Jr.

The book is well written, and has all the elements you have come to expect from Mafia memoirs. There is enough cash, women, drugs, sex, murder and torture to satisfy the most die hard fan of films such as "Goodfellas" and "Casino." As a matter of fact, Mr. Calabrese, Jr. goes into great detail about the murders of the Spilotro brothers, Anthony and Michael. Anthony was played by Joe Pesci in Casino. The murders did not take place in the desert as depicted in the movie. Instead, the two brothers were summoned to Chicago and killed there.

When Frank, Jr. decides to go "legit" he steals, on the pretext of a loan, almost one million dollars which he and his father have stashed away in the walls of their garage. By carefully re-wrapping the money his deed goes undetected as he uses the money to open restaurants and do a little bit of cocaine dealing on the side. This is where the mystery begins for me.

Frank, Jr. and his dad are indicted for crimes they committed together, and sentenced to the same prison. Frank, Jr., wears a wire to turn over his father, whom Frank, Jr. claims is "out of control." This is his way of rationalizing his own actions. Remember, this is after he has been dealing with his father, aiding and abetting him all along the way, in everyting from collections to murder, then stealing almost a million dollars from him. It is also after Frank, Jr. has become a cocaine addict. The mystery, at least for me, is how he can possibly call his Dad "out of control."

The book is entertaining, filled with all the big names, and criminal expoits of, some of the most feared mobsters around. Frank Calabrese, Sr. was a stone cold killer in his day. That's a fact. He was also one of the largest of the "juice loan" racketeers in Chicago. He was a brutal man. But he never stole from his father.

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