CHICAGO – A former Chicago police officer accused in a grisly extortion and murder plot has been charged with planning to kill someone else.
Steven Mandell, 61, was arrested in October along with former Willow Springs police officer Gary Engel. Federal prosecutors said the men had plotted to kidnap and torture someone, extort money and then kill and dismember the victim in an office they had equipped with saws and a sink in which to drain the person’s blood.
Mandell and Engel were about to carry out the crime when they were arrested Oct. 25, authorities allege.
In new charges filed this week, prosecutors say Mandell also planned a murder-for-hire Oct. 5. They say Mandell plotted to kill someone in exchange for a portion of revenues from an adult entertainment club.
They also allege that a few days after his Oct. 25 arrest, Mandell called his wife from the Metropolitan Correctional Center downtown Chicago and tried to get her to pick up the car prosecutors say he planned to use in the abduction. According to an indictment filed in U.S. District Court in Chicago, Mandell, of Buffalo Grove, told his wife she would have to “clean it out” and “throw away a lot of stuff.”
Mandell’s defense attorney could not be reached for comment and did not immediately return a phone message.
Mandell has had multiple encounters with the law since he left a 10-year career as a police officer in 1983.
Formerly known as Steven Manning, he was convicted in 1992 for his role in the 1984 kidnapping of two reputed Kansas City drug traffickers and was sentenced to two life terms plus 100 years. He later was cleared of those charges on appeal, and in 2005, he was awarded more than $6.5 million in damages by a federal jury that determined that two FBI agents had framed him for the kidnapping. A federal judge threw out the award in 2006.
In 1993, he was convicted of murdering Jimmy Pellegrino, a suburban Chicago trucking company owner, three years earlier. Mandell spent eight years on death row for that killing before his conviction was overturned.
Prosecutors said in October that Mandell and Engel planned to abduct the victim, who had access to large amounts of cash through a real estate business, by posing as police officers and using “fake arrest documents.” They planned to take the victim to the office they had rented on the northwest side of Chicago, which they called “Club Med.”
After Mandell and Engel were arrested, FBI agents found a loaded semi-automatic pistol, ammunition, zip ties that could be used as restraints, as well as saws and a butcher knife inside the office.
Engel committed suicide while in McHenry County jail in November.