Sharing this info to highlight how the cycle of public corruption feeds organized criminals on both sides of the border. We've read tons of stories on BB about crooked Mex cops who steal, rob, deal drugs, murder & many readers have commented that issues like this can only happen in Mex because of the corrupt gov.
Two burglars with reputed mob ties, Cook County employee Berrios snared in RICO case BY FRANK MAIN AND FRANCINE KNOWLES Staff Reporters July 19, 2014
Chicago mobsters Bobby Panozzo and Paul Koroluk of the Outfit’s Grand Avenue crew were stung last week. And the 54-year old Panozzo could be stung again soon……with murder charges.
Operating a sub-group within the Grand Avenue faction, identified as “The P-K Crew” (the pair’s initials), Panozzo and Koroluk, and two subordinates, one being Panozzo’s namesake and 22-year old son, Bobby, Jr, were nabbed last Thursday in a police sting operation by Cook County narcotics detectives for running an elaborate armed-robbery ring targeting unprotected drug houses, as well as engaging in home invasions, arson, burglary, drug trafficking, attempted murder and possibly murder.
The racketeering and home invasion charges carry maximum 60-year prison sentences. Using tips from street gang members, a police radio scanner and stolen police uniforms, the P-K’s raided a series of area drug houses before the cops could. Their traditional home invasions were brutal and bloody; Panozzo chopped off one victim’s ear for lying to him in the midst of Panozzo robbing him.
The robbery crew was caught in the act, set-up by the cops and tricked into thinking they were ripping off a 45-kilo shipment of cocaine from a stash house on South Brandon Avenue in the city’s Hegewisch district, when in fact they were walking into a carefully-planned bear trap, the culmination of an investigation called, “Operation Crew Cut”.
Walking out of the purported stash house early Thursday morning, Panozzo, Koroluk and their associates were met by a swat team of Chicago police officers.Panozzo and the half-Polish, half-Italian Koroluk, 55, are both Chicago mafia Grand Avenue mob crew veterans, first reporting to Joseph (Joey the Clown) Lombardo, currently imprisoned, and now taking orders from Albert Vena, Lombardo’s replacement as capo of the city’s Westside.
Authorities said they launched “Operation Crew Cut” in October after Robert Panozzo Sr. and others tried to have a state witness killed. The witness was preparing to testify against members of the crew in a kidnapping and home invasion case, prosecutors said.
The investigation revealed evidence that the crew engaged in murder, home invasion, drug trafficking, burglary and weapons offenses, prosecutors said.
According to prosecutors, the crew routinely received information from gang members about the location and contents of drug cartel stash houses. They allegedly used GPS trackers and other equipment on drug dealers’ cars, then would enter the houses posing as police officers and steal the drugs inside.
During one home invasion and kidnapping in 2013, Panozzo allegedly sliced off the ear of a victim after he heard him speaking English. Panozzo was angry because the man said he only spoke Spanish, prosecutors said.
Panozzo stole more than 25 kilograms of cocaine and two cars in that home invasion, prosecutors said.
Paul Koroluk, Robert Panozzo, Panozzo’s son and Abuhabsah were ordered held without bail Saturday.
Paul Koroluk, Panozzo Sr. and Abuhabsah are charged with racketeering and drug conspiracy. Panozzo Jr. is charged with drug conspiracy.
Maria Koroluk, who was charged with possession with intent to deliver a Super Class X amount of cocaine, was ordered held in lieu of $100,000 bail.
Maria Koroluk works for Berrios as director of technical review with a salary of $97,304 a year, according to a Berrios spokesman, who was unaware of her arrest.
A task force composed of the Chicago Police, the Cook County Sheriff’s office, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the FBI arrested Paul Koroluk, the Panozzos and Abuhabsah on Wednesday at a home in the Hegewisch neighborhood on the Southeast Side, officials said.
Police also raided the Koroluks’ home in the 2100 block of West Race where they arrested Maria Koroluk, sources said.
Sources said police recovered weapons and large quantities of drugs in the raids.
