'The Clown' among mobsters arrested by Chicago police

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The Independent US

Federal prosecutors said they had delivered a crippling blow to organised crime in Chicago - the former stomping ground of Al Capone - rounding up 14 alleged Mafia gangsters.

Federal prosecutors said they had delivered a crippling blow to organised crime in Chicago - the former stomping ground of Al Capone - rounding up 14 alleged Mafia gangsters.

Those on the list to be arrested included Joey "The Clown" Lombardo, described as one of the city's most important mob leaders but he had, so far, evaded capture.

Eleven of the men were charged in connection with 18 murders stretching back more than three decades, including the killing in 1986 of Tony "The Ant" Spilotro, reputed to have been the Mafia's chief enforcer in Las Vegas. The body of Mr Spilotro, whose story was the inspiration for a character played by Joe Pesci in the Martin Scorsese film Casino, was found in a corn field.

Lawyers for Mr Lombardo said he was innocent of all the charges. While most of the suspects were arrested on Monday in states as far flung as Arizona, Florida and Illinois, a manhunt is underway in Chicago for Mr Lombardo, 75, and a man identified as Frank "The German" Schweihs.

One of the 14 suspects, Frank Saladino, was found dead when police arrived to arrest him but they believe he died of natural causes.

Patrick Fitzgerald, the US Attorney in Chicago, said the dragnet, "Operation Family Secrets" had been years in the making and had put a "hit on the mob" in the city.

"People tend to forget what these guys are about," he added. "They watch The Sopranos or some of those movies about the mob, and they think it's just some colourful characters. The thing is, they're still doing this."

Officials said the arrests will be remembered as one of the biggest single round-ups of suspected organised crime leaders ever seen in Chicago. Also caught in the net was James Marcello, 63, believed to be the boss of all the bosses in the city.

Two of those charged are former Chicago police detectives, including Michael Ricci, 75, who arrived in court on Monday in a wheelchair.

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