By MIKE ROBINSON, Associated Press Writer
CHICAGO- Reputed mob boss Michael Marcello apparently didn't watch crime shows on television - otherwise he might have known the FBI could listen in on his conversations in the visitors room at the federal penitentiary in Milan, Mich.
The unsuspecting Marcello dropped broad hints about his source inside the U.S. Marshals Service during conversations with his incarcerated brother in 2003. FBI agents heard every word about the man Marcello called "the babysitter."
Deputy marshal John Thomas Ambrose surrendered Thursday to FBI agents who say he was the source who spilled to Marcello secrets about a federally protected witness to organized crime.
"This defendant's conduct in revealing closely guarded and highly sensitive information ... constitutes an egregious breach of his law enforcement duties," First Assistant U.S. Attorney Gary S. Shapiro said.
Ambrose is accused in court papers of leaking information regarding the whereabouts of reputed mobster Nicholas Calabrese, a key witness in the government's Operation Family Secrets murder conspiracy case. Fourteen reputed mobsters and their associates are charged in the indictment alleging a conspiracy to commit at least 18 murders.
Ambrose appeared briefly before U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael T. Mason, who released him on a $50,000 unsecured bond and scheduled a preliminary hearing for Jan. 30. He declined to comment as he left the courtroom, but defense attorney Francis C. Lipuma told reporters that his client denies the accusations.
"John Ambrose is not connected to the mob at all," Lipuma said.
Prosecutors said that between January and June 2003 they intercepted 11 conversations that took place when Michael Marcello visited his brother, James, at the Michigan prison. Both Marcello brothers are charged in the Operation Family Secrets indictment.
Prosecutors said the conversations showed that Michael Marcello had an inside source of information concerning Nicholas Calabrese. They said the conversations also indicated that the source was a federal lawman with access to the files of the Marshals Service witness program.
Michael Marcello might have given federal officials their best clue when he said that the source was the son of a defendant in the so-called "Marquette 10" police corruption case. Ambrose's father, Thomas Ambrose, died in prison while serving his bribery sentence stemming from the Marquette 10 case, prosecutors said.
Additionally, John Thomas Ambrose was a member of the Marshals Service's so-called Calabrese detail and would have had access to the information, prosecutors said. They said Ambrose's fingerprints were found on Calabrese documents.
Ambrose has been on leave since September. He is charged with theft of government property, which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine.