Longtime Outfit Mobster Gets Six Months Behind Bars For Early Retirement Union Scam

John A. Matassa Jr.—a reputed Chicago mob figure and longtime union boss who earlier this year copped to a federal felony charge of embezzlement in an alleged scheme to fraudulently qualify for early retirement benefits— is going to federal prison.
John Matassa Jr.,

Matassa, aka Pudgy, faced sentencing on July 22, more than two years after a 10-count federal indictment slapped him in the nads. His defense had been that the U.S. Department of Labor had targeted him, a viewpoint that didn't hold much water in the view of the judge.

In court recently, the two butted heads when Matassa stood before the judge and said,“The only reason I’m standing here today is because my name is John Matassa.” The judge retorted with: “You pled guilty to a felony to avoid going to trial. That’s why you’re here right now. Not because your name is John Matassa.”)

The case stemmed from Matassa’s job as the secretary-treasurer of the Independent Union of Amalgamated Workers Local 711.

While his plea agreement called for up to 21 months behind bars, U.S. District Judge Matthew Kennelly sentenced him to only six months, plus an additional six months of house arrest. (He also has to pay $66,500 in restitution to his former union and the Social Security Administration.)

During the recent sentencing hearing, Kennelly described Independent Union of Amalgamated Workers as “the weirdest union that I’ve ever seen.” He repeatedly mentioned that it collected barely enough dues to pay Matassa’s salary and expenses.

Matassa was initially to be sentenced on May 22, but his cardiologist and heart surgeon interrupted the plan by telling the judge about Paul's current list of health ailments: "coronary artery disease, hypertension, diabetes, sleep apnea, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease," according to a defense request filing.

Prosecutors didn't oppose the delay in Matassa's sentencing. In the government's sentencing memorandum, prosecutors asked U.S. District Judge Matthew Kennelly to sentence Matassa to between 27 and 33 months imprisonment -- and also acknowledged "that it would be appropriate for the Court to consider defendant's various medical conditions when determining defendant's sentence."

Matassa’s crime was non-violent -- and some might even consider the whole case nothing more than a trifle. But his past is about as hardcore as it gets these days.

Matassa, the former secretary-treasurer of the Independent Union of Amalgamated Workers Local 711, was charged in a 10-count indictment in 2017 with putting his wife on the union’s payroll in a do-nothing job while lowering his own salary.

He then applied for early retirement benefits from the Social Security Administration's Old-Age Insurance program, listing his reduced salary to qualify for those benefits, the indictment alleged.

Matassa was associated with some of the Outfit’s most notorious figures, including Tony Zizzo, Rocky Infelice, Albert Tocco, and reputed boss James Marcello. When Nick Calabrese testified at the Family Secrets trial, he put Matassa at the October 1983 ceremony where he and his brother got made.

In the late 1990s, Matassa was kicked out as president of the Laborers Union Chicago local over his alleged mob extensive ties.

Matassa also was allegedly involved in the case of a deputy U.S. marshal who was convicted of leaking information about Calabrese, whose testimony led to the convictions of multiple mob figures — including Outfit boss Marcello.

In late 2017, Chicago FBI chief Jeffrey Sallet didn’t mince words when he vowed that the Chicago FBI office would “refocus on organized crime.”

Speaking directly to the Outfit, he said: “We haven’t forgotten about you.” Sallet, who served stints in New York and Boston, among other places, is considered an expert mob investigator. He’s helped probe the Bonanno crime family as part of the 2011 Mafia Takedown effort that nabbed 120 mobsters.

Sallet also helped with the capture of James (Whitey) Bulger that same year.

“Mob guys or Outfit guys—whatever you want to call them—are resilient,” Sallet has said. “Where there is an opportunity to make money, they will engage. The reason they don’t kill people the same way they did 25 years ago is because it’s bad for business.”

He acknowledged that the FBI in recent years has been pulled in different directions to orientate itself toward evolving threats posed by terrorism, corruption, and street gangs. Nevertheless, “the mob is still a criminal force in Chicago that cannot be overlooked,” he said.

"A group of people who wake up every single day with the idea of stealing and taking money from other people through intimidation and power is a group that we need to look at. The Chicago Outfit is 100 years old, so when you look at an organization that is 100 years old and say we’re not going to work those guys because they’re done, would be a huge mistake.”

