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Cicero man gets five-year sentence in extortion conspiracy

A five-year prison term was handed down Wednesday to Robert McManus, who, because of his martial arts skills, had been part of a goon squad sent around the country to intimidate debtors to pay up.

McManus, 45, was convicted in October of attempted extortion and conspiracy to commit extortion.

Before he was sentenced, McManus, who is from Cicero, stands under 6 feet tall and has an Irish flag tattooed on his left forearm, apologized to U.S. District Judge Edmond Chang.

“I apologize with all my heart,” said McManus, who attributed bad life decisions to cocaine abuse and excessive pride that kept him from asking for help. “My son is 13; I know how difficult it is to grow up without a father.”

Chang said he would take the apology with a grain of salt.

McManus, along with George Brown and Vito Iozzo — all acting on behalf of Illinois businessman Mark Dziuban — confronted a man at his New Jersey office and threatened physical violence if he did not pay up.

“It’s a serious offense, to have three men trap him in his office like that, in close quarters and demand payment,” Chang said.

McManus’ attorney, Steven Saltzman, downplayed McManus’ role, saying he only stood by the door for five minutes during the encounter.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Donovan said that though McManus didn’t bring it that day, he had secured a sledgehammer — and he wore a disguise.

“This was a group of men who were prepared to use violence,” said Donovan, who noted that had their target not been compliant “a very different result could have taken place.”

Saltzman argued that McManus should receive a light sentence because he participated in only one such encounter, while others charged in the scheme had physically threatened multiple victims on different occasions, and in one instance, beat a man.

Brown and Iozzo both pleaded guilty and cooperated with the government. Dziuban, who at the time was the vice president of sales for American Litho, a printing company in Carol Stream, has been convicted and is awaiting sentencing.

Chang said McManus’ long prison sentence was intended, in part, to act as a deterrent “to those who would serve as muscle on extortion crews.”