This is the second installment of a 4-part series about the life of Chicago mobster Harry “The Hook” Aleman, who operated as a thief, enforcer, juice loan collector, and hitman. In this edition, I will detail Aleman’s use of violence and murder as a tool to increase his power in the Chicago underworld and the Mafia organization running it.
Historically the Chicago Outfit has been able to control judges and politicians, control big businesses like Las Vegas hotel casinos and dominate rank and file members to control national unions like the Teamsters. A lot of high-powered businessmen, lawyers, accounts and normal men can make deals, make the hard business decisions and attract capital to create powerful companies.
“I will kill you”
Outfit men like to do these same things, but they would be unable to create anything without hard faced, empty eyed killers like Harry Aleman. Men who have no problem saying, “I will kill you” and their eyes show they mean it. Harry Aleman was one of the best. A small man who could switch from an easy-going intelligent personable demeanor to projecting a menace and threat with no remorse in a split second.
Harry Aleman and Butch Petrocelli were a powerful duo, not the dynamic duo, but they were a powerhouse pair of Outfit killers. One of the earliest murders they were suspected of was Sam “Sambo” Cesario. Actually, “Sambo” had once been an uncle of Harry’s by marriage and before he divorced Aleman’s aunt Viola Ferriola, his boss Joe Ferriola’s sister. “Sambo” was a well-known and feared Outfit member who had been described as a Capone man and a middle echelon mobster in the 1950s. In June 1971 Sambo married a woman named Nan Partipilo. He had kept this relationship hush hush because she had been the girlfriend of Felix “Milwaukee Phil” Alderisio who was on a death bed in prison at that time. Many young mobsters wanted the approval and favor of a guy like “Milwaukee Phil.” On October 19, 1971, a one warm October evening, the newly married couple were relaxing on lawn chairs on the sidewalk in front of their Brownstone at 1071 West Polk. Two masked men approached them, and one was carrying what was described as a .30 cal. Carbine. The man with the carbine “butt stroked” Sambo onto the ground and beat him mercilessly. The other man fired 4 pistol shots into Sambo killing him.
Louis Alemeida tells a story about Aleman that gives us some insight into his thinking. In April 1972, they are drinking espresso at the Survivors club when Harry read an article about the murder of Crazy Joey Gallo. Masked men entered Umberto’s Clam house on Mulberry street in lower Manhattan and pumped several rounds into Gallo, killing him instantly. Louie would later say that Harry could not stop talking about the hit saying things like, “Now that was how you do a hit” and “that is the way to do it, in a restaurant in front of many witnesses, make an example!”
By this time, Harry was the leader of his own crew. He had used money from other scores to collect police radios, guns, disguises and several stolen cars with cold license plates. He had many sources who gave him tips on good home invasion robbery scores or tractor-trailer thefts. He researched and investigated the targets, plotted the strategy and put together the teams, gave the orders and fenced the merchandise. Like his first crew chief, Joe Ferriola, he gave each crew member $500.00 for their efforts, no matter the outcome of the score.
His orders were to get in and out quickly, wear a hat and mask and to carry shoestrings to tie up victims. He explained the shoestrings would not draw extra attention from cops if they happened to get stopped, they were easy to carry and would do the job. On one occasion Lou Almeida reported that Harry ordered them to rob an older couple and leave them tied and gagged. Once they were safely away from the scene, Harry stopped and called the cops, so the old couple would be found soon. Harry did not want to add murder to the robbery charges.
A tipster once told Harry about a guy took the concessions cash from the Chicago Blackhawks’ stadium and kept it in his house until he got to the bank. The tipster claimed the only person home with this money most of the time was the guy’s wife. Harry instructed them where to find a work car he had stashed, and to get in and out quickly, to use shoelaces to tie up the woman and bring the money back to him. So, two of Harry’s guys go find the house and inside they find the wife and three kids. (they did not figure the kids) They tie up the wife and children and proceed to search the house. The robbers cannot find any big concession money. They found $1,800.00 and brought it back to Harry. True to his word he gave each of the thieves $500.00 leaving him holding an $800.00 score. In the next caper the same two guys were sent to the house of a wealthy doctor in Indianapolis. They were supposed to find several hundred thousand in a safe but could only find some diamond jewelry and about $25,000.00. Again, Harry was disappointed but gave them each $500.00 and complained he would have to piece out the diamonds to make any money on the score.
