Alleged Bonanno Associate Pleads Guilty to Narcotics Trafficking Crimes Carrying Sentence of 10 Years to Life
Defendant and his Organization Allegedly Trafficked Cocaine and Marijuana and Laundered Tens of Millions of Dollars in Narcotics Proceeds
John Venizelos, also known as “John V,” “Big Man” and “John from Staten Island,” an alleged associate of the Bonanno organized crime family of La Cosa Nostra, pled guilty earlier today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Joan M. Azrack at the federal courthouse in Brooklyn to drug trafficking charges contained in a superseding indictment returned on April 3, 2013. When sentenced, Venizelos will face a statutory mandatory minimum ten-year sentence and a maximum of life imprisonment. Venizelos will also face a maximum fine of $10 million and will forfeit $148,480 and two firearms that federal agents seized from his residence.
The guilty plea was announced by Loretta E. Lynch, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, and Brian R. Crowell, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration, New York (DEA).
According to the indictment and other court filings submitted by the government, Venizelos was a major Staten Island-based distributor of narcotics for a Canadian narcotics trafficking enterprise. Specifically, Venizelos was charged with narcotics and firearm-related offenses and witness tampering as a part of an indictment in which 10 members of a Montreal-based criminal enterprise that has connections with the Bonanno and Rizutto organized crime families and the Hell’s Angels have been charged with trafficking over $1 billion worth of marijuana and cocaine in the United States. Venizelos was charged with witness tampering in connection with his attempts to dissuade a co-conspirator from cooperating with law enforcement by, among other things, informing the co-conspirator about a $2 million “hit fund” set aside to murder or otherwise retaliate against any individuals who cooperated with the government.
During the course of the investigation, federal agents seized more than 80 kilograms of cocaine and approximately $10,000,000 in suspected drug proceeds. At the time of Venizelos’s arrest, agents discovered narcotics, multiple encrypted Blackberry devices, approximately $150,000 in drug proceeds, and multiple firearms in his residence – including a loaded semi-automatic handgun that had been stolen from a law enforcement officer. During the search of Venizelos’s residence, federal agents also discovered several handwritten letters addressed to Venizelos by an incarcerated associate of organized crime discussing a myriad of violent crimes committed by the author with, or on behalf of, Venizelos, including “a broad daylight kidnaping” and “torture” of an individual Venizelos suspected of stealing his drugs, threats of violence and vicious assaults against customers who owed Venizelos drug debts, and preventing a witness (through threats and intimidation) from positively identifying Venizelos for a crime that would have resulted in him serving “at least 7 years in jail.”
“Venizelos used violence and intimidation to protect his position as a major narcotics distributor. Those who challenged him were threatened, tortured, and beaten. Venizelos’s conviction underscores this Office’s strong commitment to prosecuting drug traffickers who flood our communities with narcotics, especially when those individuals have chosen a life of organized crime,” stated United States Attorney Lynch.” Ms. Lynch extended her grateful appreciation to the Drug Enforcement Administration, the New York Police Department, and New York State Police for their work on the case.
DEA Special Agent-in-Charge Crowell stated, “This is a significant guilty plea. Venizelos chose a life of crime and was involved with an international trafficking organization resulting in the seizure of stolen handguns, 80 kilograms of cocaine, and $10 million in drug cash. Venizelos had his hand in several crimes affecting our communities, and I commend our NYPD Detectives, NYSP Investigators, and Special Agents for their diligence in targeting those responsible for threatening our neighborhoods with drugs and violence.”
The government’s case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Steven L. Tiscione, Gina M. Parlovecchio, Amir H. Toossi, and Tanisha Payne.
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