Mobster’s relative documents Chicago Heights mob ties
BY CASEY TONER email@example.com December 28, 2012 3:46PM
Matt Luzi, whose grandfather worked with Al Capone, walks through Evergreen Hills Cemetery in Steger on Dec. 11. He wrote a book about the mafia in Chicago Heights and a lot of the subjects are buried in this cemetery. | Matt Marton~Sun-Times Media
Updated: January 31, 2013 6:06AM
Every family has a history.
That holds true, and then some, for Chicago resident Matthew Luzi. His great-great-uncle, Frank LaPorte, was one of the most feared men in Chicago. He was a wise-guy enforcer for infamous mobster Al Capone.
LaPorte also ran a mafia outfit out of Chicago Heights, history that Luzi set out to document in his new book, “The Boys in Chicago Heights: The Forgotten Crew of the Chicago Outfit.” It’s for sale for $19.99 by visiting historypress.net.
The book opens with the immigration boom that brought so many Italian-Americans to Chicago Heights in search of jobs. When Prohibition took effect, outlawing alcohol, some of them turned to illegal means to make lots of money.
Luzi, 45, said his book documents the family history of the city’s gangsters and contains details never before detailed.
“Everything written about (the mob) is Capone-centric, and I suspected there was more of a background story to it,” Luzi said. “Sure enough, there was.”
That said, there are Capone connections throughout the book.
“I’m fascinated by the Capone era and the amount of money these guys generated for Capone,” Luzi said. “They generated a substantial amount of money for him.”
The connection between the Chicago Heights mafia and Capone was such that when a Capone relative died, Chicago Heights mafiosos sent several bouquets of flowers to his funeral. Attached to the flowers was a note that said “from the boys in Chicago Heights.”
The book was a labor of love for Luzi, who spent years researching it. He conducted personal interviews, scoured history books and newspaper articles, and even milked family connections to flesh out the book’s story.
For example, the photograph that graces the back page of the “The Boys in Chicago Heights” belonged to his grandmother.
Taken in 1927 at 22nd and State streets in Chicago Heights, it’s a posed group photo of many of the major mobsters of the day. It commemorates the consolidation of the Chicago Heights liquor bootleggers.
Luzi said his grandmother was given the photograph as a token of respect, but she never displayed it publicly because of its incriminating nature.
“There were indeed gangsters and killers in my family, but it’s a small segment,” Luzi said. “Most were hardworking immigrants. These guys were just opportunists looking to make money.”
He said that many of the city’s mobsters quit when Prohibition was repealed and their liquor-smuggling operations ceased.
“That was it for them,” Luzi said. “They made their money and lived their lives quietly.”
Major mob activity died in Chicago Heights in the early 1990s, about the time local mob bosses Albert Tocco and Dominick Palermo went to prison.
“These guys didn’t do anything to develop new recruits,” Luzi said. “It petered out with the old-timers.”