Showing posts with label Michael Giorango. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Michael Giorango. Show all posts

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Did Ex Chicago Cop, Steven Mandell, Plan Assassinations to Take Over Strip Club?

The former cop and death row inmate was callous and calculated, quoting military tactics as he considered which of two targets it made the most sense to kill in order to take over their chunk of a lucrative strip club, federal authorities allege.

"You chop the snake's head off. Pow," Steven Mandell allegedly told an undercover informant in September 2012 as a hidden video recorder rolled. "I still don't think you have a clear path on how it plays out, but at least we'd be on our way, wouldn't we?"

In the end, Mandell decided to kill the more vulnerable of the two — and his wife if necessary — then place a threatening phone call to the second target's wife to convince him to walk away, according to transcripts of the secret recordings filed recently in federal court. And in case anyone thought the Chicago Outfit's infamous Elmwood Park crew didn't have muscle anymore, Mandell had a special message.

"Tell that (expletive) husband to leave this situation alone, or else," Mandell said he would tell the wife, according to the government filing. "'Cause I'll show you what Elmwood Park really looks like. I can get really nasty."

On the FBI video, Mandell then drew a hand across this throat and made a "slitting sound," the filing said.

The chilling new details have emerged a month before Mandell, 63, is set to go on trial in U.S. District Court in connection with a series of alleged plots, including a gruesome scheme to kidnap and extort a local businessman, then kill him and dismember the body.

Now, through details provided in the court record, the Tribune has confirmed that the strip club associate Mandell had allegedly planned to kill, identified in the government filing only as "Victim 2," was Anthony Quaranta, a former Franklin Park cop known as "Tony Q." He also allegedly targeted Quaranta's associate, Demitri Stavropoulos, a highly paid "consultant" at the Polekatz strip club in suburban Bridgeview who was identified in the court record only as "Associate 1."

The court document also paints a more detailed picture of just how reckless and daring Mandell — formerly known as Steven Manning — had allegedly become before his sensational arrest in October 2012.

According to the government filing, for several weeks that fall, Mandell and his alleged associate, Gary Engel, were conducting cloak-and-dagger surveillance of Victim 2's pregnant wife while at the same time outfitting a vacant Northwest Side storefront with the industrial equipment needed to chop up a body as part of the separate plot to kill the businessman.

At one point, the FBI was conducting aerial surveillance as Mandell crouched down next to a car in a suburban mall parking lot, allegedly to install a tracking device on the car of one of his girlfriends, according to court records.

In recent months, Mandell's case has also been linked to the suspicious death of Giacomo Ruggirello, a Lake County restaurateur who perished in a fire in September 2012. The Tribune has previously reported that someone had broken into Ruggirello's Highwood restaurant on the same day as the fire and taken the office safe. Mandell's attorneys have subpoenaed the records from the suspected arson investigation.

Authorities have alleged that Mandell's schemes didn't stop with his arrest. Days later, he called his wife — an 82-year-old Buffalo Grove woman — from a federal Loop jail and asked her to get rid of evidence in the case, his indictment alleged. Prosecutors have also alleged that Mandell tried from jail to arrange the murder of the FBI's key informant in the case — a man previously identified by the Tribune as Northwest Side real estate mogul George Michael.

Originally from the Italian section of Chicago's Near West Side known as "The Patch," Mandell's criminal history goes back to his days as a Chicago cop in the 1970s and '80s. After he was booted from the force for insurance fraud, Mandell was accused of taking part in a mob-connected jewelry theft ring and other alleged schemes, including the kidnapping and extortion of several drug dealers in Kansas City, records show.

Mandell was eventually sent to death row for the drug-related 1990 slaying of a trucking firm owner, and at his sentencing prosecutors linked Mandell to two additional unsolved murders, including the 1986 killing of his own father, Boris, according to court records.

Both his murder and Missouri kidnapping convictions were overturned on appeal after Mandell alleged authorities fabricated evidence and used a notorious jailhouse snitch to frame him. He sued the FBI and won a landmark $6.5 million in damages from a federal jury in 2005. However, a judge later threw out the award, and Mandell did not receive any money.

Records show that after the jury verdict, Mandell moved to Florida, married and started a lock and safe company out of his wife's home. When he returned to Chicago, he had changed his last name from Manning to Mandell, records show.

Mandell's trial in February will focus on a series of undercover recordings made in fall 2012 at Michael's Northwest Side realty office and the storefront on West Devon Avenue jokingly referred to in recordings as "Club Med," where Mandell and Engel allegedly planned to dismember the businessman's body.

While much of the transcripts have been blacked out for undisclosed reasons, the portions that have been made public in court filings highlight the allegedly disturbing nature of the conversations that jurors in Mandell's trial are likely to hear.

