Gus the Greek
John William Tuohy
Alex Gus: Born April 1 1916. Died July 24, 1998 AKA Slim AKA Slick
Alex, the son of Greek immigrants became the only non-Italian to head the Chicago mob as part of a triumvirate in the 1970s. He grew up in the mob, practically. His father operated a restaurant at 26th Street and Wentworth Avenue in the 1930s that was the favorite hangout of Al Capone and Frank Nitti.
Alex had a criminal career that spanned five decades and although he was arrested numerous times, he was never convicted. However, he was finally done in by Lenny Patrick, his partner in crime for 35 years and the highest-ranking outfit leader in Chicago's storied mob history ever to turn government witness.
Alex joined the Chicago Outfit in the late 1920s, after dropping out of high school in his second year. By 1930, he was suspected in the deaths of at least five unsolved underworld related murder cases. Two of the victims identified Alex as their assailant from their death beds.
In the 1950s he took over from his mentor, Jake Guzik, for whom he had been a body guard in the 1940s. Alex was widely connected to not only to elected officials, but lawmakers, judges and crooked high ranking cops, and was considered, at least by the FBI, to be the Outfits man in charge of what one agent dubbed “The connection guys” non-Italian hoodlums who floated in and out of the Outfit.
Dubbed “Slick Al” by the FBI agents who tailed him in the early 1960s, when he appeared before the McClellan Committee he invoked the Fifth Amendment over thirty times. In the late 1960s, he made so many trips to Switzerland to hide the Outfits cash, that the US State Department pressured the Swiss to revoke his entry privileges.
He was a power inside the Loop and remained the Outfits chief political-fixer until at least 1991. He also controlled prostitution inside the Loop, a business that produced millions for the mob in the 1960s.
Despite his frail appearance over the years, Alex was a force to be reckoned inside the Outfit well into his 70s. Anthony Accardo and Joseph Aiuppa took his advice and took it seriously.
Alex seemed untouchable by the law. Publicly, he was well mannered and humble. He had friends in Washington DC and in Hollywood California and lived a glamorous life style on North Lake Shore Drive. The Assistant U.S. Attorney who later tried Alex called him "the gentleman gangster, who outwardly appeared dapper and respectable but who spun his evil web from his Gold Coast apartment, sending out leg-breakers to do his bidding."
Alex was accused of sharing in nearly $400,000 in profits from the extortions of legitimate businessmen and bookmakers in the 1980s and of supervising a North side crew under gangster Lenny Patrick, also in his 70s, who was charged in the extortion scam. (Both Alex and Patrick, despite their millions, were collecting social security payments) According to prosecutors Alex approved the shakedown schemes while Patrick directed the activities. Also indicted were Mario Rainone and Nicky Gio, on charges they were mob enforcers who carried out the beatings and threats. Gio, who was convicted on federal court of the arson-for-hire of a Wisconsin barroom and Rainone, was already in federal prison on racketeering and conspiracy charges.
Alex, who suffered from a heart condition and ulcers, was released to home arrest after his indictment and forced to wear an electric ankle bracelet to monitor his every move. He was also forced to hand over his passport and post $25,000 cash and deeds to his condos here and in Florida as bond. Lenny Patrick, another gangster in his 70s, was accused of ordering several businessmen threatened and beaten to extort nearly $400,000
In their youths, Alex and Patrick were hit men. Alex was arrested several times, including at least once for suspicion of murder after a rival gambler who was shot gunned on his front steps in 1947 identified Alex on his deathbed as the gunman.
In 1946, Patrick and two others were implicated in a sensational murder case, the shotgun shooting of James Ragen, the owner of a racing news service who opposed mob efforts to take over his business. But charges were dropped when two of three eyewitnesses recanted before a grand jury. Ragen told authorities before he died that Alex had threatened to kill him if he did not turn over the race wire business to the mob; Alex, though, was never charged.
Lenny Patrick had cooperated briefly with federal agents in 1989, secretly tape recording a meeting he had with Alex in which they discussed payments to an unnamed union official. Patrick’s cooperation came to a halt when the government learned he continued to pocket money from crime even after the FBI paid him $7,200 over two months. The government then indicted him on racketeering and extortion charges and tossed him in jail. Patrick entered a guilty plea to extorting more than $300,000 from two restaurants and a car dealership and attempting to shake down other businesses and, to avoid a long jail term agreed, once more, to testify against Gus Alex.
