Former Federal Prison Chaplain Indicted for Allegedly Illegally Passing Messages for Convicted Killer Frank Calabrese, Sr., and Attempting to Transfer Calabrese’s Hidden Property
|U.S. Attorney’s Office June 09, 2011|
CHICAGO—A former federal prison chaplain who ministered to convicted killer Frank Calabrese, Sr., was indicted for allegedly illegally passing messages from Calabrese and plotting with him and others to recover a hidden violin from a residence Calabrese once owned in Williams Bay, Wis., federal law enforcement officials announced today. The defendant, Eugene Klein, was charged with one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States and one count of attempting to transfer Calabrese’s personal property to prevent its seizure by the government in a two-count indictment returned late yesterday by a federal grand jury. Klein allegedly obstructed enforcement of Special Administrative Measures (“SAMs”), first imposed on Calabrese in November 2008, to prevent him from further participating in illegal activities while incarcerated by restricting Calabrese’s contacts with others. Klein also allegedly attempted to transfer property, which Calabrese told Klein was a valuable Stradivarius violin, from the Wisconsin residence in an effort to prevent the government from seizing the instrument and applying the proceeds toward a $4.4 million restitution judgment that Calabrese owes to his victims, including the families of those he killed.
Klein, 62, of Springfield, Mo., a Roman Catholic priest, was employed as a chaplain at the U.S. Bureau of Prisons Medical Center for Federal Prisoners in Springfield, Mo., where Calabrese is serving a life sentence. As chaplain, Klein was permitted to meet with Calabrese on a regular basis to provide religious ministry, such as the sacrament of Holy Communion. Because of the position of trust he occupied, Klein was able to have close and frequent communication with Calabrese, the indictment alleges.
Klein will be ordered to appear for arraignment in U.S. District Court in Chicago.
The indictment was announced by Patrick J. Fitzgerald, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois; Robert D. Grant, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; and John F. Oleskowicz, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago Office of the Justice Department’s Office of Inspector General.
According to the indictment, Klein knew that prison rules prohibited him from taking letters and messages into and out of the prison. He was also informed of the SAMs and understood they prohibited the passing of any information or messages to or from Calabrese. The SAMs, which have been renewed annually and remain in effect, restrict Calabrese’s privileges in prison, including his access to the mail, media, telephone and visitors. Under the SAMs, Calabrese is prohibited from having contact with anyone outside the prison, except his attorney and certain immediate family members. Except for communications with his attorney, all oral and written communications with immediate family members, including mail and visits, are subject to review and/or observation to ensure that Calabrese does not pass any messages to anyone that could be used to further criminal activity.
In March of this year, Calabrese told Klein that he had hidden a Stradivarius violin, which Calabrese claimed was worth millions of dollars, within the Wisconsin residence, the indictment alleges. However, paperwork found in March 2010 during a search of Calabrese’s residence in west suburban Oak Brook included a certificate for a violin made in 1764 by Giuseppe Antonio Artalli, not Antonius Stradivarius, the indictment further alleges.
On March 6, Klein allegedly spoke by phone with unnamed Individual A and asked about Calabrese’s Wisconsin residence, as well as three questions that Calabrese had given to Klein to ask Individual A. The next day, Klein met with Calabrese and allegedly took possession of a handwritten note that Calabrese secretly passed to Klein through the food slot in his prison cell. The note contained additional questions Klein was to ask Individual A for Calabrese, and also disclosed the location of a violin hidden within the Wisconsin residence. On March 26, Klein again met with Calabrese and allegedly took possession of a document that Calabrese secretly passed through the food slot of his cell.
As part of the conspiracy, the indictment alleges that Klein and Calabrese agreed that Klein would travel from Missouri to Illinois to meet with Individual A. Klein was to advise Individual A of certain questions Calabrese wished to ask Individual A; advise Individual A of the information Calabrese had told Klein about the violin; and formulate a plan with Individual A to remove the violin from the Wisconsin residence. On April 3, Klein drove to Illinois and met with Individual A at a restaurant in Barrington, where Klein allegedly divulged the contents of a handwritten note that Calabrese had secretly passed to him. During the meeting, Individual A told Klein that the government had seized the Wisconsin residence and was attempting to sell it through a realtor. On April 5 and 6, Klein met with Individuals A and B and, together, they allegedly devised a plan to prevent the government from locating and seizing the violin by posing as potential buyers of the home. On April 7, Klein called the realtor handling the Wisconsin home to arrange a time for the trio to enter the home and search for the violin. Once inside, Klein and Individuals A and B agreed that Individual B would distract the realtor while Klein and Individual A searched for the violin using the directions that Calabrese had provided to Klein, according to the indictment.
The government conducted a subsequent search of the Wisconsin residence but the violin has not been recovered.
After Calabrese was held responsible for 13 murders by a judge and jury and sentenced on Jan. 28, 2009, to life imprisonment and ordered to pay restitution totaling $4,422,572, law enforcement authorities began efforts to locate and seize Calabrese’s assets to satisfy the judgment he owed to the families of his murder victims. In March 2010, agents searched Calabrese’s Oak Brook residence, as well as his home in Williams Bay. At the Oak Brook home, agents seized cash, jewelry and other valuables hidden in a secret compartment in the basement. The total value of the seized items was estimated to exceed $1 million.
The government is being represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Amarjeet Bhachu.
Each count of the indictment carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. If convicted, the Court must determine a reasonable sentence to impose under the advisory United States Sentencing Guidelines.
The public is reminded that an indictment contains only charges and is not evidence of guilt. The defendant is presumed innocent and is entitled to a fair trial at which the government has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.