By Sarah Fenske
By Danny Wicentowski
By Lindsay Toler
By Danny Wicentowski
By Danny Wicentowski
By Jessica Lussenhop
By Lindsay Toler
By Lindsay Toler
Instead, he set his sights on more political roles in law enforcement. In 1978 he ran unsuccessfully for sheriff of southwestern Illinois' Bond County, and was police chief of the small Metro East town of Valmeyer from '78 until '81. In 1984 he accepted the appointment as Washington Park police chief, though he was fired twice and often clashed with Mayor Sylvester Jackson. It was a time when Romanik began to drift from the straight and narrow.
"I didn't start getting in trouble until I started hanging with the politicians," he says wryly.
As an adult, Romanik reconnected with the well-known and high-powered attorney Amiel Cueto. Best friends since the first grade, Romanik and Cueto began toying with the local Democratic party. Romanik says he used his law enforcement training to snoop around for dirt on candidates he and Cueto didn't like.
"We'd play hardball politics sometimes," he recalls. "We fucked some of them up. I can't tell you who. Some people don't even know it was us."
It was through Cueto that Romanik met Thomas Venezia, the man who would eventually land all three in hot water with the feds. Venezia was running an illegal gambling business called B&H Vending, installing video-poker machines in the bars in East St. Louis. Venezia's gambling operation and several east-side strip clubs were once valued at $48 million. He hired Cueto as his attorney.
Mayor Jackson was also on Venezia's payroll. Jackson testified later that he grudgingly appointed Romanik as the director of public safety of Washington Park in order to protect B&H. When asked about Romanik's hiring, Jackson told the court, "Not because I love him. I hired him because, again, trying to turn a favor for Tom Venezia and Ame Cueto."
While Cueto and Venezia were chummy, Romanik and Venezia were anything but. Romanik recalls an argument that escalated until Venezia threatened Romanik's family. Romanik says he put a gun to Venezia's head, chased him off then shot out the back window of his Mercedes as Venezia fled.
"I hated him," says Romanik. "I thought he was a punk and a gangster. A wannabe gangster."
Nevertheless, according to the federal government, Venezia sought Cueto and Romanik's help after the Illinois State Police raided several bars and confiscated some of Venezia's poker machines. Cueto's legal maneuvering on Venezia's behalf got him charged with obstruction of justice. After Romanik refused to answer questions about the operation in front of a grand jury, he, too, earned himself an obstruction charge. The two friends were arraigned together in 1996.
In a 1997 hearing Romanik pleaded guilty to U.S. Attorney Miriam F. Miquelon's accusations that he "knowingly and willfully provided repeated and evasive testimony."
"They said I lied 150 times to a grand jury," says Romanik. "I probably lied 600 times. I wasn't going to give up my friend. If you're a man, you don't give up your friends."
Romanik received probation and a fine for his role in B&H, but he was off the hook for only a short time. Miquelon soon brought new federal charges that Romanik — who by now had built three sprawling strip clubs — used straw parties to get bank loans for two of them: Jewel Box in Washington Park and Crystal Palace in Centreville. In April 1999 he pleaded guilty to bank fraud and was ordered to pay $1.5 million in restitution and give up ownership of Crystal Palace.
Although he's happy to cop to perjury, Romanik claims Miquelon was looking for a pound of flesh from his refusal to cooperate in the Venezia case. (Miquelon, who resigned from the office in 2003, could not be reached for comment.)
"That was bogus," he says huffily. "I pled out rather than spend another half-million dollars."
Romanik spent the next twenty months in the low-security wing of the U.S. Penitentiary in Leavenworth, Kansas.
"It was hot," he recalls. "It was bad being away from your family. But you do what you gotta do."
Venezia went to prison for seven years. A few years after his release, police discovered him and his girlfriend shot to death. It was ruled a murder-suicide. (See "Win Lose Die" in the November 30 and December 7, 2005, editions of Riverfront Times.)
Cueto was convicted and sent to prison for six years and was still appealing his case until his death in May of liver cancer. Romanik draped a black shroud above the entrance of Insane Broadcasting in Cueto's honor.
"He was just zealously trying to defend a client," Romanik says of Cueto. "I respected him more than I did anybody. He always stood tall as a man."
On the plaza in front of the St. Clair County Courthouse, a small crowd of about fifteen fans gather as Romanik's shouts echo against the tinted windows of the building.
"Where the hell you at?" he hollers at the county politicians he presumes are either listening in their offices or pressed up against the windows looking down. "They won't come to my radio station, so I'll come to them."
Dressed in a black-and-white bowling shirt, Romanik is broadcasting live from a card-table studio. A plastic Grim Reaper toy rests next to the microphone. All week Romanik has been challenging the county coroner, Rick Stone, on his use of a county vehicle to run a side business serving summonses.
