Five years ago, popular Italian restaurateur Giacomo Ruggirello was found dead in his still-smoldering home after a suspicious fire.
That same night, his storefront eatery a few miles away in Highwood had been burglarized, its safe stolen.
The case remains unsolved, but sources have now told the Chicago Tribune that a video camera hidden by the in a picture frame at a Chicago realty office captured convicted Outfit associate Steven Mandell talking about the fire on the same day it happened.
The man who secretly made the recording for the FBI, real estate agent George Michael, recently told the Tribune that after Mandell mentioned the fire that day, he “leaned over to me and said, ‘Do you think they respect my work now?’”
Mandell is in federal prison on an unrelated conviction and has never been publicly implicated by authorities in connection with the fire.
The FBI would not discuss Mandell’s videotaped comment, and the Highland Park police also declined to answer questions, citing an ongoing criminal probe into Ruggirello’s death. Police reports released by Highland Park through a public records request were almost entirely blacked out.
But two sources in addition to Michael have confirmed that Mandell was indeed caught on undercover video talking about the fire.
Meanwhile, police and autopsy records recently obtained from the Lake County coroner’s office shed new light on the circumstances of Ruggirello’s death, still officially classified as “undetermined.”
Ruggirello was still alive when the inferno consumed his home, according to those reports. The entire security system at his restaurant, Trattoria Giacomo, had been removed, indicating the burglars operated with sophistication, the records show. The restaurateur was known to stash tens of thousands of dollars in cash in the safe....Read more