Photo Courtesy of DOJ
In this October 2006 surveillance photo, Ronnie Giallanzo and Nick Festa meet with an unidentified Colombo captain and associate.
By Michael V. Cusenza
The federal government this month nailed three more Bonanno organized crime family pelts to the wall as reputed acting captain Ronnie Giallanzo and soldier Michael Palmaccio pleaded guilty on Monday to racketeering conspiracy, admitting their involvement in multiple acts of loansharking over 10 years. And on March 8, Bonanno soldier Nicholas “Pudgie” Festa also pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy and admitted to additional acts of loansharking.
A year ago, agents donning the familiar blue-and-maize FBI raid jackets descended on several 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.
Giallanzo, 47, the nephew of Bonanno capo Vinny Asaro, was a high-value target of the Brooklyn U.S. Attorney’s Office. According to charging papers, Giallanzo conducted a lucrative loansharking operation in which he provided money to, among others, Festa and Palmaccio to extend extortionate loans to, and collect from, numerous individuals. Even while incarcerated for several years, 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 was collecting roughly $10,000 a week—in interest alone—and had lent more than $3 million in extortionate loans to customers, according to the feds.
At his guilty plea, Giallanzo admitted to participating in the affairs of the Bonanno family by extending and collecting extortionate loans to five different victims, and agreed to forfeit $1.25 million. As part of his agreement with the government, Giallanzo is also required to sell the Howard Beach mansion he constructed with loansharking proceeds while he was on supervised release stemming from his prior federal conviction.
According to esteemed La Cosa Nostra expert Jerry Capeci, authorities have been preoccupied with confiscating Giallanzo’s 86th Street home.
“’The feds are obsessed with that house Ronnie built; they want him to sell it,’” an attorney with knowledge of the case told Capeci.
“The lawyer was referring to the gangster’s pride and joy, the gorgeous two-story $1.5 million home with brown brick turrets and terraces that he created out of a modest one-story ranch house he bought in 2015,” Capeci wrote in an October 2017 column on his Gang Land News site.
Palmaccio and Festa admitted to participating in the affairs of the Bonanno family by extending and collecting extortionate loans to five victims and two victims, respectively, and each agreed to forfeit $500,000.
Seven codefendants have pleaded guilty in the case. When sentenced, Giallanzo, Palmaccio, and Festa each face a statutory maximum of 20 years’ imprisonment.
“Through their acts of violence, Giallanzo, Palmaccio, and Festa reaped substantial illicit profits at the expense of their loansharking victims,” said Brooklyn U.S. Attorney Richard Donoghue. “With today’s guilty pleas, these defendants are being held responsible for their destructive role in perpetuating organized crime’s presence in the community.”