May 3, 1998
BY CAM SIMPSON AND MARK BROWN STAFF REPORTERS
Copyright 1998, Chicago Sun-Times
During a lifetime as a professional crook,
Robert G. Siegel has done it all.
Robbing jewelry stores, banks and armored
cars was his specialty. Selling drugs, collecting juice loans
and committing the occasional murder were part of the job. Hijacking
and counterfeiting filled out the resume.
His street name, ``Bobby the Beak,'' befitted
a guy who ran with the Chicago mob, even if it was a bit unflattering,
like the nickname applied to the famed mobster
once reputed to be his uncle, Benjamin ``Bugsy'' Siegel.
Until federal agents arrested him six years
ago at a west suburban Geneva restaurant, Siegel earned a good
living, never paid income taxes and rarely went to jail.
These days, Siegel, 62, is hidden away in
the federal witness protection program after revealing information
that helped spark the latest corruption investigation
of the Chicago Police Department. Justice Department documents
obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times show that Siegel has provided
a wealth of details gleaned from his career of crime: unsolved
mob murders, police officers on organized crime's
payroll, former police officers who fenced jewels and ``mob-connected'' lawyers who allegedly paid bribes to judges
to fix cases.
``I can do a lot of damage,'' Siegel told
a Chicago FBI agent who traveled to Florida in late 1994 to assess
his request for a deal that would reduce the 19-year
federal prison sentence he is serving. ``I can give you what you
The seeds of information planted by Siegel
have sprouted into public view in recent weeks with revelations
that federal officials are investigating the alleged involvement
of current and former Chicago cops in a nationwide jewel theft
and burglary ring.
Among those under investigation is William
Hanhardt, a storied Chicago police detective with a reputation
for both solving crimes and socializing with criminals. As part
of the investigation, sources said, federal agents wiretapped
the Deerfield telephone of Hanhardt, who at one time was a deputy
superintendent in the Police Department. They also wiretapped
the telephone at a close relative's home where Hanhardt spent
Chicago Police Supt. Terry Hillard said Thursday
he expects indictments in that investigation to be handed down
within one month.
Sources have said they expect a sergeant
and a detective to be implicated. The officers could be accused
of supplying vehicle identification numbers to former
colleagues and other outsiders. The ID numbers, in turn, were
used to make duplicate keys to rob the cars of jewelry
In addition, Carl Drammis, a deputy assistant
superintendent, was questioned by federal investigators in the
jewel theft probe. Drammis, 62, retired last week, but
his attorney said retiring had nothing to do with the investigation
and that his client ``hasn't done anything wrong.''
Siegel's exact role in the probe is still
unclear. The heavily censored documents obtained by the Sun-Times
make no mention of Hanhardt or any ongoing jewel
theft activity known to Siegel.
Before federal authorities caught him, however,
Siegel was the leader of one of the most successful and prolific
jewelry theft rings ever organized, stealing $16
million in gems over six years.
And in late 1995, just before wiretaps started landing on the phones of those now caught up in the local probe, Siegel told members of a special FBI task force about at least five ``fences'' who purchased some of the gems stolen by his ring.
The fences named by Siegel included a former
Elmwood Park policeman and a former Chicago policeman, the documents
Between 1984 and 1990, Siegel's gang committed
13 robberies from stores in California, Florida, Oklahoma and
Wisconsin, according to court records. Siegel was one
of the last of the group to get caught.
The brazen robberies were well-planned and
executed, police said. The automatic weapon-toting robbers routinely
wore Halloween masks, trench coats, bulletproof
vests and cream-colored golf gloves as they hit stores during
regular business hours, often getting in and out in under
Ten men, including Siegel, pleaded guilty
to being part of the theft ring. Three others were convicted at
trial. Many were from Chicago. Two others were acquitted.
Siegel's arrest posed a particular problem
for him. He was accused of firing 31 rounds from a MAC-11 machinegun
into a police car driven by a Palm Beach, Fla.,
deputy in hot pursuit after the gang netted more than $6.5 million
in jewels from a Boca Raton jewelry store in 1988.
That mistake originally earned Siegel a 45-year
prison sentence, which was reduced to 19 years on appeal. Federal prosecutors in Chicago have promised to ask
a Florida judge to reduce his sentence further if he ``cooperates
truthfully and completely'' in probes here.
