June 10, 2020 – The cooperation of Chicago Outfit lieutenant Anthony (Tony Valpo) Leone in 1988 decimated the crime family’s historic Chicago Heights crew and paved the way for its eventual extinction just a few years later. By the end of the next decade, the Chicago Heights crew had been folded into the Chinatown crew located on the Windy City’s Southside.
The downfall of the Chicago Heights mob dynasty was rooted in Indiana. Valparaiso to be specific.
Leone, who died of natural causes a free man last year at 79, was the nephew of the Outfit’s Northwest Indiana boss Bernard (Snooky) Morgano and ran the region’s rackets on a day-to-day basis in the late 1980s. The domino effect of Leone’s deal with the feds and his testimony in court brought down his uncle Snooky and his uncle’s boss, Dominick (Tootsie) Palermo, the last of the Chicago Heights capos, responsible for overseeing the south suburbs and the Hoosier State from the days before Al Capone to Palermo’s being taken off the streets by the feds in the early 1990s.
Palermo died in prison in April 2005. Northwest Indiana had always fallen under the purview of the Chicago Heights crew and acted as a subunit of the regime. Snooky Morgano’s dad, Tommy Morgano, ran Northwest Indiana back in the day and then Frank (Frankie Cease) Zizzo through Snooky. When Zizzo died of cancer in 1986, Snooky Morgano took power, but battling illness himself, delegated his authority through his nephew Tony Valpo and top enforcer Peter (Cadillac Pete) Petros.
Leone joined the Morgano crew on a permanent basis in 1983 after being laid off from his job as a foreman at U.S. Steel in Gary, Indiana, the sprawling factory town just outside the Chicago border. Morgano assigned him to the numbers racket, bookmaking and collecting from sports gambling businesses and policy banks. According to his FBI file, Leone lived in a mansion in Valparaiso, Indiana and made weekly visits to Tootsie Palermo at the Taste of Italy restaurant in Calumet City, Illinois, to deliver tribute payments and give him messages.
After he was nailed for numbers running in 1988, Tony Valpo flipped and agreed to testify against his uncle Snooky Morgano and Chicago Heights capo Tootise Palermo. He entered the Witness Protection Program, however, only lasted a short time and returned to Valparaiso. Morgano died behind bars in 2003.
Chicago Heights had a reputation for working-class wiseguys and rugged mob toughs and the crew’s succession of bosses, from Jimmy Emery and Dominick Roberto to Frankie LaPorte and Al Pilotto, all the way to Albert (Caesar the Fox) Tocco and Palermo. Pilotto survived an assassination attempt on the golf course in 1981. Tocco killed James (Jimmy the Bomber) Catuara in 1978 to take control of the lucrative stolen car and chop-shop racket.
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