Betty Loren’s family (derived from their Lithuanian family name Lauraintais) came to Illinois in 1950 from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where her father Roy was forced to leave after a dispute with local business owners in regard to his union organizing activities. The family initially moved to the west side of Chicago and eventually migrated to the working class Town of Cicero until Betty entered high school, when they relocated to a nearby upper middle class community. Betty did not feel she fit in with the teens in the new community and eventually left high school (later acquiring a GED). Betty began working a succession of jobs including waitress, deli owner/operator, local newspaper publisher, real estate agent and government administrator.Betty was married at age 18 and stayed in what quickly became an unhappy relationship until she decided to file for divorce on their fifth anniversary. When she filed the papers, Betty thought to herself “this is the anniversary gift that will keep on giving.”
Betty’s second husband, Frank Maltese, was born in Cicero, Illinois, in 1930. Frank grew up in Cicero with many of the same men who would later rule the Chicago Outfit, including Ernest “Rocky” Infelice, and would remain friends with them for the rest of his life. Frank was a congenial man who was well liked by all who met him, which served him well as a salesman for one of the major cheese factories in the Chicago region. Through Infelice (who answered only to Chicago Outfit underboss Joey “Doves” Aiuppa and top boss Tony Accardo), Frank was hired as the Director of Public Works for the Town of Cicero in an effort to groom him for higher political office. In 1982, Frank was appointed Town Assessor with the help of his friends.
Betty met her second husband Frank Maltese while at a bingo hall with her mother. He later visited the restaurant where she was working as a waitress – he thought she was attractive and nice so he left her a big tip. Frank pursued Betty by continuing to visit the restaurant and inviting her to social and political functions. Betty declined Frank’s offers because her first marriage had ended bitterly and because Frank was 20 years older than her and not easy on the eyes – portly, balding and pushing 50. Ultimately Frank kept working on Betty, her family and friends and they began a close platonic friendship. Their friendship and living arrangement lasted for 17 years before Betty, after years of stress, came to realize that it was another unhappy relationship. Betty ended her friendship with Frank, but soon returned after Rocky Infelice called Frank in for a talk. Rocky told Frank that after 17 years of running his mouth to his “girlfriend” about all of the business activities of their mutual friends, he “should marry her or kill her”. Rocky also met with Betty personally and informed her that it was in her best interest to move back in with Frank forever. The wedding was well attended by Franks’ Outfit friends, as well as the news media and the FBI staked out across the street.
Betty began working at the Town of Cicero long before she got married. She stayed with Frank through his trial and conviction, and while he was diagnosed with a rapidly progressing form of cancer that claimed his life in October, 1993. Despite her desire to remove herself from another unhappy relationship, Betty remained in the platonic marriage to Frank for the safety of herself and others, and remained by his side out of loyalty until he died.
In 1997, Betty fulfilled a lifelong desire of starting a family by adopting a daughter she named Ashleigh Rose Maltese. Happiest when she was spending time with her new daughter, Betty was heartbroken when she was forced to separate from her daughter upon her conviction. Betty stayed in contact with her daughter through as many phone calls and visits as she was allowed in prison, and talked with her daughter daily upon her release. Betty’s efforts to regain custody of her daughter succeeded and she and Ashleigh reunited in the Spring of 2012.
Betty’s Years In Cicero Government
At the request of then President Henry Klosak, Betty went to work at the Town of Cicero in 1979 as the Director of the Cicero Housing Authority. She was very efficient in her position and was subsequently promoted to Director of the Traffic Enforcement Bureau, and finally to the position of Administrative Assistant to the Town President and Deputy Liquor Commissioner.
Although Betty was ambitious and competent in reforming and organizing the governmental departments entrusted to her, the mostly male Town Council routinely ignored their governmental responsibilities to the detriment of the government and the citizens. Cicero had hundreds of bars and taverns, all of who apparently paid cash to get their liquor licenses. On her first day as Deputy Liquor Commissioner, she learned that all places serving liquor were not licensed, there was no master list of licensees, convicted felons held liquor licenses contrary to state and local laws, and almost everyone expected to pay a bribe to have their licenses renewed. After several bar owners showed up with one cash envelope for the Annual License Fee and another for her “gratuity”, Betty sent a letter to bar owners explaining that all governmental fees were to be paid by check and no other form of compensation was expected or would be accepted.
