Updated news on the Gambino, Genovese, Bonanno, Lucchese and Colombo Organized Crime Families of New York City.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Suspect pleads guilty after 17 years on the run

 Paul Sanzaro
After 17 years on the run, Paul Sanzaro's memory was fuzzy on some of the details but the 79-year-old remembered enough about his crime to plead guilty Thursday to a drug-dealing conspiracy charge from the mid-1990s.
The former Hollywood resident disappeared shortly after a February 1995 meeting when federal authorities told him there was a contract out on his life.
Criminal charges from an undercover federal investigation of Sanzaro and several associates were filed several months after he took off. His lawyers said Sanzaro left to save his life and spare his family and only learned of the indictment later.
The feds hadn't seen or heard from Sanzaro until a few months ago when his lawyers began negotiating for Sanzaro to surrender, which he did in late July.
On Thursday in federal court in Fort Lauderdale, Sanzaro pleaded guilty to participating in a cocaine supply conspiracy starting in 1994. Court records show he was part of a drug-dealing organized crime group that operated out of the old Hemmingway's (as the owners spelled it) Restaurant on North 21st Avenue in Hollywood.
Sanzaro admitted he provided cocaine to an undercover agent and a confidential informant in Broward County on a number of occasions. In the first deal he set up for the undercover agents in July 1994, prosecutors said that the $16,000 worth of "drugs" turned out to be flour, not cocaine.
Prosecutors wouldn't explain why they tipped off Sanzaro about the death threat but his Fort Lauderdale attorney, Bruce Lyons, said some of Sanzaro's associates were upset that he didn't get paid for a big deal, which court records indicate was a January 1995 one with the undercover agents.
Sanzaro put a large amount of drugs, inside a shoe box and shopping bag, into the trunk of an undercover agent's car parked outside Sanzaro's Hollywood home. The agent handed Sanzaro a green gym bag "filled with rocks" instead of the $119,000 in cash that Sanzaro was expecting, but he didn't check the contents until after the agent left.
More than a year ago, Sanzaro decided he wanted to reunite with his family and clear his slate with the federal government before he dies, his lawyer said. Sanzaro hasn't said where he was for the past 17 years and his family has not yet agreed to meet with him, Lyons said.
Sanzaro's guilty plea could mean he'll spend the rest of his life in prison. The charge technically carries a life sentence, but the guidelines for Sanzaro suggest a term of about five years. Lyons said he hopes to persuade U.S. District Judge William Dimitrouleas that Sanzaro deserves a much lighter punishment given his decision to surrender when there was little chance authorities would have ever found him.
Sanzaro was overheard grumbling to a U.S. Marshal before the court hearing started Thursday. He wasn't pleased that a newspaper article featuring his jail mug shot was published in the Sun Sentinel last weekend.
"You shouldn't have did that," Sanzaro told the newspaper reporter in court, shaking his head in a disapproving but non-threatening way.
He will remain in jail at least until his Nov. 21 sentencing.



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