Alexander Pissios, director of Cinespace Chicago Film Studio, who helped bring down Teamsters boss John T. Coli Sr., linked to an illegal gambling ring with links to a Mafia-linked bookmaker


It sounds like something from a Chicago-made crime scene Dick Wolf.

The director of a Chicago film studio owed money to a bookmaker linked to a famous mafia figure.

Faced with his own legal issues, the studio boss worked undercover for prosecutors, helping to bring down one of the city’s most powerful union bosses.

All this after he had a series of unpaid loans from a small bank, authorities then closed for fraud after the death of the president of the bank under strange circumstances.

But this is not a TV show. This is the real story of Alexander S. Pissios, whose Cinespace Chicago movie studios on the West Side host the filming and production of popular Wolf dramas on NBC-TV, including “Chicago PD.”

A week ago, a private equity firm announced it was buying the two Cinespace studios – the one in Chicago and the original one in Toronto – from Pissios and his family, a deal valued at at least $ 1 billion.

The announcement of the sale put Pissios in the spotlight. In addition to the legal issues that drove him to be a federal mole and help frame the case against longtime Chicago Teamsters boss John T. Coli Sr. and the Washington studio boss’s unpaid loans Federal Bank for Savings, Pissios is found to have links to a third major federal criminal case in Chicago.

According to a recent hearing transcript, Pissios owed money to Vincent DelGiudice, who pleaded guilty last February to running an illegal gambling ring linked to a Mafia-linked bookmaker.

Neither Pissios nor prosecutors will comment. And the court transcript offers no details.

Pissios started working as a mole when prosecutors told him they could charge him with bankruptcy fraud. The US attorney’s office has also given Pissios a lot, giving him an unusual no-prosecution agreement in March 2017 that spares him any federal criminal charges as long as he helps them and is truthful.

Cinespace Chicago Film Studios, 2621 W. 15th Pl.
Ashlee Rezin / Sun-Times

He secretly taped then Teamsters boss Coli, who overthrew Cinespace for $ 325,000, court records show. Coli has pleaded guilty and is cooperating with the authorities, who have delayed his conviction.

The banking case involves Washington Federal, a small institution in Bridgeport, federal regulators shut down in December 2017 – days after the bank’s president, John F. Gembara, was found dead with a rope around his neck in a guest’s room at Park Ridge.

Although police and the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office ruled Gembara’s death a suicide, some of Gembara’s family and friends believe he was killed because of problems at the bank.

Prior to running Cinespace, Pissios developed real estate with Edward Gobbo, a former truck driver with the Chicago Department of Streets and Sanitation. They built homes near the United Center with millions of loans from Washington federal banks and other banks.

Both filed for bankruptcy – Pissios in 2011, Gobbo the following year – while in debt to Gembara’s bank. It is not known if the loans have been repaid.

Although Gobbo owed the Washington Federal $ 12 million when he filed for bankruptcy, the bank continued to lend money to him and his family.

Gobbo, who has not been charged with any felony, is the nephew of the late William Hanhardt, a former Chicago police detective who went to jail for running a mob-tied jewelry ring.

Federal officials believe the federal government in Washington has loaned millions to people as part of a massive embezzlement scheme.

Among the recipients: Ald. Patrick Daley Thompson, nephew of former mayor Richard M. Daley. Thompson is awaiting trial for tax evasion for deducting interest payments on his federal loans to Washington, even though he had not made the payments.

Thompson filed his tax returns, paying what he owed the IRS and saying he didn’t know his accountants deducted interest payments on the tax returns the Alderman and his wife signed for at least five years.

When Pissios and his wife filed for bankruptcy in 2011, they were in debt over a million. Five years after the case closed, prosecutors found they had not disclosed a $ 100,000 loan from Pissios’ now-deceased uncle Nick Mirkopoulos, founder of Cinespace.

