A former Willow Springs officer facing federal extortion charges died early Monday morning in what officials believe is an apparent suicide.
Gary Engel, 61, was pronounced dead at 1:30 a.m. Monday after officials say he hanged himself in his McHenry County Jail cell, according to federal authorities. A representative at the McHenry County jail declined comment Monday night.
An investigation into the death is ongoing, U.S. Marshals spokeswoman Belkis Cantor said. Engel was scheduled to appear in Dirksen Federal Court on Tuesday for an arraignment on his charges.
On Friday, authorities said they foiled a grisly extortion plot to kidnap, murder and dismember a businessman flush with cash involving Steven Manning -- who now goes by the name Steven Mandell -- and Engel, who was convicted of a kidnapping in Missouri with Manning decades ago.
The two were arrested Thursday evening as they parked near a Northwest Side office where they thought the kidnapping target had arrived for a business deal, authorities said.
The charges announced Friday alleged that the FBI has been secretly recording Manning since last month discussing the plans to abduct and kill a businessman they believed had access to large amounts of cash from real estate holdings -- referred to by authorities only as Victim 1. Manning speculated that the victim, whom they referred to as “Soupy Sales,” generated as much as $100,000 a month in cash from rental properties.
According to the charges, Manning had confided in another individual -- referred to as Individual A -- who apparently tipped off authorities to the scheme.
Manning and Engel are alleged to have planned to pose as police officers and pretend to arrest the victim on a bogus federal warrant. They then intended to take him to a nearby building they called “Club Med,” which they had remodeled to include a large sink and a counter that could hold several hundred pounds. The two plotted to extort as much as $500,000 from the man, then kill him, drain the blood from the body and dismember him, the charges allege.
Manning, 61, of Buffalo Grove, and Engel of Homer Glen, were charged with attempted extortion and conspiracy to commit extortion.