He claimed that he gave Alex half of a $150,000 extortion payment from Ray Hara of King Nissan in Niles and a quarter of a $100,000 payment from the owners of two suburban restaurants and that he also passed on to Alex the entire monthly street tax of $1,500 from the owner of one of the restaurants, Myron & Phil's Steak, Seafood and Piano Bar in Lincolnwood Illinois and that he met with Alex regularly in a variety of places, including Northwestern Memorial Hospital, to deliver payments to him.
In one extortion, Patrick ordered Rainone and James LaValley an extortionist and later a government witness, to extort at least $200,000 from the owner of an undisclosed Italian restaurant in Northbrook in 1987. Two days after confronting the owner at the restaurant, Rainone phoned him and warned him that if he didn't pay the $200,000 his “entire family would wind up in Mt. Carmel Cemetery.”
The co-owner of a Lincolnwood Illinois restaurant and his son-in-law, the owner of a Wheeling restaurant, made regular payments after Rainone beat them up. They also made a large cash payment of $100,000 to Rainone who also threatened to "blow away" the children of the owner of a Chicago restaurant. In another case he threatened to cut off the head of a businessman and display it on the flagpole outside his Northbrook restaurant.
Steve Triantafel, who owned Touhy House in Skokie Illinois for 33 years, testified that when one of Patrick’s thugs came to him in 1987 to shake him down, Triantafel lifted him up by the throat and promised to kill him if he ever returned.
Rainone had cooperated with the government briefly, joining the witness protection program in 1989 because he feared a hit had been put out on him. However, he stopped cooperating when his mother's house was bombed. "He didn't tell them anything," his lawyer said.
Paul Tamraz, owner of Motor works of Barrington, a Mercedes-Benz car dealer, said that when he was shaken down he complained to unnamed mob bosses when a hood with a reputation as "a bone-crusher" demanded $500,000 and threatened his family in 1988.
In both cases, the prosecution said, Alex approved of the extortions.
In 1988, LaValley and Gio tried to start an Oak Park Illinois theater on fire by throwing jugs of gasoline and an incendiary device on the roof and then a Molotov cocktail. Both efforts failed. They had been ordered to turn the place down because the Outfit wanted a percentage of its gate. Later, the two returned to the Lake Theatre, 1020 Lake St., Oak Park, and threw a hand grenade on the theater roof, but it failed to explode. The government claimed Patrick gave the order to burn the theater down and Alex approved of it. The government also claimed that Patrick personally ordered Alex Tapper, the owner of a construction business, severely beaten in 1988 to persuade him to repay a debt. Tapper was hospitalized as a result of the beating by LaValley and Gio, and Patrick congratulated LaValley "on a job well done."
Alex never testified but Lenny Patrick did, for three and half colorful days in a packed courtroom in the Dirksen Federal Building. Unlike the refined Alex who had gone out of his way to improve himself, Patrick purposely remained course in his ways and foul in his language. While Alex moved to Lake Shore Drive and kept condominiums in Florida and Germany, Patrick, a product of West Side Jewish neighborhoods, stayed in a modest brick house on the North side. Unlike Alex, Patrick was proud of his life style at one point explaining that he killed a man “Because in that world it was him or me and I wasn’t go’n nowhere”
Patrick, the son of Jewish immigrants from England, said he quit school at 15 or 16, ran a dice game with cabdrivers on West Side sidewalks and engaged in the occasional holdup. In 1933, he was sentenced to 7 years in prison for bank robbery.
"He learned in the joint (that) bank robbery is not the thing to do," said Jerry Gladden, chief investigator for the Chicago Crime Commission "Gambling is where you make money."
