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

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Hitman is sentenced to 14 years for killing mob boss

Frankie A. Roche, the paid hit man who carried out the 2003 murder of mob boss Adolfo "Big Al" Bruno, must serve almost 14 years in prison for the killing.

A sentencing hearing on Friday in U.S. District Court capped a nearly decade-long investigation that ensnared four made members of the powerful New York-based Genovese organized crime family and several violent underlings.

Roche, 40, formerly of Westfield, was the first to be arrested in the case in 2004 and the first to turn government witness as he neared trial in Hampden Superior Court in 2007. He pleaded guilty in federal court here in 2008 and was among the prosecution's star witnesses at two racketeering and murder trials conducted in federal court in New York City.

Roche, a man who gave an emotionless rendition of the cold-blooded murder of Bruno, cried as he addressed Judge Michael A. Ponsor about his sentencing.

"My involvement with and the carrying out of Mr. Bruno's murder came at a time in my life when I had no regard for my life or anyone else's," Roche said, reading from a letter he said he wrote on Thursday night.

He had several female supporters in the gallery. The sentencing also drew a clutch of law enforcement officers including retired agents and prosecutors - illustrating how long the case has dragged.

Roche ambushed and shot Bruno five times in a dark parking lot on Nov. 23, 2003, as the regional mob boss exited his regular Sunday night card game at a South End social club. Roche testified he was paid $10,000 to carry out the killing. "It literally hurts me to know I took someone's father away from them," Roche said.

Roche's defense lawyer, Colleen Brady, asked the judge to sentence the shooter to the time he has served in prison since Roche has been behind bars for eight years. The prosecutor, assistant U.S. attorney Paul H. Smyth, recommended Roche serve 15 years.

Smyth called Roche's cooperation "extraordinary" and said he was the first domino to fall in the case.

Ponsor sentenced Roche to 165 months, or 13 years and nine months, with credit for the time served. Barring striking a deal with the government, Roche would have faced a life sentence.

"(Roche) was part of a group of people who just liked to beat people. They were going around looking for people to hurt and kill. It was a motiveless malignancy at large in the community, looking to express itself," Ponsor said, of Roche and his crew, which included mob capo-turned-informant Anthony J. Arillotta and Fotios and Ty Geas, enforcers from West Springfield.

Ponsor added that Roche, who began racking up a long criminal record in his teens, was "as pathetic as he was dangerous" at the time of the murder. Brady argued Roche is remorseful and reformed.

According to Roche's own testimony, it would have to be quite a reformation.

Roche began stealing cars and running from cops in his teens and advanced to jail breaks and and beatings as he grew older. Ponsor noted he had amassed a six-page rap sheet by the time he was 19.

Roche met the Geas brothers when he and Fotios Geas served time together in state prison in the late 1990s, according to his testimony. They forged a bond by plotting potential criminal schemes upon their release but the tenuous organized crime landscape in Western Massachusetts presented entirely new prospects.

Arillotta's stock was rising with New York mobsters while Bruno's was plummeting around 2003. With Arillotta at the helm, he and the Geases plotted shakedowns and various murders against rivals and suspected informants. Arillotta testified that Fotios Geas referred to Roche as his "crash dummy" for Roche's violent and uninhibited style.

Just weeks prior to Bruno's murder, Roche trashed a bar in the city's South End following a brawl there. Bruno had a piece of the business, and ordered Roche through intermediaries to pay for the damage. Roche was defiant and fueled by alcohol, according to his testimony. On a parallel track, Arillotta and other ranking mobsters had unsuccessfully been plotting to kill Bruno, so the coincidental feud between Roche and the powerful mobster seemed serendipitous.

Roche waited outside Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Society and called out to Bruno as he left with sidekick Frank Depergola.

"Hey, Al. You looking for me?" he told jurors he called out before pulling the trigger. He went on the run after getting his money and was caught by the FBI in Florida in July 2004. He was accidentally shot in the back while prone and handcuffed, and later received a $150,000 settlement from the government.

Arillotta has yet to be sentenced; the Geases are serving life term on their convictions on charges for Bruno's killing, the murder of Gary D. Westerman and attempted mob-related murder plots on others.

One of Bruno's sons, Victor C. Bruno, addressed the court at the sentencing hearing, arguing the judge impose a life term for Roche.

"I know the government wants to send a message that if you cooperate, you get to go home, but that shouldn't be the message today," said Victor Bruno, the only member of Adolfo Bruno's family in the courtroom. "This man is a violent person. He will murder again. He's not reformed."

Roche, who has been enrolled in the federal witness security program, was ushered out of the courtroom by U.S. marshals, without looking back.



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