Updated news on the Gambino, Genovese, Bonanno, Lucchese and Colombo Organized Crime Families of New York City.

Monday, April 29, 2024

Elderly Genovese Captain sentenced to two years in prison for punching steakhouse owner

An elderly mafia capo got two years in prison for socking a Manhattan steakhouse owner to collect a gambling debt, and his lawyer said he had no regrets about the fateful punch.

Federal prosecutors were asking Anthony “Rom” Romanello get a much more serious sentence, nearly seven years, to account for the 86-year-old  Genovese member’s long, mostly unpunished life of crime.

But Romanello’s lawyer, Gerald McMahon, called the charges a “meatball case” that prosecutors sat on for years in the hopes Romanello would do something more serious so they could try and flip him against now-deceased Genovese big Anthony “Tough Tony” Federici.

“When the government asks for 71 months, and the judge gave 24, thank God justice was done in Brooklyn,” an ebullient McMahon said after the sentencing in Brooklyn Federal Court Monday. “His lawyer thinks, beyond any shadow of a doubt, that Rom has no regrets.”

Romanello was convicted in December of extortion-related charges after he punched steakhouse owner Shuqeri “Bruno” Selimaj on May 11, 2017 to collect an $86,000 gambling debt owed by the restaurateur’s kin. The punch, inside Selimaj’s now-closed swanky Lincoln Square Steak, was caught on video.

McMahon argued that his elderly client punched Selimaj because the restaurateur called him a “washed-up Italian.”

“What would Gerry McMahon do? I would have knocked him flat out,” the defense lawyer told reporters Monday.

The confrontation happened after Selimaj’s nephew, Toni, and the nephew’s brother-in-law, Eddie, lost big gambling with a Queens ring run by bookie Michael Regan, according to prosecutors.

Romanello, a regular at Selimaj’s restaurants, knew all the parties involved, and was brought in to resolve the debt — which he did in three menacing visits over two months, prosecutors allege.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Dana Rehnquist characterized Romanello as a lifelong career criminal who hasn’t held legitimate work since the 1960s. In a letter to Judge Eric Komitte, she argued that Romanello was convicted of 23 crimes over his life, but only sentenced to 36 months.

He got no jail time for bribing cops in the 1970s, three years for a $900,000 armed robbery in the 1980s, and probation in 2007 and 2012 for obstruction of justice and racketeering conspiracy.

In a one-sentence response letter, McMahon referred to Rehnquist’s arguments as “unhinged screeching” — a description Rehnquist took issue with Monday.

“This is about a defendant who lived his whole life as someone who commits crimes,” Rehnquist told the judge on Monday. “What this defendant did was illegal … and the defendant has never understood that, because he’s never been held accountable for his crimes.”

She also suggested that a longer sentence would put other aging La Cosa Nostra members on notice. “He can’t use old age as a shield to not be punished,” she said.

Two members of Romanello’s family booed the prosecutors as they left the courtroom after the sentencing.

McMahon also blasted the victim’s family as degenerate gamblers who collected $300,000 from Regan when their bets paid off, but refused to pay $86,000 when they lost.

“On the street, street justice would say that those guys deserve a far bigger beating than what was administered to Bruno,” he said. “They know it’s a meatball case. It’s a nothing case.”

He said prosecutors waited on the charges for more than four years, but Romanello never committed any new crimes. Romanello even skipped last year’s big Genovese crime family Christmas party while he was out on bail, McMahon said.

“He’s pretty much been out of the life. He certainly intends to stay out of the life,” McMahon said.

Romanello’s been in jail since December, which means he’ll likely be released in 15 months with good time.

Komitte said he hoped Romanello manages to uphold the law for the rest of his golden years. “We all know people are living well into their 90s these days, sometimes their hundreds,” he said. “I have every confidence as I sit here today that the meaning of this sentence, as reduced as it is, has come through clearly.

Romanello’s co-defendant, Joseph Celso, had his sentencing adjourned until next month.



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