On Saturday, Paul Koroluk’s attorney Joseph Lopez said, “There’s no questions it’s an FBI set-up. The FBI had the house wired up. The FBI had all kinds of electronic surveillance in this case. The FBI had wire taps.”
That may help his case, Lopez said, contending “Obviously a lot of people when they think about the [commitment] of crimes, they think about not the FBI setting it up. They think about people actually committing crimes ... The videotape shows that they engaged in this conduct at the behest of the FBI informant. . . .It shows the FBI set it up.”
Operation Crew Cut is the second racketeering case Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez has brought under a new state statute. Last year, she charged leaders of a West Side street gang with violating the statute. It’s modeled after the 1970 federal racketeering statute that was used to target the Mafia.
“This case involves extremely serious allegations of dangerous criminal conduct,” Alvarez said at a press conference Saturday. “It is yet another example of the vital importance that our Illinois RICO law plays in our ability to combat violent organized crime here in the state of Illinois and demonstrates why it is an indispensable tool for law enforcement here ... This is a perfect example of the type of case that we were looking to be able to handle under this new law. It is so important that we as prosecutors have these tools.”
Career criminals history in Chicago
Paul Koroluk and Panozzo — convicted burglars — have been in the headlines for years for their reputed ties to the Chicago Outfit.
Eight years ago, they were convicted for their involvement in a crew suspected of stealing everything from jewelry to Lladros porcelain figurines from wealthy victims they allegedly targeted through limo drivers’ tips and yacht club listings, officials say.
Panozzo’s name surfaced recently in the trial of former Chicago Police Officer Steve Mandell, who was convicted in February of plotting to kidnap, kill and dismember a suburban businessman.
The star witness, former North Shore banker George Michael, said Panozzo introduced him to Mandell over lunch at La Scarola restaurant on West Grand Avenue. The FBI recorded the meeting.
Sources said Paul Koroluk and Panozzo are tied to the Chicago Outfit and the C-Notes street gang located in “The Patch” along Grand Avenue just west of the Loop.
The neighborhood has been home to some of the city’s most infamous mobsters.
Despite his criminal record, Koroluk once served as a local school council member in the neighborhood.
In 2006, Koroluk and Panozzo were both sentenced to seven years in prison in for burglary and possession of burglary tools. The crew was accused of breaking into north suburban homes and stealing jewelry.
Officers cracked the case when they tracked footprints in the snow from a burglarized Niles home to Koroluk’s car, in which they found two pillowcases filled with jewelry and cash, police said.
And in 1986, he was caught with thousands of videos that were allegedly stolen from stores on the West and Northwest Sides. At the time, he was running a video store near Chicago and Damen. Koroluk was convicted of burglary and sentenced to probation.
In the past, Koroluk and his associates were suspected of paying a Secretary of State’s employee $50 bribes to get personal information on victims. No one was charged in connection with that allegation. Sources said police are investigating whether the current case against the Koroluks and Panozzo also involves public corruption.
The P-K crew has been on law enforcement’s radar for the past couple years. In 2012, crew members Louie Capuzi and Frank Obrochta, were nailed on charges of burglary, home invasion, insurance fraud and prostitution and are currently awaiting trial.
Last fall, Chicago Police discovered Panozzo and Koroluk tried to put a murder contract on a witness in a forthcoming home invasion case. Then in the winter, Panozzo and Vena were mentioned at the trial of Windy City cop-turned-mobster Steve Mandell, convicted in February of attempting to kidnap, torture and eventually murder a pair of associates and one of their wives, in a ploy to assume control of one associate’s strip clubs and the other’s real estate assets. Testimony and FBI surveillance photos revealed that Panozzo and Mandell dined with Vena at Vena’s favorite Italian eatery, La Scrola (also a “forever fav” of the Lombardo when he was on the streets).
Part of the indictment against Panozzo released Saturday quotes a confidential federal informant as accusing Panozzo of the murder of an elderly woman back in 1987, a homicide he is said to have bragged about. The informant said the murder was preceded by the woman signing over her property to Panozzo and concluded with him allegedly killing her by throwing her down three different flights of stairs in her apartment building.
