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Press Release

Park Ridge Man Sentenced to 14 Years in Prison for Conspiring to Commit Extortion

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Northern District of Illinois

ROCKFORD — A Park Ridge man was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Philip G. Reinhard to 14 years in federal prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release, for conspiring to commit extortion. 

ROBERT PANOZZO, 59, pleaded guilty to the charge on June 19, 2019. According to a written plea agreement, from Jan. 1, 2005, through Dec. 20, 2009, Panozzo conspired with JOSEPH D. ABBOTT, 40, formerly of Park City, and others, to extort money from an individual by actual and threatened force, violence, and fear. 

The sentence was announced by John R. Lausch, Jr., United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois. The case was investigated by the Chicago office of the FBI.  The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Scott R. Paccagnini.

In 2005, Panozzo loaned money to the individual.  In 2006, the individual paid Panozzo in cash, which the individual believed was the last in a series of payments that satisfied his loans from Panozzo.  However, Panozzo told the individual that $100,000 was still owed as interest from the previous loans.  Panozzo admitted in the plea agreement that he recruited Abbott and others to cause harm to the individual and his property in order to coerce the individual to repay the loans from Panozzo.  On Oct. 5, 2006, Panozzo, Abbott and others confronted the individual at his place of business in McHenry County and demanded payment of the outstanding loans.  When the individual said he could not do so, Panozzo, Abbott and others struck the individual, causing injuries to his head and arms that required medical treatment.

Panozzo was incarcerated in the Illinois Department of Corrections from Nov. 3, 2006, to Sept. 25, 2008.  Panozzo admitted that after his release from IDOC and throughout 2009, he repeatedly called and left voicemail messages for the victim, demanding that he either pay off his loans or meet with Panozzo to discuss repayment.  On Feb. 8 and 11, 2009, Abbott left a note at the victim’s residence in McHenry County, demanding repayment of the $100,000.  Later that month, Abbott used a flammable liquid to set fire to a Dodge Caravan that was parked in the driveway of the victim’s residence.  Panozzo admitted that he had paid Abbott to set fire to the victim’s van.  On March 3, 2009, Panozzo called the victim’s residence and left a voicemail message that announced Panozzo intended to arrive at the victim’s residence within one hour. In April 2009, Panozzo and the victim engaged in a series of conversations in which Panozzo demanded repayment. On April 8, 2009, Abbott used an incendiary device to set fire to the contents of several trash cans and the garage located at the victim’s residence.  Panozzo also admitted that he had paid Abbott to “blow up” the victim’s residence.

Abbott was sentenced on July 26, 2019, to six and a half years in federal prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release, for conspiring to commit extortion.

Updated September 27, 2019

Violent Crime