Alleged Mobsters, Berrios Employee Charged Following Racketeering Investigation

Sources said police recovered weapons and large quantities of drugs in the raids

Two convicted burglars with reputed mob ties and an employee of Cook County Assessor Joe Berrios have been snared in a racketeering investigation, sources say.

Paul Koroluk, 55, his wife Maria Koroluk, 53, and Robert Panozzo, 54, are among five defendants charged in the case brought by Cook County prosecutors, the Sun-Times is reporting.

Paul Koroluk and Panozzo are suspected of using high-tech surveillance equipment to rob drug stash houses, officials said.

Maria Koroluk’s role in the alleged operation is unclear. She works for Berrios as director of technical review with a salary of $97,304 a year, according to a Berrios spokesman, who was unaware of her arrest.

A task force composed of the Chicago Police, the Cook County Sheriff’s office and the FBI conducted a raid early Thursday in the Hegewisch neighborhood on the Southeast Side and arrested Paul Koroluk and Panozzo, sources said.

Police also raided the Koroluks’ home in the 2100 block of West Race where they arrested Maria Koroluk, sources said.

Sources said police recovered weapons and large quantities of drugs in the raids.

The Koroluks and Panozzo were scheduled to appear in Cook County Criminal Court on Saturday.

“Operation Crew Cut” is the second racketeering case Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez has brought under a new state statute. Last year, she charged leaders of a West Side street gang with violating the statute. It’s modeled after the 1970 federal racketeering statute that was used to target the Mafia.

Paul Koroluk and Panozzo — convicted burglars — have been in the headlines for years for their reputed ties to the Chicago Outfit.

Eight years ago, they were convicted for their involvement in a crew suspected of stealing everything from jewelry to Lladros porcelain figurines from wealthy victims they allegedly targeted through limo drivers’ tips and yacht club listings, officials say.

Panozzo’s name surfaced recently in the trial of former Chicago Police Officer Steve Mandell, who was convicted in February of plotting to kidnap, kill and dismember a suburban businessman.

The star witness, former North Shore banker George Michael, said Panozzo introduced him to Mandell over lunch at La Scarola restaurant on West Grand Avenue. The FBI recorded the meeting.

Paul Koroluk faced major prison time on charges filed against him in 2011, but he beat that case. He was charged with being an armed habitual criminal and with illegal gun possession, but Cook County Judge Stanley Sacks found him not guilty.

Sources said Koroluk and Panozzo are tied to the Chicago Outfit and the C-Notes street gang located in “The Patch” along Grand Avenue just west of the Loop.

The neighborhood has been home to some of the city’s most infamous mobsters.

Despite his criminal record, Koroluk once served as a local school council member in the neighborhood.

In 2006, Koroluk and Ponozzo were both sentenced to seven years in prison in for burglary and possession of burglary tools. The crew was accused of breaking into north suburban homes and stealing jewelry.

Officers cracked the case when they tracked footprints in the snow from a burglarized Niles home to Koroluk’s car, in which they found two pillowcases filled with jewelry and cash, police said.

Koroluk was found guilty in 1998 in another burglary case. In 1995, he was convicted of possessing a firearm silencer and was served two years in prison.

And in 1986, he was caught with thousands of videos that were allegedly stolen from stores on the West and Northwest Sides. At the time, he was running a video store near Chicago and Damen. Koroluk was convicted of burglary and sentenced to probation.

In the past, Koroluk and his associates were suspected of paying a Secretary of State’s employee $50 bribes to get personal information on victims. No one was charged in connection with that allegation. Sources said police are investigating whether the current case against the Koroluks and Panozzo also involves public corruption.

Copyright CHIST - SunTimes
Contact Us