Waitkus Family to hold open house at local landmark

by Kyle Garmes

A Morgan Park home with loose ties to infamous gangster Al Capone will host an open house on Aug. 8, as family members continue to market the home they lived in for about five decades.
The house, located at 11860 S. Bell Ave., has been home to the Waitkus Family since 1962, but since both of their parents have died, Susan, John and Teresa Waitkus are now selling it.
The open house will run from 10 a.m to 3 p.m., the family said, and will offer visitors a chance to tour a sprawling, 4,100-square-foot ranch home that once had a tunnel to the home next door.
The home is also known for the three deer statues in the front yard, which stand just outside an outdoor patio where family members still gather today.
“It was the best house I think a child could grow up in,” Teresa Waitkus said. “Because there’s so many things to do in this house because of the size of the rooms. And with the space that you have, everyone can still have their privacy but still be a family at the same time.”
The original owner, George “Babe” Tuffanelli, an alleged associate of Capone, built the home in 1947, the family said, and required precise attention to detail from all workers who constructed the home. Marble window sills line two large family rooms on the main floor, and there are four fireplaces, including one in the basement that has a “T” for Tuffanelli posted above it.
The Waitkus children’s father, Dr. John Waitkus, became friends with Tuffanelli when Tuffanelli’s granddaughter became ill and was treated by Dr. Waitkus, a surgeon who worked for Holy Cross and Loyola hospitals.
The Waitkus Family became friends with Tuffanelli, the Waitkus children said, because the Tuffanellis moved next door for a brief time after the Waitkuses moved in. The Tuffanellis later moved to Las Vegas for business reasons, the Waitkus Family said, but returned to the area to visit. At times, the family said, Babe Tuffanelli wanted to do business with Dr. Waitkus, but he turned down offers. The children said their father didn’t share what occurred in those conversations with them.
“What you don’t know doesn’t hurt you,” said Teresa Waitkus, who now lives in Las Vegas.
The basement features a 13-seat bar and a pool table, as well as a bedroom. In total, the home has four bedrooms, three full bathrooms and two half bathrooms.
The two large family rooms, which are separated by sliding doors, had starkly different themes when the Waitkus children were growing up, they said. One had a more casual feel, where children could play and eat. The other, which now features a baby grand piano, was more formal and used during parties. Often, said John Waitkus, he could go several months without stepping foot in that room.
The family hosted “party after party after party,” John Waitkus said, and that included for children.
“My parents had them, and we had them,” John Waitkus said. “Those were fun.”
A wall in the basement still features an outline to a tunnel that leads to the house next door, the family said, a sign of the mob activity that perhaps occurred there before they moved in. The main floor also several entries in and out of rooms, leaving Teresa Waitkus to wonder if Tuffanelli wanted to make sure he was never cornered in a room.
While the home is on 119th Street, a high-traffic thoroughfare, it faces east, and John Waitkus stressed that the new owners won’t be bombarded by noise.
“You will not hear a car out there on 119th Street in this house,” John Waitkus said. “I don’t care if you’re in the kitchen—you won’t.”
The house was appraised at $2.1 million, John Waitkus said, but the family is selling it for about $500,000.
John Waitkus has lived in the home while trying to sell it, and he recently sold his home in Indiana and plans to move to New York. He will still be back in the area, though, as he often visits Iroquois County for work.
The family is moving on from its infamous home, they said, but their ties with the Tuffanellis remain strong.

“We’re still friends with them today,” Teresa Waitkus said. 

How's your wife and kids? Pal of mobsters convicted of extortion

Written By Jon Seidel 

A looming, broad-shouldered Michael “Mickey” Davis sat across from R.J. Serpico in the office of a Melrose Park used car dealership in January 2013.
Months earlier, Davis had helped Serpico’s dreams come true. He loaned the suburban car salesman and his father $300,000, so they could open the dealership in the town where Serpico’s uncle is the mayor, according to court testimony. But the dream soon turned into a nightmare. Serpico testified he routinely saw Davis driving by the dealership with a reputed mobster. And as the unpaid bills began to pile up in January 2013, Serpico said Davis dropped a sheet of gambling debts down on Serpico’s desk and warned, “this wasn’t the f—ing agreement.” Serpcio’s father had lost a lot of money gambling, according to court testimony.
Serpico said Davis then leaned back and asked, “how my wife and my kids were, and if I still lived in Park Ridge.”
Serpico took it as a threat. A jury agreed Monday morning, convicting the 58-year-old Davis of extortion and attempted extortion. Dressed in a gray suit and tie, Davis glanced at his lawyers as the verdict was read and leaned back in his chair as the jury was polled. He is to be sentenced Oct. 6.
One of Davis’ lawyers, Christopher Grohman, even admitted Davis “looks like a mobster” as the trial got underway — but he said that didn’t mean he was guilty. It simply suggested Davis had no need to “hire a bunch of goombahs” to deliver a beating.
“He could do it himself,” Grohman said earlier this month.
Serpico testified that Davis asked him about the ages of his children and whether his “wife still owned a beauty salon in Schaumburg.” The encounter seemingly terrified Serpico, who said he apologized to Davis and later kept his distance.
“Because I’m afraid of him, sir,” Serpico explained to a federal prosecutor during Davis’ trial.
Prosecutors accused Davis of ordering a “break-both-legs beating” for Serpico in 2013 to collect on his $300,000 loan to Serpico and his father. They said he took control of Serpico’s dealership and even opened new bank accounts for the business. Eventually, prosecutors said, Davis paid a mob associate for Serpico’s “thorough” beating. The assault, though, never happened, thanks to the feds.
Serpico testified that his uncle is Ronald Serpico, the mayor of Melrose Park.
Prosecutors said Davis sought help collecting on his debt and offered to pay $10,000 for the beating with $5,000 up front. The job allegedly went to Paul Carparelli — an Itasaca man who pleaded guilty last month to three counts of conspiracy to commit extortion.
One of Carparelli’s associates, George Brown, turned out to be a government informant. And prosecutors wrote that Brown recorded conversations with Carparelli and others. But in one key recording, Davis’ lawyers claimed Carparelli only said he learned the person who ordered the beating was “Mickey.”
“This statement is uncorroborated triple hearsay,” they wrote.
Before leaving the courthouse Monday, Davis lawyer Thomas Anthony Durkin said he “truly thought” Davis had beaten the charges. And while Davis’ trial was filled with references to reputed mobsters, Durkin said Davis’ legal team was “straight” with the jury.
For example, Serpico said he noticed that Davis was driving by the dealership “pretty often” with reputed mobster Pete DiFronzo, the brother of alleged mob boss John DiFronzo.
“I just thought, ‘What did I get myself into?’” Serpico said.
But Durkin said Monday that Davis’ lawyers proved “beyond a shadow of a doubt” that Davis’ association with Pete DiFronzo was a business relationship.
“I don’t understand how they could see this as proof beyond a reasonable doubt,” Durkin said of the jurors.
Grohman earlier told the jury that Davis was an active investor in the father-son car dealership. And though prosecutors accused Davis of ordering a beating for Serpico, Grohman said it was Serpico’s father who lost the money gambling.
Serpico said his used-car dealership lasted from June 2012 to May 2013. Things were “pretty good” in the early months, he said. Davis’ loan agreement entitled him to $300 for every car sold plus some of the profits from the dealership, Serpico said.
Eventually, Serpico said things “went bad” at the dealership. He said he “owed everybody money,” and he realized his father had been gambling it away. After his encounter with Davis, Serpico said he did everything he could to raise cash to pay off the debt to Davis.
Prosecutors said they interrupted the extortion plot before things turned violent.

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