Instead of calling the reporter a bitch, it's now that she can't get the story straight. You'd think he'd be happy for the publicity that's all of his own doing. I'd bet that Tina Sanders doesn't let him use that type of abusive language on her. Man up Romanik, give this reporter a PUBLIC apology and don't mess up public either!
I caught the show this Friday with Chief of Police Foote from East St. Louis. It was a decent show. It brought up a few important points, like that East St. Louis has had a crime problem going way back. He tracks it back to the 70s, but I remember that it was bad in the 50s and probably before that. There is a population that is mostly white, who now live in Belleville, and who think that overgrown grass equates crime. They made East St. Louis what it is now and then abandoned it. They are doing to Belleville what they did to East St. Louis. They are easy to dupe. If someone does some gentrification, they think it brings up the city. What brings up the city is care of what you already have, and that isn't happening in Belleville. Getting rid of neighbors that you don't like isn't taking care of what you have.
The only thing I found real problematic is that Chief Foote says that East St. has enough police officers. It's obviously doesn't. It needs about 4 times the number that it has now.
You have to give BOB his credit, because he do keeps it 100. What’s funny (TO ME) is when Females gets mad when he calls a female a Bitch and most of you all boyfriends or husbands call you all a Bitches all day long and you don't do anything about it or a song you like says bitch a 100 times and it’s your JAM. I was born and raised in E St Louis, I work in the city now (not for the city) and I know a few politician. I talk to struggling people everyday who can't get a job and qualified and I talk to people who have a city or state job and or not qualified but they knew someone. If you are not related to, best friend, ass kissing, or fucking one of the prominent names like (Parks, Ellis, Jackson, Mosley, Greenwood, Clayborne, Powell, Smith and more) you don't have anything coming but a tax increase. You know it true but you so dam brain wash on…. I don't no. These CATS and theirs families are getting paid, I’m talking big money and pensions y you don't have nothing but hopes. So yea, I listen to Bob Romanick faithfully because he says to the people the things I been saying for the longest it’s just that I don’t have a radio station. Like the Arab stores. Now what the hell do the Arabs do for our community other than, take our money, sell us drugs, hire our young black women who like to show their body’s off , fuck our young black women, talk to our kids any kind of way, provide a dangerous atmosphere, and sell us cell phones and chicken. On ever dam corner in the black community. That’s what they do and we and clayborne support everything they do. I no it’s a covenant and we don’t have anything else but that’s y we as black people needs to start speaking our voices and stop supporting certain people and I’m not saying support the republicans because I’ve never seen anything they have done for the black communities either.
I feel sorry for the RFT reporter who was degraded as a woman and individual by the bully Romanik. If his friends were his true friends, they wouldn't have talked to the RFT in the first place, just as HE had the choice not to. While it's her name on the byline, editors also shape the final product. If this were a flowing gush piece, he wouldn't have used the vile language that he did to degrade her. For someone who is asking people to stand tall, maybe he should in offering her a PUBLIC apology. And for the record, Romanik conveniently forgets that he made some disparaging comments back in June after the city's gay pride festival, claiming people saw both the named mayors there. It's not always what you say but how you say it that people remember you for.
Again, if Romanik has something hanging between his legs, he should be man enough to not shoot the messenger and give this woman the PUBLIC apology that she deserves.
It's quite entertaining to listen to a bitter man man looking for a pity party for himself every single day that he shows up to broadcast. It's hate radio at its finest as even Michael Weiner doesn't act like this. He claims to be standing up for the common man, but yet he attacked a person with pre-pubescent language on the air over something he read in the newspaper, someone who was against using public money to let a millionaire lawyer establish a green space, one of his friends, and for why he went off. So just as he trashes politicians, no one else is safe from his AM vulgarity. I'm happy the local paper allows comments without names as this man would trash any of them as he did in the example above when they printed the complainant's name.
You have to know that these proud black people that he plays to are laughing at him when he speaks like he's black, and a recent photo of his public broadcasting proves that he's as white as Wonder Bread. Most of them are proud to be victims as they know how to get every free thing they can that others pay for, yet they do not show they know how to be victors over their standard of living or their life.
For sure, he's been targeted for harassment but unlike most, he has the money to fight back though his gutter language towards these people won't win him friends. You would think that a holder of a master's degree had more common sense, but people listen to his daily diatribes for various clues as even Pepto-Bismol couldn't keep him quiet.
You do worry about him as he constantly repeats things and he could get more things in if he had more focus. I'm not surprised that he made threats to the RFT if he thought he was going to be smeared by them. He has running hatred for the Belleville News Democrat but yet he and Carl Officer use it to have something to talk about. Isn't that hypocrisy?
