The Chicago Syndicate: Maher Abuhabsah
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Showing posts with label Maher Abuhabsah. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Maher Abuhabsah. Show all posts

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Details on State's Attorney Alvarez #OperationCrewCut Announcement of Charges in Rackeetering Operation including Drug Trafficking, Home Invasions and Kidnapping

Five people have been charged with Super Class X felonies in connection with a proactive state racketeering investigation targeting members of an organized crime street crew that engaged in a wide array of criminal activity including drug trafficking, home invasions and kidnapping, Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez announced.

Cook County prosecutors announced RICO and other related charges against the defendants who are associated with a sophisticated and high tech criminal enterprise that operated in the Chicago area for years. The criminal complaints against the defendants were filed in Cook County Criminal Court today.  The case marks the second state RICO prosecution by the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office since the Illinois Street Gang RICO law was passed in 2012.

Three men have been charged with the Super Class X felony offenses of Racketeering Conspiracy and Criminal Drug Conspiracy, including Robert Panozzo, age 54, and Paul Koroluk, age 55, as well as Maher Abuhabsah, age 33.  Panozzo’s son, Robert Jr, age 22, was charged with Criminal Drug Conspiracy, and Koroluk’s wife, Maria Koroluk, age 53, was charged with Possession with Intent to Deliver a Super Class X amount of cocaine as a result of this investigation.

After the bond hearing, State’s Attorney Alvarez noted that, like the prior RICO case brought by her office against the violent Black Souls Street Gang, her investigation was triggered when a criminal enterprise plotted to kill a witness, saying that “in both matters, organized crime sought to attack the criminal justice system itself, and now, armed with a proper state RICO statute, my office can fight back effectively and hold the right offenders accountable for their crimes.”

 “The completion of this second proactive investigation is yet another example of the vital importance that our Illinois RICO law now plays in our ability to combat violent organized crime in the state of Illinois, and I am pleased to work in collaboration with our law enforcement partners at the local and federal level once again, and use this critical tool to send a strong and lasting message to criminals who plague our communities with violence and crime,” Alvarez said.

“Operation Crew Cut” was a 10-month long-term covert investigation, which targeted members of the Panozzo-Koroluk street crew (P-K street crew), who at times posed as police officers to rob drug cartel stash houses for illegal contraband including drugs and cash proceeds.  The ongoing pattern of criminal activity included home invasions, robberies, kidnapping and insurance fraud among other offenses.  The joint state-federal investigation included the use of advanced law enforcement tools such as court-ordered electronic surveillance, consensual overhears, tracking orders, and search warrants of cell phones and email accounts.

According to prosecutors, the investigation began in October 2013 after law enforcement authorities developed evidence that a member of the P-K street crew attempted to solicit the murder of a state witness who was set to testify against members of the P-K street crew in a pending home invasion and kidnapping case.  Specifically, investigators discovered that Robert Panozzo Sr., along with other individuals, solicited another individual to kill the victim on that case to prevent them from testifying at the trial.

Based on that information, prosecutors, along with other law enforcement agencies began the proactive racketeering investigation into the illegal activities of the close-knit P-K street crew.  The investigation revealed evidence that the crew engaged in a wide array of crimes including drug trafficking, murder, home invasion, armed violence, burglary and weapons offenses.  As the investigation progressed, it became clear that the scope of the crimes committed by members of the P-K crew were quite substantial and violent.

The investigation also revealed that the members of the P-K street crew routinely obtained information from Chicago street gang members to determine the location and contents of drug cartel stash houses.  The P-K street crew members would then utilize high tech equipment, such as video surveillance and GPS trackers placed on the cars of drug dealers, to determine the location of the stash house.  Once the location was obtained, P-K street crew members would then enter the houses, posing as police officers and steal large quantities of contraband including drugs and other items.  

According to court documents, during the course of one home invasion and kidnapping in 2013, Panozzo sliced off the ear of a victim at the location after Panozzo heard the man speaking English after claiming he only spoke Spanish.  During this particular incident, the P-K street crew stole over 25 kilograms of cocaine and two cars.

The defendants in this case were arrested on July 16, 2014 after Panozzo, Koroluk, Abuhabsah and Panozzo Jr, attempted to steal approximately 44 kilograms of cocaine stored at what they believed was a drug dealer’s stash house.  Unbeknownst to the defendants, however, law enforcement authorities had obtained court authorization to rig the house with audio and surveillance equipment as part of a covert sting operation.  The defendants entered the home and took possession of cocaine, and shortly after emerging from the location, the men were arrested by police who were monitoring the operation.

The  “Street Gang Rico” bill written by the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office and passed by the state legislature in 2012, allows  prosecutors at the state level to target gang and organized crime enterprises who engage in a pattern of crimes involving violence such as illegal weapons, sex-offenses, drug trafficking and other offenses.

The investigation was conducted by the State’s Attorney’s Office in cooperation with the Chicago Police Department, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Cook County Sheriff’s Office, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and the United States Attorney’s Office.

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.


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