Alleged Chicago mob street boss Albert (Albie the Falcon) Vena was found not guilty of murdering low-ranking Northside crew member Sam (Needles) Taglia at an April 1995 bench trial in Cook County Circuit Court in front of Judge James Flannery, Jr. That’s one homicide he no longer has to worry about. On the other hand, there are a number of others potentially still hanging over his head.

The vertically-challenged fireplug of a 70-year old mafia chief is being investigated for his role in several unsolved gangland slayings as part of an ongoing federal probe of Outfit activities mainly surrounding the crime family’s fabled Grand Avenue and Cicero factions, according to sources in law enforcement. For the last decade or so, Vena has led the Grand Avenue crew.

Taglia, a drug-addled repeat felon, was found shot to death with his throat slashed in the trunk of his late-model Buick in Melrose Park on November 4, 1992. He had reportedly burned Vena in a cocaine deal, failing to deliver the narcotics after money was fronted to him. His criminal record was dotted with close to a dozen collars for robbery, gambling and drug offenses.

Vena became capo of the Grand Avenue crew in around 2007. The bump up to street boss came around five years ago, per sources. Some press outlets have dubbed him the most dangerous man in Chicago.

Like Taglia, Vena had been part of the Outfit’s Northside regime in his younger days. The Northside crew got consolidated into the Grand Avenue gang in the late 1990s.

The Grand Avenue crew is historic in Chicago underworld circles for being ruthless and vindictive and has always housed valued enforcement units. In other words, Vena fit right in and not surprisingly rose quickly.

The legend of “The Falcon” began on the Northside though. As a skilled collector for mob figures Gus (Slim) Alex and Lenny Patrick, Vena’s strong arm duties took him from Alex’s stomping grounds of The Loop, the city’s downtown business and financial district, to Patrick’s turf further north in Rogers Park where he lorded over a sprawling consortium of Jewish bookies and loan sharks. Vena’s reputation for viciousness was cemented in 1973 when he traveled to Florida to muscle a guy out of $35,000 by kidnapping him, beating and torturing him until he gave up the cash.

When police in Chicago arrived at Vena’s home to arrest him for the Taglia slaying on Christmas Eve 1992, he tried to run over one of the case detectives with his car. Taglia was recently divorced and living in an apartment in River Forest at the time of his killing. He was last seen alive leaving his girlfriend’s Melrose Park residence with Vena shortly after returning under the influence of heroin from a dinner with his girlfriend and brother.

The next morning, the 50-year old Taglia was “trunk music,” found a block from the Melrose Park restaurant and bar he had ate his last meal at the night before. Melrose Park police discovered Taglia’s 1983 Buick parked on 13th Avenue across from an apartment building dripping with blood. The driver’s seat was adjusted for someone of short stature, opposed to the six-foot Taglia. Vena stands just 5-foot-2.

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