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Reputed mob boss pleads not guilty

Manocchio held; extortion charged

By Ian MacDougall
Associated Press / February 25, 2011

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PROVIDENCE — The reputed former leader of the New England mob pleaded not guilty to federal extortion and conspiracy charges yesterday, as a judge ordered him kept in custody until a bail hearing next week.

A lawyer for Luigi “Baby Shacks’’ Manocchio entered the plea on behalf of the suspected former boss of the Patriarca crime family in US District Court in Providence. A magistrate judge set another hearing for Tuesday to allow the court to evaluate property the defense proposed posting as bail surety.

Manocchio, 83, and another man — Thomas Iafrate, 69 — are accused of extorting thousands of dollars from city strip clubs.

At the Cadillac Lounge, where Iafrate worked as a bookkeeper, prosecutors said in court filings, audio surveillance and other evidence show Iafrate setting aside $125 per day in protection payments, which he delivered to Manocchio on a monthly basis.

Federal prosecutors requested that Manocchio be held pending trial. Scott Lawson, a prosecutor in the Department of Justice’s Organized Crime and Racketeering Section, called him a danger to the community who has a history of running away from charges against him.

“Manocchio is an experienced and sophisticated traveler who would have no difficulty undertaking a successful pattern of evasion of international scope,’’ prosecutors wrote in a memorandum filed with the court yesterday.

“The court has before it a proven track record of what this defendant does when charged with a serious offense: he flees.’’

Lawson pointed out in court that after an indictment on murder charges in 1969, Manocchio went on the lam for a decade before turning himself in to face the charges.

The government anticipates that it will file additional charges against Manocchio and others, Lawson said.

Mannochio’s lawyer, Mary June Ciresi, said the government’s argument for detention contained “a lot of conclusions and not much in the way of fact.’’

She disputed prosecutors’ contention that Manocchio appears to have few family ties and no apparent assets, apart from a prepaid funeral plan.

In yesterday’s memorandum, Lawson wrote that Manocchio gave an FBI agent’s name as an emergency contact, rather than the name of a family member or friend, when arrested in Florida.

Ciresi said one of Manocchio’s brothers, whom she described as a long-time Rhode Island resident, had offered to let Manocchio live with him under house arrest and electronic surveillance. She also said a number of Manocchio’s relatives and friends had offered property as bail surety.

The magistrate judge, David Martin, did not reject the request, but said he wanted to know more about the properties and to speak to the owners before he made a decision.

After the hearing, Ciresi told reporters she was optimistic that her client would win release on bail.

She declined to comment further.

Manocchio has denied having any connection to organized crime.