The Enigma of Joey the Clown Lombardo

They ditched the 1973 brown Ford in a Pontiac dealership near Route 83 after committing the heinous deed on September 27, 1974.

Outfit "work" car found in 1974

They transferred certain items into a second vehicle, a blue Dodge Challenger, and took off in the Challenger.

The Ford LTD left behind was a "true mob work car," according to investigators. It had been modified to have heavy shocks and a boosted motor (to allow for greater air intake). On the dashboard were black boxes with switches that enabled the occupants to disable the car’s tail and brake lights, allowing the automobile to prowl the night with stealth. The rear license plate was held in a hinged bracket that tilted forward, allowing for a quick plate change, if required. The vehicle had a siren, police scanner, and a red emergency light that could be placed on the dashboard to make the car resemble an unmarked police car.

Within the vehicle, investigators found ski masks that were apparently worn by the shooters. Strands of hair were found in them. Investigators also dusted surfaces all over the car for fingerprints. In the end, none were found. No DNA could be extracted from the hair.

Still, this car was the beginning of the end for a highly feared member of the Chicago Outfit whom  imprisoned Outfit front boss James Marcello and his brother Mickey referred to on wiretap as "Pagliacci." That's the Italian word for “clowns."


International Fiberglass, located in Elk Grove Village, northwest of Chicago, was a success story that provided its owner, Daniel Seifert, and his family with a comfortable life. It also put Danny in a highly dangerous position. The price of his success was getting in bed with one of the Chicago Outfit's most audacious and dangerous figures.

Giuseppe Lombardo

Everything changed when Irwin Weiner, Seifert's partner, announced that he was selling his part of International Fiberglasss to “associates.” Weiner, a mob-connected bail bondsman, had been friends with Seifert. Danny had done carpentry work for him, and Weiner had provided funding for Seifert’s start-up. The son of a bookmaker who had been shot to death in Chicago, Weiner had offered to help Danny after overhearing how much money he was making by working with fiberglass in his garage. Weiner put up a third of the seed money, and Danny put up a third.

Felix “Milwaukee Phil” Alderisio footed the rest.

Almost immediately after Weiner dropped his piece of the business, a group of men started visiting the shop. Their names included Anthony Spilotro, Frank Schweihs, and Joseph Lombardo. (The Marcello brothers called Schweihs "Hitler" on wiretap.)

As per the FBI in 1974, Lombardo was a ruthless killer for the Chicago Outfit. But Lombardo also had highly evolved people skills. With his seemingly natural ability to disarm people, cunning street smarts, and a goofy brand of charm, Lombardo “was funny, very outgoing, a clown, a character,” as Emma Seifert, wife of Danny, once recalled.

Lombardo -- who was on the short, overweight side -- was added to International Fiberglass's payroll. For his paycheck, he'd sit in an office and joke around, maybe gab on the phone. Frequently, he'd pound a heavy bag he'd hung on the premises. Emma observed his distinctive "crouchy" boxer’s stance as he punched it. (Lombardo had a solid frame and created the impression that he could handle himself physically.) One thing Lombardo never did at the shop was actually work, though at least one photograph was snapped of him wearing a uniform and pretending to.

Emma and Danny delighted in Lombardo's company, and their oldest son, Nick, actually idolized him. “He was like an uncle. That’s actually what I called him, ‘Uncle Joe.’ I think that my mom and dad would plan events and Joe Lombardo would always say, ‘Well, I’ll take Nicky,’ and he’d take me to the circus or he’d take me to the Cubs game or he’d take me out to eat with his girlfriend, Bonnie Vent. I always had a blast with him.”

Emma and her husband came to trust Lombardo, so much so, that in 1970, the couple named their newborn son Joseph. That was the apogee of the family's Lombardo relationship.

In 1973, Danny sold his interest in International Fiberglass and opened Plastic-Matic, in Bensenville, a village located near O'Hare International Airport in DuPage County, Illinois, where the Spilotro brothers years later met their savage doom. Danny and Emma, having cultivated an unpalatable awareness of their fiberglass business associates, thought putting some distance between them was a good idea. And Danny "didn’t want them telling him what to do,” Emma says.

Concern gave way to fear as evidence mounted that Lombardo and his associates had been using the fiberglass business to launder money. FBI agents had approached Danny to testify in a fraud case accusing Lombardo and several other reputed organized crime figures of embezzlement and money laundering. Something about a Teamsters pension fund.

Lombardo, Anthony Spilotro, and Irwin Weiner were all indicted in 1974. Word was that Danny was cooperating--and was the government’s star witness.

Powerful Outfit capo Sam Battaglia died in September 1973, pitting Marshall Caifano and Lombardo toe to toe. Both were up to replace Battaglia. Lombardo got it.

Lombardo also got Las Vegas.

The Fed's learned  in detail about the dizzying extent of Lombardo's true power in the Las Vegas trials of the 1980s that finally struck down the mob's stranglehold of Las Vegas (prior to Family Secrets).

Nicholas Pileggi didn't include Lombard, who actually had dominion over Las Vegas, including supervising The Ant Spilotro. No one played the "Lombardo character."

Joey the Clown Lombardo is the major character missing from Martin Scorsese's Casino.

“We all underestimated Joey,” said Peter Wacks, a former FBI agent who helped put Lombardo away once. “We found out later he had a huge responsibility in Vegas.”

 As a 2005 Chicago magazine story noted: "Martin Scorsese dramatized the adventures of Spilotro and Rosenthal, played by Joe Pesci and Robert De Niro, respectively, in his 1995 film, Casino. Lombardo isn’t depicted in the film, and he is barely mentioned in the Nicholas Pileggi book on which the film was based."

 The Seiferts got in too deep before even knowing it....

“Everyone behind his back called him ‘Lumpy,’” Alva Johnson Rodgers, a former Outfit associate later testified. A career criminal who spoke with a Texas twang, he confessed to occasionally serving as Lombardo's driver. Lombardo, he testified, liked to have a police scanner with him in his car.

Once, while Rodgers was driving Lombardo, the two had the police radio on. Eventually, they realized that the cops were actually talking about them, Lombardo and Rodgers. They were actually listening to their own tail, in real time.

Apparently they considered him to be “the Clown” and me “the Rabbit,” Rodgers said. “We were laughing about it.”

See part two: The Grand Avenue Legend Who "Filled Up A Cemetery Or Two"