PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — The former New England Mafia boss was sentenced Friday to 5½ years in prison for his role in the shakedown of Providence strip clubs, becoming the first ex-mob leader to be locked up in a case that has ensnared nine people described by prosecutors as having ties to organized crime.
The sentence for the 84-year-old Luigi "Baby Shacks" Manocchio means he may live out his final days in prison. He turns 85 next month.
But U.S. District Court Judge William E. Smith said he believes Manocchio, a former skier who loves the outdoors, will survive. "I think you are going to make it through this prison sentence and come out on the other end," Smith said.
Prosecutors had asked for a prison term of five years and 10 months. Under a plea agreement, Manocchio faced between 5 years and 3 months and 6 ½ years.
After being sentenced, Manocchio waved and gave a thumbs-up to his family, who sat in the back of the courtroom. His brother declined to comment.
Manocchio's role in the extortion plot went back to the 1990s and netted $800,000 to $1.5 million in ill-gotten gains through protection payments paid by strip clubs, including the Satin Doll and Cadillac Lounge, according to prosecutors. Manocchio acknowledged at sentencing that his conduct was "unlawful," but he maintained he did not personally threaten anyone.
"By virtue of my position, I inherited the deeds of my associates," said Manocchio, who wore headphones for assistance.
"I don't want my family or any of my friends to believe I personally threatened anyone," he said.
Prosecutors said whether Manocchio explicitly threatened anyone "is beside the point." Assistant U.S. Attorney William J. Ferland said that after a strip club owner reduced his payment to the mob, Manocchio visited him and informed the owner he needed to pay $4,000 a month.
"It's his personal appearance. It is who he is and what he represents that constitutes a threat," Ferland said.
The judge agreed to a request from defense attorney Joseph J. Balliro Sr. to recommend that Manocchio serve his sentence at a prison in North Carolina or Florida. The warmer climate is better for Manocchio's medical conditions, including osteoarthritis, vertigo and prostate problems, Balliro said.
Manocchio, Balliro said, was a mentor in the Federal Hill neighborhood where he lived in Providence and kept young people out of trouble.
"I think for anyone of the age of Mr. Manocchio any time at all is very, very serious," he said.
Last month, authorities arrested reputed acting New England mob boss Anthony L. DiNunzio, 53, on charges connected to the same plot. DiNunzio, who lives in the East Boston section of Boston, has pleaded not guilty and is being held without bail.
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