Written By Jon Seidel
A looming, broad-shouldered Michael “Mickey” Davis sat across from R.J. Serpico in the office of a Melrose Park used car dealership in January 2013.
Months earlier, Davis had helped Serpico’s dreams come true. He loaned the suburban car salesman and his father $300,000, so they could open the dealership in the town where Serpico’s uncle is the mayor, according to court testimony. But the dream soon turned into a nightmare. Serpico testified he routinely saw Davis driving by the dealership with a reputed mobster. And as the unpaid bills began to pile up in January 2013, Serpico said Davis dropped a sheet of gambling debts down on Serpico’s desk and warned, “this wasn’t the f—ing agreement.” Serpcio’s father had lost a lot of money gambling, according to court testimony.
Serpico said Davis then leaned back and asked, “how my wife and my kids were, and if I still lived in Park Ridge.”
Serpico took it as a threat. A jury agreed Monday morning, convicting the 58-year-old Davis of extortion and attempted extortion. Dressed in a gray suit and tie, Davis glanced at his lawyers as the verdict was read and leaned back in his chair as the jury was polled. He is to be sentenced Oct. 6.
One of Davis’ lawyers, Christopher Grohman, even admitted Davis “looks like a mobster” as the trial got underway — but he said that didn’t mean he was guilty. It simply suggested Davis had no need to “hire a bunch of goombahs” to deliver a beating.
“He could do it himself,” Grohman said earlier this month.
Serpico testified that Davis asked him about the ages of his children and whether his “wife still owned a beauty salon in Schaumburg.” The encounter seemingly terrified Serpico, who said he apologized to Davis and later kept his distance.
“Because I’m afraid of him, sir,” Serpico explained to a federal prosecutor during Davis’ trial.
Prosecutors accused Davis of ordering a “break-both-legs beating” for Serpico in 2013 to collect on his $300,000 loan to Serpico and his father. They said he took control of Serpico’s dealership and even opened new bank accounts for the business. Eventually, prosecutors said, Davis paid a mob associate for Serpico’s “thorough” beating. The assault, though, never happened, thanks to the feds.
Serpico testified that his uncle is Ronald Serpico, the mayor of Melrose Park.
Prosecutors said Davis sought help collecting on his debt and offered to pay $10,000 for the beating with $5,000 up front. The job allegedly went to Paul Carparelli — an Itasaca man who pleaded guilty last month to three counts of conspiracy to commit extortion.
One of Carparelli’s associates, George Brown, turned out to be a government informant. And prosecutors wrote that Brown recorded conversations with Carparelli and others. But in one key recording, Davis’ lawyers claimed Carparelli only said he learned the person who ordered the beating was “Mickey.”
“This statement is uncorroborated triple hearsay,” they wrote.
Before leaving the courthouse Monday, Davis lawyer Thomas Anthony Durkin said he “truly thought” Davis had beaten the charges. And while Davis’ trial was filled with references to reputed mobsters, Durkin said Davis’ legal team was “straight” with the jury.
For example, Serpico said he noticed that Davis was driving by the dealership “pretty often” with reputed mobster Pete DiFronzo, the brother of alleged mob boss John DiFronzo.
“I just thought, ‘What did I get myself into?’” Serpico said.
But Durkin said Monday that Davis’ lawyers proved “beyond a shadow of a doubt” that Davis’ association with Pete DiFronzo was a business relationship.
“I don’t understand how they could see this as proof beyond a reasonable doubt,” Durkin said of the jurors.
Grohman earlier told the jury that Davis was an active investor in the father-son car dealership. And though prosecutors accused Davis of ordering a beating for Serpico, Grohman said it was Serpico’s father who lost the money gambling.
Serpico said his used-car dealership lasted from June 2012 to May 2013. Things were “pretty good” in the early months, he said. Davis’ loan agreement entitled him to $300 for every car sold plus some of the profits from the dealership, Serpico said.
Eventually, Serpico said things “went bad” at the dealership. He said he “owed everybody money,” and he realized his father had been gambling it away. After his encounter with Davis, Serpico said he did everything he could to raise cash to pay off the debt to Davis.
Prosecutors said they interrupted the extortion plot before things turned violent.