During the early 1970s, Harry was building his crew and doing bigger jobs and he was becoming Joe Ferriola’s chief enforcer in lining up all the Chicago bookies to pay a street tax to the Outfit. The Chicago Crime Commission would publish a list of mobsters who were suspected to be victims of Harry Aleman.
Collecting the street tax
Harry Aleman created quite a reputation during the 1970s. he was the go-to guy for Outfit enforcement activities. With Harry’s help, Joe Ferriola organized all the bookies like Capone had had organized all the speakeasies and independent booze smugglers during prohibition. A bookie could work independent of the Outfit, but they had to give them 50% of all profits plus a yet to be determined “Street tax.”
A good example of this is a situation concerning Frank Rizza, a Chicago traffic cop in the early 1970s. In 1976, he was caught trying to buy cocaine in Mexico and got lucky because he was just kicked out of the country. He was forced to resign. While still a police officer, Rizza had already branched out into the bookmaking business. Joe Ferriola would read news accounts about a race wire room being raided by Chicago police in late 1974. In early 1975, Rizza received a visit from Aleman and fellow Taylor Street crew member James Inendino. Rizza would later testify that Aleman and Inendino he was asked to meet in a restaurant on Chicago's Southwest Side. He said that Aleman and Indendino sat across from him and, at first, said nothing, fixing him with ominous stares from coal black emotionless eyes. After some preliminary talk about whether Rizza could be wired or not, they soon got down to business. Rizza said that Aleman began the conversation. "We are organizing Chicago like it was organized back in the 1930s and you owe me a street tax, 40 thousand dollars."
Rizza did not argue and said he would get back to Aleman. Rizza had his own clout in the ranks of organized crime: He knew Angelo LaPietra, the boss of the Chinatown neighborhood. Rizza went to LaPietra and explained his plight, asking for help. Rizza would later say that LaPietra told him he was in a very serious situation ad he might be able to help. Rizza gave LaPietra a paper sack stuffed with several thousand dollars. LaPietra promised to deliver the money to Aleman and negotiate a compromise deal. Rizza later said, a deal was hammered out where Aleman and his pals became partners in his bookmaking business. Rizza said he would be required to pay the Outfit 50% of his winnings and Aleman promised Rizza that the Outfit would pay all Rizza's losses. Aleman also demanded that Rizza pay an additional $1,000 a month in street tax. Bookmaking must be lucrative because Rizza continued to operate at a profit, a lesser profit but he stayed in business and if he had a bad week and suffered a loss, the Outfit covered that loss.
Rizza became part of Aleman’s network and met with him and Inendino almost daily. They recruited him to help them ferret out other independent bookmakers for extortion. He told them about a guy named Anthony Reitinger. Aleman investigated Reitinger and found that he was doing very well with lots of bettors. He sent a message though Rizza that he knew Reitinger had a $100,000.00 a month bookmaking operation and the Outfit demanded a street tax.
Rizza reported back that Reitinger responded with an obscenity and said he would never pay any street tax. Rizza testified that Aleman responded with, "I will kill that motherfucker." Rizza said he tried again to persuade Reitinger to change his mind, but Reitinger dug in his heels. "He said he wouldn't pay. He wasn't interested," Rizza said.
Rizza then met with Aleman. "I told him it's a dead deal, that Reitinger wasn't coming in," Rizza recalled. "Aleman told me to forget about it, that Reitinger was a dead man anyway.” He said he was going to whack Reitinger. Rizza said Aleman planned to kill Reitinger on Halloween because he would not attract much attention wearing a mask. On that night, Rizza was at home watching a television news report about Reitinger's death. Then, he recalled, "The phone rings. It's Harry Aleman: `We killed that son of a bitch. I told you we would kill that guy.' "
On the night he would die, Reitinger entered a well-known Northwest Side restaurant named Mama Lunas at 5109 W Fullerton Ave, Chicago, IL 60639. The police reported he was worried about Aleman and the Outfit and had told his daughter that if anything happened to him, she should go to her grandmother immediately. Witnesses reported that when he got inside, he stopped and looked back out the front window to make sure he was not being followed. After appearing satisfied he did not have a tail, he settled into a booth and began studying a menu. Shortly after, witnesses would see a red Mercury Montego pull up and park on the curb directly in front. Two men, both wearing ski masks, emerged. They were seen slowly and deliberately walking up the sidewalk and entering the restaurant.