We noted this in a previous story about Nick Calabrese's testimony involving a making ceremony in Chicago. Matassa figured in the story -- about which we thought, what the hell, let's rerun it again, right here....

This, from testimony at the blockbuster, historic Family Secrets trial, should finally put to rest once and for all that question about whether the Chicago Outfit made "uniforms," one of the word's in the Outfit's secret lexicon.

Frank Calabrese Senior and Frank Junior
Frank Calabrese Senior, left, Junior.

1983 Outfit Induction
Nick Calabrese was the first made “uniform” to flip for the Feds -- and in 2007 “Family Secrets” testimony, he detailed the day he, his brother, and others were made. Nick’s nephew, Frank Calabrese Jr., was the impetus for the case.

On Sunday, October 9, 1983, he and Frank Calabrese Sr. were driven together to a closed restaurant on Roosevelt Road, west of Mannheim Road in Cook County.

Their driver was Jimmy LaPietra, then-capo of the Twenty-Sixth Street crew, aka the Chinatown crew, which was the crew the Calabrese brothers were part of.

They parked in the restaurant's lot and the occupants got out and headed toward the restaurant. Frank Sr. and Nick walked into the kitchen. Waiting there for them were Jimmy Marcello, Tony Zizzo, Rocky Infelice, Johnny “Pudgy” Matassa, Albert Tocco, and others, including representatives from several Outfit crews.

Al (the Pizza Man) Tornabene, a member of the Outfit’s Chicago Heights crew, escorted each initiate into the dining room, one at a time. Each would be made separately and alone. While Al left the kitchen with an initiate, the rest waited.

Eventually, Nick Calabrese was brought into the dining room and made to stand before a table where Joey Doves Aiuppa, boss of the Chicago Outfit, sat. Capos from various crews sat at the table with him. Joey the Clown Lombardo, capo of the Grand Avenue crew, was not in attendance that day because he was serving a prison sentence.

Among those in attendance: Dominic “Toots” Palermo from the Chicago Heights crew, who’d driven Tocco that day. Sam Carlisi of the Melrose Park crew had brought Marcello and Zizzo, Vince Solano from Rush Street had brought Matassa and a “Frank Belmonte.” From Elmwood Park was John “No Nose” DiFronzo who had arrived alone.

Nick stood there and faced Joey Doves and the capos. A gun and a knife were on the table where a candle also stood. (Nick, in testimony, from which this story is largely taken, couldn’t recall exactly what was said in the preamble to his initiation, though it seems there was discussion about never talking about Outfit business with outsiders.) He was asked a question that he answered with a reply about him not being brought up that way.

Aiuppa held a holy card with the picture of a saint on it. He stood and walked around the table to where Nick was standing. He lit it the card and dropped it onto Nick’s open hand. Nick held the burning card, trying to evince an emotionless face. He mentally separated his hot palm from the rest of his body doing his best to ignore the burning sensation that gradually worsened as the picture curled around in the fire on his hand. Aiuppa told him that it was time for him to take his oath.

He was told to repeat three times the following: “If I give up my brothers, may I burn in hell like this holy picture.”

Then the card was removed. Joey Doves used a pin to prick one of Nick’s fingertips and a drop of blood arose from the skin. His blood was not his own any longer, he was told

Aiuppa and the capos congratulated him and LaPietra shook his hand.

The brothers had been called two days prior and had been told to go to Angelo’s home in Bridgeport. They were sitting in his basement at a table when he told them he had recommended them both and that it was there’s if they wanted it. “Yes,” was their reply. Nick wondered what would’ve happened there in the basement if they had said no.

Only those who had committed one or more murders for the Outfit were invited in. They had to be full blooded Italians. It was a lifelong commitment. You also were expected to carry yourself a certain way.

The Outfit went five years before another initiation ceremony.

Interestingly, Nick Calabrese was among the men who participated in the murder of the Spilotro brothers who were set up partly with the ruse that Michael was to be made. So there were hints... hiding in plain sight.

And as in New York, in Chicago, two made members need a third made member to introduce them. So there's commonalities, though the entities in the Northeast and Midwest evolved slightly differently from each other over the course of the 20th century.

Still working on Frank Coppa story -- we interrupted it a few times recently, mostly to get up news stories before they grew too stale to post.....