Threatened with prison, Pissios agreed to cooperate with authorities investigating corruption and to reveal any potentially illicit activity in which he had been involved. Pacella’s business for four years, never reducing the principal he owed.

Pacella has not been charged with any crime.

Thomas Breen, Pissios’ lawyer, said the debt had been paid off.

Pissios told investigators he had been making illegal bets since the mid-1990s, when he was selling fur coats on Michigan Avenue.

Casey Urlacher (right) visits the Federal Courthouse in Dirksen with his lawyer Michael Gillespie.

Casey Urlacher (right) visits the Federal Courthouse in Dirksen with his lawyer Michael Gillespie.
Ashlee Rezin / Sun-Times

In early 2020, a federal grand jury indicted DelGiudice and nine associates, including Mettawa Mayor Casey Urlacher, Bear’s former brother Brian Urlacher. Casey Urlacher was pardoned by President Donald Trump last January. Two weeks later, DelGiudice pleaded guilty. He awaits his conviction as his lawyer fights prosecutors’ efforts to seize $ 9 million from him, including his home in Orland Park.

The film studio mogul’s ties to DelGiudice became public in a recent court hearing, when DelGiudice’s attorney, Carolyn Gurland, questioned a retired FBI agent about how much DelGiudice was making with his game ring.

Vincent DelGiudice (right) and his lawyer Carolyn Gurland leaving the Federal Courthouse in Dirksen in March 2020.

Vincent DelGiudice (right) and his lawyer Carolyn Gurland leaving the Federal Courthouse in Dirksen in March 2020.
Ashlee Rezin / Sun-Times

“And do you remember that [DelGiudice associate] Keith Benson testified that Mr. DelGiudice forgave a lot of gambling debts to a person called Alex [Pissios]Gurland asked retired officer John Iannarelli in court last month.

“I do,” Iannarelli said.

There was no other testimony regarding Pissios during the hearing. Gurland won’t discuss Pissios, what he owed DelGiudice, or why a part was forgiven.

The DelGiudice ring involved up to 1,000 players placing bets through a Costa Rican website. Court records show that DelGiudice asked some players to cover their losses by paying for his personal expenses, including his daughters’ school fees.

Prosecutors have linked DelGiudice to another convicted bookie, Greg Paloian, whose ties to organized crime date back to at least the 1990s. Paloian players have also placed bets on DelGiudice’s website, prosecutors say. Paloian pleaded guilty in a separate case earlier this year.

Greg Paloian leaving the Dirksen Federal Building in 2002.

Greg Paloian leaving the Dirksen Federal Building in 2002.
Al Podgorski / Sun-Times

DelGiudice also has ties to longtime Cinespace lobbyist Frank Cortese, who operates FJC Technologies, a side company that supplies 65 video game machines to bars and restaurants under a license he obtained in 2016 from Illinois. Gaming Board. Cortese initially ran this company from Cinespace studios. Now it is managed from his home in La Grange.

Cortese faces a possible revocation of his gaming license after regulators discovered he had “business and / or social relations” with DelGiudice, according to a complaint filed Aug. 24 by a gaming council which says: ” DelGiudice and his associates were at a licensed video game establishment in Bedford Park, Illinois, when Cortese and FJC delivered and installed slots in February 2019.

Cortese would not have been granted a license if state regulators were aware of his ties to DelGiudice, according to the complaint.

Frank Cortese.

Frank Cortese.
Illinois Secretary of State’s Office

Cortese and his lawyers did not return messages.

Pissios told federal investigators he hired Cortese as a lobbyist at Coli’s behest – Cortese had also lobbied for the Teamsters union – and that Cortese helped the studio secure $ 27.7 million in grants state at the time. Pat Quinn to transform a former Ryerson Steel site into Cinespace.

The final grant, $ 10 million, came a month after Quinn lost his reelection to Bruce Rauner. The new governor ordered Cinespace to return the money amid questions about how it would be spent.

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