Weather Updates

Buffalo Grove man set up killing chamber: feds

Steven Mandell formerly known as “Steven Manning” Buffalo Grove was charged with attempted extorticonspiracy commit extorticriminal complaint filed Friday. |

Steven Mandell, formerly known as “Steven Manning,” of Buffalo Grove, was charged with attempted extortion and conspiracy to commit extortion in a criminal complaint filed Friday. | Sun-Times Media file photo

storyidforme: 39079627
tmspicid: 14401372
fileheaderid: 6585073

Updated: December 26, 2012 1:25AM

CHICAGO — A former Chicago cop sentenced to Death Row, but later released has been arrested and charged in a plot to abduct, extort, murder and dismember a victim whom he believed had large amounts of cash from commercial real estate holdings.

Steven Mandell, formerly known as “Steven Manning,” 61, of Buffalo Grove, was charged with attempted extortion and conspiracy to commit extortion in a criminal complaint filed Friday in U.S. District Court. He was ordered held in a federal lockup by a judge.

Also charged was Gary Engel, 61, of Homer Glen. He was a former Willow Springs police officer.

The feds alleged in court documents the men planned to first rob the unidentified victim — and then bring him to an office they referred to as “Club Med.” The office had been outfitted by Mandell as a killing and dismembering chamber, complete with a large sink, large counter, saws and a butcher knife, the feds alleged.

Both Mandell and Engel were arrested Thursday night while on their way to the planned abduction, the feds said.

Authorities allege the two men planned to impersonate cops and arrest the victim while he met with a man identified only as “Individual A.”

According to the feds, both men were nabbed with “prop” firearms and fake law enforcement credentials.

Engel had handcuffs and Mandell a fake arrest document that appeared to name the victim as a criminal defendant, according to court documents.

After the arrests, FBI agents searched the location where the ex-cops allegedly planned to carry out their plans and found a loaded .22-caliber semi-automatic pistol, ammo, as well as saws, a butcher knife and multiple zip-ties suitable for use as restraints.

Authorities allege the men planned to rob the victim, then drive him to a nearby office — which they referred to as “Club Med” — and kill him.

During the past month, the feds allege Mandell outfitted the “Club Med” location with a large deep sink, a long counter capable of supporting several hundred pounds and a shower.

He met there with Engel over three days this week to plan how they would abduct the victim while posing as police officers and how they would restrain and dismember him, the feds alleged.

Authorities said they have audio and video recordings to back up their case. On one — on Oct. 10 — Mandell discussed the plot with Individual A, saying, “My guy knows what he’s doing, he knows how to waterboard, do interrogation, psy-ops,” according to the affidavit.

When Mandell and Engel met at the extortion location this week, they allegedly discussed using the counter and sink area to drain the victim’s blood before dismembering the body, the feds said.

In 1993, Mandell/Manning was convicted of the 1990 murder of trucking firm owner Jimmy Pellegrino and sentenced to death. He also was convicted in a separate kidnapping case in Missouri.

His convictions were later overturned, and state prosecutors declined to retry him. Manning sued agents Robert Buchan and Gary Miller, alleging they framed him. He claimed the FBI targeted him after he balked at working as an undercover informant.

He won a $6.5 million judgment — but never collected on it after a judge overturned it.

Manning has been controversial for years. He was fired from his job as a Chicago cop, and his father was murdered — the killer never was caught. Associates of Manning’s also have disappeared.

© 2014 Sun-Times Media, LLC. All rights reserved. This material may not be copied or distributed without permission. For more information about reprints and permissions, visit To order a reprint of this article, click here.