GR SOURCES: Past Chicago Outfit Murders Could Bite Grand Ave. Capo In Near Future As RICO Bust Looms

A pair of notorious unsolved gangland killings from the 1980s, among other cold-case homicides, are getting attention by mob investigators in Illinois in the increasingly-intensifying federal racketeering probe into alleged Chicago mafia leader Albert (Albie the Falcon) Vena and his activities as captain of the syndicate’s Westside or Grand Avenue crew, per sources familiar with the high-priority criminal inquiry. Both the 1983 slaying of top-tier Outfit associate Allen Dorfman and the 1988 mob rub out of Amoco Oil executive Charles Merriam are being scoped in the Vena investigation (as each has before in uncharged inquiries into Vena’s affairs in the past), say multiple sources.

An indictment is said to be coming down in the near future naming Albie Vena as its’ headlining defendant. Other Outfit-connected murders are being examined for links to the infamously volcanic-tempered Vena as well. Whether any of these homicides will actually make their way into the forthcoming bust is unclear at this time.

Vena is reputed to have taken charge of the Grand Avenue rackets in 2006, first in an “acting” capacity and then in official form beginning roughly six years ago, has been dubbed by the Windy City media “the most feared man in Chicago.” He was acquitted at trial of the 1992 mob murder of Outfit associate and drug-peddler Sam (Needles) Taglia.

The 60-year old Allen Dorfman, an insurance mogul and war hero who once oversaw the robust and incredibly corrupt Teamsters union pension fund, deciding which parties got loans worth tens of millions of dollars and which didn’t, was slain on January 20, 1983 in the parking lot of the suburban Lincolnwood Hyatt Hotel (sometimes known as simply “The Purple Hotel”) in Lincolnshire, Illinois, while leaving a lunch meeting at the Hyatt’s Tessy’s Restaurant alongside Outfit associate and bail bondsmen Irwin (Red) Weiner. Dorfman – pictured in this article’s featured image – was felled by two masked gunmen who approached him and Weiner from behind with silencer-equipped weapons drawn just days prior to him being slated to be sentenced to 55 years in prison for bribing Las Vegas Senator Howard Cannon.

Huge swaths of the original Vegas Strip were constructed via mobbed-up loans rubber stamped through by Dorfman and his Teamsters’ Central States Pension Fund. Weiner was uninjured in the brazen attack on Dorfman carried out in broad daylight.

Witnesses described one of the masked assailants hollering “This is a robbery,” and the other immediately opening fire on Dorfman with a 22-caliber pistol, striking him several times in the head and neck. Paramedics pronounced him dead on the scene. The two hitmen fled on foot to a waiting getaway car and sped off. A few blocks down the road, the killers abandoned the original getaway car and got into yet another waiting vehicle. The gun that fired the fatal shots was recovered inside a dumpster bin on the grounds of a nearby elementary school (St. Cornelius).

The son of mob associate and labor-union executive Paul (Paulie Red) Dorfman – a former Purple Gang associate as a young hoodlum growing up in Detroit -, Allen joined the U.S. Marines after graduating high school in Chicago and won a Silver Star for heroism in the line of duty fighting in the South Pacific against the Japanese in WWII. Through his father’s underworld and organized-labor connections, the aspiring Jewish racketeer rose quickly through the ranks in both spheres, becoming rich, powerful and trusted and relied upon by the highest echelons of Italian organized crime in America. Up to a point.

Convicted alongside Dorfman in the Cannon bribery scheme was then-Outfit capo Joseph (Joey the Clown) Lombardo, a confidant of his and the overlord of Chicago’s Westside mob regime for more than 30 years and the syndicate’s one-time consigliere. Joey the Clown is currently serving life in prison for the murder of Danny Seifert, a friend, business partner and soon-to-be witness against him in a pension fund fraud case linked to the Teamsters as well as Dorfman and Weiner, specifically.

Although there was no indication of his intention to flip like Seifert did, Dorfman, who held considerable more damning information regarding Lombardo, and other members of the Outfit than Seifert ever had, became labeled a liability – he had reportedly angered Joey the Clown and then-Outfit boss Joseph (Joey Doves) Aiuppa by reaching out to bribe Senator Cannon without asking for permission from them first. The fact that he was facing two additional racketeering-related trials in Illinois and California, respectively, and could potentially trade what he knew for less time behind bars and possible all-out freedom, sealed his fate.

