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Kidnapper tells of threats, pit bulls, more in case against ex-cop

Glenn Lewellen covers his face as he leaves the Dirksen Federal Building Monday November 21, 2011. Lewellen is accused of being the inside man for a brutal drug dealer. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

A convicted kidnapper described the brutal techniques of his trade – including a threat to snip off the toes of one victim – during the trial of a former Chicago cop and five other men in federal court Monday.

Fares Umar testified that he participated in at least four abductions with the ex-officer, Glenn Lewellen. One case involved the 2003 kidnapping of a landscaper who was also a reputed drug dealer.

Umar said he and Lewellen snatched the man outside his home in west suburban Lyons. Lewellen allegedly wore a bulletproof vest and badge and carried a gun. Umar said he posed as an undercover cop, too.

They hog tied the victim with plastic restraints and asked where he stored his drugs and money, but the man refused to say, Umar testified. So the victim was taken to a South Side garage for more intense questioning, according to Umar.

Saul Rodriguez – the convicted drug kingpin Umar and the others allegedly worked with – asked Umar to torture the man, Umar said.

“He wanted me to cut the guy’s toes off – one toe at a time,” Umar said. “I said ‘I don’t want to do it.’ ”

Still, Umar said he bluffed, placing lawn shears on the man’s little toe and threatening to chop it off. He said the man boldly responded: “Do what you’re going to do.”

Umar said he then changed tactics: He delivered at least three vicious punches to the man’s abdomen, possibly breaking some ribs. That’s when the man confessed that a huge load of cocaine was stored in the trunk of his car, Umar testified.

Umar said he freed the man on Lower Wacker Drive after the cocaine was retrieved. He said he told the man to count to 100 to give himself time to get away.

Umar said in other kidnappings, he would slide under a van, pretending to fix it. When his victims would try to get in their cars, he would leap up and wrestle them into the van, said the burly kidnapper, who is tattooed with his nickname, “Sumo.”

But Umar’s most unusual technique involved a victim who owned a Chicago rim shop. Rodriguez knew the man and asked Umar to kidnap him, Umar said.

Umar testified that he waited outside the man’s Northwest Side home, pretending to be homeless. He said he sat on a milk carton for hours, sipping on a 40-ounce bottle of malt liquor next to a shopping cart that he brought along as a prop. His fellow kidnappers waited in an alley in a van, he said.

To signal them, they decided he would roll the shopping cart into the alley, and they would zoom up to snatch their victim, Umar testified.

Umar said they wound up obtaining a $1 million ransom from the kidnapped man and stealing his $18,000 Rolex watch. To keep the man from trying to escape, Umar said he left him in a garage with a pit bull. But the victim didn’t know the dog was harmless, Umar said.

“He’s scared of squirrels,” Umar said.

Umar said he was paid hundreds of thousands of dollars by Rodriguez for his role in the alleged kidnappings.

Umar has pleaded guilty to his role in the kidnappings and agreed to testify against the other defendants.

Rodriguez has also pleaded guilty and agreed to testify. He was initially a police informant for Lewellen in the mid-1990s before they became partners in crime, prosecutors allege. Lewellen, who retired from the police force in 2003, was also in the real-estate business with Rodriguez.

Three other defendants on trial – the brothers Manuel, Jorge and Hector Uriate – allegedly participated in some of the kidnappings Umar detailed Monday.

But the other two defendants on trial, Tony Sparkman and Robert Cardena, weren’t accused of those crimes.