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Ex-cop charged with extortion found dead in McHenry County Jail

WOODSTOCK – A former police officer charged with extortion as part of an alleged murder plot appears to have committed suicide by hanging himself inside his cell at the McHenry County Jail, officials said.

Gary Engel, 61, was one of about 50 inmates being housed at the jail on behalf of the U.S. Marshal's office, according to the McHenry County Sheriff's Office.

He was found unresponsive in his cell during a routine check at about 1 a.m. Monday, Undersheriff Andrew Zinke said.

Engel was pronounced dead at the jail at 1:32 a.m., McHenry County Coroner Marlene Lantz said. An autopsy was performed and determined that he died by hanging.

Toxicology results are still pending and typically take several weeks.

There were no indications that Engel was suicidal and he was not on any type of special watch, Zinke said.

Engel was an officer with the Willows Springs Police Department in the 1970s who had multiple prior convictions. In 1991, he was prosecuted in Missouri on kidnapping and armed criminal action charges, and ultimately sentenced to 90 years in prison, but the conviction was reversed.

Engel, of Homer Glen, and Steven Mandell, formerly known as Steven Manning, of Buffalo Grove, were arrested Thursday.

Mandell also is a former police officer. He worked for the Chicago Police Department for about 10 years until 1983.

They are accused of plotting to abduct, extort, murder and dismember a victim who they believed had access to large amounts of cash generated from commercial real estate holdings.

The men were arrested as they traveled to the planned abduction on Chicago's northwest side with a plot to pose as police to arrest the victim, who was referred to as "Soupie Sales," according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

FBI agents said they found a fake arrest document with the name of the intended victim, as well as a pistol and ammunition, saws, a butcher knife, and zip-ties suitable for restraints.

The men allegedly planned to take the victim to an office they referred to as "Club Med," which had been outfitted with a sink, counter capable of supporting several hundred pounds, and a shower.

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