Mob hit man Nicholas Calabrese, who testified against brother and other top mobsters at Family Secrets Trial, dead at 80
Mr. Calabrese, who took part in a hit made famous by the actor Joe Pesci in the movie “Casino,” had a target on his back and remained out of sight since he ratted on the mob.
Nicholas Calabrese, one of the city’s most notorious mobsters who admitted to killing 14 people and was perhaps the most important turncoat witness in Chicago mob history, is dead.
He was 80.
Details of the hit man’s death are not available. And for good reason.
Mr. Calabrese entered the federal government’s witness protection program after he began cooperating with prosecutors before the bombshell Family Secrets trial in 2007.
At trial, he testified against a group of top mobsters that included his brother, Frank Calabrese Sr., who he claimed committed the majority of the 14 murders alongside him.
For his cooperation, Nicholas Calabrese was spared life in prison, but he did receive a 12-year sentence that he served under special federal protection.
It’s unclear exactly when he was released from prison or what his life has been like since.
“Obviously he did not die as a result of the mob getting revenge,” said a source who, along with two other sources, confirmed Nicholas Calabrese’s death.
Nicholas Calabrese wasn’t the only family member to testify against his brother at the trial.
Frank’s son, Frank Calabrese Jr., not only testified but wore a wire to record his father.
Details of Nicholas Calabrese’s testimony were captured by former Sun-Times reporter Steve Warmbir.
“Looking more like a senior citizen heading out for an early bird special than an Outfit killer, Nicholas William Calabrese took the witness stand Monday and calmly told jurors how he murdered people for the mob with his brother Frank and with the reputed head of the Chicago mob, James Marcello,” Warmbir wrote in July 2007.
Despite admitting to 14 murders, Nicholas Calabrese, who was 64 at the time, balked at being called a serial killer.
“I am a killer,” Calabrese said on the stand. “I am not a serial killer.”
Nicholas Calabrese also drew back the curtain on the most infamous modern-day Chicago mob hit — the slayings of the Outfit’s man in Las Vegas, Anthony Spilotro, and his brother, Michael, in the basement of a suburban Chicago home.
He was there, holding the legs of Michael Spilotro while the late Louie “The Mooch” Eboli strangled him with a rope, Nicholas Calabrese testified.
Just moments before, he greeted Michael Spilotro with, “Hi, Mike, how you doing?” as Michael Spilotro entered the basement of a suburban Chicago home.
Following after him, Anthony Spilotro stepped into the basement and realized his fate. He had one request.
“All I heard when he come down was, ‘Can I say a prayer?’ ” Nicholas Calabrese testified.
“I didn’t hear no more,” said Calabrese, who was too busy helping kill Michael Spilotro to see exactly what happened to Anthony Spilotro.
It was the first eyewitness description of the murders.
Nicholas Calabrese tied one of the men on trial in the Family Secrets case to the slayings. He said reputed top Chicago mob boss James Marcello drove Calabrese and two other men to the home where the Spilotros were murdered.
The Family Secrets trial resulted in multiple convictions of top mobsters, including James Marcello, Frank Calabrese Sr. and Joey “The Clown” Lombardo.
Calabrese Sr. and Lombardo died in prison.