A former Chicago police officer accused in a plot to extort, murder and dismember a local businessman is now facing charges he agreed to kill another individual in exchange for revenue from a strip club and later tried to get his wife to destroy evidence while he was in a federal jail.
Steven Mandell — who formerly went by the name Steven Manning — was charged in a superseding indictment announced Friday with extortion, conspiracy to commit kidnapping, obstruction of justice, murder-for-hire and weapons offenses.
The bizarre case against Mandell, 62, unfolded in October when federal agents swooped in and arrested him and his alleged accomplice, Gary Engel, as they prepared to abduct the businessman from a Northwest Side realty office. In a November story, the Tribune identified the office as belonging to George Michael, a banker who made headlines a few years ago when he claimed his suburban lakefront mansion was an Armenian church in order to qualify for a nearly $80,000 break on his annual property tax bill.
Prosecutors alleged Mandell and Engel planned to take the victim to a nearby vacant office space they called “Club Med,” which had been outfitted with an industrial sink for draining blood as well as saws, handcuffs, zip ties and surgical instruments. They intended to extort the victim of his cash and force him to sign over his real estate holdings, then kill and dismember him, prosecutors said.
According to the new indictment, Mandell also conspired to murder an heir of the businessman if the heir made a claim to the businessman’s properties after his slaying.
Three weeks before his arrest, Mandell was plotting the murder of another victim in exchange for “a portion of the revenues generated from an adult entertainment club,” according to the indictment. No details on the alleged victim or the club were revealed in the charges.
Mandell was also accused of calling his wife from the Metropolitan Correctional centre days after his arrest and telling her to move a Nissan Maxima he had parked near the businessman’s suburban home. During the call, Mandell urged his wife to have someone else drive the vehicle because “maybe they’ll say you’re aiding and abetting a crime or something,” the indictment quoted Mandell as saying. Inmates’ calls are routinely recorded.
In another call the next day, Mandell’s wife told him she was going to clean out the car and he responded, “Yeah … throw away a lot of stuff,” according to the indictment.
Records show Mandell and his 82-year-old wife were married in Naples, Fla., in 2007 and were living in her Buffalo Grove home at the time of his arrest. She could not be reached for comment Friday but has not been charged with any wrongdoing.
Mandell was known as Steven Manning when he resigned from the Chicago Police Department in 1983 after he was convicted in an insurance fraud scheme and was later linked to several burglary and jewelry theft rings in Chicago’s underworld. He was convicted in 1993 of murdering truck driver James Pellegrino and sentenced to death, but his conviction was later overturned.
After his release, Manning sued the FBI for framing him and won a landmark $6.5 million judgment. But he never saw the money because a federal judge threw out the damages.
Engel, 61, hanged himself with a bedsheet in a McHenry County Jail cell about a week after his arrest, authorities said.
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