Lombardo was locked away in January 2006 on the Seifert murder (convicted at trial a year later) and Albie Vena took his place as the Godfather of Grand Avenue and the neighborhood long known as “The Patch.” Originating from the Chicago mafia’s now-defunct Northside crew, Vena was placed in Lombardo’s Outfit enforcement unit in the 1970s, according to Cook County Sherriff’s Department documents relating to his career in the Windy City underworld (the Northside crew was eventually absorbed by the Westside crew in the 1990s).

The Westside hit squad was a go-to administrative tool for Outfit higher-ups in the 1970s and 80s, sharing responsibility for taking on the crime family’s toughest and most-pressing shakedown efforts and murder contracts along with the Cicero-based “Wild Bunch.” Lombardo’s ragtag team of enforcers and assassins was headed by Frank (The German) Schweihs and Anthony (Tony Nags) Panzica, noted strong arms, gangland running buddies and business partners with both legitimate and illegitimate interests in Illinois and Florida.

According FBI records, Schweihs, Panzica and Vena are the three main suspects in the slaying of Allen Dorfman, two of them being the “hitters” and the other being the wheelman in the first getaway car, which authorities believe was a silver-colored Cadillac stolen from Chicago’s Southside Chinatown neighborhood months earlier. Federal documents reveal that investigators theorize a green-colored Dodge sedan was the second getaway car and that the killers followed Dorfman and Red Weiner from Dorfman’s office to the hotel where Dorfman was wacked in broad daylight.

Informants have told the FBI that Schweihs and Vena were the shooters in the hit and Panzica the getaway-car driver, per those intimately familiar with the initial Dorfman homicide probe. The imposing and always-snarling Schweihs, Lombardo’s longtime right-hand man, died of cancer in 2008, awaiting trial on the same murder and racketeering charges Joey the Clown was sent to prison for the year prior.

Vena’s involvement in the Charles Merriam slaying is connected to activity on the Northside, the faction of the Outfit in which Albie the Falcon was groomed from his days starting out as a baby-bird gangster. Merriam was shot dead at his leafy suburban home in the fall of1988. Vena came up in the mafia game under Northside mob chieftains Lenny Patrick, Gus (Slim) Alex and Joseph (Joe the Builder) Andriacchi. Merriam’s murder is alleged to have been a result of a beef that arose in the late 1980s between Merriam and restaurateur Frank Milito, a Chicago mob Northside-affiliate and convicted felon.

An executive at Amoco Oil, whose international headquarters were in Illinois until it merged with British Petroleum in 2000, Merriam was in charge of overseeing hundreds of Amoco gas stations (previously known as Standard Oil) in Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin, a number of which were owned by Milito. Chicago gangland insiders in close proximity to Milito say Merriam was killed after he had begun investigating Milito for stealing from Amoco in 1987.

Two of the insiders claim, Milito, who was reportedly closely aligned with Northside Outfit powers, Alex, Patrick, Andriacchi and Vincent (Innocent Vince) Solano, reached out to Solano, the Northside crew capo until he died of natural causes in 1992, for help in his situation and Solano in turn assigned Patrick and Andriacchi to take care of it. They gave the task of eliminating the problem to Albie Vena, Mario Rainone, and Pierre Zonis, the insiders say.

Rainone was a lieutenant and top aide to Patrick, the syndicate’s Jewish don and an eventual witness for the government. Vena served as a sometime driver and bodyguard for Andriacchi, currently the Chicago mafia’s 86-year old semi-retired official underboss, and cut his teeth in the Outfit doing collections for Patrick and Gus Alex, the crime family’s gambling boss and fix-it man in the “Loop” (the Windy City’s downtown business district), on the Northside from Patrick’s contingent of Jewish bookies and loansharks.

Zonis was a cop who moonlighted as mob muscle and owned some Amoco gas stations under the Merriam umbrella, too. Back at this time, Vena and Rainone were also a prolific firebombing team for Northside mob leaders, according to court filings from the 1990s, dispatched to torch businesses that refused to yield to Patrick, Andriacchi and Solano’s extortion demands.

On November 4, 1988, at around 10:30 pm, Merriam, 52, answered a knock at his front door in his palatial Prospect Heights estate and was slain by a pair of gun-wielding assailants – one shot him in the chest, dropping him to the ground, the other dealt the kill-shot to the back of his head. A phone call from one of Zonis’ gas stations to Merriam’s unlisted home phone number was made in the 90 minutes preceding his slaying, according to one CCSD document. The original investigation into the Merriam murder was marred by bungled police work and disappearing evidence.

