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Trial Begins For Elderly Mobsters Charged With Robberies

Jerry Scalise, Arthur Rachel

Jerry Scalise (left) and Arthur Rachel after their arrests for stealing the Marlborough Diamond from a London jewelry store in 1980. (Credit: CBS)

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Updated 01/17/12 – 3:30 p.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) — A federal trial began Tuesday for three elderly mob figures charged with plotting several robberies.

As WBBM Newsradio’s Regine Schlesinger reports, prosecutors allege that Joseph “Jerry” Scalise, 74; Robert Pullia, 70; and Arthur “The Brain” Rachel, 73, plotted several robberies over the course of many years.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Regine Schlesinger reports

The three men are charged with conspiracy to rob an armored car and conspiracy to invade the home of the late Angelo “The Hook” LaPietra, who lived in Bridgeport, was a feared Outfit boss and headed what the FBI called “The Chinatwown Crew.” The trio was arrested outside the late LaPietra’s home on April 8, 2010.

The defendants appeared in good spirits as they arrived at the Dirksen Federal Building on Tuesday, accompanied by their attorneys.

Rachel told CBS 2’s John “Bulldog” Drummond that the trial was like a crap shoot, as to whether he’d be acquitted or convicted.

The trio is also suspected in the 2007 robbery of a Harris Bank branch in LaGrange.

Jury selection began in their trial Tuesday.

Scalise and Rachel gained international notoriety in 1980 when, armed with a hand grenade, they robbed a posh London jewelry store of $3.6 million in gems, including the 45-carat egg-shaped Marlborough Diamond.

Scalise and Rachel were arrested a week later at O’Hare International Airport and extradited to England, where they were convicted and served 20 years in prison. They were both released in 1992 and came back to Chicago.

The diamonds they stole were never recovered.

Loop jeweler Rammi Sabatini said if the Marlborough Diamond were still in one piece, it would be worth up to $50 million today, but it is believed the thieves had the diamond cut up into smaller pieces to resell it.

CBS 2 Producer Ed Marshall contributed to this report.