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US prison chaplain charged with helping mobster

11 june 2011, 10:29
©RIA Novosti
©RIA Novosti
A former prison chaplain has been charged with helping a notorious Chicago mobster sneak messages out of jail and try to recover a valuable Stradivarius violin, AFP reports, citing prosecutors Thursday.

The aim was to keep the government from getting it.

The indictment reads like the plot to a Martin Scorsese movie.

Eugene Klein, 62, is a Roman Catholic priest who ministered to former Chicago Outfit hit man Frank Calabrese Sr, who is serving a life sentence at a federal prison in Missouri for 13 murders.

Calabrese was among five mobsters jailed after his son Frank Calabrese Jr agreed to wear a wire for the FBI.

The 2007 trial shone a spotlight on the Chicago mob made famous by Al Capone in the 1920s and featured in the Scorsese film "Casino."

Calabrese lives under strict restrictions in the Missouri prison to prevent him from "committing, soliciting or conspiring to commit additional criminal activity" that could "result in death and serious bodily injury to persons," the indictment said.

He is barred from having contact with anyone outside the prison except his lawyer, a priest and certain immediate family members. The FBI and prison guards also monitored all the oral and written exchanges with his family.

But the mobster managed to use Klein to get the word out by passing the priest messages through the food slot in his cell.

He also convinced Klein to speak with two unnamed individuals to help them find the violin, which he told the priest was worth millions and was hidden in Calabrese's Wisconsin house.

"There are a lot of unprecedented parts of this case. This is another one," retired FBI agent James Wagner said of the investigation. "I would guess this is not the first time this has happened, but this is the first time I can remember a priest getting indicted for it."

The government had already seized more than $1 million in cash, jewelry and other items from Calabrese's Illinois home and had also put the Wisconsin house up for sale to help cover the cost of the $4.4 million in restitution Calabrese owed to the families of his victims.

It wasn't clear from the indictment what Klein stood to gain from the plot for which he faces up to 10 years in jail and a $500,000 fine.

Calabrese apparently lied to him on at least one count. When the government searched his houses, they found paperwork about the still-missing violin certifying that it was made in 1764.

But while the violin bore an emblem with the word "Stradivari," it was actually made by Giuseppe Antonio Artalli, the indictment said.

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