A Tale of Two Felons

Oecently released felon Fred B. Roti, former alderman of the First Ward, could pop up in Kup, Sneed, or “Inc.” only if he died. Recently released felon Dan Rostenkowski, former chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, could pop up in Kup, Sneed, or “Inc.” more often only if he ate every single meal at Alex Dana’s Rosebud on Rush while being interviewed by Oprah about Sugar Rautbord.

What can we learn from this? If you want to steal, don’t piddle around with ward politics.

Go to Washington, where the real money is.


Begins with “R”, ends with “i.”

Father, Bruno Roti, was boss of old Chinatown.

Elected to Illinois Senate in 1950 but lost his seat to redistricting in 1956, after which Mayor Richard J. Daley gave him a Sewer Department job as a household drain inspector. Became First Ward alderman in 1968.

Assumed to be the mob’s man at City Hall because he represented the notoriously mob-dominated First Ward. In 1971 when his Republican opponent didn’t make campaign appearances, Roti quipped, “I wish he’d show up just once. Because when you disappear like that in the First Ward, it causes talk.”

Mayor Jane Byrne says she scared him once by calling a mob boss without informing him first.

Was secretary-treasurer of Anco Inc., a politically connected insurance firm founded by First Ward Democratic committeeman John D’Arco Sr.

Legendary for his success at nepotism and patronage–at one time he had 17 relatives on the city payroll.

Indicted in 1990 for soliciting a total of $75,000 in bribes along with Pat Marcy Sr., including $40,000 to fix a Chinatown murder trial. Pleaded not guilty; convicted in ’93 of racketeering and extortion, including taking $17,500 in bribes, but acquitted of fixing the murder trial.

At his sentencing, tearfully told the judge, “Now through my own fault, my own poor judgment, I will never hold public office again. . . . I am very, very sorry and ashamed for having done this.” Sentenced in ’93 to four years in federal prison.

Conviction condolence call from Alderman Bernard Stone.

Spent three and a half years at federal camp in Oxford, Wisconsin, then went to Salvation Army halfway house at 105 S. Ashland. Spent time there volunteering at a Boys and Girls Club.

Now lives back in the old neighborhood of Chinatown.

In a Tribune Tempo story last January, a former Oxford prisoner ridiculed Roti for mooching food: “He would say, ‘Oh, I don’t eat nothing.’ . . .

But he’d go to people’s rooms and say, ‘What are you eating?’ ‘You want some, Freddie?’ ‘Nahhh. Well, let me taste a little bit.’ He was never, ever without food.”

Spent the 1998 primary and general election nights out of sight, out of mind.


Ditto for full name, just a lot more letters in between.

Father, “Big Joe Rusty,” was boss of old Polish Downtown.

“Big Joe Rusty” lost his 32nd Ward aldermanic seat in 1955, after which Mayor Richard J. Daley gave him a ghost payroller job as superintendent of sewer repairs. His boy Dan was elected to the Illinois House in 1952 and the Illinois Senate in 1954, before he talked Daley into sending him to the U.S. House in 1958.

Assumed to be Daley’s man in Congress because the mayor put him there. Throughout the 1960s, when asked about legislative matters, Rosty would quip, “Why ask me? I’m just a slave.”

Mayor Jane Byrne scared him once by threatening to run someone against him in the ’82 primary, prompting him to raise big campaign bucks.

Was head of Confidence Insurance, a politically connected insurance firm he set up with his wife. According to federal indictments, he used congressional employees to keep the books.

Legendary for using his ward office on North Damen as a hiring hall for friends and relatives. Federal indictments alleged that one of 14 Rosty ghost payrollers was an ex-son-in-law, who had to kick back most of his $10,000 earnings to Rosty.

Indicted on 17 counts in 1994 for misusing $668,000 in public funds and $56,267 in campaign funds through various schemes such as ghost payrollers, phony stamp purchases at the House post office, and freebies from the House stationery store. In a 1996 plea bargain pleaded guilty to two counts of mail fraud.

At his sentencing, received a tongue-lashing from the judge for “shamelessly abusing your position.” Outside Rosty read a statement to reporters defiantly denying wrongdoing and claiming he’d been singled out for prosecution. His lawyers pointed out that denying taking taxpayer money meant that Rosty would be able to restore his image much more easily upon his release. Sentenced to 17 months in federal prison–about one-third as long as Roti, even though, under the original indictments, Rosty was accused of taking about ten times as much money.

Conviction condolence calls from Bill Clinton and George Bush.

Spent 15 months at federal camp in Oxford, then went to the same halfway house, arriving not long after Roti left. Spent his time there developing private consulting business.

Now lives back in the old neighborhood of West Town, no longer known as “Polish Downtown.”

Same Tempo story said Rosty mostly kept to himself and watched political shows at Oxford, though it did mention that on warm days he would sun himself in his commissary shorts and black shoes. A Tribune Sunday magazine cover story in August lionized Rosty as an elder statesman: “The broad grin buried in his lined cheeks and dotted by the twinkling blue eyes is always there when he recalls the moments when eight presidents picked up the telephone to ask Danny Rosty for a favor,” the writer gushed.

Spent primary and general election nights as a star pundit on Fox 32 News, despite negative response from viewers who pointed out that Rosty “stole from the government and cheated us#.”

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Roti photo/ Chicago Sun-Times; Rosty photo/ Bill Stamets.