Priest Passed Deadly Intel to Outfit Member

A former prison chaplain had passed sensitive information to Calabrese about the location of his brother, Nicholas Calabrese — the star witness in the landmark Family Secrets trial.
Frank Calabrese Senior

In February of this year the Feds revealed that a former prison chaplain passed "sensitive information" about a Chicago Outfit turncoat to an imprisoned mobster who had a lot to gain by killing the turncoat.

The allegations were filed in court after the priest, Eugene Klein, in a surprise move, pleaded guilty just as his trial was to commence.

The Catholic priest initially was indicted for planning a theft with feared former Chicago Outfit member Frank Calabrese Sr.





The priest's lawyer pointedly remarked: “Once again the government has chosen to go completely over the top because of Frank Calabrese. They recommend no more than six months for Dennis Hastert and 10 times that amount for Father Klein. That is absurd.”

The attorney reportedly had previously aimed his vitriol at then-U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald for filing the case against Klein in the first place. In 2011, he commented to journalists that “now that we don’t have a governor to prosecute, we can waste time and money on this. Apparently, he couldn’t find any rabbis or nuns.”

As the Chicago Trib's Jason Meisner reported, Klein was indicted "for plotting with Frank Calabrese Sr. to snatch the prolific mob killer’s rare Stradivarius violin from his Wisconsin vacation home." 

Then prosecutors made the far more serious accusation, noted above: They said the former prison chaplain had passed sensitive information to Calabrese about the location of his brother, Nicholas Calabrese — the star witness in the landmark Family Secrets trial, which helped put Frank Calabrese in prison for life. Calabrese died in December 2012 on Christmas day, reportedly the mobster's favorite holiday. At the time, he was a guest of the federal prison in North Carolina.

Klein allegedly slipped information in the form of notes secreted into religious books that were then given to the mobster in solitary confinement.


Surveillance photo taken during Family Secrets probe.


As reported: “(Klein) revealed information to Frank Calabrese, Sr., about the location of his brother, Nicholas Calabrese — knowing that Nicholas Calabrese had cooperated against his brother and that Nicholas Calabrese was in grave danger as a result of his cooperation,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Amarjeet Bhachu wrote.

Klein pleaded guilty in February 2015 to violating the strict security surrounding Frank Calabrese.

Calabrese had been placed under “the strictest conditions of confinement available in the federal prison system” after he allegedly threatened the life of a federal prosecutor. Calabrese allegedly told the prosecutor, Assistant U.S. Attorney T. Markus Funk, that he was a “f---ing dead man” during the Family Secrets trial.

Previously, former Deputy U.S. Marshal John Ambrose of the Chicago office of the marshal’s fugitive task force was sentenced in 2009 to four years in prison for leaking information. He apparently broke the news that Nicholas Calabrese was cooperating.

Frank Calabrese, then 70, having been convicted in the Family Secrets trial, was sentenced to life and ordered to pay $4 million in restitution to the families of his victims. That's a princely sum, as Calabrese was said to have been responsible for 13 mob hits. The government seized his Oak Brook homes, among properties in Williams Bay, Wis.

For his threat during closing arguments Calabrese was held under “special administrative measures,” an extreme form of solitary confinement typically reserved for the most dangerous terrorists and organized crime figures, as reported.

As for Klein, he was nailed in March 2011 when surveillance footage caught him placing something inside his pocket. He said it was candy that Calabrese had given to him via a slot in the door. But the Feds didn't believe the chaplain. They questioned him and he "confessed" to sharing a note about the violin as well as meeting with a Calabrese associate at a restaurant.

At the restaurant, noted the Trib, "Klein told the associate that Frank Calabrese had told him the violin was a Stradivarius worth millions that at one time had belonged to Liberace, that Liberace’s lover had sold the violin, and that “somehow Calabrese had ended up with it,” the feds alleged.

“There is significant evidence that if the Calabrese family owned an expensive violin, it was long since gone from the Wisconsin residence before Calabrese was indicted and the government could be said to have legal ownership of the home and its contents,” Klein’s attorney, Thomas Anthony Durkin, wrote.

Roman-Catholic priest faced five years in prison.

The home in which the violin was hidden was in the process of being sold off to pay Calabrese's victims, according to the Feds, who added that Klein and two associates allegedly were going to visit the house as potential buyers. During a tour of the house, they'd distract the realtor in some way so that they could retrieve the violin from the house prior to its sale.

Klein and the associates had even mulled the possibility of buying the house rather than stealing the hidden instrument during a house tour, the Feds said.

The three allegedly believed the violin held a $26 million price tag.

Klein planned to use part of his share of the proceeds to hire an attorney for Frank Calabrese.

He planned on keeping the rest of the loot for himself.

Prosecution filing on Eugene Klein

CBS Chicago reported that in March 2010, agents searched Calabrese's Oak Brook residence, as well as his home in Williams Bay, Wis. At the Oak Brook home, agents seized cash, jewelry and other valuables hidden behind a false basement panel. The total value of the seized items was estimated to exceed $1 million.

No violin was found.

In the Oak Brook search, prosecutors found a certificate indicating the violin may have been a much less valuable one made in 1764 by Giuseppe Artalli, and not by the renowned Antonius Stradivarius.

This past April 15, U.S. District Judge John Darrah sentenced the Rev. Eugene Klein to one day in prison, which the priest had already served. He also sentenced Klein to three years of supervised release, including six months on home confinement with electronic monitoring. He must perform 200 hours of community service.

“What you did, Father Klein, was wrong, and was seriously wrong,” Darrah told the priest.

Prosecutors had sought a five-year sentence.

The judge wasn’t convinced the violin even existed.

As for the allegations about secret messages, Darrah said it “looked more like prison gossip.”


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