He admitted that he was triggerman in two killings and ordered the killings of four bookmakers, insisted: "I don't get a kick out of killing people. I done it to protect myself." And added that he wasn’t the only gangster in the 1940s and 1950s to kill rivals to gain and keep control of gambling in the Chicago area. "Everyone else did the same thing," he told Adam. "Your client did the same thing. You're trying to bury me. . . . There's no saints in this room." To which Judge Alesia repeatedly interrupted Patrick's rambling and admonishing him to answer Adam's question. "I'm sorry, judge, I really am," Patrick said. But when questioned about the 1947 slaying of bookmaker Harry Krotish, with the prosecution using Krotish’s nickname, "the Horse," a moniker Patrick said he did not know. "I did murder him, but he didn't have a horse," Patrick said. "If he did, I would have jumped on it and run with it." When asked why he killed Krotish he said that it was because there was a rumor that Krotish, then 29, another West Side bookmaker, wanted to take over. "So I shot him." Krotish died from four gunshot wounds to the head.
He recalled that he ordered three other bookmaking rivals killed: Edward Murphy in 1950; David Zatz in 1952; and Milton Glickman in 1953. When he learned in late 1947 that Harry. When Adam asked if he had killed anyone other than the six he mentioned, Patrick replied, "No, I've run out of cemeteries." He told the court that he killed his first man, Herman Glick, on Chicago's West Side because Glick, then only 21 years old, had knocked him down in a fistfight at a dice game "He hit me and I went down," Patrick said. "I killed him a week later. I shot him in the head." He boasted that he “beat the rap” because 1932, the law didn't accept as evidence a dying man's statement naming the killer. The testimony laughter from an otherwise orderly courtroom watched over by a dozen security officers.
Veteran defense lawyer Julius Lucius Echeles dropped in to watch the trial and said he was amazed at Patrick's repeated admissions of killing, observing that even very old murder cases can be prosecuted. "There is no statute of limitations for murder,"
In the late 1930s, he joined a gang, robbing two banks, but he was arrested in an Indiana holdup and sentenced to 10 years in prison. Out of prison in 1940, Patrick took a job running the biggest dice game in Chicago for gamblers who put up the stakes. It was at that point, he said that he met Sam Giancana, Paul Ricca and Felix Alderisio.
"I used to get $3 a day and tips," Patrick said. "I stole about $30 a night."
In 1945, Patrick and his brother were fired by William Galatz, a powerful West Side gambling boss. Patrick said he decided to kill Galatz; his partner, David Yaras, shot gunned Galatz to death and took his territory on the predominantly Jewish West Side for the mob and worked mostly as in the bookmaking business, taking bets on baseball, football and horse racing and running poker and blackjack games and even bingo.
Patrick controlled the mob's bookmaking operation West Side from 1946 until the early 1950s, paying off hundreds of thousands to aldermen and three police captains to stay out of trouble. When the Jewish population migrated to the North Side and gambling fell off, Patrick was approval to move to Rogers Park, a Jewish neighborhood. He boasted that he paid off the cops well into the 1960s and in one year he made as much as $850,000 from the sports-gambling business because of heavy betting on the World Series won by the New York Mets or when the New York Jets upset the Baltimore Colts in the Super Bowl.
He bragged about his ruthlessness and said he even leaned on his own relatives, threatening his Brother Mike's son-in-law to coerce Mike to pay off a $250,000 debt. And in the late 1980s, he extorted $187,000 from his common-law wife's nephew. "It was my own money," he said.
He was convicted in 1977 of criminal contempt of court for refusing to testify at a federal trial and assumed charge of his street crew in the 1980s. He said that he went into the "juice loan" business (Loan sharking) in the mid-1980s after Sam Carlisi, whom he identified as the Chicago mob boss at the time, lent him $200,000. He said that a short time later, Jimmy Marcello, a top Carlisi aide, asked him to "cause some problems" at the Lake Theater in downtown Oak Park to force the owners to join the projectionists' union. On his orders, Patrick said, several members of his "street crew" tried to firebomb the theater several times, but all of the efforts failed. Patrick also said Carlisi and John DiFronzo, muscled him out of "street taxes" he had collected for 15 years from one gambler, personally giving him the word at the funeral of Carlisi's brother. But he denied the prosecution’s contention that it was Carlisi and DiFronzo who gave him his orders, not Alex. "Come on, come on, you're getting out of the tune there," Patrick said. "Now you're trying to tell me I didn't give (Alex) any (profits from extortions). That's out, that's out."