Prosecutors allege Mandell and Engel planned to wage "psychological warfare" on the kidnapping victim to coerce him to turn over his assets. In an undercover FBI recording made at Club Med in the days before the planned kidnapping, the two discussed everything from how to instill the most fear in their victim to how best to drain his body of blood.

According to one prosecution filing, Mandell was referring to the victim's genitals when he asked his alleged accomplice, "You going to put a little blade there?"

"It's like slicing a banana split," the filing quoted Engel as responding.

Following his arrest in October, Engel was found hanged in his jail cell in McHenry County, a death that has been ruled a suicide.

According to court records, Mandell was also captured talking extensively about Quaranta and Stavropoulos and their stake in Polekatz, a multimillion-dollar strip club in the south suburbs that has been engulfed in controversy over its murky finances and alleged ties to felons and organized crime associates.

Stavropoulos, identified by the Chicago Crime Commission as an organized crime associate, was brought on as a $5,000-a-week consultant at the club about a year after his release from prison for running a multistate bookmaking ring, according to court records.

A 2010 Tribune investigation also documented how Stavropoulos partnered with another alleged underworld figure, Michael "Jaws" Giorango, and borrowed millions from the family bank of former Illinois Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, who at the time was running for the U.S. Senate. Giorango and Stavropoulos used the money to launch their own lending business that made high-interest, short-term loans to questionable borrowers, the Tribune found.

Quaranta, meanwhile, quit the Franklin Park police in late 2002 at about the time prosecutors dropped charges that he had illegal steroids delivered to his house, records show. He later lent about $500,000 to Polekatz and became a highly paid consultant to the club. Records show that in addition to his interest in Polekatz, Quaranta either owns or has a financial interest in four other strip clubs and taverns from suburban Bedford Park to Indiana and Texas.

Quaranta did not respond to phone calls seeking comment. His attorney, Ed Wanderling, returned a message left on Quaranta's cellphone and said he could not comment on a pending investigation or "what Steve Mandell's ideas or plans were." Wanderling said he was not aware of any plans by prosecutors to use Quaranta as a witness in Mandell's trial.

Reached by telephone recently, Stavropoulos declined to speak about the case. When asked about Mandell, Stavropoulos responded, "Who?"

According to the filing by federal prosecutors, to move in on the Polekatz action, Mandell decided that it made more sense to kill Quaranta, who has no criminal record and would therefore have an easier time fighting the takeover in court if he was left alive.

On the recordings quoted in the government filing, Mandell ruminated how Stavropoulos understood muscle and would step aside once he saw that Mandell meant business.

"Although he's got a big ego, when he sees what happens to (Quaranta) and his old lady … he might (expletive) all over himself, too," Mandell allegedly said of Stavropoulos.

Mandell developed a plot to kill Quaranta and his wife at home while their children were in school, according to the government filing. He lamented it might be a "rush job" but was ready to ad lib if necessary, according to the undercover recordings.

"I know from military strategy what George Patton said, battle plans are as good as the first shot fired," the government filing quoted Mandell as saying. "Once that first shot's fired, you're almost into improvisation, right?"

Mandell's attorneys had sought to have the wiretaps barred from trial, arguing the FBI could have used normal investigative techniques to stop the alleged schemes. In denying the request last month, U.S. District Judge Amy St. Eve quoted snippets of a wiretapped conversation from almost a month before Mandell's arrest that showed he had planned to act dumb and lawyer up if authorities came around asking about Quaranta's murder.

"How can I help you with this (expletive)?" Mandell said he would tell investigators, according to the government filing. 'Wow — he was — this is a murder investigation? … I have a lawyer to attend to this. They'll gladly handle all your questions."

Mandell then planned to point investigators in another direction by remarking on Quaranta's background as a strip club operator.

"Italian guy, Franklin Park cop who runs five joints? That smells like organized crime," Mandell said he would say. "I think you're in the wrong neighborhood. Go beat on someone else's door."

Thanks to Jason Meisner and Joseph Ryan.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Michael "Jaws" Giorango and Demitri Stavropoulos Receive Over $20 Million in Bank Loans From Giannoulias' Family Bank

Democrats are quietly worrying about whether Illinois Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias can win President Barack Obama's old Senate seat. His family's bank is believed to be on the verge of collapse and reportedly made $20 million in loans to two convicted felons.

Republican Rep. Mark Kirk is already accusing Giannoulias of lying to the voters about the loans, and his campaign is guaranteed to be pounding away at the bank's problems in millions of dollars worth of television ads. But the 34-year-old Giannoulias is still electable if he meets the bank embarrassment head on and strikes back at the Republican congressman as more conservative than this Democratic-trending state, Democratic insiders say.

Democrats brush aside any talk of getting Giannoulias to bow out of the race.

