Read Operation Greylord Online

Authors: Terrence Hake

Operation Greylord


The True Story of an Untrained Undercover Agent and America's Biggest Corruption Bust


The True Story of an Untrained Undercover Agent and America's Biggest Corruption Bust

Terrence Hake with Wayne Klatt

Dedicated to

Mort Friedman

a lantern in the dark

Cast of Characters

These are the major people involved in Operation Greylord.

The Investigators

MICHAEL FICARO: an assistant state's attorney who broke in Terry Hake and gave Operation Greylord a push at the earliest stage

TERRY HAKE: an assistant state's attorney who agreed to gather evidence in the felony courts and then as a fixer in the municipal courts

LAMAR JORDAN: one of Terry Hake's contact agents

SCOTT LASSAR: an Assistant U.S. Attorney who helped guide Terry Hake

BILL MEGARY: an FBI contact agent whose work ensured the success of Greylord

DAN REIDY: an Assistant U.S. Attorney and the planner for Operation Greylord

DAVID VICTOR RIES: an FBI agent who set up a law office and began gathering evidence in the municipal courts

CHARLES SKLARSKY: an Assistant U.S. Attorney, who contacted Terry Hake about going undercover in operation Greylord.

The Corrupt

BARRY CARPENTER: a two-bit fixer married to Terry Hake's friend Alice, a fellow assistant state's attorney

FRANK CARDONI: looking like a magazine ad, this defense attorney joined the BMW set by specializing in cases before Judge John Reynolds at a North Side police station

MARK CIAVELLI: Terry Hake's best friend in the courts, who left the State's Attorney's Office to become a fixer with his law partner, Frank Cardoni

HAROLD CONN: used his role as a deputy court clerk to pass bribes on to judges, sometimes in public

JAMES COSTELLO: “Big Bird,” a hallway hustler in need of a friend who taught Terry Hake how the courts really worked

JUDGE JOHN DEVINE: snidely called “Dollars Devine” for his open greed in Auto Theft Court

JUDGE MARTIN HOGAN: another man you bribed if you were caught stealing an auto

MEL KANTER: “Candyman,” one of the Traffic Court fixers known as “miracle workers”

JUDGE ALAN LANE: so corrupt he hinted at it on his vanity license plates

JAMES LEFEVOUR: “Jingles” and “Dogbreath,” a policeman serving as a bagman in the municipal courts under his cousin, Judge Richard LeFevour, whom he resented

JUDGE RICHARD LEFEVOUR: in public he reorganized the municipal courts to end corruption, but secretly he packed the courts under him with equally grasping judges for a share in their bribes

JUDGE THOMAS MALONEY: his pretense of being a law-and-order jurist collapsed when he became the first American judge convicted of taking bribes in murder cases

JUDGE P.J. MCCORMICK: suggested Terry Hake lie about a case in his courtroom

JUDGE JOHN MURPHY: his greed in Traffic Court made him one of the first targets of Operation Greylord

JUDGE WAYNE OLSON: while presiding in Narcotics Court, he took bribes from fixers waiting in line

JUDGE MAURICE POMPEY: a jurist so cautious that Greylord could not touch him

JUDGE JOHN REYNOLDS: his side business was freeing defendants at a North Side court

LUCIUS ROBINSON: this bagman for Judge Pompey seemed like an ordinary court clerk, but could outsmart some of the fixers

JUDGE ALLEN ROSIN: hid his corruption from his family, but one day snapped, shouting in court, “I am God!”

BRUCE ROTH: a fixer who tried to get his law license back after being convicted of bribery

PETER KESSLER: this immigrant lawyer was a big money hallway hustler until he found his conscience

BOB SILVERMAN: “Silvery Bob,” a dapper defense attorney who spread corruption wherever he worked

JOE and JAMES TRUNZO: identical-twin policemen and bagmen in the traffic courts

JUDGE FRANK WILSON: took a bribe to free mob hit man Harry Aleman, making him give up his career and live in disgrace

CY YONAN: a fixer specializing in having judges throw cases out


indicates the name is a pseudonym


“The judge is condemned when the guilty are acquitted”

—Scottish proverb

Today, crime victims and their families are fairly assured of seeing justice carried out, but it wasn't always that way in Chicago. The system was so crippled by corruption when I became a young prosecutor that no one knew how to fight it. But then the U.S. Justice Department chose the city for an experiment in reaching the roots of judicial bribery. Although there would be a personal cost for me, I was privileged to have been inside Operation Greylord from the beginning.

It used to be thought that lawyers corrupted judges, but we found that judges were pressuring defense attorneys for bribes and even setting their own rates. By freeing criminals, the judges were in effect taking part in their rapes, robberies, and murders. During our undercover investigation, we learned that perhaps half the judges in the nation's largest circuit court system could be bought or made to comply. They were merely scarecrows draped in black robes. Those who refused to sell their ideals had their careers sidelined by being assigned to the lesser courts.

Any case could be rigged, from a traffic ticket to a mob hit. There even was a rumor that some innocent people were being convicted just to make crooked jurists appear tough on crime.

