The Chicago Syndicate: Albert Vena
Showing posts with label Albert Vena. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Albert Vena. Show all posts

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Robert Panozzo, Reputed Chicago Outfit Mob Soldier, Pleads Guilty to Extortion Conspiracy

Reputed Chicago Outfit Mob soldier Robert Panozzo pleaded guilty Wednesday to threatening and beating a suburban businessman he claimed owed him $100,000 and then hiring a goon to torch the debtor’s car and house when he wouldn’t pay.

“This is serious. I want my money,” Robert Panozzo Sr. allegedly told the victim in 2005 before embarking on a four-year effort to collect the juice-loan debt.

Panozzo, a reputed member of the Outfit’s Grand Avenue crew, entered his guilty plea to one count of extortion conspiracy in the federal courthouse in Rockford. His plea agreement calls for up to 14 years in prison, but Panozzo’s attorneys have disputed prosecutors’ calculation of the sentencing guidelines and are free to ask U.S. District Judge Philip Reinhard for a lesser sentence.

Whatever time Panozzo receives in the extortion case will be served concurrently with his 18-year prison term handed down earlier this year for his conviction in a sweeping racketeering conspiracy brought in Cook County court.

In that case, Panozzo and longtime associate Paul Koroluk admitted to heading a crew that participated in wide-ranging crimes, including home invasions, armed robberies, burglaries, insurance fraud and prostitution. Panozzo, Koroluk and several other members of the crew were arrested in 2014 during the attempted robbery of a drug stash house on Chicago’s Southeast Side. That turned out to be a law enforcement ruse, however.

Panozzo was a longtime soldier for Albert “Little Guy” Vena, the reputed Grand Avenue boss, according to prosecution testimony at a mob-related trial in 2014.

Panozzo’s 17-page plea agreement entered Wednesday does not call on him to cooperate in any other investigations.

According to the document, Panozzo loaned the McHenry County businessman — identified only as Victim 1 — $40,000 in 2005 and then followed up with “additional loans.”

At a meeting at a restaurant in Palatine in 2006, the businessman handed Panozzo an envelope with $25,000 in cash, according to the agreement. He believed that was his final payment, but Panozzo let him know he still owed $100,000 in interest on the loans.

That October, after the victim had not paid, Panozzo and his associate, Joseph Abbott, confronted the businessman at work and beat him, causing “injuries and contusions to Victim 1′s head,” the plea agreement said.

Panozzo was later sentenced to prison for a burglary conviction and couldn’t collect on the debt. Once he was released in 2008, though, Panozzo began calling Victim 1 demanding repayment, the plea agreement said.

In February 2009, Panozzo paid Abbott $1,000 to set fire to a Dodge Caravan that was parked in the victim’s driveway, according to the agreement. Two months later, Abbott “used an incendiary device” to set fire to the victim’s garage and several nearby trash cans, the plea said. Panozzo acknowledged in the plea agreement that he paid Abbott about $4,000 or $5,000 to “blow up” the victim’s residence.

Abbott has pleaded guilty to extortion and is awaiting sentencing, court records show.

Raised in the old Italian American enclave known as “the Patch” on the Near West Side, Panozzo and Koroluk have criminal histories that stretch back decades, court records show.

In 2006 they were both sentenced to seven years in prison for a string of burglaries targeting tony north suburban homes that netted millions of dollars in jewelry and other luxury items. Police at the time described the burglars as some of the most sophisticated they’d ever seen, from disabling state-of-the-art alarm systems to cutting phone lines.

Panozzo and Koroluk were arrested in a dramatic sting in 2014 after the two posed as cops to rob what they thought was a cartel stash house on the Southeast Side. They kicked in the door and grabbed stacks of drugs — only to be arrested by Chicago police and federal agents who had wired the house for audio and video surveillance and watched from above with an FBI spy plane. Koroluk wore a police star dangling from his neck, authorities said.

Prosecutors allege the crew participated in several other elaborate schemes targeting drug dealers, many of which involved tracking their targets with GPS to find where they stashed their narcotics.

