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Extortionist tells judge, ‘I know I’ve done wrong’ as he’s sentenced to 38 months in prison

Plumber Vito Iozzo stood before a federal judge Tuesday and told him: “I know I’ve done wrong.”

A cast on his right arm, Iozzo prepared to learn his sentence after admitting in September that he had taken part in a series of extortion plots. One ended with a debtor giving up his Ford Mustang. Another, over a matter of $500,000, ended violently.

“I get it,” Iozzo told U.S. District Judge Edmond Chang.

But what upset Iozzo the most, he said, is that he let his four teenage children down. That he won’t be around for them.

Nevertheless, the judge told Iozzo he had no choice but to separate the 43-year-old Elmhurst native from his family. He sentenced Iozzo to 38 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release. Iozzo also must pay $26,500 in restitution to one of the victims.

“We resolve our disputes in places like this rather than out on the street,” Chang said in his courtroom at the Dirksen Federal Courthouse, calling that system a “hallmark of civilization.”

Iozzo pleaded guilty in September to conspiring to commit extortion after he was caught up in a series of federal grand jury indictments that accused Iozzo and several other men of using intimidation and physical violence to collect debts.

Federal prosecutors accused Iozzo of traveling to Wisconsin with two co-defendants, Mark Dziuban and George Brown, to help Dziuban collect on a $100,000 debt in 2010. Dziuban met his debtor in a restaurant, where he was soon joined by Iozzo and Brown, according to prosecutors.

Iozzo took the debtor’s driver’s license, wrote down the home address and told the debtor, “Now we know where you live,” prosecutors said. Later, Iozzo helped Dziuban bring the debtor’s Ford Mustang back from Wisconsin.

Later, prosecutors said Iozzo helped Luigi Sardone in 2011 and 2012 plot to collect $500,000 from another debtor. Sardone is a co-defendant of Iozzo’s in another case; prosecutors have said they plan to drop those charges against Iozzo.

Iozzo, Brown and Patrick White, also a co-defendant in the other case, tracked the debtor down at his company and confronted him about the money.

The debtor fainted, prosecutors said. Brown, Iozzo and White picked him up and revived him. Then, prosecutors said, Brown and White hit and kicked the debtor as Iozzo stood guard.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Heather McShain asked the judge Tuesday to sentence Iozzo to 41 months in prison. Even though Chang said federal guidelines set Iozzo’s sentence at 63 to 78 months, McShain acknowledged Iozzo has struggled with substance abuse and mental health. She said he seems to be a devoted father, and she said he helped federal investigators in the prosecution.

Iozzo recently had tendons in his arm surgically reattached; he likely will need rotator-cuff surgery as well, according to court filings.

Rick Beuke, Iozzo’s defense attorney, told the judge Iozzo has never attempted to justify his actions and came clean after his arrest. Iozzo is the member of his family “who’s held everybody together,” Beuke said.

“I don’t believe you will ever see him in a criminal courtroom again,” Beuke said.