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Federal agents met early Tuesday morning at this Starbucks parking lot on Cross Bay Boulevard prior to executing the arrest warrants
By Michael V. Cusenza
Federal authorities recently turned back the clock on Howard Beach, charging more than a dozen residents of the southern borough enclave with a slew of violent crimes across three separate indictments in less than a week.
On Tuesday, just six days after hauling Bonanno Crime Family captain Vincent Asaro, John J. Gotti, and five others into Brooklyn federal court to face two indictments on charges of robbery, attempted robbery, arson and arson conspiracy, agents donning the familiar blue-and-maize FBI raid jackets descended on several targeted Howard Beach homes, executing arrest warrants after a 37-count indictment was unsealed charging 10 members and associates of the Bonannos 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 defendants include 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 six Bonanno associates. All were arraigned in Brooklyn on Tuesday.
According to Acting Eastern District of New York U.S. Attorney Bridget Rohde, 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 in Howard Beach and elsewhere between January 1998 and March 2017.
The 51-page indictment alleges that Giallanzo conducted a lucrative loansharking operation in which he provided money to, among others, Festa, Palmaccio, and Padavona, 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, the indictment states.
One of those acts of violence occurred in May 2013, the indictment alleges. Giallanzo ordered an associate of the Bonanno family to bring to him a loanshark customer who owed Giallanzo $250,000, but had not been making the required weekly interest payments. Giallanzo and the associate placed the victim in a car and beat him until the customer soiled himself, while Giallanzo screamed, “Where’s the f—–g money?!?!”
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 the Eastern District, ordered the murder of the victim because, among other reasons, the victim had robbed members of Giallanzo’s crew. The dispute lasted months, during which Giallanzo’s crew and the victim shot at each other on the streets of Howard Beach on several occasions.
Also, Rohde noted, 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 and businesses belonging to several defendants are subject to forfeiture.
“Today’s arrests reveal La Costra Nostra’s continued presence in the community,” Rohde added. “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.”
If convicted of the racketeering or loansharking offenses, the defendants face a maximum of 20 years in prison.
“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 FBI New York Assistant Director-in-Charge Bill Sweeney.