FBI Foil Abduction Plot
by CYRYL JAKUBOWSKI
Chicago FBI agents raided a real estate office in the 6300 block of North Milwaukee Avenue on Oct. 25 and arrested two men, allegedly thwarting an extortion and murder plot.
The arrests followed an investigation that began in September which used recorded conversations with an informant who was identified in court documents as “Individual A” as well as video surveillance and conversations that the FBI says show the intent of the suspects. The Chicago Tribune identified the man who aided the FBI as real estate agent George Michael, who has an office at 6315 N. Milwaukee Ave.
The suspects were identified in court documents filed on Oct. 26 as Steven Mandell, age 61, of Buffalo Grove, and Gary Engel, age 61, of Homer Glen.
Engel, who was a Willow Springs police officer in the 1970s and who had many run-ins with the law, was found hanging in his cell dead of an apparent suicide at the McHenry County Jail earlier this month after he was charged in the extortion and murder plot, according to published reports.
Mandell formerly was known as Steve Manning. He worked as a Chicago police officer for 10 years before he resigned in 1983, according to the FBI affidavit. He pleaded guilty that year to charges relating to an insurance fraud scheme, and he was convicted of burglary in 1987 and sentenced to 4 years in prison, according to the FBI.
Mandell later was convicted in Illinois of first degree murder and sentenced to death, but his conviction was reversed by the Illinois Supreme Court and he sued two agents on the grounds that they framed him and a jury awarded him $6.5 million, according to the FBI.
Mandell also was convicted of kidnapping in Missouri and sentenced to an effective term of life imprisonment, and that conviction was reversed by the U.S. Court of Appeals, according to the FBI.
The 24-page affidavit summarizes the plans of the two men from recorded conversations. Mandell had multiple conversations with the informant about a plan to lure the victim to the informant’s business, abduct him with Engel while posing as police officers, extort money from him, and then kill him and dismember his body at an office in the 5300 block of West Devon Avenue, according to the affidavit.
The storefront is at 5308 W. Devon Ave., next door to Moher’s Pub and across the street and in the same block as the Edgebrook Library.
In one recorded meeting, Mandell explains how he would abduct the man from the realty office, then steal his car and his cell phone and drive to the man’s residence with the phone pinging off towers in order to confuse an investigation of the man’s disappearance, according to the FBI.
On Oct. 25 the men drove to the informant’s office while the victim’s vehicle was parked outside, which is when agents arrested them, according to the FBI.
The two were in possession of false law enforcement identification, fake firearms, handcuffs and a forged warrant, according to the FBI. A search of Devon Avenue building revealed a loaded firearm, ammunition, restraints, a butcher knife and saws suitable for the dismemberment of the victim, according to the FBI.