At the end of 1992, the three men running the day to day operations of the Town of Cicero included Town President Henry Klosak, Town Collector Gerald Resnick, and Town Assessor Frank Maltese. Within a six month period starting in December, 1992, the three rulers were no longer in charge. Henry Klosak died, an ailing Frank Maltese plead guilty to Federal gambling charges along with Chicago Outfit members and resigned, and Gerald Resnick became invisible as he learned he was also under investigation by the Justice Department. Resnick later resigned immediately after discovering FBI video / audio equipment in his private office (he was later convicted of accepting bribes and shaking down local business owners as part of the Silver Shovel scandal). Despite the conviction, Resnick’s relations are still on the payroll today in Cicero, represented by son-in-law Ray Hanania, who is Larry Dominick’s spokesman. Hanania was previously fired by the Sun-Times and wound up running the losing slate of candidates against Betty in 1997.
Left without a Town President candidate 90 days prior to the 1993 election due to the death of Henry Klosak and facing his own legal problems, Frank Maltese suggested the appointment of his wife Betty Loren-Maltese to the position of Town President because of the positive feedback she had received from residents and businesses from the work in her administrative positions. She was elected and re-elected in 1993, 1997 and 2001. Betty was chosen because she was popular among her fellow Precinct Captains in the powerful Cicero Republican Organization, because she had a good understanding of government operations and finance, and because she had been the candidate for Town Assessor to take the place of her husband. Unbeknownst to Betty, she was also chosen because Frank had assured his friends in the Outfit that their business interests in the Town of Cicero would remain unmolested.
Administrative reforms under new President Betty Loren-Maltese included creating interest bearing accounts for municipal bank accounts, creating Tax Increment Financing (TIF) districts to promote economic development, and creating and maintaining balanced budgets without deficit spending. All governmental departments were computerized and each department was required to have one Spanish speaking employee to service the new Mexican-American population, which was now the majority of all residents. Betty added new police officers and created anti-prostitution stings where the “Johns” were arrested and their names and addresses were listed in the newspaper. Betty reduced the number of liquor licenses by 50%, reduced operating hours from 6 AM to 3 AM, and permanently shut down all of Cicero’s notorious legal strip clubs and illegal brothels. Betty also established many of the awarding winning senior citizen and youth programs that Cicero residents enjoy today, and also expanded library facilities, the child safety village and spearheaded the effort to fund the construction and expansion of 6 new schools.
Betty sued all of the street gangs in Cicero as unincorporated associations who could be held financially liable for the negative effects of gang activity, including graffiti removal, public property damage, and nuisance home surveillance. Any automobile involved in a street gang associated crime would be towed and impounded. A curfew was enacted and enforced and parents could be held financially responsible for the actions of their children 16 and younger. Noise ordinances and anti-cruising ordinances were created and enforced. Gang members were prosecuted under Town ordinances instead state statutes.
Betty cleaned house at the Cicero Police station by instituting termination proceedings against 40 police officers for various transgressions against the government or citizens of Cicero. Betty called on the Illinois State Police to assume command of the Cicero Police Department to modernize and professionalize its operations.
Betty Loren-Maltese was the Town President (Mayor) of the Town of Cicero, Illinois from 1993 until 2002. Under Illinois law, she automatically forfeited her elected government position upon her conviction in Federal Court on felony charges related to the over billing / fraud of the Town of Cicero of $12 million by an insurance company controlled by the Chicago Outfit.
Despite the impression the Chicago media gave of a Town government in financial disarray, when Betty Loren-Maltese took over in 1993 the Town had a structural budget deficit and an annual operating deficit. On the day of her conviction in 2002, the Town of Cicero had a $30 million surplus in its General Revenue Fund and $40 million surplus in its TIF Funds.
Scandal, Trial, Conviction And Prison
The greatest controversy in the 1997 political campaign and the beginning of the Federal investigation concerned an insurance fraud being perpetrated on the Town of Cicero government. The people inside Town government organizing the theft sent Ray Hanania (recently re-appointed as the Town Denier for current Town President Larry Dominick) to the FBI to report that the Town’s outside insurance claim processor was overbilling the Town for millions of dollars and that Betty was the mastermind. Betty was unaware of theft and had not received a dime from the scheme (which was later admitted by Federal prosecutors at her trial and sentencing). Betty immediately hired an independent special investigator, William Kunkle (the John Wayne Gacy prosecutor and current Cook County Judge) to determine if the Town had been overcharged, by how much, where the money was, and if it could be retrieved. Betty also immediately ordered a halt to all payments to the insurance company and hired a new insurance claims administrator. Kunkle’s investigation was opposed and impeded by the two Town officials associated with the thieves as their political running mates – Town Treasurer Joseph DeChicio and Town Collector Alison Resnick (daughter of convicted Cicero Town Collector Gerald Resnick and current wife of Town Denier Ray Hanania).
