A Passaic County man, reputed to be an associate of the Genovese organized crime family, entered a not guilty plea Thursday at his arraignment on federal loan-sharking charges.
Lawyers for William “Billy” Panzera, 40, of North Haledon, and a co-defendant, Robert “Bobby” Fiorello, 63, of Jackson, formally denied the charges during a hearing before U.S. District Judge Jose L. Linares in Newark.
Panzera and Fiorello were among 11 defendants, including a reputed captain, two alleged soldiers and several alleged associates of the Genovese family, who were indicted in Brooklyn in April 2012 on 18 counts ranging from racketeering conspiracy to extortion, illegal gambling, union embezzlement and obstruction of justice.
Because the crimes that Panzera and Fiorello are alleged to have committed occurred in New Jersey and they declined to waive their right to be tried here, prosecutors from the Eastern District of New York re-indicted them in Newark last week on the same charges, setting the stage for a trial that Linares scheduled for Aug. 28.
The three-count indictment identifies Panzera as a Genovese crime family associate and alleges that from February to May of 2008 he, Fiorello and others conspired “to participate in the use of extortionate means” to collect one or more loans from an unnamed victim.
Panzera was also charged with conspiring to collect an unlawful debt under New Jersey law, defined as a loan given at a usurious interest rate of greater than 50 percent per year.
During the hearing, Linares set bail for Panzera, who was dressed in a dark suit, at $500,000, secured by property. Bail of $700,000 was set for Fiorello, who wore a black short-sleeve shirt and slacks.
As a condition of bail, both men were directed not to have any contact with witnesses or members and associates of organized crime.
After the hearing, veteran Hackensack attorney Frank P. Luciana, who is representing Panzera, declined to discuss the case, other than to say, “I’m very, very convinced that in this case justice is going to prevail.”
Thanks to Peter J. Sampson.
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