When Carlisi and DiFronzo muscled him out of the street tax, Patrick said he even went to Alex to complain, but Alex didn't do anything about it.
Still scrappy, bitter and irritable and coming across like the back alley fighter he was, Patrick’s presence screamed of a bygone era of organized crime. He have his testimony sitting less than 30 feet away from Gus Alex
Alex’s lawyer attacked Patrick of “pulling off the master con game of his life" and called the gangster "evil incarnate," "this diabolical piece of slime" and "one of the most cunning, conniving, evil, twisted people that you'll ever see." "There's no limit to this man," the lawyer said of Patrick "There's no limit to what he will do or say."
"I don't like to be here today to testify, but I either testify or die (in prison)," Patrick responded "If I get caught lying one time, that's it; I get 20 or 30 years. I don't want to die here, that's all. It's a true story, that's all. I don't have the guts to die here."
"You're talking in a low, conspiratorial tone," one of his lawyer complained
"I got a bad throat," Patrick replied. "If I had a Scotch I'd be better off." Causing the court room to chuckle and causing the judge to again warn Patrick to “stop the running commentary, this is a court room, not a night club”
But Patrick continued to send wise crack and sly remarks which sent his attorneys into minor convulsions. At one point, in an effort to show his better side, he told the court how he feeds spaghetti and meatballs to opossums in a favorite forest preserve and waxed on about how he and Alex were “remarkable creatures” because they had managed to survive so long in the hostiles of the underworld and were still in business and not “living in Florida sucking on cigars and grapefruit”
"I don't like to testify," Said Patrick, his head bowed "But I don't want to die in prison."
He defended his actions by explaining that he pleaded guilty to extortion charges after the FBI gathered enough evidence to send him away for a long time. When Alex’s lawyers lit into Patrick’s person, Patrick snapped back in complete sarcasm "Yes. I am the dirtiest thing living on Earth. I don't have feelings for anybody. Everybody's so afraid of me they shiver when they see me. They put on an extra coat."
He described how a lifelong friend scammed him by getting him to put up $165,000 to finance a non-existent bookmaking operation. The friend disappeared, and Patrick had another man he suspected of being involved in the scam severely beaten. "I went for it, and I'm supposed to be the con man," Patrick said to nervous laughter in the courtroom. But "I don't want any tag day (for me)."
Patrick also admitted extorting money from some well-known businesses and people, including the Big Bear grocery store chain, the Black Angus Restaurant, and insurance executive Allan Dorfman, who was killed in 1983. Patrick said Yaras extorted $300,000 from Dorfman while he was nearby; he and Yaras split $75,000 and gave the rest to syndicate bosses, he said.
He said that his crew consisted of Gio, Rainone and Raymond Spencer, the crew’s street boss until his death in 1984. Spencer was a suspect in Allen Dorfman murder. Lenny Yaras who was gunned down in 1985 by two men in ski masks, was the gang’s go-between for mob bookies. Gary Edwards, who "assisted in the crew's extortion, juice loan and gambling operations," later turned state’s evidence against the others. Pete Buonomo, who allegedly picked up extortion payments on behalf of Rainone was a member as was Joe Vento, described as an "outfit member assigned to oversee the crew's juice loan business"; and Phil Tolomeo, who "assisted in the crew's juice loan business," The crews primary source of income, was the 260% interest it got from lending money to desperate gambler.
Patrick admitted he came up with the idea to extort Ray Hara, owner of King Nissan, whom he had known for more than 40 years. Patrick conned Hara into paying him $150,000, half of what his own mob enforcers had demanded. Hara did not know that
Patrick sent the collectors "I did give him a break," Patrick said. "I cut (the extortion demand) in half. I'm proud of myself. I thought he had too much. That's why I asked for it."
When he was done testifying, his underlying Nicky Gio stepped forward in court and offered to help Alex walk and go to the bathroom at the Metropolitan Correctional Center if the two could be placed on the same floor. He told the judge that "He (Patrick) almost died in the hole. They didn't get him any medical attention." But the Judge cut him off and told Gio to let his attorney talk for him. Patrick was the only one of the prosecution's approximately 20 witnesses to directly implicate Alex as Boss of the North Side street crew.