Soon after the fraud was discovered, Betty learned that the insurance company was owned and controlled by Outfit Underboss Mike Spano, and the payments to Spano were being shepherded through the Cicero government financial system by former Police Chief Emil Schullo, Town Clerk Mark Moro, and Town Treasurer Joe DeChicio – the same men Spano had met with at her husband Frank’s funeral. In the end, it was determined that $12 million was siphoned off over and above actual insurance claim costs, and the proceeds were used for personal uses, automobile purchases and leases, vacations, property purchases and business investments. Despite being ordered by the Town Board to cease all payments to Specialty Risk in the Fall of 1996, Moro and DeChicio continued to wire transfer over $1.5 million to Specialty Risk. Betty sued the insurance company to recover the funds and won, evidence that was not allowed to be presented to the jury at trial (along with board minutes and exonerating other evidence).
In 2001, many of the accusers who initially involved the FBI were indicted. In 2002, all but one was convicted.
Unfortunately for Betty, she could not receive a separate trial from her co-defendants, most of whom profited from the scheme and blamed her. Betty was convicted on the limited charge of violation of the “Honest Services” doctrine. Despite media reports to the contrary, Betty was never convicted of any charge of theft, fraud or conspiracy. The Judge sentenced her to 97 months in prison. Judge Grady ignored the fact that she was the sole support and caregiver for her 5 year old daughter. Judge Grady ignored 300 letters of community support, saying she controlled the Town with an iron fist and the letters were meaningless. Each of the defendants was sent to a medium security camp prison because of the white collar nature of the crime. Betty was sent to a high security prison in California and was required to report two months earlier than the other defendants.
Prison Life And The Hope Of Reversal Or Pardon
Betty was bolstered by her belief and her lawyer’s belief that her conviction would be overturned on appeal and she would be home in a year. Betty served her entire sentence in a federal Prison system rife with corruption, favoritism, drugs, sadistic guards, sexual intimidation and abuse, bad food, unsafe living conditions. Betty understands that prison isn’t supposed to be a picnic, but as a former government official she was appalled by the conditions and administration of the Federal Department of Corrections.
A sometimes naïve 50 year old woman, when Betty heard inmates talking some “crystal” they just got, she asked “why they would want their good china in prison?”. She had never heard of crystal meth, to the amusement of her fellow inmates.
Betty was released to a halfway house in August, 2009 and returned to the Chicago area in February, 2010. Unlike the other defendants, she is destitute because she not hide her assets (convinced her innocence would be proven at trial). All but a few personal items were confiscated by the federal government in lieu of her fine, including a lifetime of savings, her government pension, any real estate, her car, and all valuable possessions including her wedding ring. She survives with the help of a few friends and a low paying job.
Betty was initially represented in her appeal by Alan Dershowitz of Harvard Law School and Nathan Dershowitz of New York, who described her case as one of the worst examples of institutional bias and injustice that he has seen. The Government confiscated some of the legal fees paid to Dershowitz and he was unable to continue to fight the appeal. Betty is hopeful her current attorney Leonard Goodman will have her conviction reversed. A June, 2010 ruling by the United States Supreme Court on the “Honest Services” doctrine upon which her conviction provides the basis for the reversal, along with new evidence exonerating her (if it is considered).
One popular opinion on the streets of Cicero even today, where Betty is as popular as ever, is that the Outfit would have killed her or a member of her family if she would have found out about their insurance scheme and cut off their funding.
Betty hopes that someday the whole truth comes out and she may be considered for a pardon. She is currently working on a pardon application to be submitted to the Office of the Pardon Attorney at the United States Department of Justice prior to being submitted to the President of the United States. Betty is finishing a book on her life story and is currently working with a California based writer to finish the project. Betty is also working on a screenplay with another writer and is in the process of interviewing actors. Betty hopes that her name is cleared either through the courts, and if not, on the silver screen.