Florida Man Admits to Extorting Philadelphia Nightclub
PHILADELPHIA—Mario Fresta, 37, of Cape Coral, Florida pleaded guilty today to one count of Hobbs Act extortion, announced United States Attorney Zane David Memeger. U.S. District Court Judge Berle M. Schiller scheduled a sentencing hearing for July 15, 2015.
Fresta was an associate of Dominic Verdi, a then high ranking official in Philadelphia’s Department of Licenses and Inspections and Public Nuisance Task Force. Verdi had an ownership interest in a beer distributor named “Chappy’s Beer, Butts, and Bets.” Fresta, with or without Verdi’s knowledge, instructed O.N.E. Rittenhouse (“ONE”), a bar and nightclub, that if ONE bought its beer from Chappy’s and hired Fresta as a manager at a weekly rate of $400 in cash, Verdi would use his official position to benefit ONE. Even after Fresta ceased his employment at ONE, Fresta instructed the operators at ONE that ONE needed to continue paying the $400 weekly rate plus an additional $300 in cash kickbacks for Verdi and other L&I officials. Fresta informed the owners of ONE that the kickbacks were to protect ONE from suffering economic harm as a result of enforcement actions from L&I and the PTNF. At Fresta’s direction, one of the operators of ONE made approximately 39 cash deposits, totaling more than $19,900, as a result of Fresta’s claim that these payments were allegedly necessary in order to protect ONE from Verdi “shutting down” the establishment.
Fresta faces a maximum possible sentence of 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine, three years’ supervised release and a $100 special assessment. The case was investigated by Federal Bureau of Investigation and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Joe Khan.