Bridgeport bank failure proves costly for FDIC, a CPD officer faces dismissal and more in your Chicago news roundup

Today’s update is about an eight-minute read that will brief you on the day’s biggest stories.

SHARE Bridgeport bank failure proves costly for FDIC, a CPD officer faces dismissal and more in your Chicago news roundup

The old Washington Federal Bank for Savings, 2869 S. Archer Ave., which was shut down in December 2017 for “unsafe or unsound practices” days after John F. Gembara, its president and chief executive officer, was found dead at a bank customer’s home. A federal audit uncovered massive fraud at the bank.

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Good afternoon. Here’s the latest news you need to know in Chicago. It’s about an eight-minute read that will brief you on today’s biggest stories.

— Matt Moore (@MattKenMoore)

Weather ⛅

This afternoon will be partly sunny with a high near 62 degrees. Tonight, cloudy with a low near 39. Tomorrow will also be partly sunny — but with a chance of showers and a high near 48. Sunday’s forecast will be similarly chilly, just without the threat of rain.

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Bridgeport bank failure cost millions more than feds have said: Where did all the money go?

It’s been more than five years since federal regulators shut down a tiny bank in Chicago, in the process exposing deep connections to the Daley family and its political army.

Federal officials still haven’t been able to account for all of the money that they’ve said was looted from Washington Federal Bank for Savings, the century-old Bridgeport institution that the Gembara family ran for three generations.

That figure, records show, turns out to have been far higher than previously has been revealed. Now, for the first time, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. says it spent nearly $139.8 million to cover the bank’s losses after regulators closed the bank on Dec. 15, 2017. That’s about $50 million more than previously was disclosed in court documents.

The bank’s shutdown came 12 days after John F. Gembara, its board chairman, president and chief executive officer, was found dead with a rope wrapped around his neck in the main bedroom of a bank customer’s million-dollar home in Park Ridge — a mini-mansion that federal prosecutors suspect might have been built with money embezzled from the bank.

Authorities ruled that Gembara killed himself, but his wife’s attorney says the family has questioned whether someone killed him and at one point considered exhuming his body.

So far, the FDIC has recovered about $59 million from insurance companies for the bank and its auditors as well as from the sale of 135 loans and repayments of delinquent loans. Among those: $219,000 from former Ald. Patrick Daley Thompson (11th), who went to prison for cheating on his income taxes and lying to bank regulators about how much he owed Gembara’s bank.

The FDIC is still out about $81 million, and it can’t say how much more it might still be able to recover.

Our Tim Novak looks into where all that money went.

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A bright one ☀️

90 years and going strong — Moon’s Sandwich Shop still serving up fabulously no-fuss American diner staples

Walk into Moon’s Sandwich Shop on any given morning, and you’ll be greeted by the delightful symphony that can only be heard in classic American diners: bacon sputtering and onions caramelizing on the flat top grill, bread popping out of multiple toasters, stainless steel spoons stirring sugar and cream into white ceramic cups filled with coffee, the drip, drip, drip of the Bunn-O-Matic coffee maker.

Since 1933, this old-fashioned diner has cooked up the staples of stick-to-your-bones American cuisine that promises to fuel a hard-working day in Chicago (or cure a hangover). Simple, traditional, energy-dense, consoling — this is comfort food par excellence.

Anthony Gambino opened Moon’s in 1933 on the city’s Near West Side, at 16 S. Western Ave. Four other Moon’s locations, since closed, sprouted at 3756 Chicago Ave., 1649 W. Roosevelt (1936), 1403 N. Pulaski Rd. (1946), and 4600 N. Clarendon Ave. (1948-1951).

Typical of early diners, Moon’s Sandwich Shops were tiny, a small footprint on relatively inexpensive lots. Today, the Western Avenue shop is dwarfed by adjacent buildings; a single, long countertop takes up most of its interior space.


James Radek, owner of Moon’s Sandwich Shop in East Garfield Park, is photographed with the diner’s famous corned beef sandwich. Radek has owned the 90-year-old shop for 44 years.

Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Seven days a week — from 5:30 am to 3 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sundays — the cooks in the open galley kitchen whip up classics-to-order with such ease it looks like a well-orchestrated dance performance.

“The original owner, Anthony Gambino, died in 1964,” current owner Jim Radek said. “He had three sons, Anthony Jr. (Tony), Joseph, and Kelly, who managed the business after he died. In 1978, the oldest of three brothers died, and in 1978 the other two brothers asked me to be their partner.”

Radek’s training in the restaurant business began at home on the city’s West Side, where he lived with his parents, both Austrian in origin, and his six brothers and sisters.

“My mother taught me how to take a more inexpensive cut of meat — say, a pork shoulder — and transform it into something sublime, through time, attention and careful preparation. And Joe, the best cook of the three Gambino brothers, taught me how to cook Moon’s specialties, like our classic meatloaf, tuna salad, chili mac, and mashed potatoes and gravy. Kelly, the middle brother, who manned the grill, taught me how to make the burgers, chopped steaks, ribeyes, pork chops and pancakes that everyone loves here to this day. Tony Gambino worked the front, and taught me how to take care of our customers.”

Amy Bizzarri has more on Radek and this local institution.

From the press box ⚾🏈

Your daily question☕

What is hands-down the best live music venue in Chicago? Tell us why.

Email us (please include your first and last name) and we might include your answer in the next Afternoon Edition.

Yesterday, we asked you: Where is the best place in or around Chicago to see springtime flowers in bloom?

Here’s some of what you said…

“North Michigan Avenue median planters. The very long view of many blocks of tulips in bloom in the middle of the street has become one of the symbols of Chicago and a beautiful sign of spring in our city.” — Bob W.

“Spring flowers are my favorites so I have several recommendations. In the city — Lurie Garden and the woods just south of the Jackson Park Japanese Garden. In the suburbs — Chicago Botanic Gardens including McDonald Woods in the forest preserve districts.” — MJ Kuffner

“A hidden gem — Lake Katherine Nature Center and Botanic Gardens in Palos Heights. It has a beautiful waterfall also.” — Rhonda Rowe-Skolnik

“Lincoln Park Conservatory is one of my favorite places.” — Andrew Zwick

“The Bahá’í House of Worship in Wilmette.” — Erick Bachmann

“Around the University of Chicago.” — Marie Turner

Thanks for reading the Chicago Sun-Times Afternoon Edition. Got a story you think we missed? Email us here.

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