Law enforcement sources in the Windy City tell the Mob Insider that a first-degree homicide charge against Panozzo could be added to the indictment before the case hits trial and that the FBI and Chicago PD detectives are investigating Panozzo’s connection to a currently unsolved October 1987 murder that took place in an apartment complex on W. Ohio Street and matches the informant’s description of events.
Less than a decade ago, Panozzo and Koroluk were arrested and convicted on similar burglary charges and were sentenced to seven-year prison bits in 2006. A source close to the Grand Avenue crew claims Panozzo also helps Vena, someone he’s very close to, look after the crew’s loan sharking business and that he has a reputation on the city’s Westside as a “tough-as-nails collector.”
One of the street gangs feeding the P-K gang with information on what drug houses to rob was allegedly the C-Notes, according to the Chicago Crime Commission, a longtime “Outfit JV team,” that Vena was once a member of and maintains close ties with.
Retired Chicago PD organized crime investigator Robert McDonald used to keep tabs on Panozzo and Vena in the 1980s.
“We’d watch Lombardo’s young guys and Bobby and Albie were two you always knew weren’t guys you messed with, they were the type of individuals that really enjoyed the work, took pleasure in inflicting pain,” he said. “Lombardo knew there was always room in the Chicago Outfit for guys like that and he made sure they were utilized from a young age.”
Sources close to the investigation, say Vena, a person dubbed “the most dangerous gangster in Chicago” by organized experts, the Windy City media and fellow mobsters alike, was “very close” to be indicted in the case, too. FBI wiretaps and street informants tie Vena to pocketing a percentage of the scores Panozzo and Koroluk were taking down.
Gangster running buddies for years, Panozzo and Koroluk were groomed in the art of robbery by Joey the Clown himself. The pair came up in a Lombardo-overseen burglary crew headed by his driver, James (Jimmy Legs) D’Antonio. FBI documents related to D’Antonio claim that Panozzo and Koroluk actually went along on the final actual robbery job the Clown personally participated in during an early 1980s jewelry store heist. By that time, Lombardo was already a capo and according to the report took a liking to Panozzo, nicknaming him “Bobby Pinocchio” for his talent for deception. The young Panozzo and Koroluk are alleged to have acted as look-outs on the job.
Back ground info on current Outfit leadership
Chicago Outfit’s Grand Avenue Crew has ‘juice’ again under Albert Vena leadership
July 7, 2014 by TheBoss
Chicago mafia capo Albert (Albie the Falcon) Vena is said by some to be the most-feared man in the Windy City, a new-and-improved version of Anthony (Tony the Ant) Spilotro, if you will. His emergence the past few years as a major player in the upper-echelon of the city’s mob landscape has reinvigorated his Grand Avenue-based crew, reinstalling a large chunk of the power and prestige it lost in the late 2000s courtesy of the epic Operation Family Secrets bust.
Like Spilotro, Albert Vena is tiny (just a smidge over five feet), but incredibly fearless and extremely deadly. However, unlike Spilotro, the Chicago crime family’s crew-leader in Las Vegas, killed alongside his brother in a grisly 1986 Outfit double-slaying depicted in the Martin Scorsese gangster film classic “Casino,” Vena, 66, knows how to make nice with his superiors in the mob and doesn’t let his ego get the best of him.
Vena’s name recently surfaced in the Chicago press due to him being mentioned at the trial of cop-turned-gangster Steve Mandell, convicted in February of attempting to kidnap, torture and murder an enemy and his wife in order to assume control of a Bridgeview strip club and another associate to seize his real estate assets.
Testimony at the trial revealed that FBI agents watched as Mandell lunched with Vena at La Scrola, the one-time favorite haunt of notorious Chicago mob capo and consigliere Joseph (Joey the Clown) Lombardo, Vena’s former boss and mentor, who ruled the city’s Westside and was in charge of the notoriously-rugged Grand Avenue crew for over 30 years. Mandell was caught telling a wired-up associate that he’d gone to Vena for permission to kill an adversary and Vena, someone linked by the government to several underworld slayings, had failed to give him the go-ahead.
