Prison note details how priest allegedly conspired with mob hit man

Rev. Eugene Klein
Rev. Eugene Klein listens to his attorney talk to the news media after his first appearance in federal court last summer. (José M. Osorio, Chicago Tribune / June 22, 2011)

WSBT.com on March 30, 2012 released the following:

“By Annie Sweeney, Chicago Tribune reporter

For two years, vicious mob killer Frank Calabrese Sr. allegedly passed cupcakes, candy bars and a copy of a psalm through the food slot in his prison cell to a Roman Catholic priest who was there to give him Communion and counsel.

In a new court filing, federal prosecutors allege that Calabrese also slipped a note, tucked into religious reading materials, to the Rev. Eugene Klein, telling him how to find a valuable violin hidden in the mobster’s former Wisconsin home.

The note, seized by federal investigators from Klein’s home last year, read like a treasure trail for Klein, who was charged last summer with violating special restrictions on Calabrese that prohibited him from communicating with anyone outside the prison but his attorney and certain relatives.

“Be sure to have a little flashlight with you so you can see,” it said. “Make a right when you go into that little pull out door. Go all the way to the wall. That is where the violin is.”

Prosecutors contend that two confidants of Calabrese whose identities have not been made public schemed with Klein to gain control of the violin to prevent the government from seizing it and providing compensation to families of the mob hit man’s victims.

According to the government filing, Klein even expressed interest in buying the house to enable him and the two associates to try to find the violin, which has never been recovered.

Calabrese, 75, is serving a life sentence for his conviction in the infamous Family Secrets trial. In sentencing him, a federal judge held him responsible for 13 gangland slayings decades ago.

Klein, who was the prison chaplain at the federal prison in Springfield, Mo., has denied the charges. He is scheduled to go to trial in September in federal court in Chicago. On Thursday, his attorney vowed a vigorous fight.

“It’s all going to come down to whether this is a federal crime,” said Thomas Anthony Durkin, who has filed a motion to dismiss the charges. “He is not charged with stealing the violin. He is charged with violating (the prison restrictions). … This is not a criminal case.”

Klein, a priest for 40 years, first began meeting with Calabrese in 2009 at the federal prison as he administered Communion to him daily. But guards became concerned about the frequency of the visits given the severe restrictions on who could see Calabrese and restricted the meetings to 90 minutes on Saturdays, prosecutors said.

Klein, 63, who was twice interviewed by federal authorities before he was charged, insisted he was not “duped” by Calabrese. Nor did he deny that Calabrese passed him items while he was there, according to the government. One exchange was secretly captured on video, according to the government filing. Klein said it might have been a candy bar or a card for his ailing mother, prosecutors said.

Klein did not deny taking the note regarding the violin’s location either, according to the filing. He also allegedly told investigators that he traveled to the Chicago area to meet with the two Calabrese associates to discuss how they might get their hands on the violin.

The three allegedly believed that the instrument was worth $26 million based on information one of the two confidants had learned from a program on the Discovery Channel. They believed that the violin once belonged to entertainer Liberace. Some of the proceeds from its sale, they figured, could pay for Calabrese’s defense, Klein allegedly told the government. Klein also intended to keep some of the money for himself.

The three allegedly plotted to get inside the home, which was for sale, by asking to view the house. The plans, however, fell apart because the home had already been sold.

During the trip to the Chicago area, Klein had told prison officials that he was tending to his ill mother in St. Louis and took sick pay for that time off, prosecutors alleged.”

US v Eugene Klein – Federal Criminal Indictment

18 U.S.C. § 371

18 U.S.C. § 2232

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