CHICAGO (Reuters) - A prison chaplain ministering to imprisoned Chicago mobster Frank Calabrese posed as a buyer of the mobster's seized vacation home to find a hidden violin worth millions, U.S. authorities charged on Thursday.
A grand jury indicted Roman Catholic priest Eugene Klein, 62, the former chaplain at the federal prison in Springfield, Missouri, of illegally relaying messages from Calabrese that the mobster passed through his prison cell's food slot and with plotting with unnamed associates to recover the violin.
Calabrese was sentenced to life in prison in January 2009 for participating in 13 slayings, extortion and other crimes, based largely on the testimony of his son and brother in what was known as "The Family Secrets" trial.
Federal authorities have seized $1 million worth of cash, jewelry and other valuables secreted in Calabrese's Illinois home to help satisfy $4.4 million in restitution he owes.
Agents also found a certificate for a violin made in 1764 by Giuseppe Antonio Artalli. Calabrese told Klein the violin was a Stradivarius made by Antonius Stradivari, and was worth millions of dollars, authorities said.
Klein knew that Calabrese, who was convicted of brutal murders, was under an order that restricted his outside contacts to immediate family members and his lawyer. Klein had frequent contact and administered Holy Communion to him, and became his messenger, authorities said.
Klein agreed to travel to Illinois to meet with the associates, named as "Individuals A and B," and then contacted the realtor to arrange for a showing of the Williams Bay, Wisconsin, home in April of this year, according to federal prosecutors.
The plan was to distract the realtor while Klein and an associate used Calabrese's directions to locate the violin. It was not clear if the plan was carried out.
Government agents subsequently searched the home, but the violin is missing.
Klein faces up to five years in prison on each of two counts against him.
(Reporting by Andrew Stern; Editing by Jerry Norton)