A reputed Chicago mobster was sentenced Wednesday to 3 1/2 years in federal prison for a series of extortion plots involving a team of bone-cracking goons who traveled the country to confront deadbeat businessmen.
In handing down the sentence, U.S. District Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman told Paul Carparelli it was clear from the hundreds of hours of undercover recordings captured by the FBI that Carparelli "took pleasure in the fear and discomfort of others."
"These are crimes of violence, sir, not just of poor decision-making," Coleman said as Carparelli stood before the bench in an orange jail jumpsuit and shackled at the ankles. "The public safety is at risk."
The judge's sentence, however, was far below the more than 11 years originally sought by prosecutors, who argued that Carparelli was looking to rise in the ranks of the Outfit and become a "made" man after several bosses of the Cicero faction went to prison.
In court Wednesday, Carparelli, 47, choked up as he apologized for his actions. He asked the judge for a moment to compose himself as he talked about embarrassing his young son. Carparelli said he's come to realize since his arrest in 2013 that he has "anger issues" and often can't control thoughts that "go straight from my brain to my mouth."
"Sometimes it seems like the anger wells up inside me," he said. "In short, my big mouth gets me into trouble."
With credit for the time he has already served in custody, Carparelli could be released in about two years.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Heather McShain played excerpts in court from several conversations Carparelli held with his key enforcer, George Brown, a 300-pound union bodyguard and mixed martial arts fighter who was secretly cooperating with the FBI.
In one meeting, Carparelli could be heard laughing as Brown described a beating he purportedly administered at Carparelli's behest. In fact, the beating never took place because Brown was already working undercover for the government.
"They said they really did a number on his ribs," Brown said on the recording. "They are guaranteeing me that something broke."
"Good," Carparelli replied in a matter-of-fact tone.
Carparelli pleaded guilty last year to five counts stemming from a series of extortion attempts involving deadbeat businessmen.
In one case, Carparelli played a behind-the-scenes role in a plot to confront a business owner in Appleton, Wis., about a $100,000 debt. In a backroom at a Fuddruckers restaurant, Brown and two other mob toughs threatened the owner, who had offered to hand over a special-edition Ford Mustang as partial payment.
In addition to the extortion plots, Carparelli was caught on surveillance arranging for the beating of suburban car dealership owner R.J. Serpico — he wanted both his legs broken — for failing to pay back a $300,000 loan from Michael "Mickey" Davis, a longtime partner of reputed mob lieutenant Salvatore "Solly D" DeLaurentis.
At the center of the case were hundreds of hours of conversations between Carparelli and Brown that paint a colorful picture of Carparelli as a callous midlevel mob operative looking to move up the chain of command.
"This position doesn't happen all the time, George," Carparelli told Brown in a recorded call from 2011. "This is like a once-in-a-lifetime (expletive) thing, if this is what you want to do, if this is the way you want to live your life."
Carparelli's lawyers asked Coleman for as little as probation, saying in a recent court filing that the former pizzeria owner was "nothing but a blowhard" whose constant exaggerations of his mob ties "caused the government to believe he was a connected guy."
"Mr. Carparelli is clearly a 'wannabe' who has watched 'The Sopranos' and 'Goodfellas' too many times," attorneys Ed Wanderling and Charles Nesbit wrote. He was simply playing a "role," they argued.