The 12 Most Corrupt Public Officials In Illinois History: Fred Roti

This is the third in a 12-part series about Illinois' most corrupt public officials.

Fred Roti was a made man in two of Chicago’s most powerful operations -- the Cook County Democratic Party, and the Outfit.

Roti was born in an apartment over a store in Chinatown, during the first year of the Roaring ’20s. His father, Bruno Roti, was a capo under Al Capone, who won the nickname “Bruno the Bomber” for his work with explosives. The Rotis had 11 children, but Dad wasn't always home -- he was often in court, defending himself against murder charges.

Too small to become an enforcer -- friends called him “Peanuts” -- Roti went into politics instead. Starting off an asphalt shoveler and precinct captain, Roti rose quickly, winning election to the state senate when he was only 30 years old. In Springfield, Roti caucused with the West Side Bloc, a group of legislators who blocked anti-crime bills on behalf of their gangster patrons. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, politicians who defied the Bloc had their careers ended with pistols or shotguns.

“The Bloc’s hold is so powerful that people are afraid to vote against it -- on the rare occasions when they are given a chance,” the Chicago Daily News commented.

Roti survived, but lost his seat to redistricting in 1956. Ten years later, he was back in politics -- as an alderman. Roti was such a resilient politician because he had powerful backers. He was rumored to be the Outfit’s representative on the City Council. The FBI and the Justice Department insisted Roti was a made guy, and that he and 1st Ward Committeeman John D’Arco were “front men … for the mob.”

It took 23 years, but the feds finally caught up with Roti. In 1990, he was convicted of 11 counts of racketeering. His crimes included taking a $10,000 bribe to fix a civil court case and a $7,500 bribe for a zoning change. In Roti’s defense, he was cleared of the charge that he’d fixed the trial for a 1981 murder in Chinatown, allowing the killers to go free.

Roti was so sleazy he helped re-write the map of Chicago politics. Traditionally, the 1st Ward encompassed the Loop, but in 1991, it was moved to the Near Northwest Side, far away from Fred Roti and John D’Arco.

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