The Chicago Syndicate: Paul Koroluk
Showing posts with label Paul Koroluk. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Paul Koroluk. 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.

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

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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