October 14, 1997
BY ROBERT MANOR STAFF REPORTER
Copyright 1997, Chicago Sun-Times
For 22 years Michael Corbitt wore a badge and a police uniform as he served the mob as bagman, supervisor of vice and spy.
In recent testimony from behind prison walls, provided as part of a Laborers International union hearing into allegations of organized crime influence in its Chicago District Council, Corbitt described in colorful detail his life in the mob.
By his own account, he fell in with the Outfit as a teenager and rose to become chief of police in southwest suburban Willow Springs--and did the mob's bidding every step of the way.
The Laborers International is attempting to expel mob figures from the union here. Hearings on possible trusteeship for the union's Chicago council began in August. A spokesman for the 19,000-member council says its officials are not involved in organized crime.
In his testimony, a transcript of which was obtained by the Sun-Times, Corbitt, serving a 20-year term in an out-of-state prison for racketeering, describes a crooked life in law enforcement that stretched from 1965 to 1987, beginning with the day mob boss Sam Giancana first tapped him to be a cop.
He admits involvement in the notorious 1982 murder of Palos Park resident Dianne Masters, saying he put her body in the trunk of her Cadillac and rolled it into the Chicago Sanitary & Ship Canal.
And he describes how as police chief of Willow Springs, he oversaw the town's brothels, casinos and after-hours taverns. He warned them when the FBI was planning a raid and collected ``street tax'' from them for himself and the mob.
As organized crime leaders grew to trust him, Corbitt began delivering huge sums of money for them. The money came from skimming at Las Vegas casinos, prostitution, extortion and theft.
``From the day I came on the job, I was involved in organized crime activity until I left the job,'' Corbitt said.
Corbitt, 53, might have continued his criminal career into old age, but attorney Thomas Scorza, then a federal prosecutor, took an interest in the lawman, eventually convicting him three times.
Corbitt almost certainly is telling some of the truth, Scorza said. Corbitt certainly oversaw vice in Willow Springs and participated in the scheme to kill Masters, Scorza said. Scorza repeatedly heard rumors that Corbitt was a mob bagman.
But as for some of the details of mob life offered by Corbitt, Scorza offers a warning: ``Michael Corbitt usually tells part of the truth.''
`Get a job as a policeman'
Michael Corbitt's first job as a teenager was making deliveries for a company in Summit that, Corbitt recalls, ``supplied slot machines, gambling paraphernalia.'' The young Corbitt would pick up broken slot machines from taverns and bring them in for repair.
Corbitt was an entrepreneur. While still in his teens, he operated a gas station. When not pumping gas, he rented parking spots to mob figures who needed a place to park hijacked trucks for a day or so.
It was then that he met Giancana, the ultimate boss of organized crime in Chicago at that time. In 1965, Giancana had a proposition for Corbitt: Become a cop.
``He said, you know, it would be a good thing for you to ... get a job as a policeman and maybe you could help us out once in a while,'' Corbitt said.
Corbitt said he met with a Willow Springs city official at a tavern and was sworn in as an officer.
``Just remember your friends,'' Giancana told Corbitt a few weeks later.
Corbitt described Willow Springs and its surrounding forest preserves as ``rustic, scenic'' and ``a very nice community aesthetically.''
He also said organized crime dominated the community.
``The town of 3,500 had almost 40 liquor licenses,'' he said. ``I would say at least eight houses of prostitution.
``We had at least six bookmaking operations. We had two full-blown casinos.''
The mob's lookout man
Corbitt remembered his friends.
Until he went to prison in 1987, Corbitt said, he worked for organized crime in Willow Springs and surrounding communities, first as a patrolman, then police chief, then a Cook County sheriff's investigator.
For example, he said, he checked license plates for mob figures to see whether they were assigned to the FBI.
Even the street lights in Willow Springs served the mob.
``We had a switch in the police station that would shut off the street lights in the community,'' Corbitt said. ``When the State Police would come in, we would hit the switch for the street lights and all the establishments would shut down their operations.''
