GR EXCLUSIVE: Chicago Mob Wife Strikes Blow To Outfit, Westside Reeling

Operation Crew Cut, the latest legal assault launched against the Chicago mafia, spawns from a scorned Windy City mob wife, according to Cook County Sherriff Department documents and exclusive Gangster Report sources inside Illinois law enforcement. And it wasn’t her hubby that felt her wrath, either. It was his Goombah buddies who stepped over the line with him away in prison. Well, one Goombah buddy in particular.

Dropping in federal court in Chicago last summer, Operation Crew Cut charged Outfit heavyweight Robert (Bobby Pinocchio) Panozzo and several of his associates – including his son – in a wide-reaching racketeering and attempted murder case, a large chunk of which centers around allegations that Panozzo headed a lucrative home invasion ring targeting local drug dealers. It all may have never come to light if the career-criminal and notoriously ill-tempered Goodfella hadn’t pissed off one of his biggest earners and his no-nonsense younger wife.

Panozzo, 55, is a high-ranking member of the Outfit’s Grand Avenue or Westside regime alleged to be currently overseen by Bobby Pinocchio’s good friend, Albert (Albie the Falcon) Vena, a reputed Chitown mob capo and himself the focus of a multi-agency federal criminal probe right now per recent reports.

The roof began caving in for the Westsiders two years ago with the September 25, 2013 arrest of Grand Avenue crew lieutenant, Jeff Hollingshead, a top-tier mob associate and confidant of Panozzo’s and Vena’s, for a bond violation regarding failure to produce a set of firearms the FBI believed he possessed. Hollingshead, 49 and of half-Italian and half-German ancestry, was out on bail awaiting trial for a 2009 home invasion robbery-kidnapping case of his own. Him, Panozzo and Vena all came up in the Chicago mafia under incarcerated former Outfit westside crew chief and consigliere Joseph (Joey the Clown) Lombardo. Him and his wife Jillian, would team to take Panozzo down.

Vena is alleged to have taken over for Lombardo as the Don of Grand Avenue after Joey the Clown was jailed in 2006. Lombardo was convicted of a 1974 gangland slaying the next year. Some people on the street and in the media have referred to Vena as the most dangerous man in Chicago and a modern-day Tony (The Ant) Spilotro, the inspiration for Joe Pesci’s character in the movie Casino, minus the insolent behavior.

Hollingshead reported directly to Vena and Panozzo and was one of the most trusted non-made guys on the whole westside. That didn’t stop his pal Bobby Pinocchio (a street handle Panozzo was tagged with by Joey the Clown himself) from seeking to profit off his misfortune, exploit him while he was at his weakest.

Bobby Panozzo

Bobby Panozzo

Within hours of Hollingshead being locked up, according to Cook County Sherriff’s Department records, Panozzo pounced, attempting to seduce his wife and staging a robbery of the Hollingshead home in suburban Wilmette, Illinois, a ritzy bedroom community north of Chicago. Before long Jillian, an attractive, 29-year old south sider described as “spunky and smart with a hustler’s spirit,” was turning the tables on the same Windy City wiseguy that saw her and her husband as marks, getting her husband to do the same thing and in tandem helping the government build a case against Panozzo. The investigation culminated in a sting where Panozzo and his crew were caught red-handed emerging from what they thought had been a successful knockoff of a cocaine stash house.

Jillian Hollingshead met her future husband in 2005 at the famous Green Mill Tavern in Chicago, once a favorite watering hole of iconic Prohibition Era mob boss Al Capone and his gang. They married and had a daughter. FBI surveillance logs from the past decade place her at meals with a who’s who of Outfit brass, including Albie Vena, imprisoned street boss Michael (Fat Mike) Sarno and longtime Chicago Godfather John (Johnny No Nose) DiFronzo.

Per Cook County Sherriff’s Department records, Jillian Hollingshead retrieved and turned over to authorities a witness list passed from well-known Chicago mob attorney Joe Lopez to her husband and then on to Panozzo. The document contained home addresses and contact information for those slated to testify against Jeff in court – at least one of which the U.S. Attorney’s Office believes Panozzo intended on killing before they could make it to the witness stand. The piece of paper with the witnesses’ names and addresses on it was found inside a car Jeff drove while free. Panozzo had possession of the vehicle at the time of Jeff’s incarceration  and returned to Jillian, at which time she discovered the document in the backseat.

Lopez, nicknamed “The Shark” for his aggressive tactics in the courtroom, admits giving Jeff Hollingshead the witness list, but denies any intention of wrongdoing. He hasn’t been charged in any capacity related to the Hollingshead or Panozzo indictments.

A little over a month after Jeff Hollingshead’s fall 2013 arrest, Jillian, in the midst of fending off repeated romantic advances and emotional harassment from Panozzo and insistent that Panozzo had orchestrated a robbery of their house while she attended one of Jeff’s court dates, went to the FBI, according to court filings. Jeff soon did the same and they both testified in front of a grand jury in the Panozzo case last summer in the days leading up to Operation Crew Cut finally landing. The Hollingsheads could testify at Panozzo’s trial. Jeff still faces 40 years in a racketeering case. Jillian is in hiding with her daughter.

Editors note: in the original posting of this story it was inaccurately reported that Jillian Hollingshead’s uncle was Vincent (Elmo) Amarente

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1 comment

  1. Joe

    I really enjoy the blog you guys need to do more podcasts, did you ever find out why frank narducci went to jail after Dave Schratweiser reported it… also for 2 Jewish guys you seem to enjoy throwing around words like goombah and talking like wise guys lol

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