I’ve covered a few organized crime cases over the years, and one thing you can count on is that when a mob figure testifies against his crew, he’s getting something out of it – a plea deal for a reduced sentence, or if he’s really lucky, immunity.
But not Frank Calabrese.
In the opening chapter of his new book Family Secrets, Calabrese says he decided to inform on his father to the FBI just so he could keep his dad in jail for the rest of his life. No way, I thought.
But by the end of the book, I believed him. And by the end of my interview with Calabrese for NPR’s Fresh Air, I felt the powerful emotions that drove him to wear a wire on his dad and work with the FBI for eight years to put him away.
It’s not often that a single interview occupies a full hour of Fresh Air, but Calabrese’s story is that compelling, and you can hear it on today’s show.
Calabrese talks about growing up in a Chicago crime family, and explains how his father brought him into the business and controlled him with intimidation and violence.
He details more than a dozen murders his father was involved in, and explains why, when he and his father were in prison, he decided to go to FBI to keep him behind bars for the rest of his life.
And you’ll hear him explain how he declined to go into the witness protection program, because he wasn’t going to be a rat. “I have to give my father that chance of getting revenge on me if he needs to,” he said.
There were moments in the interview when I could hear the emotion in Calabrese’s voice, and when we finished I asked if it took something out of him to tell the story every time.
“Yeah,” he said. “It’s like I’m re-living it.”
You can hear Frank Calabrese’s story on Fresh Air today at 3 and 7 on 91FM. If you’re listening outside the Philadelphia area, you can find a station here.
And you can always listen and get more information on the Fresh Air website.