PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – A high-ranking member of the New England mob has been sentenced to nine years behind bars for his role in shaking down local strip clubs for protection money.
Edward "Eddy" Lato, 65, of Johnston, received the stiffest penalty yet handed down in a sweeping mob case that has already led to five other mobsters or associates receiving prison time. Prosecutors say Lato is a capo regime for the Rhode Island arm of the New England La Cosa Nostra.
Lato pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy in March. As part of a plea deal with prosecutors, Lato – who has a lengthy criminal record – faced between 92 and 115 months behind bars.
U.S District Court Judge William Smith leaned toward the high end of the range in his sentencing because he said Lato didn't stay true to comments he made during a 1999 sentencing for RICO conspiracy.
Prosecutors say in that case, Lato told the court "I assure the court and the people this will never occur again."
"You have established yourself as a career criminal" Judge Smith said. "You need to receive a sentence that reflects the seriousness of the crime."
When asked outside court if Lato's 1999 comments came back to haunt him, defense attorney Mark Smith said, "I don't think it helped."
Lato declined to make any comments this time around.
During the hearing Lato's attorney asked the judge to split the difference in the sentencing guideline range like he had with the other defendants so far in this case.
"I was disappointed," Smith said. "Others got half the spread … unfortunately the court didn't see it my way."
Trial attorney Samuel Nazzaro from the Department of Justice asked the judge to give Lato a sentence at the "high end" of the range, highlighting a criminal "resume" that included 18 convictions and 14 other arrests spanning five decades.
"Mr. Lato's extensive criminal history, lack of remorse and rehabilitation" merit a longer sentence, said Nazzaro.
The plea agreement means prosecutors will drop three other charges leveled against the longtime mobster.
Investigators say he was also part of a crew that extorted $25,000 from a Johnston used car salesman. Mob associates Albino Folcarelli and Raymond "Scarface" Jenkins have already pleaded guilty to those charges. Folcarelli will be sentenced in July, Jenkins is now serving a three years at Fort Dix federal prison in New Jersey.
Lato is the sixth defendant to be sentenced in this case, including the former mob boss Luigi "Baby Shacks" Manocchio, who is now serving a sentence of just over five years.
Only two defendants have not entered into a plea agreement with prosecutors and are still heading for trial: former Cadillac Lounge strip club manager Theodore Cardillo and the reputed acting mob boss, Anthony DiNunzio from East Boston. They've both pleaded not guilty to charges that they took part in the protection payment scheme.
Investigators say Lato was caught on an FBI wiretap trying to continue the strip club extortion payments even after Manocchio was indicted in January 2011. Lato was swept up in the second round of charges that came after investigators were able to convince an unnamed made member of the mob to wear a wire and gather evidence against his fellow underworld colleagues.
Lato was caught several times on those wiretaps, according to prosecutors.
According to court documents, the protection scheme netted between $800,000 and $1.5 million for the mob over the last two decades.
When Lato gets out of prison, he will then be on three years of supervised release. He was also ordered to pay restitution for his involvement in the extortion of the car salesman even though those charges were dismissed as part of the plea deal.
Copyright WPRI 12
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