A reputed Chicago Outfit soldier was arrested on gun charges this week after he was caught on undercover recordings bragging about plans to break into the home of an elderly suburban lawyer and force him to open a safe filled with hundreds of thousands of dollars, federal prosecutors say.
"Nothing gets my juices flowing like putting a gun to someone's head, taking their stuff, and making it mine," Charles "Chuckie" Russell was quoted in a court filing telling a government informant. "It will be a great Christmas, I'm telling you."
Russell, 67, was arrested Wednesday after he allegedly went to a South Loop deli to purchase eight guns from a person who turned out to be an undercover federal agent, according to a 26-page criminal complaint unsealed Thursday. He was charged with two counts of being a felon in possession of a firearm and ordered held until a bond hearing in early January.
An alleged member of the Chicago mob's Grand Avenue crew, Russell was sentenced in 1992 to 35 years in prison for an aggravated criminal sexual assault conviction. He was acquitted of attempted murder in that case, records show. He was released on parole in March 2011.
Last month, a confidential informant told agents with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives that Russell had been bragging about being "a top ranking member of the mob," according to the complaint.
At a meeting at a coffeehouse on Taylor Street, Russell allegedly told the informant he was the head of a prolific gang of burglars called the "Bishop" boys that was responsible for hundreds of burglaries and home invasions over the past several years.
On Dec. 16, Russell met the informant along with an undercover agent at the Boundary Tavern and Grille in Wicker Park, according to the complaint. During the conversation, which was secretly recorded, Russell talked about plans for an upcoming robbery of a man in his 70s who was believed to have as much as $750,000 in cash in a safe in his home, the complaint said. Russell said he'd been casing the home for years and had an "ex-girl" who was on the inside and knew the location of the safe and other valuables.
"If he doesn't open it, we're gonna make him open it," Russell said, according to the complaint. "They always open for me, believe me. I bring my butane torch, put it on the bottom of their feet, they open it."
According to the complaint, Russell wanted help on the robbery. He told the informant and the undercover agent that his crew would be equipped with all the proper tools to avoid detection, including police scanners, masks and a change of clothes. He also said their biggest worry would be if the victim had a heart attack, because if "he (expletive) drops dead, we got a (expletive) murder," according to the complaint.
"The fun for me is the score," Russell allegedly said on the recording. "That's how I get my adrenaline. ... You know how long it takes to come to down for me? I counted money one night for so long my hands were filthy."
Later in the conversation, Russell talked about buying firearms from the undercover agent. On Monday, the three men met again at the Gale Street Inn in Jefferson Park, where Russell gave the agent a list of guns he was looking for, including an Uzi submachine gun and an AK-47, according to the complaint.
During the meeting, Russell handed the undercover agent a driver's license depicting an African-American man and then showed him a cellphone photo of a car that was riddled with bullet holes. Russell said he was showing him "some decent work" of his, and that the man was "no longer with us."
"All (expletive) blood and brain all over the (expletive) seat," Russell was quoted in the charges as saying. "Went right through his head and out that side. Take (the car) and drop it off in the black community, another black bastard gets caught with it."
Chicago police confirmed that the man depicted in the driver's license photo was killed in November, according to the complaint.
Russell's arrest marked the latest blow for the once-feared Grand Avenue crew made famous by colorful and violent leaders such as Joey "The Clown" Lombardo and currently believed to be headed by Albert "Little Guy" Vena, who is Russell's brother-in-law
In 2014, alleged crew members Robert Panozzo, Paul Koroluk, and others were arrested on sweeping racketeering charges alleging an array of crimes going back to at least 2007, from home invasions and armed robberies to burglaries, arson, insurance fraud and prostitution.
Thanks to Jason Meisner.
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