Tag Archives: Christmas

Reputed mobster plotted heist to have a happy holiday, feds say

(CHICAGO) Federal prosecutors say Charles “Chucky” Russell — a convicted killer reputedly connected to the Outfit’s Grand Avenue crew — recently bragged to a federal informant that he was planning a home invasion that would lead to a happy holiday for both of them, the Chicago Sun-Times is reporting.

“It will be a great Christmas, I’m telling you. You’re going to love this,” the admitted mobster allegedly told the informant. “Nothing gets my juices flowing like putting a gun to someone’s head, taking their stuff and making it mine.”

But instead of pulling off a score that he estimated would rake in at least $300,000, along with jewelry and bottles of high-end wine, Russell will be spending Christmas in a lockup.

Russell, 67, was charged in federal court Thursday with being a felon in possession of firearms after he allegedly arranged to buy eight guns from an undercover federal agent with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. A ninth gun was found in his home in Schaumburg, authorities say.

The gun case against Russell is the latest effort by the feds to weaken Chicago’s once powerful Italian mob.

The Outfit took a major hit in 2007 when some of its most powerful leaders, including Grand Avenue crew leader Joey “The Clown” Lombardo, were convicted in the FBI’s “Family Secrets” case. More recently, two of Russell’s associates, Paul Koroluk and Robert Panozzo Sr., were charged with racketeering in Cook County criminal court. Law-enforcement sources say they believe Albert “Little Guy” Vena now runs the Grand Avenue crew.

Russell, with his bald head and muscular physique, appeared in court in an orange jail uniform with his feet shackled. He chatted amiably with federal agents before the hearing. Indeed, when he was arrested on Wednesday, he allegedly told ATF agents and Chicago Police officers, “You guys did a really good job.”

Last month, Russell recruited an ATF informant to join his robbery crew, prosecutors say. On Dec. 15, they met at a Near West Side bar where Russell told the informant he planned to target the home of a 70-year-old lawyer who kept hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash in a safe, according to a complaint filed Thursday.

In their conversation, which was secretly recorded, Russell said he might put a blowtorch to the lawyer’s feet to force him to open the safe. But he worried the victim could have a heart attack and die.

“Then we have a bad case,” he said.

The informant introduced Russell to an undercover ATF agent who offered to sell Russell an assortment of firearms, from handguns to a military-style rifle. Russell said he could buy up to 15 guns and his associates would sell the guns in Mexico, according to the complaint.

“Every time I see ‘em on the news, next to the [Mexican] border where they’re killing every f—— body, I wonder how many of those f—-n’ guns come from me?” Russell was recorded as saying.

The men also discussed the proposed heist, which Russell hoped to carry out on Friday. He said he would bring the walkie-talkies, a police scanner and the tools they would need. He warned the informant not to spit, sneeze or leave behind any hairs that police could connect to him through DNA testing.

“I always shave my whole f—— body” before a robbery, Russell said, adding that he scouted out the lawyer’s home on a surveillance camera for a month. He boasted that he and his crew had carried out 2,000 burglaries in four years.

On Dec. 20, the informant and the undercover ATF agent met Russell at a Northwest Side restaurant where they sealed the gun deal, prosecutors said. Russell agreed to buy up to 10 guns for $5,500, authorities say.

At one point, Russell showed the informant a photo of a car riddled with bullets and a bloody interior. He also handed the undercover agent an Illinois driver’s license of an African-American man. “No longer with us,” Russell said on a recording. “He’s deceased.” Later, authorities confirmed the man in the driver’s license was murdered in the car in November, prosecutors said.

On Wednesday, Russell met the undercover ATF agent outside a deli in the 1200 block of South Canal. Russell was arrested after he took eight guns from the agent. When agents searched Russell’s home in Schaumburg, they found another gun, a black ski mask, gloves and three walkie-talkies, authorities say.

A detention hearing is scheduled for Russell on Jan. 5. Prosecutors are asking the court to deny bail for Russell, saying he’s a “danger to the community.” Russell was convicted of murder in 1973 and of criminal sexual assault in 1992, court records show. He’s a registered sex offender.

— Chicago Sun-Times

Jurors in Hobos gang trial begin deliberations as Christmas looms

(CHICAGO) After more than three months of testimony about drug dealing, brazen violence and cold-blooded killings, the fates of six alleged leaders of Chicago’s so-called “super gang” have been handed to a federal jury only days before Christmas, the Chicago Sun-Times is reporting.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Patrick Otlewski ended four days of closing arguments Wednesday by telling jurors how the elite and exclusive Hobos gang callously snuffed out lives to protect their organization, which rose from the now-demolished Robert Taylor Homes.

“They did it because they wanted power,” Otlewski said. “It’s that simple. Power on the streets.”

