Earlier today, a 37-count indictment was unsealed in United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York charging 10 members and associates of the Bonanno organized crime family of La Cosa Nostra (the “Bonanno family”) with racketeering conspiracy, including predicate acts of murder conspiracy, attempted murder, extortion, illegal gambling, robbery conspiracy, arson conspiracy, narcotics distribution conspiracy and obstruction of justice conspiracy. The indictment relates to the defendants’ alleged criminal activities in Howard Beach, Queens, and elsewhere between January 1998 and March 2017.
The defendants -- Ronald “Ronnie G.” Giallanzo, an acting captain in the Bonanno family, Michael Padavona, Michael Palmaccio and Nicholas “Pudgie” Festa, soldiers in the Bonanno family, and Christopher “Bald Chris” Boothby, Evan “The Jew” Greenberg, Richard Heck, Michael Hintze, Robert “Chippy” or “Chip” Tanico, and Robert Pisani, associates of the Bonanno family -- were arrested earlier today and are scheduled to be arraigned this afternoon before Magistrate Judge Vera M. Scanlon in Brooklyn federal court. The case has been assigned to United States District Judge Dora L. Irizarry.
The charges were announced by Bridget M. Rohde, Acting United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York and William F. Sweeney, Jr., Assistant Director-in-Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Division (FBI).
The indictment is the result of a long-term investigation, with evidence gathered through a variety of methods including wiretap recordings of the defendants, cooperating witnesses, government and public records, electronic evidence and visual surveillance, all of which revealed a pattern of violence and intimidation that the defendants employed to further their enterprise's economic interests.
“Today’s arrests reveal La Costra Nostra’s continued presence in the community. Through acts of violence, including murder conspiracy, loansharking, illegal gambling, robbery and other offenses, the defendants are alleged to have amassed a fortune in ill-gotten gains. With these arrests, the defendants will be held accountable for their wide-ranging and destructive conduct,” said Acting United States Attorney Rohde. Ms. Rohde thanked the Queens District Attorney's Office, New York City Police Department, United States Probation Department of the Eastern District of New York and the Social Security Administration, Office of the Inspector General, for their assistance on the investigation.
“The Mafia hasn’t stopped operating and the crimes these members are charged with today proves that. To put an end to their brand of violence and criminal behavior, the FBI/NYPD Joint Organized Crime Task Force will continue pursuing them with every tool we have. I’d like to commend the work of the agents and detectives who put much time and effort into this investigation,” said Assistant Director-in-Charge Sweeney.
As alleged in the indictment and detention memo, Giallanzo, an acting captain in the Bonanno family, conducted a lucrative loansharking operation in which he provided money to, among others, defendants Festa, Palmaccio, Padavona, Hintze and Heck to extend extortionate loans to, and collect from, numerous individuals. Even while incarcerated, Giallanzo kept watch over his illicit loansharking book, directing his associates to commit acts of violence to ensure that the customers paid the exorbitant weekly interest rate. At one point, Giallanzo had lent over $3 million in extortionate loans to customers. Padavona, a Bonanno soldier, also conducted his own loansharking business with defendants Greenberg and Tanico.
The indictment alleges multiple counts involving threats and acts of violence to collect debts owed to Giallanzo and his associates.
For instance, in May 2013, within one month of his release from prison, Giallanzo ordered an associate of the Bonanno family (“Associate-1”) to bring to him a loanshark customer who owed Giallanzo $250,000 but had not been making the required weekly interest payments. Giallanzo and Associate-1 placed the victim in Associate-1’s car and beat him until the customer soiled himself, while Giallanzo screamed, “Where’s the f-----g money?”
As another example, in June 2014, Greenberg described to a customer that he used acts of violence to collect payments. He said, “I get my s--t. I blow cars up. I f------g knock on people’s doors. I pull them out of their f------g house.” Greenberg went on to describe his assault of another victim who was late paying a debt. “I f-----g grabbed another kid walking out of his house. I was like, he was like, ‘What’s up?’ I say, ‘What’s up?’ I grabbed him by the ankles, I f------g went like this, his head hit the concrete.”
As a result of their illegal activities, including loansharking, illegal gambling, robbery, extortion and other offenses, the defendants earned over $26 million in illicit proceeds, which the indictment alleges will be subject to forfeiture if the defendants are convicted. In addition to the cash proceeds of the racketeering conduct, the indictment further alleges that the houses belonging to defendants Giallanzo, Padavona, Palmaccio and Festa, and one of Pisani’s businesses, are subject to forfeiture.
Murder Conspiracy/Attempted Murder
In addition to the extortion charges, the indictment charges Giallanzo and Padavona with participating in a plot to murder an individual in the summer of 2006. Giallanzo, who at the time was on pre-trial release for a previous case filed in this District, ordered the murder of the victim because, among other reasons, the victim had robbed members of Giallanzo’s crew. The dispute lasted several months, during which Giallanzo’s crew and the victim shot at each other on the streets of Howard Beach on several occasions.
Obstruction of Justice and Perjury
Padavona and Tanico are separately charged with conspiring and attempting to obstruct the federal grand jury proceeding into their criminal activities by coordinating false testimony by Tanico. According to wiretap evidence, in April 2014, after Tanico was subpoenaed, he contacted Bonanno soldier Padavona and solicited his help. Padavona then contacted Tanico’s attorney and arranged to meet to pay Tanico’s legal fees. The next day, Tanico lied in the grand jury, falsely claiming that he had not spoken with Padavona about the subpoena.
If convicted of the racketeering or loansharking offenses, the defendants face a maximum of 20 years in prison. If convicted of the obstruction of justice offenses, Padavona and Tanico face a maximum of 20 years in prison. If convicted of operating an illegal gambling business, Giallanzo, Boothby and Pisani face a maximum of 5 years in prison. If convicted of perjury, Tanico faces a maximum of 5 years in prison.
The government’s case is being prosecuted by the Office’s Organized Crime & Gangs Section. Assistant United States Attorneys Nicole Argentieri, Lindsay K. Gerdes, Keith D. Edelman and Alicyn L. Cooley are in charge of the prosecution, with assistance provided by Assistant United States Attorney Tanya Y. Hill of the Office’s Asset Forfeiture Unit.
E.D.N.Y. Docket No. 17-CR-155 (DLI