An aging crime figure was shot dead here last night, becoming the latest victim in a new wave of violence in Chicago's underworld.
Police said Charles (Chuckie) English, 74, a longtime bookmaker and racketeer, was shot between the eyes as he walked to his Cadillac after dining alone at a suburban restaurant frequented by senior crime figures.
His assailants, two men wearing ski masks, escaped.
It was the third gangland-style slaying here this year, and the second in a week. The killing came on the eve of the 56th anniversary of the St. Valentine's Day Massacre, in which seven Chicago mob- sters were machine-gunned by their ri- vals.
Law enforcement authorities are investigating possible connections between English's death and the killing of Hal C. Smith, a major underworld figure in sports betting, who was found in the trunk of his Cadillac on Sunday.
Smith, 48, had been tortured and strangled.
On Jan. 10, Leonard R. Yaras, 44, described as a bagman for independent bookmakers on the North Side, was shot to death in his car outside a laundry of which he was part owner.
"Maybe somebody is trying to consolidate all the gambling in the city," said James M. Bittman, Internal Revenue Service regional director and a member of the U.S. Justice Department's Organized Crime Strike Force here. He refused to speculate further.
Authorities have said they believe that Joseph (Joe Nagaul) Ferriola, identified by investigators as gambling chief of the local syndicate, may be moving to establish unquestioned control of his specialty.
"They have their own ways of settling disagreements," Bittman said.
The outbreak of violence comes as the Chicago mobs face various unusual challenges from authorities.
The strike force has been investigating corruption in the nation's third-largest city for nearly a decade.
A number of major crime figures have been indicted in cases built from wiretaps and other surveillance.
A federal case is pending in Kansas City on illegal skimming of profits from Las Vegas casinos. A number of Chicago's top crime figures have been implicated in that investigation.
In addition, investigators have spent months questioning Ken Eto, once boss of the city's bolita racket, a numbers game. Eto was shot repeatedly in the head in an assassination attempt but survived and turned informer.
Pat Healy, head of the Chicago Crime Commission, speculated that Eto's information has given authorities "the chance to squeeze some of these guys. And the older men don't want to go to jail anymore. They think they're too old. They don't want to finish their lives behind bars."
English (born Charles Carmen Inglesia) was believed to be syndicate chief Sam Giancana's top lieutenant in the 1960s. Giancana was slain in the basement of his home in 1975.
Authorities say the men who arranged Giancana's assassination also stripped English of several illegal businesses he owned.
English left Chicago for Florida some years ago, and is said to have run a small gambling operation there.
He long has been regarded by authorities here as a retiree.
English also had close ties to Joseph (Joey the Clown) Lombardo, an organized crime chief who is now imprisoned.
"You'd think it would be the time for the golden years," said Healy. "But it doesn't turn out that way."
The English slaying is gangland's biggest since the shooting two years ago of Allen M. Dorfman, an attorney who amassed a fortune while representing a Teamsters union pension fund.
Coincidentally, it was reported today that U.S. authorities and the Dorfman family have agreed to an out-of-court settlement of allegations that Dorfman amassed millions of dollars illegally by siphoning from the fund.