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Mob crook gets 18 years; convicted wife on leave from county job

Paul Koroluk, a leader of a mob-connected crew on the Near West Side, has been sentenced to 18 years in prison for racketeering.

An Outfit-connected career criminal has been sentenced to 18 years in prison in a high-profile racketeering case brought by Cook County prosecutors.

Paul Koroluk, 57, pleaded guilty on June 13 to a felony racketeering charge. He’s currently in Stateville penitentiary.

His wife, Maria Koroluk, was also charged in the investigation, dubbed Operation Crew Cut.

Since she was charged in 2014, she’s been on unpaid leave from her $103,707-a-year job as director of technical review for Cook County Assessor Joe Berrios, according to a spokesman for the office.

Maria Koroluk, 55, was charged with possession of cocaine with intent to distribute — a felony carrying nine to 40 years in prison. Police searched her home on the Near West Side and found 200 grams of cocaine packaged for sale in baggies, along with $12,000 in cash, according to court records.

Maria Koroluk, wife of mob-tied criminal Paul Koroluk, after her 2014 arrest in a racketeering investigation.

Maria Koroluk, wife of mob-tied criminal Paul Koroluk, after her 2014 arrest in a racketeering investigation.

But on June 13, prosecutors dismissed the drug charge and a felony charge of receiving stolen property. She pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of criminal trespass to a vehicle and was sentenced to court supervision.

The assessor’s office hasn’t determined whether she can return to her job, said Tom Shaer, deputy assessor for communications for Berrios. A misdemeanor conviction isn’t an automatic disqualifier, he said.

“It is important to note that Ms. Koroluk’s position is not Shakman-exempt,” he said. “Shakman oversight limits our latitude in hiring and firing such non-exempt employees.”

Paul Koroluk is connected to the Outfit and the C-Notes street gang in “The Patch” along Grand Avenue just west of the Loop — home to some of the city’s most infamous mobsters, prosecutors say.

His alleged partner in crime, Robert Panozzo Sr., continues to face racketeering charges in Cook County Criminal Court and a separate extortion charge in federal court.

Operation Crew Cut was the second racketeering case that Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez brought under 2012 state statute modeled after the 1970 federal racketeering law used to target the Mafia.

“We now have the legal tools that our federal partners have enjoyed for a very long time and we are putting them to work to systematically crack down on violent organized criminal activity as charged in this particular investigation,” Alvarez said in a statement Thursday.

The probe by the Chicago Police and feds was launched in October 2013 after Panozzo and others tried to have a state witness killed, officials say. The witness was preparing to testify against members of the crew in a kidnapping and home invasion case.

Prosecutors say Panozzo and Koroluk ran the “PK street crew,” which allegedly committed home invasions, armed robberies, residential burglaries, insurance fraud, prostitution and other offenses.

The crew used information from gang members to rob drug dealers. The crew members allegedly posed as cops — wearing badges — to steal narcotics from dealers, prosecutors say.

Paul Koroluk and Robert Panozzo Sr. are convicted burglars and have been in the news for years for their reputed connection to the Chicago Outfit.

They have longtime ties to Grand Avenue mob boss Albert “Little Guy” Vena, 68, and imprisoned mob boss Joseph “The Clown” Lombardo, 87, officials say.

They were busted in July 2014 when they raided what they thought was a Mexican drug cartel’s stash house on the Southeast Side. It was actually a police sting. Paul Koroluk has pleaded guilty to that July 2014 attempted holdup, as well as a January 2014 drug rip-off on the Southwest Side and a November 2012 drug rip-off in south suburban Crete.

Four other defendants, William Feliciano, Kevin Koonce, Donald Hines and Jose Contreras, have pleaded guilty to charges in the probe. Feliciano got 18 years in prison; Koonce, 47 years; Hines, 17 years, and Contreras, 22 years.

Charges are pending against Ponozzo’s son, Robert Jr.; Dionisio Garcia, and Jeffrey Hollinghead, the would-be hit man who informed police about the PK crew’s plot to kill a state witness. He started cooperating with authorities in 2013 before he pleaded guilty to a kidnapping and was sentenced to 15 years in prison, sources say.