U.S. Marshals Service depiction of witness protection

Courtesy United States Marshals Service

Philip Tolomeo was a loan collector for a dangerous organized crime gang known as the Calabrese crew in Chicago from 1978 to 1988. When Tolomeo fell o­ut of favor with Frank Calabrese, he fled Chicago, but not before embezzling money from the crew. He also took comprehensive records detailing the gang's illegal loan-collection activities. Tolomeo would later enter the Witness Security Program and provide the records to the FBI. His testimony led to the conviction of two members of the Calabrese crew.

The Federal Witness Security Program is intended for crucial witnesses, like Tolomeo, whose prospective testimony puts them in immediate danger. Since its inception in 1970, more than 7,500 witnesses and more than 9,500 witness family members have entered the program and have been protected, relocated and given new identities by the U.S. Marshals Service.

In this article, we'll look at how the U.S. Department of Justice erases the old identities of important witnesses and places them in a city where they are not likely to be recognized, with new names and new lives. ­