Former bodyguard George Brown and plumber Vito Iozzo walked into meeting with a debtor at a Wisconsin chain restaurant barehanded in 2010 — and came out with the keys to the debtor’s prized Shelby Ford Mustang.
But just because the beefy, heavyset Brown cursed and scared the debtor, that didn’t make it extortion, defense attorney Nishay Sanan said during a memorable closing argument at the end of a weeklong federal criminal trial Tuesday.
“Being 300 pounds is not a crime,” Sanan said.
“Having a big head is not a crime.
“Saying ‘f – – -’ is not a crime.”
If those things were crimes, the barrel-chested attorney boomed, “I’d be charged with extortion.”
“I’m fat!” he said, motioning to his own “big head” and adding, “I’m shouting!”
Sanan — whose performance had jurors and U.S. District Judge Edmond Chang chuckling — is defending Schaumburg resident Frank Orlando, who along with co-defendant Robert McManus is accused of conspiring to commit extortion to collect debts on behalf of Mark Dziuban’s Carol Stream printing business American Litho.
Brown testified against Orlando, 48, and McManus, 44, in return for the promise of a reduced sentence, admitting he had acted as muscle for the extortion scheme. But Sanan said he was a “liar” who was just trying to save himself.
“All you have is a 300-pound guy going into a restaurant and sitting next to somebody, not on top of them!” Sanan said, adding that Brown shook the debtor’s hand when he left.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Heather McShain, though, told jurors that Orlando and McManus’ actions were no joke. They teamed up with alleged Outfit-connected Bloomingdale pizzeria owner Paul Carparelli, she said, adding that the scheme was “about greed and about fear.”
McManus had donned a disguise in an attempted intimidation of a New Jersey business, she said. And the co-defendants also attempted to use the threat of violence to collect debts from businesses in Nevada and Wisconsin, she said.
But Sanan countered, ”It’s not illegal to collect money — there’s no law that says you have to hire a lawyer to collect a debt. . . . There’s no law against going to someone’s office to collect a debt.”
Jurors went home Tuesday night after deliberating for two and a half hours without reaching a verdict.
Carparelli has been charged in a separate, connected case, but has yet to stand trial. Prosecutors say they have him on tape, talking about extortion and boasting that he’s been part of the Outfit “all my life.”