The Times Online
Publication Date: 08/01/91
Jury listens to government's secret tapes of
HAMMOND - The government's bug planted at a Calumet City restaurant in 1986 picked up talk of money, of paying taxes, of paying rent, of percentages, of the Greek, of politicians and of FBI agents.
It's talk that the government hopes will help prove that the six men now on trial in U.S. District Court in Hammond conspired for the mob to shake down illegal gambling operations for a cut of the action.
On trial are: Dominick "Tootsie" Palermo, 73; Nicholas "Nicky" Guzzino of Chicago Heights, Bernard "Snooky" Morgano of Valparaiso, Sam Nuzzo Jr. of Merrillville, Peter "Cadillac Pete" Petros of Chicago and Sam "Frog" Glorioso of Gary.
The 15 tapes played Wednesday for the federal jury are just the beginning - the government plans to introduce more than 200 tape-recorded conversations not only from the Taste of Italy restaurant, but recordings obtained from wiretaps placed on the telephone of Morgano and Anthony Leone, a defendant in the case who has pleaded guilty and will testify for the government.
The tapes reveal discussions about the death of Frank Zizzo, the one-time boss of Lake County's illegal gambling, about getting a 25 percent cut off the top and about police surveillance. It includes references to paying taxes and rent.
During a Feb. 11 conversation between Palermo and Guzzino, a speaker the government identified as Palermo said: "I hope that asshole sends me that money." And the speaker the government identified as Guzzino replied: "I think he will. If not, he'll have marks on his face like this."
As field representatives for Laborers International Union Local 5 in Chicago Heights, Palermo and Guzzino's job involves collecting money for the union from workers and employers. But the government alleges they were also responsible for collecting thousands of dollars extorted from illegal gambling operations in Lake and LaPorte counties.
Transcripts of the tapes were provided to the jury, but U.S. District Court Judge James T. Moody warned the jury that it should rely on its own interpretation of what the tapes say and the identity of the speakers.
After the first 30 days of the recordings that began in late January 1986, the government received permission to move the recording devices away from the vents for another 30 days. The recording device was placed in the restaurant Jan. 20 late at night when FBI agents entered by using a key.
In addition to the tapes, the FBI conducted surveillance outside the restaurant, which was closed for lunch but was frequented by Palermo, Guzzino, Morgano and Leone. The restaurant is owned by Guzzino's brother Dominic Guzzino.
Photographs showing the Palermos,Guzzino, Morgano and Leone entering and leaving the restaurant also were introduced Wednesday.
William Olsen, former Lake County Fairgrounds superintendent and chairman of the Hammond Democratic Party, was seen Feb. 19 entering the restaurant.
Another name to surface during the trial is Albert John "Chickie" Roviaro, whom FBI agents testified they saw talking with Palermo March 23, 1984 at John's Restaurant in Calumet City and who, according to the government, was recorded talking with Palermo and Guzzino Feb. 27 at the Taste of Italy restaurant.
That conversation revolved around talk of former Lake County Sheriff Rudy Bartolomei, who later cut a deal with the government to spare himself a prison term and tell what he knew about widespread corruption in Lake County government.
"Chickie" allegedly was named by Betty Tocco, wife of former Chicago Heights mob boss Albert Tocco, as one of three men who met Tocco the night of the murders of Anthony Spilotro, the head of the "Outfit" operations in Las Vegas, and his brother Michael, a minor mob figure, who were both found buried in a cornfield in Newton County.
Palermo and Guzzino were the other two, according to an FBI memo of the conversation with Betty Tocco.
Roviaro, who owns Swanel Beverage, a Hammond beverage distributorship, has never been charged with anything, and Tocco is in prison on an unrelated conviction.
Defense lawyers questioned FBI Special Agent Phillip Hadrick about the unidentified men they saw going in the restaurant and about the numbers of people who were in the restaurant and could have been speaking at the time the government was eavesdropping. They also challenged how bits of conversation can be lifted from longer recordings.
"Isn't that dangerous, sir, to pull 30 seconds out of a three and a half hour tape?" said lawyer Kevin Milner, who is representing Palermo.