As part of his deal, Siegel told an FBI task
force that a former Elmwood Park police officer fenced some of
the $350,000 worth of jewelry taken in a 1990 California job.
He said other jewelry taken in that robbery was fenced through
a former Chicago cop who also is a reputed mob associate.
Siegel told authorities that a west suburban
father-son team connected to the mob bought $60,000 worth of stolen
jewelry from a heist in Tampa that netted $500,000
worth of merchandise. Siegel also gave up the name of a prominent
national fence in New York.
Tales of murder
In addition to the crimes for which he was
convicted, beginning with an armed robbery as a teenager, Siegel
has promised to testify to his involvement in crimes for which
he was never charged--including three murders, records show.
None of the murder victims was identified
by name in documents obtained by the Sun-Times, but details of
one crime fit the 1978 kidnapping and murder of Mel Young, a 41-year-old
Elk Grove Village man who was found dead in the trunk of a car
parked at O'Hare Airport on Sept. 8, 1978.
Young, a motorcycle enthusiast, was shot
and stuffed in the trunk of his Lincoln Continental Mark V.
Authorities originally suspected the murder
was related to chop-shop operations, but Siegel told federal agents
that Young was kidnapped as retribution for failing to include
another individual in some of Young's drug deals.
While Young was being held against his will,
Siegel and his accomplices went to burglarize his home. When they
returned, they decided to kill him. Siegel told authorities
he followed the car containing the body to O'Hare, drove the person
who disposed of the body back from the airport,
then fenced the stolen goods.
Siegel also said he was the trigger man in
the 1964 murder of a law-enforcement informant. The snitch was
providing information about narcotics trafficking,
Siegel admitted he did the shooting after
the victim was lured to an arranged location. He said the hit
was ordered by superiors. During that period, Siegel has
said he was on the payroll of the late Frank ``Calico Kid'' Teutonico,
whose mob loan-sharking operation served as a front
for his real pursuit--selling heroin.
In a third murder in 1977, Siegel said the
murder weapon was a gun he had provided years earlier to the killer.
After the murder, Siegel helped dispose of the getaway
car, according to his confession.
Siegel was granted immunity from prosecution
in all three murders.
Among the other never-solved crimes Siegel
has admitted are: a 1983 armed robbery of an armored car delivery
company in Chicago; an attempted armed robbery of a
Wells Fargo armored car in Omaha, Neb., in 1987 in which a guard
was shot in the hand; the armed robbery of a Naperville jewelry
store in 1982; an attempted armed robbery of an Archer Avenue
bank in 1988; the burglary of a jewelry store near
Joliet in 1984, and an arson fire at a Polk Bros. furniture store
set around 1975 in an attempt to muscle the store's
owners into allowing its employees to join a labor union.
In addition, Siegel has fingered certain
criminal defense attorneys he contends are ``employed by the Outfit,''
a reference to the Chicago organized crime
syndicate. Siegel said he was told those attorneys used a portion
of their fees to bribe judges, according to government
Bribes also were paid to certain police officers
by members of organized crime for protection, he said. When Siegel
joinedup with a particular organized crime street crew, his supervisor
told the cops he was now entitled to protection, too, he said.
After one arrest, cooperative police allowed
Siegel to be processed without disclosing the contents of his
pockets. On another occasion, Siegel asked the arresting
officer to get rid of the weapon with which he had been caught.
The officer refused, Siegel said, but promised to keep
Siegel's name out of the newspaper. Siegel said he was contacted
subsequently by an attorney who advised him that the favor
would cost him $1,000.
Siegel also identified another Chicago cop
who did favors for the Outfit, such as ``locating an individual''
whom mobsters wanted to track.
Helped solve bank heists
Siegel's cooperation already has led to the
conviction of two west suburban men for bank heists in Saugatuck,
Mich., and North Riverside. The robberies, which netted
the unusually large sum of $421,000, had gone unsolved for five
years. Siegel was part of the crew that pulled both jobs, the
highlight of which was distracting the only Saugatuck patrol car
with a false report of an auto accident on the other side of the
Kalamazoo River just minutes before they hit the bank.
Although he has yet to be put to the test
in a courtroom, Chicago prosecutors told their Florida counterparts
last year that they believed Siegel had been ``complete
and truthful'' with them.
He did tell a little lie to a probation officer
filling out a pre-sentencing report, falsely claiming legitimate
past employment as a car salesman and cabinetmaker,
authorities admit. He's never filed an income tax return or paid
any taxes, they say.
