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Press Release

Two Defendants Convicted of Extortionate Collection of Credit in which Victim was Punched in Face

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of New York
Defendants Used Intimidation and Force to Collect a Gambling Debt

Today, a federal jury in Brooklyn convicted Anthony Romanello, also known as “Rom,” of extortionate collection of credit and conspiracy to commit the same in connection with a gambling debt, and convicted Joseph Celso of conspiracy to commit extortionate collection of credit.  The verdict followed a one-week trial before United States District Judge Eric R. Komitee.  When sentenced, Romanello faces up to 40 years in prison and Celso faces up to 20 years in prison.

Breon Peace, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, and James Smith, Assistant Director-in-Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office (FBI), announced the verdict. 

“Today’s verdict upholds the rule of law and demonstrates the defendants’ violent and brazen conduct will not be tolerated,” stated United States Attorney Peace.  “I commend the jury for holding the defendants accountable for their crimes.”

As proven at trial, from March 2017 to June 2017, Romanello, Celso, and co-defendant Luan Bexheti conspired to use extortionate means to collect an unpaid gambling debt owed by John Doe #2 and a family member.  Romanello and Celso used threats and violence in repeated attempts to collect the debt from John Doe #1, a relative of John Doe #2.  Romanello confronted John Doe #1 three separate times to demand money in satisfaction of the debt.  On the third time, Romanello and Celso went to John Doe #1’s restaurant in Manhattan to again demand the money.  After John Doe #1 stated that he would only pay a portion of the amount Romanello was demanding, Romanello punched John Doe #1 in the face.  John Doe #1 reported the assault to the New York City Police Department.  The next day, Celso warned John Doe #2, John Doe #1’s brother, that if John Doe #1 did not drop the criminal charge against Romanello, the situation would escalate and “things would get ugly.”  After John Doe #2 told John Doe #1 about the warning, John Doe #1 withdrew his complaint with the NYPD. 

Luan Bexheti pleaded guilty in October 2023 to extortionate collection of credit conspiracy in connection with the same debt and is awaiting sentencing.

The government’s case is being handled by the Office’s Organized Crime and Gangs Section.  Assistant United States Attorneys Dana Rehnquist, Irisa Chen and Rebecca Schuman are in charge of the prosecution with the assistance of Paralegal Specialist Theodore Rader.

The Defendants:

Age:  86
Franklin Square, New York

Age: 50
Queens, New York

Additional Defendant Who Previously Pleaded Guilty:

Age:  51
Queens, New York

E.D.N.Y. Docket No. 22-CR-194 (EK)


John Marzulli                                       
Danielle Blustein Hass
United States Attorney’s Office
(718) 254-6323

Updated December 11, 2023

Labor & Employment
Violent Crime