The last big Blue Line project? An L of a sordid tale
BY FRAN SPIELMAN City Hall Reporter December 5, 2013 2:12PM
Updated: January 7, 2014 6:32AM
The $492 million overhaul unveiled Thursday was touted as the largest investment in the CTA’s Blue Line since the extension from Jefferson Park to O’Hare International Airport.
What Mayor Rahm Emanuel failed to mention is the sordid events — fit for a mob movie — that accompanied the O’Hare extension that opened 30 years ago. A CTA contractor bailed out by the city that went bankrupt anyway in mid-project. A federal investigation of alleged mob ties and payoffs to public officials to secure the $13.5 million contract. And the gangland-style murder of the company president just days before his indictment.
On Jan. 28, 1986, Richard DePrizio was found shot to death — with several bullet wounds in the head from a small-caliber handgun — in a parking lot outside his office in suburban Westchester.
At the time, DePrizio, 36, was president of V.N. DePrizio Construction, a Melrose Park company that had gone belly-up three years earlier while laying track for the Blue Line extension.
The $13.5 million contract was awarded under former Mayor Jane Byrne, who took the unprecedented step of authorizing $2.5 million in low-interest city loans to DePrizio Construction in a failed attempt to keep the company afloat.
DePrizio Construction had donated $13,000 to Byrne’s re-election campaign, $3,000 of it after approval of the city loan.
The sweeping federal investigation that was supposed to culminate in DePrizio’s indictment also included the circumstances surrounding the award to DePrizio Construction, which lacked the financial wherewithal to complete the CTA track work.
At the time of the murder, federal investigators said they believed DePrizio had siphoned construction company funds for payments to organized crime figures and politicians.
Creditors in bankruptcy court also accused DePrizio of driving the company under by siphoning off its funds and equipment.
Undercover surveillance conducted as part of the federal investigation shined the light on DePrizio’s alleged associations with mob kingpins, including Anthony Spilotro and John Cerone. That only fueled speculation that DePrizio was murdered to prevent him from cooperating with the feds.
At the time of his murder, DePrizio owed $14,500 to the City Council’s then-Finance Committee Chairman Wilson Frost (34th).
Although the federal investigation was somewhat derailed by DePrizio’s murder, it did result one year later in the indictment of a high-ranking official in the city’s Department of Public Works on charges of lying to a grand jury and making false statements to FBI agents.
The official was accused of receiving three checks totaling $23,000 from DePrizio and lying to FBI agents who interviewed him about his financial dealings with the contractor. DePrizio’s murder was never solved.