It's a shame that the RFT didn't write that a political candidate who wanted equal time because he spoke favorably of an opponent was denied that. It's true that certain people can't or won't go on there in person, but you have to question party loyalty when some go on despite the trashing of their own party. A puff piece this is not as balanced journalism should be and he could have just said NO! Of course, he's trying to build his station and should he find people who can build and hold an audience, he will fill a void since it is true that the talk stations in St. Louis ignore the east side and its issues. I did find it funny that one commercial spot was playing during his show, given his lack of respect for women. He only stopped calling Clayborne "boy" as he claims his lawyer asked him to. The problem is that the Belle-vull Hoosiers egg on his conduct. One can only imagine what you would hear if he streamed only. Maybe we should be thankful that the FCC rules reign him in somewhat.
You can blame or thank Larry Rice for the "colorful" diversion to Charlie Brennan everyday, and Romanik doesn't hesitate to trash Larry Rice whenever he's in the news either. Obviously, Larry didn't know then what this sale has turned into.
I'm not at all surprised that his home is a fortress of sorts, but that's what happens when you make people scared. I do think it's laughable that the same hypocrite who wants people to speak on the record would hide "friends" who don't want to be ID'd by a reporter. Could it be that he's playing both sides of the coin perhaps??????
While the RFT is owned by the Village Voice, this "profile" is on par with what I have read here for years. I would expect that his enemies and his supporters would be contacted, I would expect the RFT to note if people refused to talk, that's what balanced journalism does. If he demands openness of others, he should have known what he was getting into with the reporter.
Only those closest to him will know why he left and returned to the air. It leaves people guessing if this was an elaborate stunt. If he needed a vacation, he's had on some people that could have done an entertaining hour and maybe even two. But of course you have to be broad based in your experience base and able to discuss more than one thing, along with interacting with people who call. Romanik can and should be able to engage callers with civility so perhaps he needs to spend more time listening to Michael Weiner to see how it's done and done right.
I have to admit that I laugh when the Marley comes on at commercial break, but it does cut his diatribes by a few seconds as does the long intro music.
Thank you RFT for standing tall as a publication to tell both sides of the story. Romanik is a big boy so surely he can take what he dishes out....or can he?
@suetoo When there's "guests" he tends to lay off his normal act. Try Monday when something in the Belle-vul News Democrat pisses him off, you'll hear the normal. Currently, three people want to be the next mayor of Belleville so let's see how that plays out. I don't believe the Chief said he had enough officers and to his credit, Romanik did point out long ago that had they voted to get rid of the ESL election board, they could have paid for more officers.
@chizum3 I've never called anyone I care about a "bitch". But, then again, I can write intelligible English, unlike you.
@chizum3 Did he have a right to call this reporter a bitch and other things? Had Carl Officer been a loyal friend, he wouldn't have been quoted in the story. But see, Carl is all about Carl and he doesn't miss a chance to get his name out there. And the same, if Romanik didn't want to be interviewed, he could have said no. He's offended that she said the plaza was run down...IT IS as are MOST places in Belleville! Granted he may have spent thousands on the stations he owns but she tried to paint an accurate word picture. If he doesn't want to dress like a pimp, buy better clothes!
The problem with employment by who you know is not just in ESL, it's ALL OVER the county government bodies and it does happen in private industry as well. He can bring it up, but the political machine won't change. He drools all over the US Atty, and the States Atty. both appointed by the same machine that he rebels against. Do you think they will do the investigations that would lead to indictments? The St. Louis American had it right back in 2008 when they noted that Charlie Powell wouldn't talk to the feds. Doing so would send a bolt of lightning through downtown Belleville and the paper would love to print as a headline "X" indicted by the feds.
We can only hope the black vote doesn't send Clayborne back to Springfield and my Ameren bill always reminds me of why I won't vote for him myself. You say that Republicans don't do a thing but how many people in ESL get to see Mark Kern outside of Election Day and when he has that party to give kids toys before Christmas? This is the first time since I lived here that they were running in so many races. They can't try to reach out to ESL for as long as the machine there takes their marching orders from the corner of E.Washington and S. High in downtown Belleville. When my chance for change is stolen for $10, how should I feel about the thieves in ESL who stole my vote?
Considering how he's treated the reporter, why did the RFT waste their time profiling him? @inglesconlaguera
@Giggles2012 No, yeah, he said that. That's right when he started talking about the civilian volunteer program he has going on. The same thing goes on in the County. They don't respond to calls, saying they're too busy, and if you ask if they need more money, or more officers, Justus says, "No."