The acting leader of the New England Mafia was sentenced today in federal court in Rhode Island to 6 1/2 years in prison for his role in a racketeering conspiracy to extort payments from adult entertainment businesses in that state, federal and state authorities said.

Anthony L. Dinunzio, 53, of East Boston pleaded guilty in September to one count of conspiracy to participate in a racketeering enterprise, authorities said in a statement. He was sentenced by Judge William E. Smith in US District Court in Providence.

Dinunzio was the eighth leader, underboss, member or associate of the New England La Cosa Nostra to be convicted and sent to federal prison for their participation in the conspiracy. A ninth defendant has agreed to plead guilty next month, authorities said.

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Assistant US Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer said in a statement that Dinunzio “used threats of violence to extort protection payments from business owners throughout the state, and his sentence sends a powerful message” about authorities’ determination to bring the Mafia to justice.

“Over the last several years, the FBI and its federal, state and local law enforcement partners have undeniably shattered Omerta, the New England LCN’s code of silence,” said Richard DesLauriers, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Boston office.

DesLauriers said the Mafia investigations had been “persistent, methodical, and unyielding.”

“We will continue to seek severe penalties with prison sentences for this type of criminal. We will not let up until we rid this criminal activity from our community,” Providence Public Safety Commissioner Steven M. Pare said in the joint statement.