Reitinger saw them enter but it was too late. The men quickly closed the distance from the front door to their victim’s booth and as he tried to rise, one masked man shoved him back down. The Chicago Tribune described the scene as a murder conducted with calm precision. One masked man pointed a .30 caliber carbine and fired four times into Reitinger's chest. The customers dived for cover as the smell of gunpowder filled the air and blood erupted from Reitinger’s chest. The witnesses said the second masked man pushed his shotgun against Reitinger's head and fired two rounds. After these multiple blasts, the two men, slowly and calmly turned their weapons toward the horrified customers as a warning. They exited Moma Lunas’ slowly and deliberately as they entered. The customers remained frozen as the Montego slowly pulled back into the traffic from its curbside parking spot. As a matter of interest, in the first hit attributed to Harry, the murder of “Sambo,” there were two masked suspects, one with a .30 carbine rifle. Another interesting thing is that Harry Aleman thought the Joey Gallo hit in Unbertos’ Clamhouse was so cool and in this murder, the execution team reenacted that same “New York” style hit.
Mob Wives Chicago
Another interesting sidebar is the fact ex-cop Frank Rizza’s daughter, Pia Rizza, was on the short-lived TV show Mob Wives – Chicago. Ordinally, I don’t like to go into mafia relatives who want their privacy protected, there are a few who exposed themselves in Mob Wives – Chicago.
Also, on that show was Nora Schweihs is the daughter of Frank “The German” Schweihs, a notorious hit man for the mob and who was rumored to be involved in the death of Marilyn Monroe. Schweihs, who died in 2008, allegedly had his remains confiscated by the government, which made Nora return to Chicago to attempt to find them. Another cast member was Christina Scoleri, the daughter of Raymond Janek, a one-time thief and fence for the Chicago Outfit. This show never really had Outfit wives rather they had Outfit associate’s daughters. This was quite an exciting show for its one and only season. It seems that Nora Schweihs berated Pia Rizza trouble because her father had been a cop and a government witness. In one show Christina got drunk offended Nora. In another show the situation quickly deteriorated to Pia and Christina's getting into an argument and a glass is thrown. Pia attacks Christina. Hair-pulling and punching occurs, and the two women are pulled apart.
Except for one daughter, Harry Aleman’s stepchildren all stayed out of the lime light. One of them, a daughter named Franky Forliano wrote a book titled “They Can’t Hurt Him Anymore.”
The Chicago Tribune, Everybody Pays by Maurice Possley and Rick Kogan provided many of the material for this article.
The Hook: Life and bloody crimes of feared Chicago Mafia enforcer Harry Aleman
The Hook – Part 2: Chicago Outfit mobster Harry Aleman murders his way to power
The Hook – Part 3: The beginning of the end for vicious Chicago Outfit hitman Harry Aleman
The Hook – Part 4: The downfall of Harry Aleman, Chicago’s most feared hitman
About the author:
Gary Jenkins retired from the Kansas City Police Department in 1996 after a 25-year career. He then attended the UMKC School of Law and graduated in 2000. He was admitted to the Missouri Bar and continues to practice law today. He is a Board member of the Kansas City Police Pension System and The Jackson County Historical Society. During the past 10 years, he produced three documentary films. The first two were Negroes To Hire: Slave Life in Antebellum Missouri and Freedom Seekers: Stories From the Western Underground Railroad.
Gangland Wire is Jenkin's third documentary film. During Gary's KCPD career, he was assigned to the KCPD Intelligence Unit, investigating organized crime. In the 1970s, a grass roots development in the City Market area, became known as the River Quay. A Mafia dispute over parking rights and strip clubs would destroy the area. The resulting investigation will allow FBI agents to convict La Cosa Nostra leaders in Kansas City, Chicago, Cleveland and Milwaukee.
Additionally, Jenkins created a smartphone app titled Kansas City Mob Tour. This app utilizing maps, text, photos and video conducts the user on a tour of famous Kansas City mob sites.
He produces and co-hosts a podcast titled Gangland Wire Crime Stories. Using the audio podcast format, Jenkins tells true crime stories from his experience and obtains guests who have either committed crimes, investigated crimes or reported on criminals.
His most recent project is his book documenting the investigation into Las Vegas skimming activities. Jenkins uses actual wiretap transcripts to tell the story of this investigation. The book is titled Leaving Vegas: The True Story of How the F.B.I. Wiretaps Ended Mob Domination of Las Vegas Casinos.
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