The continuing multi-agency probe into the affairs of the Chicago mafia’s Grand Avenue crew has expanded out of Illinois and into Wisconsin and Iowa, per sources in Midwest law enforcement. The extensive inquiry which began over three years ago is focused on the Outfit’s reputed Grand Avenue captain and overall street boss Albert (Albie the Falcon) Vena and Vena’s inner-circle on the Windy City’s Westside. Although Vena, 68, has yet to be hit with any charges, a number of his top lieutenants are off the street and behind bars as a result of the government’s proverbial full-court press.

According to sources inside the investigation, Grand Avenue crew members and seasoned burglars Charles (Chuckie the Electrician) Russell and Bruce (Uncle Brucie) Principato are both having their ties to possible criminal activity out-of-state looked into by the FBI. Investigators have received tips that Russell spent portions of 2015 in Iowa and Principato was spotted multiple times in Kenosha, Wisconsin in 2016 coinciding with a rise in residential break-ins and burglaries occurring in both areas at those respective times.

Back in December, Russell, 67, was arrested in an ATF sting trying to purchase a cache AK-47s and Uzi sub-machine guns after being recorded bragging to an undercover ATF agent about the prodigious robbery ring he led, the joy he takes in torturing robbery victims with his blow torch and the murder of an African-American gang member he intimated he was involved in. Russell is Albie Vena’s brother-in-law. Last week, he pled not guilty to the weapons charges.

“Uncle Bruce” Principato circa 2012

Outfit territory in neighboring Iowa allegedly falls under the stewardship of Elmwood Park crew chief Rudy (The Chin) Fratto, according to Chicago Crime Commission records. Fratto’s uncles Louis (Cockeyed Lou) Fratto and Frank (Frankie One Ear) Fratto were the Outfit’s capos in charge of Iowa in the mid-to-late 20th Century. The mafia in the state of Wisconsin has always had ties to Chicago due to proximity. Current Outfit activity in the Cheese State is the syndicate’s Cicero crew’s responsibility, per the CCC records.

The Chicago mob’s Westside crew has a long reputation as a hotbed of professional thievery. Per sources, Russell heads a robbery subunit of the Grand Avenue known as the Bishop Boys and acts as Vena’s point man with the area’s Black and Hispanic criminal factions. Principato works under Russell, according to these sources. The two wiseguys are close friends – Principato was with Russell the night in 1993 he raped a woman and threw her out of a building’s third-story window. Russell did 18 years in state prison on the sexual assault.

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