Lombardo, 78, and Schweihs disappeared after the indictment was unsealed in 2005, setting off an intense FBI manhunt.
Crime buffs speculated that Lombardo was hiding out in the hills of Sicily or enjoying a life of ease in the Caribbean. In fact, after nine months on the run, FBI agents nabbed him in a suburban alley one frosty night in January 2006. Schweihs was captured deep in the Kentucky hill country in December 2005.
"The Clown" lived up to his nickname later when he appeared before U.S. District Judge James B. Zagel, who inquired about the aging man's health and asked why he hadn't seen a doctor lately.
"I was supposed to see him nine months ago, but I was -- what do they call it? -- I was unavailable," Lombardo rasped.
In the 1980s, Lombardo was convicted in the same federal courthouse, along with then-International Brotherhood of Teamsters President Roy Lee Williams, of attempting to bribe Sen. Howard Cannon of Nevada.
When Lombardo got out of prison he took out a newspaper ad denying that he was a "made guy" in the mob and disavowing any role in future organized crime activities.
Lombardo defense attorney Rick Halprin scoffs at prosecutors' claims his client is a powerful organized crime leader. "Those things just aren't true," he said.
Experts say the Chicago crime syndicate is so deeply entrenched that it won't be decapitated even if the government gets a clean sweep of convictions.
Gus Russo, who describes the Chicago mob in his book "The Outfit," noted that the federal Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations Act has helped crime-busting prosecutors make progress against the mob.
"But, regretfully, greed is such a part of our culture that you're always going to have a criminal element, and it will organize," Russo said. "This will hurt the mob but it won't end it."
The trial is expected to take four months. Among the security precautions, jurors' names are being kept secret, and prosecutors say they have nine potential witnesses whose names have been kept secret out of concern for their safety.
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