Thursday, March 5, 2009

Queens Tenants at Condo Had to Pay Fees and Fines to Mafia Thugs, Feds Say by John Marzulli - NY Daily News

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Greentree Condominiums in Ozone Park. Below, evidence photo of alleged mobsters Joseph Panzarella Jr. and Charles Carneglia. DelMundo for News

Gambino gangsters controlled a condo board in Queens and extorted tens of thousands of dollars in bogus and inflated fees from owners when they tried to move, the feds say.

Testifying at the trial of reputed hit man Charles Carneglia, former residents of the Greentree Condominiums in Ozone Park said they were slammed with steep last-minute charges for "failure to comply with condo bylaws."

Federal prosecutors allege Carneglia conspired with several mob associates on the board - including local Realtor Joseph Panzarella Sr. and former president Robert Porto - to gouge the residents.

The Greentree development features attached and unattached townhouses which range in price from about $250,000 to more than $400,000.

Alleged mobsters Joseph Panzarella Jr. and Charles Carneglia.

Right before he was due to close on the sale of his two-bedroom duplex in 2001, UPS driver Joseph Mauro said he was blind-sided with a $47,517.47 bill from the board for fees and fines he supposedly owed.

The fines included $6,000 for "animal excrement thrown from the balcony daily" from 1996 to 2001, nearly $9,000 in water and sewer assessment fees and $1,792 for "collection of" water and sewer assessment fees.

"Were you ever told that your tenants were throwing animal excrement off the balcony?" asked Assistant U.S. Attorney Evan Morris.

Mauro said there were never any prior complaints about his tenants' dog. He said the "violations" began in 1996, the year he was voted off the board after having replaced a maintenance company the government contends was operated by a reputed Gambino associate.

Brian Crowley, a carpenter foreman married to an NYPD officer, testified that not long after he bought Mauro's condo for $240,000, he ran into problems with Porto.

"I went to ask him questions about elections and tax-revenue papers that are supposed to be given to us as owners... He had mentioned that I should stop asking so many questions because I was involving more people in my questions," Crowley explained.

Even Gambino associate Kevin McMahon - a member of Carneglia's crew and once considered boss John Gotti's good luck charm - claims he, too, was scammed by Greentree officials.

The feds on Thursday played a taped 2000 conversation intercepted from McMahon's cell phone in which he bitterly complained about Panzarella hitting him with a $2,000 water bill when he was selling his apartment.

"He's gonna die, that pr--," McMahon said. "He's dying and I can't wait. I'm gonna go to the funeral and laugh. Go stick the water bill under his f-- neck."

McMahon, a turncoat witness, testified that he bought his Greentree condo from Gotti's son, John A. (Junior) Gotti.

Only Carneglia has been charged in the shakedown scheme, which the feds say operated from at least 1999 to 2004.

Panzarella Sr. is deceased; his son Joseph Panzarella Jr., also described as a Gambino associate, declined to comment, said his lawyer, Jessie James Burke.