By Annie Sweeney, Chicago Tribune –
CHICAGO—At the riveting Family Secrets trial in 2007, Nicholas Calabrese, the admitted mob killer turned star government witness, was clear about who Rudy Fratto was to him.
“He’s a made guy that belonged to the Elmwood Park crew,” Calabrese said as he recounted how unhappy mob boss Jimmy Marcello was that Fratto had nosed in on some fork-lift contracts while Marcello was in prison.
In federal court Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber, who was sentencing Fratto for rigging bids on forklift contracts at McCormick Place, said he couldn’t connect Fratto’s scheme to organized crime — a decision that likely spared the reputed Elmwood Park mob lieutenant more time in prison.
“I am unable to make a finding there was a nexus between the fraud and any alleged connections to organized crime,” the judge said.
In the end, Leinenweber sentenced Fratto to a year in prison as members of Fratto’s family exhaled in relief.
Federal prosecutors had sought to ramp up Fratto’s sentence by arguing that he was a “made” member of the mob who used his connections with the Outfit to advance the bid-rigging scheme.
Prosecutors also argued that Fratto’s own voice — caught on secret government recordings — proved he was prepared to throw his weight around.
“I’m the …… boss of this area around here,” Fratto was quoted on one recording as saying. “No one else.”
Prosecutors argued that interjecting that kind of mob influence in business activities — particularly at McCormick Place — should be punished.
“That his corrupting influence was interjected into business at McCormick Place, a vital component of the economic viability of the community, makes Fratto’s conduct all the more aggravating,” prosecutors wrote in sentencing papers.
Fratto, though reputedly a longtime figure in Chicago’s mob, has escaped serious punishment in the past. He pleaded guilty to federal tax evasion in 2009, acknowledging that he failed to report nearly $200,000 in income in 2005.
Fratto’s name also surfaced in the sentencing of corrupt Chicago police chief of detectives William Handhardt and at the trial of John Ambrose, a former deputy marshal who was convicted of leaking to the mob that Nicholas Calabrese was cooperating with authorities.
“He was in it up to his armpits,” former FBI Agent Jack O’Rourke said. “He used to sit down with Rocky Infelise and (John) Difronzo. He was one of the boys.”
Fratto and his co-defendant, William DeGironemo, pleaded guilty to using insider information to undercut competitors and win a forklift contract in 2005 and 2006 for two shows at McCormick Place.
DeGironemo was sentenced to one year of home confinement and two years of probation earlier this month.
During Wednesday’s sentencing, Fratto, 68, nicknamed “the Chin,” stood with his hands folded in front of him. His face seemed expressionless behind his dark-rimmed glasses, but he held his head high with his chin jutting slightly upward.
“I pleaded guilty because I am guilty and I accept full responsibility for my actions,” he told the judge without much emotion.