New FBI document details rise of ‘Mutt and Jeff’ inside the mob
BY STEVE WARMBIR Staff Reporterfirstname.lastname@example.org
See FBI surveillance video of Chicago mob boss James Marcello and his half-brother, Michael Marcello
On the street, the two friends were known as “Mutt and Jeff,” after the cartoon duo always seen together.
Or “The Corsican Brothers,” after the classic movie where Siamese twins are separated by surgery at birth.
They often ate lunch together on Taylor Street or hung out at the same bar on the Far Northwest Side.
And they live a few blocks from each other in west suburban Westchester.
The men, close as brothers, share another common trait — both have been identified as leaders in what’s left of the Chicago Outfit, possibly even at one time the top bosses, according to a previously secret government court filing obtained by the Sun-Times.
“Mutt” is Michael Sarno, also known, less charitably, as “Fat Mike,” the reputed Cicero mob boss, convicted in December in a Berwyn bombing racketeering trial. He’s now in jail, awaiting sentencing.
“Jeff” is Salvatore Cataudella, convicted in a mob juice loan case in the 1990s along with Sarno but now a free man.
“Whenever you saw one, you saw the other,” said one man familiar with Sarno and Cataudella.
Both men were known as tough, street guys who came up and learned their trade from the same Outfit enforcer. But as young men they didn’t fit the stereotype of the nattily dressed mobster. They always wore sweats and gym shoes, a habit that came under criticism from mob elders, who considered them slobs.
A confidential FBI informant, who felt abandoned by the Outfit and was motivated to talk, told the feds in 2007 that Mutt and Jeff “were the current Outfit bosses in the Chicago area,” according to the previously sealed federal document.
It details the bloody rise of Sarno in the mob, and Cataudella’s alleged supporting role, and provides the most detail yet on the leadership structure of the Chicago Outfit.
The document is an affidavit that was prepared in 2007 by FBI Special Agent Courtenae Trautmann to allow agents to secretly enter a Cicero pawnshop at night and remove shredded documents, including news stories about the Berwyn business bombing. The FBI later reconstructed those shreddings and used them as evidence in the trial of Sarno and his co-defendant who ran the pawn shop, Outlaw motorcycle gangmember Mark Polchan. The shreddings were used to show both men’s interest in the investigation of the bombing, even though neither had been charged at the time.
The affidavit shows at times an Outfit in disarray as disputes over money erupted in violence. The history is based on three confidential informants, including a veteran source who provided information for the last 25 years and is “personally acquainted with numerous top members of the Chicago Outfit.”
Another informant associated with two Outfit crews said the motive to provide information was “because many individuals, including a member of the Chicago Outfit, had abandoned” the informant.
Sarno went from controlling juice loans in Cicero, to picking up street tax on sports bookmakers to rising in the mob as his superiors went to prison or permanently disappeared, according to the affidavit.
The veteran informant noted that Sarno and one superior, Anthony Zizzo, had been involved in a “drawn out feud” over money shortly before Zizzo disappeared in August 2006, never to be seen again.
Zizzo had previously been assigned by mob bosses to straighten out something that Sarno had “f----- up” and that mistake had enraged then Outfit chief James Marcello, according to the veteran informant.
While one informant put Sarno and Cataudella at the top of the Chicago Outfit, another informant advised the FBI that Sarno was still turning over money to reputed Outfit underboss John “No Nose” DiFronzo, also known as “Johnny Bananas.” Another source of information noted that Sarno was higher in the leadership structure and collecting money from reputed 26th Street crew boss Frank “Tootsie Babe” Caruso.
Marcello himself called the two men “Mutt and Jeff” in one jailhouse conversation, secretly recorded for the Family Secrets investigation.
In the 2003 conversation, Marcello was quizzing his half-brother, Michael, on how much money the men were bringing in.
“What’s this Mutt and Jeff? What do they do every month? What, what comes back?” asks James Marcello.
A lawyer who has represented Sarno and Cataudella blasted the allegations in the affidavit.
“It’s nonsensical,” attorney Alexander Salerno said. Salerno said the affidavit “is based on anonymous sources, who are obviously unreliable.” Salerno noted no one has testified under oath at trial to those allegations.