PAY, QUIT or DIE is the deal the Chicago Mob, (Outfit) gave to bookmakers, gamblers, dope dealers, chop shop operators and anybody else involved in an illegal enterprise. When Don Herion got out of the army after two years during the Korean War he joined the Chicago Police Department on February 1, 1955 only because he didn’t have a job and it would only be temporary until he found something better. Well it took him until August 27, 1992 to make up his mind about the job, that’s the day he reached the mandatory retirement age of 63.
He had started out in the Patrol Division for six years busting rapists, burglars, stick-up men, car thieves and other criminals. Herion then was assigned as a vice detective in the district for the next five years, which is where he learned about Organized Crime and how they operated.
He was then transferred to Police Headquarters at 1121 S. State Street and assigned to the Organized Crime Division. He was promoted to detective in 1968 and sergeant in 1970. He was put in charge of his own squad and busted gambling operations all over Chicago which caused the outfit to move most of their operations to the suburbs. Herion convinced his superiors that it was time to forget about border lines and make raids outside the city limits in places like Cicero, Melrose Park, Stone Park, Elmwood Park and other towns where wire rooms were found operating.
In 1979 Herion reported to work one day and was told that he had been transferred back to uniform duty, there wasn’t any explanation why. After one month in uniform he was transferred back to the Organized Crime Division. He had learned that when he was making raids in the suburbs he had embarrassed a high ranking law enforcement officer in the county who had political pull on the Chicago Police Department, that person had since been demoted.
In the early 1970’s mob gambling bosses opened a campaign of death and terror in an attempt to extort monthly payments or “street taxes” from independent bookmakers not under the organized crime umbrella. In one four year period, 28 bookies were murdered beaten and tortured as examples to others, scores of others fled town or just vanished. The victims were shot gunned, burned to death, garroted, and tortured with ice picks and electric cattle prods. The mob’s ultimatum was PAY, QUIT or DIE.
Even two of the mob’s executioners during the campaign were slain, they were found stuffed in the trunk of one of their cars because they botched a hit on a mob gambling boss after they shot him three times in the head, only he didn’t die. He of course became an informant against the outfit which caused many problems for them.
When Herion was causing havoc with mob operations he used the services of his wife and six children, three boys and three girls on surveillances in places which were impossible to get near. Using his three sons age 9 thru 12 who were still in there football uniforms in the back of his own station wagon, while he was in the front seat with a walkie talkie. He directed other squad members in the area in which direction 15 cars involved in a massive football parlay card operation were headed. The surveillance took place 100 feet from the main source who distributed 200,000 parlay cards; they never paid any attention to Herion or his three sons who were of course wrestling in the rear of the wagon. All 15 cars were confiscated as well as the 200,000 cards.
Herion’s three daughters were used to call private phone numbers used by mob bookmakers which distracted them while Herion and his squad would crash through their barricaded doors. His wife would carry a bag of groceries and would be able to follow a subject into a multi-apartment building to determine which apartment the subject went into. At no time were they ever in harms way.
One of Herion’s longest running investigations was the mobs infamous floating crap game, a multi-million-dollar-a-year racket that attracted hundreds of players from a 50 mile radius of the city. Due to circumstances beyond Herion’s control he had to work undercover off duty as a vigilante to shut the game down on six different occasions, costing the gangsters millions of dollars in lost revenue. In April 1989 he put the game down for good.
Along the way Herion has been the recipient of scores of threats from the Outfit. Mob boss Rocky Infelise had a conversation taped between him and mob lieutenant B.J. Jahoda, who had turned informant, of Infelise’s efforts to get Herion out of the Organized Crime Division. This tape was played in Federal court in the trial of Infelise and 19 other mobsters on racketeering and murder charges.
Herion has also been credited as the first law enforcement official, to discover the crime syndicate gangsters have started bankrolling huge cocaine deals with profits from illegal gambling enterprises to produce motion pictures.
Herion was selected as an expert witness to testify in June 24-26 1985 in New York City, at the President’s Commission on Organized Crime. U.S. Attorneys from throughout the United States and of course organized crime members, some of which had to wear hoods, also testified, along with police chief’s and other notables such as sports journalist Howard Cosell, NCAA coaches and newspaper editors.
The government printed a book with the results of the hearing and the testimony of all the witnesses along with photographs. A movie director by the name of John Irvin read the book during research of the Chicago mob and called Herion and asked him to be a technical advisor on a movie called Raw Deal to be filmed in Chicago with Arnold Schwarzenegger. He accepted and also got a part in the movie and joined the screen actor’s guild.
After retiring from the Chicago Police Department after 38 years on Aug. 27, 1992, he was asked by the Sheriff of Cook County if he would consider setting up a vice detection unit for the Sheriff’s office, he would hand pick his own men and be the Director of the unit. Herion accepted and for the next eight years Herion and his unit made hundreds of raids and arrested numerous mobsters. Upon reaching the age of 70 Herion decided that 46 years of crime fighting was enough, he retired in 2000.