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Reputed Outfit mobster gets 14 years for terrorizing suburban man over loan debt

Robert Panozzo pleaded guilty to having the man’s car and garage torched when he wouldn’t pay $100,000 in interest on “juice” loans.

Robert Panozzo Sr.
Robert Panozzo Sr.
Chicago Police Department

An alleged Chicago mob associate was sentenced to 14 years in federal prison Friday for beating a suburban businessman and hiring someone to torch his garage and van when the man wouldn’t pay $100,000 in interest on loans.

Robert Panozzo Sr., 59, pleaded guilty June 19 to one count of extortion for trying to collect the $100,000, which he said was still owed as interest from a $40,000 “juice” loan he gave the man in 2005, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Judge Philip G. Reinhard handed down the sentence in federal court in Rockford.

Panozzo lent his victim the $40,000 in 2005 and gave additional loans to him, prosecutors said. A year later, they met at a restaurant in Palatine, where the man handed Panozzo an envelope with $25,000 in cash, which he thought was the last in a series of payments on the loans, prosecutors said. But Panozzo said $100,000 was still owed as interest.

“This is serious. I want my money,” Panozzo told him, according to court records.

Panozzo admitted in a written plea agreement that he had recruited Joseph D. Abbott to collect the debt, going to the man’s business in October 2006 to beat him.

The reputed Outfit mobster admitted that, while locked up on a separate conviction from 2006 to 2008, and throughout the next year after his release, Panozzo would leave voicemails with the victim demanding the money.

In 2009, Panozzo paid $1,000 to Abbott to set fire to the man’s Dodge Caravan on his driveway, and later paid Abbott more than $4,000 to torch the victim’s garage, prosecutors said. In July, Abbott was sentenced to more than six years in prison for conspiring to commit extortion.

Panozzo will serve his federal sentence simultaneously with an 18-year Cook County racketeering sentence he received in January.

In that case, Panozzo was charged with trying to rob a drug cartel stash house that was actually part of a sting operation. He and his accomplices were accused of carrying out home invasions, armed robberies, burglaries and prostitution.

Panozzo, who sources say is connected to the Chicago Outfit’s West Side Crew, also allegedly cut off the ear of a home-invasion victim. The reputed mobster was furious because he heard the man speaking English after claiming to only speak Spanish, authorities said. Panozzo allegedly stole more than 25 kilograms of cocaine and two cars in that incident.

Panozzo was also mentioned in the 2014 trial of former Chicago Police Officer Steve Mandell, who was sentenced to life in prison for plotting to kidnap, kill and dismember a suburban businessman.

Former North Shore banker George Michale, who was the star witness, said that Panozzo introduced him to Mandell over lunch at La Scarola restaurant on West Grand Avenue. The meeting was recorded by the FBI.