At one point during the trial, the prosecutor claimed that Gus Alex tried to buy Patrick's silence for $50,000, relaying the message through Patrick's lawyer. According to Patrick, the lawyer told him that Alex would give Patrick's longtime girlfriend $50,000 if Patrick "keeps his mouth shut" and doesn't testify against him (Alex) The lawyer would also keep another $50,000 for himself and added that “If you don't you're going to be shot dead” Patrick did admit that the story was dubious and that he was angry at the lawyer because he “milked me dry" by charging $74,500 in legal fees before Patrick began cooperating with the government.
To prove that Alex was the true boss of the crew and not Lenny Patrick, Patrick’s lawyers wanted to call Gus Zapas, secretary-treasurer of the Laundry Workers Union, in an attempt to explain alleged payoffs to Gus Alex, but the judge quashed the subpoena when Zapas' lawyer said his client would plead the 5th Amendment and refuse to testify. Patrick testified for the government that Zapas annually gave him and Alex $14,000, proofing, the government said, that Gus Alex shared in Patrick’s crews take.
While the trial dragged on, without Alex to keep a lid on things, his street crew was out of control. In December of 1992, a dispute over drugs and money prompted one crew member, Al Vena, to murder another, Sam Taglia, and make the crime look like a Mafia hit. According to the cops, Vena shot Taglia in an argument over a failed delivery of drugs, then placed the body in the trunk of Taglia’s 1983 Buick and abandoned the car and the body in the 100 block of North 13th Avenue, Melrose Park. A resident, seeing what appeared to be blood dripping from the car's undercarriage, called police. When police narrowed the murder down to Vena and went out to arrest him, Vena slammed his car into an unmarked Chicago police car and tried to run over a Chicago detective, before driving off at high speed. He was arrested a few blocks later.
At about the same time, Lenny Patrick’s daughter parked in the driveway of her home in a quiet residential area of Rogers Park and walked into her home. Several minutes later the car exploded. No one was hurt in blast, but the bomb left a driveway crater 5 inches deep and 2 feet across.
It was probably activated by remote control, perhaps by someone positioned nearby on North California Avenue, in view of the house. The explosion blew out windows and demolished a 1987 BMW which was owned by Sharon Patrick's fiancé Robert Goodman, a building contractor. The force of the blast `vented' through the BMW's sunroof so there was no fire.
"If the motive for the bombing was to get him (Patrick) to shut up, I don't think it will work," one cop said "Lenny and Sharon Patrick don't get along. They haven't spoken to one another in years. So I doubt the bombing is going to seriously upset him."
Apparently the father-daughter dispute stemmed from Lenny Patrick’s divorce of Lorraine’s mother in the 1960s. Sharon Patrick, angry with her father for cutting off financial support to his former wife and family, publicly berated him in front of mob friends in a restaurant.
In the end, the facts and evidence were too overwhelming. Alex was found guilty.
Just before sentencing Alex’s attorney insisted that Alex wasn’t aware of the acts of violence, to which the judge replied "Why should he have? He was the organizer. He had plenty of underlings for that." He then sentenced Alex to 15 years and eight months in prison for sanctioning extortion through his street crews. He was also fined $823,000. For Alex, 76 years old at the time, the term imposed was a death sentence. The judge, James Alesia (The nephew of bootlegger Roger Touhy) ordered Alex to pay the cost of prison, about $1,400 a month. To make sure he paid, the government froze almost $1 million in cash and securities as well as his two condominiums, on Lake Shore Drive and in Florida that belonged to Alex. The freeze was ordered after federal prosecutors accused Alex, working through his lawyers, of transferring about $1.7 million in a brokerage account to his wife's name after he was indicted.
Moments after the guilty verdict was announced, Alex, looking completely exhausted and gaunt, pulled a folded handkerchief from his navy-blue pinstripe suit coat, pushed his reading glasses out of the way and wiped under both eyes. He was then escorted, via his wheelchair, out of the court room surrounded by a dozen US Marshals.
Alex died of a heart attack while confined to a federal-prison medical center in Lexington, Kentucky at age 82.