During raids, one bar could hide 150 slot machines by lowering a fake wall.
Corbitt collected payoffs from the businesses for himself and mob figures.
``Joey Aiuppa was one,'' he said. Aiuppa, now dead, was a top crime boss for 40 years.
Another, he said, was Al Pilotto, a former Laborers Union district council vice president who served time in prison for racketeering.
``At the time I came to Willow Springs, [Pilotto] was running our community's involvement in organized crime with several other people,'' Corbitt said. ``But he was the boss.''
In his testimony, Corbitt alleged that 13 Laborers Union officials in the Chicago area were members of the mob or associates of mob figures.
Through the 1970s and 1980s, Corbitt was, literally, a bagman.
He said he delivered ``garbage bags full of money'' to people like the late Vince Solano, a Laborers Union official and reputed crime figure.
``I would say 30-gallon garbage bags ... that's how they collected the money,'' Corbitt said. ``I mean, there was hundreds of thousands of dollars in the bags.''
Friends and enemies
Delivering money over the years, Corbitt said, he came to know many big names in organized crime--and the Laborers Union.
``No. 1 is Tony Accardo,'' he said. Corbitt said he captained Accardo's boat on a fishing trip in Florida and stayed at his home in Palm Desert, Calif.
Another acquaintance, he said, was James DiForti, a former Laborers Union official awaiting trial for the 1988 murder of a businessman. DiForti allegedly killed the businessman after he refused to repay a loan.
Corbitt had an unsettling relationship with Joseph Lombardo, a convicted racketeer who was released from prison about five years ago. Lombardo didn't care for him because he was, at least technically, a policeman, Corbitt said.
``He didn't really like me, and that was not a good position to be in,'' Corbitt said. ``He was an enforcer.''
Lombardo's son, Joseph Lombardo Jr., is secretary-treasurer of the Laborers Chicago district council.
Corbitt saw firsthand what happened to people who crossed the mob.
His best friend, he said, was a man named Joe Testa, who owned a savings and loan used by the mob to launder money.
Although Testa was wealthy, he declined to pay a disputed loan to a mobster, Corbitt said. This caused Testa problems.
``Everything he had started blowing up,'' Corbitt said.
``They blew up his restaurant, they blew up his home, they blew up his office, they planted a bomb on his car, and he was unable to get rid of this problem,'' Corbitt said.
In 1981 Testa invited Corbitt to visit him at his palatial seaside home in Florida. Corbitt declined.
``That next afternoon ... I received a call from his secretary that Joe had been blown up in his car at a golf course in Fort Lauderdale,'' Corbitt said.
Testa's affection for Corbitt was reflected in his will. Testa left him $800,000.
The Masters case
For the first time, Corbitt officially admits he was a conspirator in the death of Dianne Masters.
He said he disposed of the body in exchange for $8,000, but does not say who paid him.
Alan Masters, Diane's husband, was convicted with Corbitt on federal charges related to her death. At trial, both maintained their innocence.
Diane Masters, who was 35, was having an affair with an English teacher, the latest of several liaisons. Alan Masters found out and was enraged.
It was no coincidence that Alan Masters knew Corbitt, at that time an investigator for the Cook County Sheriff's Department. A wealthy Palos Park attorney, Alan Masters was close to officials in the department.
During his 1989 trial, prosecutors portrayed Masters as a ``master fixer'' who paid off judges and police officers such as Corbitt to protect gambling and prostitution in the southwest suburbs.
One former Cook County officer testified that for 12 years Masters had paid him $100 to $150 a month to protect bookmaking in Cicero. He and Masters also shared part interest in a Dixmoor brothel called the Astrology Club.
Another witness testified that Masters was someone who ``can get anybody off of anything. He has all the connections. He paid the cops who made the case and paid the judges who made the case and everybody in between.''
During the hearing this summer, an attorney for the Laborers International union asked Corbitt, ``Did you ... dump Dianne Masters' body and car in the canal?''
``Yes, I did,'' Corbitt replied.