Omaha Councilman Vinny Palermo, retired police officers among 4 arrested on federal charges

Two indictments detail fraudulent use of funds intended for LPOA, PACE
An Omaha city councilman, along with two former Omaha Police officers and a fundraiser, have been indicted on federal charges.
Published: Apr. 21, 2023 at 12:38 PM CDT|Updated: Apr. 21, 2023 at 1:19 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Councilman Vinny Palermo, two former Omaha Police officers, and a local fundraiser were arrested Friday after two federal indictments were unsealed alleging wire fraud and various financial schemes.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a Friday news release that Palermo, 49; former Omaha Police Officer Johnny Palermo, 47; former OPD Captain and past PACE Executive Director Richard “Richie” Gonzalez, 55; and Jack Olson, 66, of Council Bluffs, Iowa, who was also known as “Cody Jones,” had all been arrested that morning after the federal grand jury returned indictments this week.

All four are being held in a Saunders County jail.

From left: Richard Gonzalez, Jack Olson, Johnny Palermo, and Vincent Palermo. The four were...
From left: Richard Gonzalez, Jack Olson, Johnny Palermo, and Vincent Palermo. The four were arrested April 21, 2023, following federal indictments unsealed that same day.

The indictment naming Vinny and Johnny Palermo and Richie Gonzalez, lists nine federal counts of varying types of fraud, alleging that the councilman accepted services like airfare, luxury hotel accommodations, and travel arrangements from now-retired OPD officers Richard Gonzalez and Johnny Palermo — no relation to Vinny — all in exchange for him using his influence a city councilman to their advantage.

While the city’s charter doesn’t automatically remove him from the council for being indicted, Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert has called on him to resign.

The other indictment — naming Johnny Palermo, Gonzalez, and Jack Olson — contains 15 counts and makes several unnamed references to “others,” indicating that the grand jury knew of some but not all additional people potentially included in the investigation.

The charges in that indictment include wire fraud, conspiracy, and scheming to defraud a bank and the LPOA. There are also allegations that Olson solicited illegal sex at a massage parlor in exchange for free advertising for the business in the LPOA ad book.

All four are set to appear in federal court in Lincoln on Monday afternoon.

Richard Gonzalez's attorney spoke with 6 News about the federal indictment against his client and a former Omaha police officer.

Attorneys for Gonzalez and both Palermos told 6 News that they expect their clients will be released after their initial court appearances. The attorneys said that their clients are not flight risks, noting that none of them had fled following the FBI raids in December.

Court documents indicate that Olson is being represented by a federal public defender. 6 News attempts to reach that attorney have so far been unsuccessful.

Details about the 4 men and their 41 charges

Documents allege perks funneled to Omaha Councilman Vinny Palermo; retired police officers involved in the cover-up of a sex assault investigation; and a man raising money for LPOA, PACE under an alias.

Omaha City Councilman Vinny Palermo had nothing to say at a council meeting following an FBI...
City officials, organizations react to charges

Reactions from Omaha city officials ranged from “not shocked” to concern over the fallout of federal indictments resulting in the arrest of four people, including the vice president of the Omaha City Council.

Omaha Police Chief Todd Schmaderer talks about OPD policy changes on Thursday afternoon, June...

Reporter Mike McKnight, Managing Editor Kevin Westhues, and Reporters Brent Weber and Brian Mastre contributed to this story.