"Alexi Giannoulias is running a strong campaign on the issues that matter to the people of Illinois — like job creation and the economy," says Deirdre Murphy, national press secretary of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

Giannoulias was not granting interviews Friday as the Chicago Tribune ran a front page story with the headline: "$20 MILLION IN BANK LOANS TO FELONS." The story detailed how Broadway Bank, a Giannoulias family-owned institution in Chicago, had lent large sums to convicted felons Michael "Jaws" Giorango and Demitri Stavropoulos.

The fact that Broadway had loaned the men millions — Stavropoulos was convicted of running a multistate bookmaking ring and Giorango of promoting a nationwide prostitution ring — was a campaign issue when Giannoulias ran for state treasurer in 2006. But the Tribune reported it reviewed court files and other documents that showed millions more — a total of more than $27 million worth of mortgages to Giorango, his land trusts and companies since 1999, $20 million of which was loaned when Giannoulias was a senior loan officer.

Giannoulias spokeswoman Kathleen Strand said he had "no role with these two individuals nor did he sit on the loan committee with these loans." She sought to portray the story as old news, saying Giannoulias has been answering questions about the loans for years.

The bank is fighting to keep its doors open. It is holding some $242 million in bad loans, and in January, entered into a consent decree with the federal government and has 90 days to raise about $85 million. But Giannoulias recently told The Associated Press that he believes it would be "very tough" for it to survive.

Democratic insiders in Washington, who spoke on condition of anonymity so they could freely discuss their views, say they expect the bank to fail eventually but think that will be greeted as "old news" by voters.

The White House's political team, still smarting after the stunning loss of the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy's Massachusetts seat to Republican Scott Brown, has refocused its attention beyond the Beltway. Though not responsible for all Democratic campaigns, White House officials are aware any Democratic loss will be painted as a referendum on Obama.

The Democratic insiders said they learned lessons from Brown's election and have made sure Giannoulias' team would be unlikely to require a wave of Washington consultants to buttress a flailing campaign, as happened in Massachusetts. In that race, vans shuttled staffers from the Democratic committees around Washington northward for a final attempt to help Brown's Democratic opponent, Martha Coakley.

While the White House isn't keen on saying that Giannoulias stands to recoup only a few million dollars from the wreckage of the bank, internal polls and focus groups show he can win with that approach, according to these insiders.

They say Obama, who remains popular in his home state, will campaign for Giannoulias and top political adviser David Axelrod, a veteran of Chicago politics, is in constant touch with developments in Illinois.

At the Statehouse in Springfield, the hallway whispers are that top Democratic leaders would have preferred Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, whose father, House Speaker Michael Madigan, is party chairman. But she didn't run and some say she probably would prefer to go for governor if she had her choice.

Meanwhile, Kirk capitalized on the fresh attention to his opponent's woes, saying in a statement Friday that Giannoulias has falsely claimed that he didn't know about the criminal backgrounds of Giorango and Stavropoulos.

"Alexi Giannoulias misled voters to get elected state treasurer and continued to mislead voters in an effort to win election as a United States senator," he said.

Chicago political consultant Don Rose said that if the election were now he thinks Kirk would win but sees a good opportunity for Giannoulias make up for lost ground, especially if the economy improves.

"They have to make Kirk unpalatable politically and level the playing field," Rose said. "Of course the best thing would be if they could get him (Giannoulias) to resign and replace him." But that isn't going to happen, Democrats say.

Thanks to Mike Robinson and Phillip Elliot

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Will Alexi Giannoulias's Potential U.S. Senate Run Be Influenced by His Family's Bank Loans to Reputed Mobsters?

Broadway Bank is trying to recoup $12.9 million from two Chicago crime figures, rekindling a controversy as the bank's former chief loan officer, state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, gears up to run for the U.S. Senate.

In recently filed foreclosure suits, the Giannoulias family-owned North Side bank alleges loan defaults by four companies whose owners include two convicted Chicago bookmakers — one also convicted of promoting a nationwide prostitution ring. The loans are on a hodgepodge of properties, including a South Beach hotel and a South Side shopping center that has lost its grocery anchor. The defendants include 1201 South Western LLC, a Berwyn-based company whose activities include making short-term real estate loans at interest rates of 1% a week, property records show.

Questions about Mr. Giannoulias' role in the loans surfaced in 2006, when he overcame concerns about his youth and inexperience to be elected treasurer. He defended the loans as sound business decisions, a claim undermined by the foreclosures.

Now, at age 33, he could face similar questions, particularly if there are more disclosures about the relationship between the convicted felons and Broadway.

"In a closely contested race, something like this can marginalize enough votes to put you out of the race," says political consultant Thom Serafin, president of Chicago-based communications firm Serafin & Associates Inc., who also notes criticism of Mr. Giannoulias' oversight of a state-run college savings fund. "All of that lends itself to a credibility gap, and that's where an opponent gets you."