In making his pitch for a deal, Siegel told
the FBI that other top Chicago area burglars and robbers are ``very
worried'' about him cooperating. Authorities apparently believe
him on that score, too, arranging for him to be held in a special
federal facility for protected witnesses as a security measure
while he awaits his sentence reduction.
They say Siegel is allowed to make telephone
calls and occasionally receive supervised visits from his wife.
For a confessed lifelong criminal with a
lengthy arrest record, Siegel has spent remarkably little time
An armed robbery at age 17 earned him a five-year
probation sentence in 1952. Two years later, he pleaded guilty
to burglary and got his first taste of prison,
serving a little more than three years in Stateville.
Federal agents pinched Siegel in 1963 for
allegedly operating a counterfeiting gang here. At the time, Chicago
newspapers reported he had described himself as the
nephew of the legendary Bugsy Siegel, who ran mob gambling operations
in California and Nevada before being knocked
off in 1947. Law enforcement sources said they don't believe the
Beak is really related to Bugsy, but that he told people
he was to appear more important.
Oak Park police arrested Siegel in 1971 on
suspicion of murder, but a grand jury refused to indict him. At
the time, Siegel, a father of five, was a resident
of Oak Park.
Shortly thereafter, he served two years in
a federal prison in Sandstone, Minn., for taking part in a hijacking.
Siegel grew up on Chicago's West Side, the
son of a Checker Cab driver. He told authorities he dropped out
of school in fifth grade.
Although never a member of the mob's inner
circle, Siegel said his close association with organized crime
grew out of a long relationship with Teutonico. From the
late 1950s until Teutonico's conviction in 1971, Siegel said he
was on Teutonico's payroll. For a while, he claims
to have held the unusual distinction of being on a second mob
payroll as well after being hired in 1967 at $600 a month
to work in the street crew of mobster Angelo Fosco.
While in Fosco's employ, the 6-foot-2, 220-pound
Siegel said he was sent to Las Vegas to meet with Frank ``Lefty'' Rosenthal, then the Outfit's sin city representative,
who needed help collecting on a bad gambling debt of $87,000.
Siegel said he told the debtor he had 10 days to pay or he would
be killed. The money was paid, and Siegel received a $7,000 bonus
when he got back to Chicago.
At Teutonico's suggestion, Siegel said he
got out of the ``juice'' business when his mentor went to prison.
For the next two decades, Siegel turned his
talents to burglary and robbery, teaming up with other professional
criminals ``strong'' enough to pursue their illicit activities
without paying a percentage of their receipts in street tax to
In 1980, a Senate subcommittee identified
Siegel as a member of the notorious armed robbery gang headed
by Paul ``Peanuts'' Panczko. The gang was perhaps
more dangerous than the mob, the subcommittee wrote, because its
members frequently killed and tortured during robberies
and home invasions.
Siegel never mentioned Panczko in documents
obtained by the Sun-Times.
At least two other men in Siegel's jewel-heist
crew cooperated with authorities, according to records obtained
by the Sun-Times. They are Walter Frank Zischke, 53, formerly
of Cicero, and Theodore Ristich, 52, formerly of Chicago, government records say.
Breaking the code
The accounts of Siegel's cooperation don't
make clear what persuaded him to join the ever-growing list of
criminals to forsake the mob's code of silence.
But a turning point appears to have taken
place in early 1995 when Siegel received a visit at the Florida
jail where he was being held from Francis ``Pat'' Mazza,
an old mob friend who had helped him rob the Saugatuck bank.
Mazza, an alleged member of the street crew
of current mob boss John ``No Nose'' DiFronzo, had caught wind
of Siegel's initial overtures to federal agents, which
had taken place just a few months earlier. He sought Siegel's
assurance that word of his government cooperation was untrue.
Siegel, who was still wavering at the time,
gave his assurance and Mazza subsequently tried to bribe a jail
guard to ``take care of the old man,'' federal prosecutors alleged
in court documents.
Spooked by the mob's strong interest in his
situation, however, Siegel soon afterward was transferred to an
Oklahoma prison and began turning over detailed information.
He also had Mazza stricken from his approved
visitor list. Now Mazza has his own visitor list. He pleaded guilty
last year to the Saugatuck bank robbery and is serving a 13-year