Most of the defendants on trial face life in prison if convicted of a racketeering conspiracy and other crimes outlined by the feds in a trial that kicked off shortly after Labor Day. The accused gang leaders, who include purported Hobo leader Gregory “Bowlegs” Chester and alleged Hobo assassin Paris “Poleroski” Poe, are charged in a 10-count indictment.

Jurors were handed the case two business days before Christmas, and they are not expected to deliberate Friday. It is not clear how, or if, the holiday will affect deliberations. The significant street-gang trial has played out in a year that saw Chicago surpass 700 homicides for the first time since 1998.

The jurors’ deliberations could be complicated by a series of special findings they will be asked to make.

Authorities have described the Hobos as a conglomerate or “all-star team of the worst of the worst” of Chicago’s street gangs. They say the gang brought a reign of terror down on the South and West sides for roughly 10 years, between 2004 and 2013.

Chester, who gets his nickname from a bone disease, took the stand during the lengthy trial. He denied that the Hobos gang existed and scoffed at the idea of a “crippled gang leader.” He said “Hobo” was the nickname of a friend from the Robert Taylor homes who was gunned down in 2000, and his “Hobo” tattoo is a tribute to his fallen companion.

But Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy Storino argued last week that even hostile government witnesses acknowledged the gang’s existence.

“The Hobos are real,” Storino said. “They’re sitting right here.”

While Chester is charged only with the racketeering conspiracy, Poe has been tied to the murders of two men who cooperated with law enforcement against the gang. Otlewski said Wednesday that the informants’ deaths are evidence of “a real rule” — don’t snitch on the Hobos.

The feds say Poe and alleged fellow Hobo Arnold Council murdered Wilbert Moore, a Chicago Police informant who was gunned down in January 2006. They also say Poe hunted down FBI informant Keith Daniels seven years later, executing Daniels in front of his girlfriend and two young children in April 2013.

“Hobos meant more than blood,” Otlewski said.

Another alleged Hobo, Gabriel Bush, has been tied to the September 2007 gang retaliation murder of Terrance Anderson. And co-defendant Derrick Vaughn has been connected to the killings that same month of Antonio “Beans” Bluitt and Gregory Neeley during a war between the Hobos and factions of the Black Disciples that summer.

Council has been charged with an additional gun crime, and the counts against his fellow alleged gang member, William Ford, also revolve around drugs and guns.

— Chicago Sun-Times

Two protesters arrested on Magnificent Mile

(CHICAGO) About 200 protesters returned to Michigan Avenue on Thursday, clogging traffic along Michigan Avenue’s Magnificent Mile on Christmas Eve.

The demonstration was mostly peaceful, but occasional tussles broke out with police, the Chicago Sun-Times is reporting. Police said two people were arrested and face misdemeanor charges. A 19-year-old man was charged with failure to obey police and disorderly conduct, and a 22-year-old man charged with battery and failure to obey police.

The protesters gathered at noon near the Michigan Avenue Bridge and marched back and forth on the Mag Mile and in the surrounding area for more than four hours. Organizers dubbed the event “Black Christmas.”

Recent protests have been sparked in general by anger over the treatment of black people by the Chicago Police Department, and specifically by the release of a dashcam video showing the fatal shooting of Laquan McDonald by Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke on October 2014.

The city agreed to pay McDonald’s family $5 million before a lawsuit even was filed.

Van Dyke has since been charged with first-degree murder. Many were angered by how long the investigation of McDonald’s death took: 13 months. Others are convinced no charges would have been filed if the video, which the city initially fought to keep under wraps, had not been released.

Since then, allegations against other officers have come to light, more videos have been released and the U.S. Department of Justice has launched a probe of the Chicago Police Department.

Lemurs chow down on Christmas Eve feast at Brookfield Zoo

                                                                          photo credit: Chicago Zoological Society

(BROOKFIELD)  Christmas came early for five ring-tailed lemurs at Brookfield Zoo.

The lemurs–Butch, Dogwood, Moses, Ramses, Sam Bass and Skinner–were treated to an all-out Christmas Eve feast on Tuesday at the Hamill Family Play Zoo exhibit, according to a statement from the Chicago Zoological Society.

The festive primates dined on “cookies” of primate chow and applesauce topped with yogurt and dried cranberries, washing it all down with diluted grape juice and “milk” made of yogurt and water, officials said.

Zoo staff added to the lemurs’ holiday ambiance with an ornamented fir tree, a handmade, fruit-filled train set and a backdrop fireplace complete with personalized stockings for each primate.

Guests can see the lemurs daily in the Hamill Family Play Zoo, including during the final evenings of the zoo’s “Holiday Magic” program daily Dec. 26 through 31, from 4:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.

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