CHICAGO — A reputed mob boss, a police officer and five other men were charged Thursday in a sweeping racketeering indictment that alleges eight years of armed robberies, burglaries, jewel thefts and arson based in the western suburbs of Chicago.
Michael "The Large Guy" Sarno, 51, of Westchester allegedly masterminded much of the group's illegal activity, including a February 2003 pipe-bomb explosion that wrecked the storefront offices of a company distributing video poker machines.
Prosecutors say the bombing was a message from organized crime to stop intruding on its $13-million-a-year video poker gambling business.
Sarno, 51, went to prison in the early 1990s as a member of an organized crime family based in the western suburbs headed by Ernest Rocco Infelice.
Federal agents searched Sarno's home last July and also raided the headquarters and various hangouts of the Outlaws Motorcycle Club. An alliance has developed between the violence-prone club and the Chicago mob, prosecutors say.
Sarno's attorney, Terence P. Gillespie, did not return a message for comment. But he said in a previous interview with The Associated Press that Sarno was not a mob member and was "a legitimate businessman."
Attorneys for the other defendants were not reached immediately. Messages were left at the offices of four defense attorneys whose names were learned.
Two men arrested the day of the July 2008 searches and later indicted, Mark Polchan, 41, an acknowledged member of the Outlaws, and Samuel Volpendesto, 85, were also charged in the fresh indictment. They are accused of setting off the bomb that demolished C&S Coin Operated Amusements of Berwyn, a video poker device distributor.
At the time, a video poker distributing company controlled by members and associates of the Chicago mob had a grip on the market for the devices, experts say.
Video poker devices are legal in Illinois if they are not used for gambling, but bartenders often pay winners under the table in many places and experts say the mob frequently takes a healthy cut of what the machines take in.
Gov. Pat Quinn is deciding whether to sign a bill to make video poker gambling legal to finance public works _ something good government forces deplore. They say the machines are addictive and some breadwinners have gambled away their paychecks.
Also charged in the indictment:
_James Formato, 42, a former Berwyn police officer accused of serving as a courier for stolen money, taking part in an attempted robbery and other crimes.
_Mark Hay, 52, described as taking part in the robbery of jewelry stores.
_Anthony Volpendesto, 46, son of Samuel Volpendesto, who also is alleged to have taken part in robbing jewelry stores.
_Dino Vitalo, 40, a Cicero police officer since 1991, accused of searching law enforcement data bases and using the information to tip off criminals and searching for electronic surveillance equipment around a jewelry store operated by Polchan. Cicero officials on Thursday placed Vitalo on administrative leave.
Prosecutors are asking the court to force the defendants if convicted to forfeit $1.8 million _ a possible measure of the amount taken in the robberies.