PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) - The former mob boss of the Patriarca crime family pleaded guilty in federal court Wednesday, but in a surprise turn of events, the man investigators say was his mafia captain didn't like what he heard from prosecutors and backed away from the deal.
Edward "Eddie" Lato said while he agreed with some of the facts laid out in court, he said he did not receive any money from the Satin Doll strip club in an alleged shakedown scheme. He also took issue with the characterization that he helped run some of the criminal enterprise.
"I don't know nothing about the Satin Doll," Lato told U.S. District Court Judge William Smith. "I didn't oversee anything."
Smith told both sides he couldn't allow the plea hearing to go forward if the defendant didn't agree with all the facts. He told Lato's lawyer, Mark Smith, to meet with his client in the near future.
Moments earlier in the same courtroom Luigi "Baby Shacks" Manocchio, 84, of Providence, pleaded guilty to one count of racketeering conspiracy. Federal prosecutors said he once ran the New England crime family and profited from an extortion scheme where he shook down strip clubs for protection money.
During the hearing, Judge Smith asked Manocchio if anyone threatened him to sign onto the plea deal.
"I don't know who that would be," Manocchio said with a laugh. "But no."
Manocchio seemed relaxed but eager to move the hearing along, jumping ahead of the judge saying he knew "the drill."
As part of the plea agreement, two extortion charges against Manocchio will be dropped. Prosecutors allege the crime family made between $800,000 and $1.5 million in the extortion scheme.
"By the time I get through this [sentence] I'll be 100," Manocchio said.
Not quite. Court documents show Manocchio – who turns 85 in June – will be sentenced to between 63 and 78 months behind bars. He also faces up to three years of supervised release.
Smith is scheduled to decide Manocchio's fate May 11, 2012, but his lawyer – Joseph Balliro of Boston – asked if the date could be moved up because his client wants out of the Wyatt Detention Center in Central Falls where he's been held for nearly a year.
"He's extremely anxious to get out of Wyatt," Balliro said. "It's an ugly place for a man of his age."
In what Rhode Island U.S. Attorney Peter Neronha called a "significant" development, the plea deal also required that Manocchio admit to being a made member of the mob.
"There is a myth that New England La Cosa Nostra does not exist," Neronha said on the courthouse steps. "It very plainly exists and Mr. Manocchio admitted that today."
As for Lato, Neronha played down any surprise saying everyone has a right to a trial.
"For everybody there's a D-day; you have to stand up and admit what you did and some people are able to do that more easily than others," Neronha said. "He has the right to admit to the facts as we allege, or he has the right to contest them in front of a jury. Neither route matters to me."
- Read plea agreement with Manocchio
- Read plea agreement with Jenkins
- Read plea agreement with Lato
- Read plea agreement with Scivola
- Read plea agreement with Bonafiglia
Lato is also accused in the strip club scheme as well as of shaking down an unnamed used car salesman from Johnston for $20,000 to square up a debt.
The superseding indictment against Lato said the victim's wife withdrew cash from their retirement account because she feared for her husband's safety.
Three other defendants have pledged to plead guilty in this case, including reputed mobster Alfred "Chippy" Scivola and accused mob associates Raymond "Scarface" Jenkins and Richard Bonafiglia.
Two other defendants - accused mob associates Theodore Cardillo and Albino Folcarelli - have not signed onto the plea deal and are still heading for a May trial.
But a deal could be on the horizon. Cardillo's attorney, John F. Cicilline, asked for Smith to "vacate" the trial date because "the counsel is attempting to resolve the case."
It was Cicilline who called for a series of closed-door meetings with Smith and lawyers from both sides of the case that culminated in the plea agreement with Manocchio and the others.
Copyright WPRI 12
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