They knead to hand over the dough!
A trio of pretend-mobsters faces up to 20 years in prison after they plead guilty on Tuesday to charges of extorting the landlord of a Sheepshead Bay pizzeria, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Brooklyn resident Douglas Singer, 54, agreed to purchase the Coney Island Avenue pizza joint from the victim in early 2018 for $60,000, along with monthly rent payments of $5,200, according to documents provided by the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Months later, Singer recruited Connecticut resident Marianne Wood to act as his business associate, and New Jersey man Leroy Wilson to pose as a threatening bodyguard, in what prosecutors called an elaborate shakedown plot.
In a November 2018 meeting, the trio told the victim that he owed them $198,000, which included the sale price of the pizzeria, costs for equipment and renovations, and purported operating losses incurred by Singer. Wood then produced photographs of the victim’s family, and ominously explained that it would be in the “best interest of everyone” for the owner to pay up, prosecutors said.
Wilson, acting as the group’s muscle, donned a leather jacket and a black handgun holstered at his waist during the encounter.
After the threatening meeting, the victim immediately reported the incident to police.
Subsequent investigation revealed Singer’s attempts to recruit Wilson for the operation over Facebook messenger.
“I was wondering if you might be interested in a kind of acting gig. I need a couple of guys to escort my associate while she delivers a demand to my landlord… You will simply have to stand in the background and appear to be muscle,” Singer wrote.
The FBI agent tasked with overseeing the investigation blasted the con artists, saying their general demeanor made this scheme particularly egregious.
“A group of people doing their best to act like a group of mobsters, shaking down a pizzeria owner, will now face a steep price for what they described as ‘kinda fun.’ Business owners, who are trying to make an honest living, shouldn’t have to fear someone with no legal power over them, extorting and threatening their livelihoods,” said William F. Sweeney, Jr.
The U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York used the occasion to promise continued commitment to protecting businesses from extortion.
“Protecting business owners from shakedowns will always be a priority of this office and our law enforcement partners,” said Richard Donoghue.