How Cleveland Police Cracked Murder Tied to Heiress, Mafia & Hells Angels

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The following article is drawn from the newly published book Badge 387: The Story of Jim Simone by Robert Sberna (See Rob's blog at

In general, mob guys don’t take on civilians as partners in crime. 

Ordinary citizens can’t be trusted to keep quiet. When it comes to police interrogations, they are untested entities. They are likely to fold under pressure by expert interviewers.

And when civilians do get into bed with the Mafia, it’s likely they will be taken for their money. After all, who are they going to complain to? Not the police.

In a convoluted murder case from the 1980s, Lola Toney learned the hard way that crime should be left to the experts. Toney became entangled with a Cleveland mobster when her mother-in-law, Dimple Podborny, asked for help in killing her wealthy husband, Henry.

In addition to Lola, Dimple, and the mobster, John “Curly” Montana, the cast of murder conspirators included two associates of the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club, as well as Lola’s boyfriend and Lola’s brother.

The case was set in motion in January 1981 when Henry Podborny went missing after he left Chicago on a flight to Cleveland.

Two months after his disappearance, Cleveland Police homicide detective Jim Simone learned that someone had tried to cash a traveler’s check at a Cleveland bank by using Podborny’s identification. The interstate check activity triggered the FBI’s involvement in the case.

Working with FBI agents, Simone traced the traveler’s check to a Cleveland man. Within minutes of speaking with Simone, the man blurted, “Okay, you got me on the check, but you’re not getting me for the murder.”

"An autopsy showed that Podborny had been beaten on his legs and head with a blunt object, perhaps an iron pipe... He had also been shot in the forehead."

Aware now that Podborny had been killed, Simone obtained information that led him to a decomposed body laying in a garbage-strewn lot on Cleveland’s East Side. Dental records revealed that the body, which had been wrapped in a plastic pool table cover, was Podborny’s. An autopsy showed that Podborny had been beaten on his legs and head with a blunt object, perhaps an iron pipe, and had suffered multiple compound fractures of his skull. He had also been shot in the forehead.

Piecing together details of Podborny’s life, Simone learned that he had been in the midst of marital problems with his wife, Dimple.

Podborny, a West Point graduate and former Army major, owned a large pallet company in Chicago. He had met Dimple, a Cleveland native, when she was working in Chicago as a nurse’s aide. Dimple had served as a caregiver for Podborny’s mother. Podborny was smitten with Dimple and married her shortly after meeting her.

The couple soon had problems and Dimple, 60, filed for divorce. After Podborny, 58, was unable to change her mind, he cancelled her credit cards and hid his money in different bank accounts to keep it away from her. Dimple, who had by then relocated to Cleveland, was living with her son from a previous marriage and his wife, Lola. Upset that Podborny had cut her off from his money, Dimple hatched a plot with Lola to kill him. Dimple gave Lola $24,000 to arrange for Podborny’s murder.

For help in setting up the hit, Lola turned to her boyfriend, Robert O’Neal. The conspirators decided to lure Podborny to Cleveland on the pretext of reconciling with Dimple. Podborny, who was desperate to regain Dimple’s affections, readily agreed. He gave a house key to one of his employees and asked him to tend to his dogs. “I have to go to Cleveland,” Podborny told him. “Everything I have in my life is at stake.”

Podborny was picked up at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport by Lola. She drove him to a bar owned by O’Neal, telling him to go inside and wait for Dimple while she parked the car.

Inside the bar, Podborny was bludgeoned and shot by O’Neal and several other men, including two Hells Angels associates, one of whom was Lola’s brother. O’Neal walked out of the bar and handed Lola $1400 and Podborny’s wallet.

Lola knew that Podborny had $50,000 in cash in his house. In addition, Lola and Dimple had drained $600,000 from Podborny’s bank accounts and stashed it in a safety deposit box at a bank in Indiana.

In one of the case’s several double-crosses, Lola concocted a scheme to extort the money from Dimple. The plan hinged on Dimple believing that Podborny was still alive and would be seeking retribution against her for the attempted murder. Lola convinced Dimple that she needed to make monthly payments to an unidentified person to ensure the person’s silence about the murder plot. In addition to the bogus blackmail scheme, Lola told Dimple that she should hire a bodyguard to protect her from Podborny. Lola planned to keep the blackmail money for herself and also split the protection fee paid to the bodyguard.

She relied on her boyfriend O’Neal to find a “bodyguard” who would play along with her scheme. He introduced her to Montana, one of the few remaining members of Cleveland’s Mafia. The city’s once-powerful underworld had diminished since the 1950s when up to 60 made men ran its loansharking, gambling, and union rackets.

By the early 1980s, the Cleveland family had dwindled to a handful of wiseguys, primarily because longtime boss John Scalish had shown little interest in recruiting new soldiers. Scalish didn’t have a pressing need to build the family’s ranks. He had a solid and lucrative hold on the city’s criminal enterprises. Scalish and his lieutenants also had a dependable cash flow from the “skim” they received each month from mob-controlled Las Vegas casinos.

The Cleveland family was in disarray and facing extinction. Nevertheless, the power and prestige of the Mafia brand impressed Lola Toney. She decided to place her trust in Curly Montana.

She filled him in on her plan to extort Dimple, enlisting him as Dimple’s ersatz bodyguard. She then asked him to travel to Chicago to loot Podborny’s house. She explained where the money was hidden in the house, and she provided keys and a map of the residence. Lola also told him that a large sum of money was kept in a safe at Podborny’s business along with documents that concerned the illegal activities of a member of Congress. Convinced that she could trust Montana, she also told him about the $600,000 that she and Dimple had placed in the safety deposit box. She even showed him the key to the box.

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The next day, Montana convinced Lola to drop her extortion scheme. Instead, he suggested that they meet in Indiana and remove the $600,000 from the bank. Then Lola would permit Montana to “rob” her of the money. The purpose of the robbery, Montana explained, was to cut Dimple out of her share of the money. Lola immediately agreed and offered Montana and her boyfriend $100,000 for their participation. Lola and Montana then made plans to rendezvous in Chicago and Indiana the following week.

In April 1981, before the discovery of Podborny’s body, Lola traveled to Chicago to meet Montana. She was shocked to find that the money at Podborny’s home and business was gone. She then drove to the bank in Indiana. When she opened the safety deposit box, it was empty. Investigators would later theorize that Montana had managed to steal the safety deposit key from her. He then looted the $600,000 before Lola’s arrival. On the same trip, he emptied the safes in Podborny’s home and business.

Based on the homicide investigation by Simone and other detectives, six people would eventually stand trial for the murder and robbery of Podborny. In court, Lola and Dimple accused each other of hatching the murder plot. Lola became the prosecution’s star witness and testified against her boyfriend and Dimple. Although she agreed to testify against Montana, she abruptly changed her mind at his trial. Prosecutors couldn’t convince her to take the stand against the mobster. Five of the conspirators were sentenced to life in prison, including Lola and Dimple.

Curly Montana received a five-year sentence. One of the last made men in Cleveland was going away. It was the end of an era for the Cleveland family.

Purchase Badge 387: The Story of Jim Simone by Robert Sberna 

Robert Sberna is a Cleveland-based journalist who contributes to several national publications. He is the author of House of Horrors: The Shocking True Story of Anthony Sowell, Mystery of the Lufthansa Airlines Heist and Badge 387: The Story of Jim Simone.