CHICAGO (CBS) — 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.
“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.
(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire © Chicago Sun-Times 2016. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)