Koroluk was also sentenced to 18 years in prison.

Thanks to Jason Meisner.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Who is the Boss of the Chicago Outfit in 2018?

Now that John "No Nose" DiFronzo is no longer running the Chicago Outfit, who will fill the void left by his death is an open question.

As the ABC7 I-Team first reported, DiFronzo died from complications of Alzheimer's. He was 89.

"This is obviously an organization that promotes from within" said Chicago mob expert John Binder. "They don't take ads in the Wall Street Journal announcing a job search."

Although illicit businesses such as the Outfit don't have open meetings or put out annual reports, there are internal rules and succession plans in place to deal with the death of the boss-whether it occurs naturally or at the end of a gun barrel as was the case with Sam "Momo" Giancana in 1975.

DiFronzo's declining health the past few years may have allowed the mob to restructure its upper crust in anticipation of his death. The top two spots in the Outfit are now thought to be occupied by one infamous gangland name and one less recognized.

Salvatore "Solly D" DeLaurentis is the best known, un-incarcerated Chicago mob figure today-and considered "consigliere" to the Outfit.

DeLaurentis, 79, was released from federal prison in 2006 after serving a long sentence for racketeering, extortion and tax fraud. The north suburban resident is notorious for using the phrase "trunk music." That is the gurgling sound made by a decomposing corpse in a car trunk.

These days ex-con DeLaurentis claims he has gone clean--literally.

"I'm in the carpet cleaning business," DeLaurentis told the I-Team. He laughed off those who said he was the boss or involved in mob rackets at all and said the FBI should know that because the bureau monitors his activities.

DeLaurentis has long been a mob-denier. "The Outfit is like a group that comes in here to paint the walls" he told investigative reporter Chuck Goudie during a 1993 interview. "It's the painting outfit."

During that television interview conducted at the federal lock-up in Chicago, DeLaurentis said he was "a bricklayer by trade" and a part-time gambler. "We gamble" he said "but as far as Mafia, I don't know what that is."

GOUDIE: "So you contend that if there is a Chicago Outfit it's an outfit of gamblers?"
DELAURENTIS: "Yea. Right. An outfit of guys who gamble. If they were any other kind of businessmen they'd be in the chamber of commerce."

The new head of the FBI in Chicago disagrees with statement's that there is no mob-or that it is washed up.

"Are they out there leaving people dead in the streets?" asks FBI special agent in charge Jeffrey Sallet. "No. But just because people aren't killing somebody doesn't mean that they don't represent a threat" Sallet said. "Mob guys or Outfit guys-whatever you want to call them-are resilient. Where there is an opportunity to make money, they will engage. The reason they don't kill people the same way they did 25 years ago is because it's bad for business."

The second in command of the Chicago Outfit, according to some mobwatchers, is convicted enforcer Albert "Albie the Falcon" Vena, 69. The squat Vena did beat a murder charge in 1992 after the killing of a syndicate-connected drug dealer. He is thought to oversee day-to-day operations of the Outfit.

Vena is a protégé of notorious West Side mob boss Joey "the Clown" Lombardo, who is imprisoned for life following conviction in the 2007 Family Secrets mob murder case.

Regardless of what some see as an evolving line-up atop the Chicago mob, defense attorney Joe Lopez, who has represented numerous top hoodlums, says the Outfit is a thing of the past.

"I don't think anybody is ruling the roost. I think the roost was closed" Lopez told the I-Team.

He disputes that DeLaurentis has succeeded John DiFronzo. "He's old too" said Lopez, who proudly carries his own nickname "The Shark." Lopez said that Chicago mob leaders "became obsolete" and were put out of business by the "digital revolution has changed the entire world." Other mob experts differ.

"The outfit is a criminal enterprise, it's still functioning" said John Binder, author of "The Chicago Outfit" book. Binder maintains that the mob has a working relationship with Chicago street gangs. He says the Outfit is "involved in the wholesaling and to some extent importation" of cocaine and heroin that gangs sell on city streets. "Just because it's not the Outfit guys standing on the West Side or South Side selling it doesn't mean they aren't actively involved in making a lot of money off of narcotics themselves."