City hall and police headquarters were interlocked with the courts by corruption, with each protecting the other. It had always been this way, good people said with a shrug; but, as we learned, it hadn't.

For me the most shocking perversion of justice was the freeing of notorious mob killer Harry Aleman. On the night of September 27, 1972, truck dispatcher William Logan was leaving home for work when Aleman called out from the shadows, “Hey, Billy!” As Logan turned around he was cut down by three shotgun blasts.

A neighbor walking his dog saw the short, slender gunman heading for a car, and a woman talking on the phone glimpsed the man's
face through a window. She shuddered because he looked so much like Aleman, whom she remembered from her old neighborhood.

Law schools never prepare students for reality, and many honest prosecutors were quitting rather than either becoming tainted by the system or losing at every turn. I was just starting out in the State's Attorney's Office—known in some states as the district attorney's office—when experienced prosecutors practically danced in delight over Aleman's indictment, the first airtight case against a hit man in “Murder City's” bloody history. We thought it was the start of a new era.

All of us were stunned when the judge ignored testimony and set Aleman free to kill again, and again, as the syndicate's bogeyman. Just the mention of his name made people keep quiet or pay their debts.

“Outfit” leaders grew so arrogant that they shrugged off fairly new federal anti-racketeering laws as if nothing could touch them. And so the Justice Department decided to make Chicago a test case for an experiment: a coordinated counteroffensive using wiretaps and moles in several capacities.

No single person was involved in every aspect of what became the one of longest and most successful undercover operations in FBI history. I was involved in the criminal courts aspect. It began in 1980, when I was a twenty-eight-year-old prosecutor, just three years out of law school. I complained to my mentor in the State's Attorney's Office about the case fixing in the murder, rape, and child molestation court in Chicago.

I was ready to quit in disgust because these were the most serious cases in our criminal justice system. My mentor decided to forward my complaint to the State's Attorney and his Special Prosecutions Unit, coincidentally as the federal government was planning its experimental investigation. When the Justice Department decided to take the State's Attorney into its plans, my name came up as a person the FBI might want to talk with. No one knew at the time how massive Operation Greylord would become, leading to an overhaul of the entire system, as well as three suicides and more than 103 individuals being charged, seventy by indictment.

I spent three years passing myself off first as a crooked prosecutor and then as a fixer, a defense lawyer with connections to certain judges. But when I served as a defense attorney, all my “clients” were undercover FBI agents who had faked minor crimes so that they might appear before targeted judges.

I think only someone as hopelessly naive and optimistic as I had been would have volunteered to put himself in such danger and, in effect, give up his law career. I found myself a sheep wandering in a wilderness of wolves.

This is the first inside account of the takedown that involved several unprecedented steps, beginning with bugging a judge's chambers to pick up conversations about bribes. Then for the first time in America, a judge was convicted of taking bribes in murder cases.

And finally, Aleman was tried a second time for the same killing. In the furthest-reaching decision arising from Greylord, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled that double jeopardy protection does not apply when the outcome of the first trial is predetermined, and the U.S. Supreme Court did not take the appeal. It took twenty years, but justice finally won out, Aleman was sent to prison, and the mob was no longer invincible.

You are about to see what it was like to move among sleazy and dapper fixers in courts, restaurants, and even the race track, and to talk in bribery code to judges and bagmen. The burden of playing this game without rules came close to wearing me down. When I testified in one of the trials, a top defense lawyer tried to break me on the stand by attacking my most vulnerable point: my guilt over making friends among the shysters so that I might betray them. That is the agonizing necessity for anyone working undercover. I recovered on the stand, and federal judges banned any mention of Greylord to avoid giving prosecutors an edge in the corruption trials.

I was honored to be part of the investigation, even though my life has never been the same. Our investigation was conducted simultaneously with the Justice Department's assault on the Chicago mob hierarchy, based on information from a gambler who had been shot and left for dead. The evidence showed how the crime syndicate paid off Chicago politicians with money skimmed from Las Vegas casinos, using Kansas City mobsters as middle men.

I was not part of the crime syndicate probe, but watched with pleasure as the two crackdowns—occasionally involving the same people—exposed and crushed the old-line mob. The two-pronged assault on what had seemed an impregnable fortress helped establish a framework for investigating corruption anywhere in America. But as long as there is a
feeling that lawyers should never gather evidence against their colleagues, there will be a need for investigations like Operation Greylord.

All conversations in this book are drawn from my memory, testimony, secret tape recordings, court transcripts, and FBI reports. Events involving crooked lawyers and judges have been reconstructed from thousands of pages of transcripts from the major trials. Persons represented by fictitious names are marked with an asterisk (*) at first reference.

Other books

Secrets of Sin by Chloe Harris
Exile on Bridge Street by Eamon Loingsigh
Hitler's Niece by Ron Hansen
Bandit by Ellen Miles
21 Proms by David Levithan
Also Known As Harper by Ann Haywood Leal
Lives of Kings by Lucy Leiderman
Second Chance by Bennett, Sawyer