Lombardo was nailed in the Feds’ landmark Family Secrets case, convicted at the 2007 trial in the brutal 1974 murder of mafia associate Danny Siefert, a soon-to-be witness for the government against him and several mob cronies, and Vena was selected to replace Joey the Clown as the new “Godfather of Grand Avenue.”
Spilotro, another Lombardo protégé, is alleged to have been part of Lombardo’s hit squad that snuffed out Siefert in broad daylight and in front of his wife and son outside a suburban plastics factory days before a federal trial was set to begin in a Teamsters Union pension-fund fraud case he was slated to be the star witness in.
The double homicide of Spilotro and his brother was also included in the Family Secrets indictment, with Outfit street boss James (Jimmy the Man) Marcello convicted of delivering the siblings to their slaughter at the house of capo Louis (Louie the Mooch) Eboli in June 1986, where they were beaten and strangled to death by a cadre of hit men as revenge for Tony the Ant running amok in Las Vegas and bringing too much heat on the syndicate’s West Coast affairs.
The diminutive, yet dynamic Vena was groomed by a slew of Outfit big shots and reputedly taught to kill by one of the Chicago mafia’s most revered enforcers. Besides Lombardo, Albie the Falcon came up under Northside capos and lieutenants like Vincent (Innocent Vince) Solano, Joseph (Joe the Builder) Andriacchi, Gus Alex and Lenny Patrick. Early on in his underworld career, Vena was placed in Joey the Clown Lombardo’s enforcement wing and schooled by the Clown’s No. 1 strong arm and hit man, Frank (Frankie the German) Schweis, a renowned assassin.
Vena and Schweis are both considered suspects in the 1983 gangland murder of Teamsters official and high-level mob associate Allen Dorfman, a killing also depicted in the movie Casino.
Schweis was brought down with Lombardo in the Family Secrets case (dying before making it to trial though) and was fiery until his last breath – the German, while frail in appearance, still managed to repeatedly bark at reporters and prosecutors alike in court proceedings that directly preceded his passing.
In the fall of 1992, Vena was indicted on a state murder beef for the gruesome slaying of low-tier Windy City hoodlum, Sam Taglia, charges he was acquitted on at a 1993 trial. Taglia, on the outs with mob leaders over stolen money and scam drug deals, was found stuffed in the trunk of his car in Melrose Park, shot in the head, his throat slit ear-to-ear. He and Vena were seen together in the hours before his unsightly demise.
Showing his feistiness, Vena tried to run over the cops that came to arrest him for Taglia’s murder with his car. Cautious of recording devices, he’s rarely appeared on police wiretaps and is known to keep a relatively low profile around town, especially compared to his predecessor, Joey the Clown, notorious for his witty demeanor and flash-bulb friendly personality.
When Lombardo and Schweis got popped in 2005 in the Family Secrets bust – both going on the lam for almost a year trying to dodge arrest before finally being apprehended – Vena and Vincent (Jimmy Boy) Cozzo, Lombardo’s right-hand man, were running the Grand Avenue crew together, using Lombardo’s longtime driver Christopher (Christy the Nose) Spina as their messenger. After Cozzo died of natural causes in July 2007 and Joey the Clown was convicted three months later, Vena was officially upped to full-fledged capo by semi-retired Chicago Outfit boss John (Johnny No Nose) Di Fronzo.
“Albie Vena is a very serious individual,” retired FBI agent Jack O’Rourke said. “He has the reputation of being both treacherous and reliable. All the heavyweights in the Family trust him very much. In a lot of ways, he’s a throwback. He lives by the code of the old ChicagoOutfit bosses. Most people see him being a big part of the future administration. The pedigree is there, he’s been around a long time.”
Article courtesy of Scott M. Burnstein Author of Motor City Mafia: A Century of Organized Crime in Detroit (Images of America) and other great mafia titles.
"Great minds have purpose, others have wishes" - Washington Irvin
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I would assume that the information came from the actual victims of this crew. When drug dealers get busted the officials offer reduce time if they provide info.
"Great minds have purpose, others have wishes" - Washington Irvin
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