Thanks to Chuck Goudie, Barb Markoff, Christine Tressel and Ross Weidner.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Reputed Chicago Outfit Solider, Chuckie Russell, Caught on Tape Planning Robbery

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.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Reputed Chicago Mob Outfit Crew Charged with Posing as Police to Rob Drug Houses

Members of a street crew with ties to Chicago’s Outfit that operated a sophisticated drug ring that posed as police officers to rob cartel stash houses of large amounts of drugs were arrested this week, prosecutors said Saturday.

Four men who were part of the Panozzo-Koroluk Street Crew were arrested Thursday after investigators set up a sting operation in Chicago’s Hegewisch neighborhood, prosecutors said in Cook County Bond Court Saturday. The men tried to steal 44 kilograms of “a substance containing cocaine,” from what they thought was a drug dealer’s stash house in the 13000 block of South Brandon Avenue, prosecutors said.

Police had installed surveillance equipment in the house, however, and the crew was arrested as they brought the cocaine outside.

Robert Panozzo, 54, Paul Koroluk, 55, and Maher Abuhabsah, 33, and Panozzo’s 22-year-old son, Robert Panozzo, Jr., were held without bail in Cook County bond court Saturday.

Panozzo and Koroluk are part of a Grand Avenue Outfit crew run by Albert “Little Guy” Vena, according to sources and court testimony in the federal murder plot trial of Steve Mandell, a former Chicago police officer, earlier this year. The crew came to investigators’ attention in October 2013, when law enforcement found evidence that Panozzo Sr. tried to have a witness in a home invasion and kidnapping case murdered to prevent the witness from testifying at trial, prosecutors said.

Koroluk’s wife, Maria Koroluk, 53, was arrested Friday at the home she shared with her husband in West Town, where police found 200 grams of cocaine on her clothes and shoes, Morley said. She was charged with possession of a controlled substance with the intent to deliver and held on $100,000 bail.

The men’s crimes included home invasions, armed robberies, burglaries, insurance fraud and prostitution, Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez said at a news conference after the crew’s bond hearings.

The crew conducted five  to six major drug-house “rips” per year, during which they posed as police officers to rob stash houses, Alvarez said. The crew used sophisticated methods, including attaching GPS trackers to dealers’ cars to find where they stashed their drugs.

 “I think this is a very organized crew and a dangerous crew,” Alvarez said. “They have a  history of burglarizing and being in and out of jail. Clearly it didn’t help. We are hoping under these charges they will be held accountable.”

This is the second case charged under the State of Illinois’ Rico law that allows prosecutors to target the structure of a criminal organization itself so that a judge can see a complete picture of a gang’s criminal activity, Alvarez said. “This is the perfect example of the type of cases we were looking to be able to handle under this new law,” Alvarez said.

During numerous search warrants into the mens’ homes executed as late as last night, Alvarez said, officers found police scanners, police vests, and real police badges that had been stolen from police officers’ homes. “They have a long history, a history of burglaries and home invasions,” Alvarez said. “We are happy that this operation turned out the way it (did).”

During a home invasion in 2013, Panozzo Sr. sliced off the ear of a victim after he heard the man speaking English after he had claimed that he only spoke Spanish. “Needless to say their methods involved extreme violence,” Alvarez said.

Panozzo and Koroluk have several burglary convictions and operated one of the most sophisticated burglary rings police have ever seen. Panozzo and Koroluk operated in the area of Grand and Western, Alvarez said. They are from the old Italian neighborhood known as the Patch on the near West side, where Joey the Clown Lombardo and many other mobsters are from.

The two are also part of the same crew as Louis Capuzi and Frank Obrochta, who are in jail facing burglary charges in both DuPage and Cook Counties.

The male defendants face 15 to 60 years in prison for racketeering as well as 15 to 60 years for drug conspiracy charges. Maria Koroluk faces up to 40 years in prison, Alvarez said.

Thanks to Meredith Rodriguez.

When You Get Serious About Tailgating


Crime Family Index


Mafia Library