Reputed mobster allegedly tossed woman down stairs 3 times: affidavit
BY FRANK MAIN Staff Reporter July 21, 2014 8:17PM
Robert Panozzo Sr.
Updated: August 23, 2014 6:26AM
A reputed Chicago mobster allegedly tossed an elderly woman down a set of stairs three times — killing her — after he conned her into signing over her property to him, according to an informant in a racketeering case unveiled over the weekend.
Robert “Bobby” Panozzo Sr., 54, is charged with four other defendants in Cook County Criminal Court. They were allegedly part of an Outfit-connected crew that engaged in murder, drug rip-offs, insurance fraud, kidnapping and prostitution.
According to an affidavit police obtained for a search warrant of their homes, an informant said Panozzo boasted about killing an elderly woman around 1987.
“Panozzo still jokes about throwing someone down three flights of stairs and jokes about how surprisingly difficult it was to murder an elderly woman,” according to the affidavit.
Investigators are focusing on a 77-year-old woman who died on Oct. 17, 1987, in the 2300 block of West Ohio, the affidavit said.
Panozzo and fellow convicted burglar Paul Koroluk, 55, were arrested about 9 p.m. Wednesday at a home in the 13000 block of South Brandon in the Hegewisch neighborhood on the Southeast Side. Also busted were Panozzo’s son Robert Jr., 22, along with Maher Abuhabsah, 33, who was the technological wizard of the crew, police said. Koroluk’s wife, Maria Koroluk, was arrested at their Near West Side home.
According to court papers, the crew “took steps to place a Cook County judge’s home under surveillance.” Authorities didn’t provide details.
The investigation began in October when authorities learned that Panozzo Sr. was allegedly trying to have a witness killed to prevent him from testifying in a trial in Cook County Criminal Court.
An informant said Panozzo and Koroluk allegedly planned to pay the hit man $10,000 up front and $10,000 afterward. The murder wasn’t carried out.
When he was arrested Wednesday night, Koroluk was wearing a silver police star emblazoned with the seal of Illinois and the words “security police officer,” authorities said. Informants told police the crew posed as cops while stealing narcotics and cash from drug dealers. They conducted about half a dozen rip-offs a year, one informant said.
Koroluk, the Panozzos and Abuhabsah were caught in a sting by a task force composed of the Chicago Police, the FBI, the Cook County Sheriff’s office and the Drug Enforcement Administration.
Officials placed about 40 kilograms of cocaine in the house, which was wired with surveillance equipment. The crew thought they were ripping off a drug dealer when they were nabbed hauling the drugs from the home, according to Cook County prosecutors.
The younger Panozzo was caught fleeing in a vehicle, which contained a police scanner and burglary tools, officials said. Abuhabsah allegedly told police the crew had been “laying low” because they were aware the police were watching them, the affidavit said.
Koroluk’s 53-year-old wife was arrested at their home in the 2100 block of West Race, where authorities said they found almost a quarter kilogram of cocaine and $12,000. Maria Koroluk is a $97,000-a-year director with the Cook County assessor’s office.
Paul Koroluk’s lawyer, Joseph Lopez, called the case a setup. “It was FBI dope,” he said.
In 2006, Panozzo Sr. and Koroluk were each sentenced to seven years in prison for their roles in a burglary ring that targeted wealthy residents in the north suburbs. They continued to carry out burglaries after they were released from prison three years later, an informant told police.
They used an insurance salesman who gave them information about items on victims’ homeowner’s insurance policies, the informant said. A jeweler on Wabash Avenue in the Loop fenced their stolen jewelry and coins, the informant added.
The affidavit outlined a series of rip-offs and kidnappings the crew allegedly committed, including a 2012 kidnapping that netted a $115,000 ransom and the robbery of a tractor-trailer near Morris that contained 40 kilograms of cocaine hidden under a shipment of oranges.
Panozzo Sr. also allegedly participated in several arsons, blowing up a building on the Near West Side for insurance money, according to the affidavit. In April, he was charged in federal court in Rockford with allegedly paying an accomplice $1,000 to set fire to the car and home of a man who owed Panozzo $100,000.
Panozzo’s home in the 500 block of North Claremont was one of seven properties investigators searched after the Hegewisch sting operation. Another property is a Near West Side business owned by an associate of Koroluk and the elder Panozzo, according to the affidavit.
The business — near Hubbard and Damen — is where the crew allegedly divided up stolen narcotics and cash, the affidavit said.
Police noted that there’s a colorful mural on a wall next to the business. It’s a portrait of Angela “Big Ang” Raiola, the gravel-voiced breakout star of the show “Mob Wives: New Blood.”
In the portrait, Big Ang is accompanied by pictures of her Pomeranian lap dog, a martini glass and a fat diamond.
But it’s the message on the mural that most intrigued the police. It says: “I like the wise guys.”