Al Capone's Hometown Still Plagued by Corruption

By Gene J. Koprowski | July 7, 2008 | 8:19 PM EDT

Chicago ( - The investigation of alleged government corruption in the Chicago suburb of Cicero - once the hometown of famed gangster Al Capone -- continues this week.

Thus far, a former IRS agent, the former police chief of Cicero and other former local government officials have been indicted. The charges involve embezzlement, bribery and money laundering.

A spokesman for Cicero Town Hall says the probe has nothing to do with the state of affairs there now. "The guy who was the IRS agent did not work for Cicero," said Dave Donahue. "The former police chief was removed by the current town president."

However, Cicero has been the target of federal investigations, on and off, for the last 80 years, dating all the way back to the days of Elliot Ness, the prosecutor who finally nabbed Al Capone. Local government officials aren't talking about the town's infamy.

"We never comment on any indictments or ongoing investigations," said Cicero spokesman Donahue. "These are allegations that the U.S. attorney will have to pursue himself."

The indictments were handed-up by a grand jury in Chicago after an investigation led by U.S. Attorney Scott Lassar, a Clinton appointee.

The five men charged in the case are Emil Schullo, Cicero's police chief; Michael A. Spano Sr., the town's former director of police dispatching; Gregory Ross, a former Internal Revenue Service criminal investigator; Peter Volpe, a former police detective in neighboring Berwyn, Ill.; and James Inendino, a currency exchange worker.

The indictments charge that the suspects engaged in a conspiracy to bilk the U.S. of $75,000, starting in 1995. "All of the defendants have appeared in court and all have pleaded not guilty. They're all out of custody on bond right now,'' said Randy Samborn, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's office. "But the investigation is ongoing of corruption in Cicero."

According to the indictment, the men were allegedly involved in a corrupt plan to hire an investigator to determine whether three Cicero police officers were town residents, as required by law. The investigator's fees were inflated and the defendants then collected kickbacks from the government funds, the indictment alleges.

The investigator hired by the suspects was secretly working with federal agents and taped some conversations.

Among those charged in the case, former IRS investigator Gregory Ross is alleged to have falsified tax returns in order to conceal the conspiracy, according to the indictment.

Each count of embezzlement of government funds and bribery carries a maximum term of 10 years, while the money laundering counts have terms of twenty years in federal jail. Upon conviction, the defendants could also be ordered to pay restitution to the federal government.