Disgraced banker star witness in conspiracy trial of ex-Chicago cop

Feb. 10, 2014 at 10:15 AM
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CHICAGO, Feb. 10 (UPI) -- A disgraced Chicago banker and tax evader is the star witness in the murder conspiracy trial of an ex-police officer who was a death-row inmate, officials said.

The sensational past of real estate mogul George Michael would make his credibility a target for attorneys defending Steve Mandell, who is accused of plotting to kidnap and kill a businessman, in the trial beginning Monday, the Chicago Tribune reported.

Michael, 59, worked undercover for the FBI, helping agents produce dozens of audio and video tapes in which Mandell allegedly laid out his plans to kidnap Franklin Quaranta, part owner of a mob-connected strip club, the report said.

In casual conversations with Michael, Mandell, a former Chicago police officer, allegedly details how he would abduct Quaranta, force him to hand over cash and his share of the club, then kill him and cut his body into pieces, the Tribune said.

Based on those recordings and other evidence, the FBI arrested Mandell in October 2012 just as the plot was put into motion, the report said.

Authorities say they believe Mandell may be linked to as many as eight murders dating back to the 1980s. He had a conviction that landed him on death row overturned a decade ago. He had filed -- and won -- a lawsuit alleging the FBI framed him.

Michaeland his brother, Robert, lost control of Citizens Bank and Trust several years ago after a federal administrative law judge charged they had violated banking regulations.

In 2008, Michael was granted an $80,000 tax exemption after he descried his lakeside mansion as an Armenian church. An appeals court ruled his claim was a fraud and in 2010 the county billed him for $250,000 in back taxes.

In 2001, he was the subject of a sexual harassment lawsuit.

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