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Saturday, October 11, 2014

Feds argue case is classic extortion in Chicago

Federal prosecutors say the meeting in the Fuddruckers restaurant in Wisconsin was old-school extortion, carried out by two foul-mouthed tough guys sent to collect a debt.

But lawyers for two men charged with arranging the October 2010 encounter and several other alleged extortion attempts on behalf of a suburban businessman say there is no crime in asking someone to pay up money that is owed — even if the person making the request uses some salty language and happens to be physically intimidating.

"Being 300 pounds is not a crime," attorney Nishay Sanan told a federal jury in his closing argument Tuesday at a colorful extortion conspiracy trial. "Having a big head is not a crime. … A fat guy walks into a restaurant, sits down and says, 'F--- you, you owe me some money' … It's offensive, but it's not a crime."

Frank Orlando and Robert McManus are on trial on charges of conspiring to extort money on behalf of Mark Dziuban, who at the time was the vice president of sales for American Litho, a printing company in Carol Stream. Prosecutors have alleged the two enlisted the help of Outfit-connected pizzeria owner Paul Carparelli, who in turn hired beefy former union bodyguard George Brown and plumbing contractor Vito Iozzo to get the job done.

Brown, 51, and Iozzo, 43, each pleaded guilty last month to one count of conspiracy to commit extortion, admitting their roles in several collection attempts that had them jetting off to Wisconsin and New Jersey to find debtors and included one in which a victim was beaten. Dziuban and Carparelli have denied wrongdoing and are awaiting trial.

In one alleged extortion, Brown and Iozzo marched into the owner's office at a Chicago granite company looking to collect on a $500,000 debt, according to Brown's plea agreement with prosecutors. On Brown's signal, a third man, Patrick White, whacked the victim on the head, knocking him to the floor, authorities alleged.

"I told the granite guy, 'Hey motherf-----, this isn't going to go away,'" Brown admitted in a written statement filed in federal court last month. "I hit the granite guy in the head and then White kicked him. I told the granite guy that we had his phone number and that we would be calling him."

In the alleged Wisconsin extortion, Dziuban flew Brown and Iozzo on a private plane to Appleton to confront a business owner about a $100,000 debt his company allegedly owed to American Litho, prosecutors said.

The victim testified last week that he and Dziuban met alone in the back room of a Fuddruckers and he offered to hand over a special edition Ford Mustang as partial payment. Suddenly, Brown and Iozzo walked in, pulled up chairs alongside him and started demanding payment, saying they won't forget what he owes, the victim said.

When Iozzo asked him for an address where the car could be picked up, the victim was "shaking and stuttering" so badly that Iozzo instead grabbed the victim's driver's license and wrote the information down himself, according to Brown's written statement.

The victim testified that after the meeting, he filed a complaint in writing with police about the threats. When the victim had trouble reading the complaint in court, he told jurors he was still shaking when he filled it out and his handwriting was almost illegible.

Sanan, who represents Orlando, told jurors in his argument that the victim had no reason to fear Brown — who testified for prosecutors — and that no direct threats were ever made.

"All you have is a 300-pound guy sitting next to somebody, not on top of them," Sanan said. "And when he left he shook his hand."



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