On the street they speedily tore through red lights and stop signs to lose investigators on their tail, but in Cook County court Tuesday, the three alleged burglars shuffled into court in stocking feet.
The crew, allegedly led by Paul Koroluk, is well-known to Chicago and suburban investigators. Some say they have been around for more than 20 years, circumventing home security systems - mostly in the affluent north and northwest suburbs - for takes of jewelry, money and sometimes fur.
They've been called a premier burglary ring in the Midwest and have also been said to be linked to the Chicago Outfit.
On Saturday they were arrested by a team of north suburban investigators who'd been trailing them for six months, prosecutors said.
Koroluk along with Robert Panozzo and Brian David were each charged with residential burglary for two break-ins Saturday, one in Niles and one in Morton Grove, prosecutors said. They appeared in bond court Tuesday in their stocking feet because their shoes had been kept for evidence, investigators said.
Koroluk, 56, and Panozzo, 44, have been out on bond since last year after they were charged for a burglary in north suburban Northfield. On Tuesday, Cook County Judge Daniel Jordan ordered the two held for violating their original bond.
David, 30, just a child when others in the crew allegedly began operating, was ordered held on $100,000 bond.
'Stroke Of Luck'
Investigators believe the group has been very active for the past year since the charges against Koroluk and Panozzo. On Saturday investigators lucked into exactly what they needed - catching the crew in the act, authorities said.
"We've been looking into them for a while and we stumbled across them," said one team member, who did not want his name used. "An absolute stroke of luck."
The break came Saturday evening while an investigator was on his way to another surveillance job, an investigator said. The team member, while driving through Niles, happened to pull up behind two alleged members of the crew, recognized them and alerted his team members. Meanwhile, he followed the two into Morton Grove.
There, the investigators allegedly caught the group stealing jewelry from a home. Koroluk, Panozzo and David all were caught at the house; a fourth person got away, team members said.
Items from a burglary in Niles the crew is believed to have pulled off earlier that day also were recovered in Morton Grove, prosecutors said. Jewelry and money, including cash and bicentennial coins, were recovered from two vehicles parked outside the house, he said.
Police also recovered burglary tools, prosecutors said. That could be a key recovery because the tools could link the crew to other burglaries, investigators said.
Koroluk, of Chicago, has been convicted of possession of burglary tools, unlawful use of a weapon, theft and burglary. Panozzo, of Park Ridge, has been convicted of residential burglary and unlawful use of a weapon, a spokeswoman from the Cook County state's attorney's office said. And David, also from Park Ridge, has been arrested for burglary, possession of burglary tools and theft, prosecutors said.
Koroluk and Panozzo both own buildings in Chicago. Koroluk also served on a local school council at Mitchell School, 2233 W. Ohio, in the late 1990s.