The Chicago mafia’s Westside-Grand Avenue crew and the FBI are both in a “heightened state of readiness” and “taking all the necessary precautions,” per sources in the Windy City, for what is being called a certain forthcoming racketeering indictment soon to be filed against the alleged Albert (Albie the Falcon) Vena regime. These sources say the Grand Ave. RICO will most likely drop prior to Christmas holiday season or at the very latest in early 2016 and that the quest to nail Vena has been the top priority for the Chicago FBI’s organized crime unit ever since Outfit acting boss Michael (Fat Mike) Sarno was convicted of racketeering charges and sent away to prison in December 2010.

The area surrounding Vena’s daily headquarters, Richard’s Bar, down the street from his crew’s normal nightly dinner spot, La Scarola, is “crawling with unmarked police and FBI vehicles,” and both the tavern and eatery have hosted a number of undercover cops posing as patrons “clearly trying to act inconspicuous but failing miserably,” said one source who hangs with the Grand Ave goodfella contingent. In an attempt to combat the possibility of audio surveillance, Vena is said to have the music in Richard’s Bar turned up at a high volume when he’s on the premises conducting business. To avoid lip readers, whether in his customary booth at Richard’s Bar or at his reserved table No. 1 at La Scarola, he is said to instruct his crew create a wall of people around him to shield him from peering eyes.

According to sources on the street and in law enforcement, Vena, 67, and his reputed second-in-charge Christopher (Christy the Nose) Spina, are being trailed 24-7 by the FBI, Illinois State Police and Cook County Sherriff’s Department, part of a task-force initiative launched against the Grand Avenue regime in the past two and a half years. Surveillance units track Vena day and night, even when he leaves the city to try and take temporary refuge at farm property he is reported to own in suburban Elgin, Illinois. Word on the city’s Westside is that the 62-year old Spina is being particularly judicious regarding his movements, venturing out of his residence only when totally necessary and considerably cutting back his patronage to Richard’s Bar and La Scarola, a longtime Grand Avenue crew dining staple.

Called by some the most feared man in Chicago, the known-to-be volatile Vena allegedly took command of the Westside crew in January 2006 on the heels of his predecessor, Grand Avenue Godfather and Outfit consigliere, Joseph (Joey the Clown) Lombardo getting locked up in the historic Operation Family Secrets case (he’d be convicted in the fall of 2007) and Lombardo’s second-in-charge and acting capo James (Jimmy Boy) Cozzo being stricken with terminal cancer. Believed by many in law enforcement to be a “hitter,” part of the investigation into Vena’s affairs, per sources, has been probing his involvement in a slew of unsolved murders. If any homicides will make it into the pending indictment is unknown. Albie the Falcon flew away from a murder rap two decades ago when he was acquitted at trial of the 1992 gangland slaying of low-level Outfit drug dealer Sam Taglia.

Prior to his incarceration, Joey the Clown, 86, used to spend evenings at La Scarola located on Grand Avenue right where the city’s Westside region, sometimes known as “The Patch,” meets the downtown “Loop” (the city’s main business district). The piece of property where both La Scarola and Richard’s Bar reside is, depending on who you ask, either owned or run by an alleged Outfit figure named Robert (Bobby D) Dominic.

Back in the summer of 2012, the diminutive and dapper Vena was observed by FBI agents eating at La Scarola with Chicago real estate mogul George Michael and cop-turned-Outfit hitman Steve Mandell. Michael was a federal informant. Mandell, currently in prison for the attempted kidnapping and torture murder of a pair of business rivals and their wives, requested Vena’s permission for his intended demented debauchery, per court records, but Vena refused to give the okay.

Also at that La Scarola lunch meeting in 2012 were Vena lieutenants, Robert (Bobby Pinocchio) Panozzo and Jeff Hollingshead. The following year Hollingshead flipped and gave up Panozzo and Panozzo’s partner-in-crime, legendary Outfit burglar Paul (Big Paulie) Koroluk. All three are behind bars looking at 40 years on home invasion and racketeering charges.

Hollingshead was a co-owner of a glass manufacturing company in Las Vegas with Vena, Panozzo, 56, and Fat Mike Sarno, 57 years old and the Chicago mafia’s acting boss from 2005 until he was locked up in 2010, per police documents. Sarno spawns from the Outfit’s Cicero crew, and according to sources close to the ongoing investigation into Vena, might possibly be ensnared in the future Grand Avenue indictment, too.

A former alleged Sarno subordinate, reputed Cicero crew wiseguy Sam Galioto, was indicted on federal tax evasion charges earlier this month, accused of hiding a three million dollar consulting fee stemming from a real estate deal. Galioto is the nephew of Sarno’s predecessor as the syndicate’s day-to-day leader, Cicero-bred James (Jimmy the Man) Marcello, serving life in prison for his role in the Operation Family Secrets case.

Sarno’s name has been brought up in more than one grand jury proceeding related to Vena’s Grand Avenue regiment, according to sources in the Illinois Attorney General’s Office. Not surprisingly intimidation tactics have started to be employed to dissuade cooperation – multiple suspected informants have either seen property vandalized, received harassing phone calls or both.

 

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