Reporting Lisa Fielding
CHICAGO (AP) – A reputed Chicago mobster accused of orchestrating the bombing of a rival video gaming company was convicted of racketeering Wednesday, along with four members of his alleged crew.
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Jurors in Chicago had deliberated since late Monday before convicting Michael “The Large Guy” Sarno and his co-defendants.
Sarno’s wife, Nicole, yelled “God!” as a federal judge granted prosecutors’ request that he be taken into custody immediately after the verdict, and his daughter broke down in tears, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. Just one co-defendant has been allowed to remain free on bond as they await sentencing on May 23.
Prosecutors alleged that Sarno, 52, ordered two of the four, Mark Polchan, a Cicero jewelry store owner and member of the Outlaws motorcycle gang, and Samuel Volpendesto, the former owner of a Cicero strip club, to bomb the Berwyn offices of C&S Coin Operated Amusements Inc. in February 2003.
The bombing, which destroyed the offices, was meant as a message to the company to stop horning in on a profitable mob business in Chicago’s western suburbs, the government said.
Prosecutors also claimed the enterprise that Sarno allegedly was a part of was responsible for burglaries and thefts, including the armed robbery of a jewelry store in LaGrange Park that netted nearly $650,000 worth of jewelry and other valuables.
The Chicago Tribune reported that jurors had asked for guidance on jury instructions earlier in the day Wednesday.
The six-week trial offered a peek into the inner workings of Chicago-area organized crime, which experts say has been curtailed in recent years by racketeering laws, aggressive federal prosecutors and competition from big-city street gangs or biker syndicates.
The 2007 Family Secrets trial, the biggest such trial in Chicago in decades, was a blow to the area mob, also known as the Chicago Outfit. It ended in life sentences for reputed bosses James Marcello, Frank Calabrese Sr. and Joseph “Joey the Clown” Lombardo.
In Chicago, the mob now allegedly focuses more heavily on running illegal video gaming, with approximately 25,000 machines in bars and restaurants, generating millions of dollars in revenue, according to some estimates.
Its leaders allegedly include Sarno, who weighed as much as 300 pounds and was known for using his bulk to collect mob gambling debts as an enforcer.
Before the trial, Sarno’s attorney, Michael Gillespie, said allegations that his client was linked to the mob were “fanciful.”