PROVIDENCE—Luigi “Louie” Manocchio, the 84-year-old former boss of the Mafia in New England, was sentenced today in federal court to 5½ years in prison for extorting protection payments from strip clubs.
His defense attorney warned that he might well die in prison, but US District Judge William Smith said, “I think you’re going to make it through this sentence and come out the other end.”
“I don’t believe you have much of an incentive to get back into this business when you get out,” Smith told the aging mobster.
Manocchio, also known as “Baby Shacks,” “The Old Man,” and “The Professor,” tried to distance himself from the activities of his subordinates in a statement he read to the court, stumbling over some of his words.
“By virtue of my position, I inherited the deeds of my associates,” he said.
At the same time, he said, “I simply do not want my family or my friends to believe I personally threatened anybody.”
Manocchio’s attorney, Joseph Balliro, said, “He is very sensitive to anyone, especially the public, thinking he is this very bad guy. That’s not his reputation.”
But Assistant US Attorney William Ferland said the Mafia “is an organization that accomplishes its goals to acquire wealth and influence by wielding threats and violence.” The protection payments from businesses were not “charitable donations,” he said.
He also noted a personal visit that Manocchio had paid to one strip club owner who had, on his own, decided to reduce his payment. Ferland said Manocchio told the owner, “I understand you made a reduction, but I need $4,000 a month.”
“This is his personal appearance. It is who he is and what he represents that constitutes a threat,” Ferland said.
Balliro warned, “For Mr. Manocchio, this very well may be a death sentence.”
But Judge Smith said Manocchio actually appeared to be “in very good shape” for someone his age and told Manocchio, “A lot of people will pay attention to the sentence you receive in this case.”
Smith did agree to recommend that Manocchio serve his time in federal prisons in either North Carolina or Florida, where the weather is warmer.
Manocchio and four others had agreed in February to plead guilty to running an extensive criminal enterprise.
One of the other men, Mafia associate Raymond Jenkins, was also sentenced today, receiving 37 months for extortion of a car dealer.
With the current boss, Anthony DiNunzio, also facing charges of racketeering and extortion, the Globe reported Tuesday that the New England Mafia is a shadow of its former self. No more than 30 “made,” or sworn-in, members now belong, when the organization once had more than 100, law enforcement officials say.
The organization continues to erode, as made members and associates abandon the code of silence and cooperate with investigators. The younger cohort is addicted to drugs, and the older, wiser members have either died or gone to jail.