Mr. Giannoulias' chances of winning the 2010 Democratic Senate primary got a boost last week when Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan announced she would run for re-election rather than campaign for senator or governor. A spokesman for Mr. Giannoulias declines to comment.

Mr. Giannoulias hasn't announced his Senate candidacy formally, but he has raised $1.1 million, giving him an early edge in a primary fight to succeed Roland Burris. Other potential Democratic candidates include Christopher Kennedy, a Chicago real estate executive and son of the late Sen. Robert Kennedy, and Cheryle Jackson, president and CEO of the non-profit Chicago Urban League. On the Republican side, possible candidates include U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk and businessman Andy McKenna Jr., chairman of the state GOP.

The foreclosure cases are among a nationwide surge in troubled assets that hurt many banks including Broadway, an aggressive lender when commercial real estate was booming. "The borrowers were worthy at the time these loans were issued," Broadway Bank says in a statement. "However, when they failed to make their loan payments, the bank took legal action . . ., just as it would do in any situation involving a customer who did not repay a loan."

Broadway alleges $2.9 million in loans are in default on the Lorraine Hotel in Miami Beach. The property is owned by a venture that includes Michael Giorango, 56, who was convicted in 1991 of federal bookmaking charges in Chicago. He also was convicted in 2004 in Miami of promoting a nationwide prostitution operation.

Broadway also alleges that a nearly $6-million loan is in default on a shuttered restaurant along the Intracoastal Waterway in Hollywood, Fla. The potential development site is owned by a venture that includes Mr. Giorango and Demitri Stavropoulos, 41, who was convicted in 2004 in Chicago of running a betting operation that grossed more than $3 million in about three years.

The venture fought the foreclosure case, accusing the bank of improperly obstructing a sale of the property. Including fees and unpaid interest, the total amount due is almost $10.4 million, according to the complaint filed March 30 in Miami-Dade County Circuit Court.

An attorney for Mr. Stavropoulos declines to comment.

Mr. Giorango, reached at a Los Angeles apartment building that he owns in a venture with Mr. Stavropoulous, also declines to comment. Broadway has a $3.4-million loan on the 30-unit property that comes due next year.

The venture that owns the apartment building, 1201 South Western, is a defendant in four foreclosure cases filed by Broadway last month in Cook County Circuit Court seeking to collect nearly $2.5 million. In addition to its real estate holdings, the venture has been an active lender, making 43 short-term loans totaling $6.9 million, an average of $160,500 per loan, property records show. Broadway financed the company on Dec. 21, 2004, a month after 1201 South Western made the first in a series of loans that continued through July 2006, the records indicate.

Interest rates could be obtained on just eight of the loans, totaling $800,000, which are the subject of collection cases. On those loans, the company charged interest of about 1% a week, according to the promissory notes.

Thanks to Thomas A. Corfman

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Giannoulias Laying Low After Bank Loan To Mobster - Family Bank Loaned Money To Operator Of Call Girl Ring

Friends of ours: Michael Giorango

Questions about loans to a convicted mobster are dominating the race for Illinois state treasurer. Alexi Giannoulias is laying low while studying the millions in loans his family’s bank made to the operator of a national call girl ring.

Christine Radogno is the Republican candidate for state treasurer. A veteran of the General Assembly, she faults her Democratic opponent for the confusing twists and turns he's taken trying to explain how he came to do business with a mob-connected ex-convict.

"You need someone who, one, knows what's going on, and, two, has the experience to handle the job," she said. "And I think both of those things are lacking based on what we've seen from the latest press release."

Alexi Giannoulias won a hotly contested Democratic primary for state treasurer last month by campaigning, in part, on the financial expertise he said he gained as a top banking executive.

Both before and after the election, Giannoulias claimed to know little or nothing about $15.4 million in loans his family's privately owned Broadway Bank granted to Michael Giorango, who's been convicted of running gambling and prostitution rings.

Of those mob-connected enterprises, Giannoulias said in a prepared statement: "What they did was wrong...inexcusable. If I had known...I do not believe...we would have approved those loans. (But) there was nothing illegal. I admit...I mishandled some questions."

His most prominent supporter, Sen. Barack Obama, wants answers, but is still on board. "I continue to believe Alexi is a person of good character and his experience will serve him in good stead as treasurer," Obama said.

Sen. Obama told CBS 2's Mike Flannery that he's advised Giannoulias that he needs to be sure the public statements he makes are accurate.

An aide to the candidate said Giannoulias is going to avoid making any public statements for the next week and will study his bank's loan portfolio, something Sen. Radogno finds very strange, since Giannoulias supposedly has been overseeing those very same loans for sometime now.

Thanks to Mike Flannery

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