Milito, the owner of Orso’s Italian Restaurant on Wells on the Northside of Chicago, would go on to be jailed on tax evasion charges, nailed for failing to report six million dollars in profits from his Amoco-owned gas stations. His very public friendship with former Chicago Police Department Superintendent Matt Rodriguez, led to Rodriguez’s forced resignation in 1997.

Patrick, the ruler of Northside Rogers Park for decades, is dead. So is Milito. Per sources involved in the ongoing Westside crew inquiry, Outfit elder Joe the Builder and Zonis “probably aren’t in jeopardy of being indicted.” Zonis used to be married to Milito’s daughter.

Rainone is incarcerated doing a 15-year term on a gun charge. He flipped for a short span over two decades ago, taping conversations with associates like Patrick and Northside juice-loan racket czar Joseph (Singing Joe) Vento, before backing out of his cooperation agreement with the feds after the front porch of his mother’s home was bombed.

The Merriam and Dorfman hits are just a couple of the myriad of mob murders investigators are looking for links to the 67-year old Albie Vena as part of a multi-agency racketeering probe that has been active for at least the last two and a half years. Small in size. Vena more than makes up for his lack of size with his unbridled ferocity and viciousness towards anybody he views as his enemy. The Chicago press tab him as the most dangerous Outfit figure of the modern New Millennium mafia era.

Other unsolved murder cases mob busters say Vena has had his name surface in, according to exclusive Gangster Report sources, appear to be: Outfit associate Joe Maffiola (Vena was the last person seen with him before he was killed) and Richard Cain, a dirty cop and mob thug blown away with a shotgun at a Westside sandwich shop (a man matching Vena’s description was at the scene of the crime in the minutes before it was carried out), both cold cases from the 1970s as well as more recent hits like the 2006 kidnapping and killing of the Outfit’s acting underboss Anthony (Little Tony) Zizzo and the 2010 clipping of a young Grand Avenue crew-connected Northside enforcer and drug dealer named Norberto (The Bull) Velez.

Zizzo, 72,vanished on his way to a purported “sitdown” on Rush Street allegedly brokered by Vena and Andriacchi to settle a dispute between Zizzo and then-Outfit acting boss Michael (Fat Mike) Sarno over video-poker machine routes. Velez, 31, was killed in the hallway of his Wrigleyville apartment on Thanksgiving night after allegedly scoffing at repaying a street loan from Grand Avenue crew brass.

One CCSD source tells the Gangster Report that Vena was swabbed for a DNA sample in the last five years related to his possible involvement in the murder of a female associate of his. Sarno, 57 years old and imprisoned on a 2010 extortion conviction, may get rolled into the pending Westside-crew RICO indictment, per multiple sources. Little Tony Zizzo and Fat Mike Sarno both hailed from the Outfit’s Cicero faction.

Vena’s inner circle are in the feds crosshairs as well: his reputed second-in-command, Christopher (Christy the Nose) Spina and his brother-in-law Chuckie Russell, a convicted sex offender and suspected leader of a Westside burglary racket, are each getting more than a few glimpses in their direction from the federal government, according to more than one source in Illinois law enforcement. Spina is reportedly under “24-hour surveillance.” His first cousin, former Grand Avenue goodfella Jeff Hollingshead, has already jumped ship to Team USA and helped the feds and the CCSD build a racketeering and attempted murder conspiracy indictment against 56-year old Robert (Bobby Pinocchio) Panozzo, the Westside crew’s alleged No. 3 in charge, was arrested in the summer of 2014 and is facing up to 60 years behind bars if found guilty at trial.

Christy “The Nose” Spina talking business with alleged Outfit consigliere Marco “The Mover” D’Amico at a commuter train stop

Hollingshead, 49, was Panozzo’s best friend and in charge of overseeing Grand Avenue regime collections on a portion of the crew’s Northside territory and was in jail on racketeering charges of his own when he decided to cooperate with authorities. Hollingshead’s territory was centered around the party-hardy Wrigleyville neighborhood surrounding historic Wrigley Field, where MLB’s Chicago Cubs play and Norberto Velez plied his trade in the narcotics and mob strong arm market.

Those with knowledge of the grand jury testimony given by Hollingshead and his wife, Jillian, say some of it had to do with what they knew about the Velez slaying. The apartment building Velez lived and was killed at was co-owned by Jeff Hollingshead and the unit Velez resided in was located directly across the hall from an apartment unit sometimes occupied by him and Jillian.

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  1. Craig

    I hate to say it but in reference to the Dorfman killing, it took place in LINCOLNWOOD not Lincolshire.