MINEOLA, N.Y. – Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice announced charges against a Wantagh man who was found to be loaning money at over 100 percent interest, threatening borrowers when they could not pay him back, and keeping several loaded handguns and other deadly weapons in his residence.
Francis Bongarzone, 53, a/k/a Frankie Chase, was arrested yesterday by members of the DA’s Squad of the Nassau County Police Department and arraigned today on three counts of Criminal Possession of a Weapon in the Second Degree (as a C felony), three counts of Criminal Possession of a Weapon in the Third Degree (as a D felony) and Criminal Usury in the First Degree (a C felony). If convicted on the top charges, Bongarzone faces a maximum of 15 years consecutively for each count.
Prosecutors sought $1 million bail. Judge Joy Watson of Nassau District Court set bail at $250,000. Bongarzone’s next court date is Jan. 22.
“Mr. Bongarzone’s brand of banking has victimized others and resulted in charges that bring with them the threat of a long stay in prison,” DA Rice said. “I ask any other victims of this individual to come forward and contact my office to assist with this investigation.”
After a year-long investigation by DA Rice’s office and the Nassau County Police Department’s DA Squad, Bongarzone was found to have loaned out at least $50,000 and collected more than $100,000 from at least half a dozen victims.
A search warrant executed on Jan. 16, 2014 led investigators to a 9mm Glock handgun with two 17-round high capacity magazines, two .38 caliber revolvers with over 70 rounds of ammunition, two switchblades, a “blackjack,” and records confirming his loan activities. A blackjack is a leather-covered piece of lead with a loop handle designed to knock out victims when they are struck in the head.
Bongarzone was convicted in 1984 of Criminal Solicitation in the Second Degree (a D Felony) in which he solicited another person to commit murder for hire. Because of this prior conviction, today’s Criminal Possession of a Weapon in the Second Degree charge was elevated to a C felony, and the Criminal Possession of a Weapon in the Third Degree charge was elevated to a D felony.
This case is being prosecuted by ADA George Smit of the Organized Crime & Rackets Bureau under the supervision of Deputy Chief Anne Donnelly. Bongarzone is represented by Steven LaMagna, Esq.
The charges are merely accusations and the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless found guilty.