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

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Bonanno family underboss sentenced to 21 months in prison

High blood sugar, stress, swelling of kidneys, swelling of skin, lung problems, vision issues: These were some of the medical problems enumerated by lawyers for Thomas DiFiore, a 71-year-old Mafia member, at his sentencing on Tuesday in Brooklyn.

The lawyers were seeking to have Mr. DiFiore sentenced to just the 14 months he has already served in jail since his arrest on a debt collection charge. Judge Allyne R. Ross of Federal District Court instead gave him a 21-month sentence, which means he will be released in seven months.

Judge Ross said that Mr. DiFiore “had experienced some significant health problems, about which we have had numerous conferences and hearings over the past year — I’ve considered those factors.”

“On the other hand,” she added, “I am in agreement with the government that the defendant’s criminal conduct was serious.”

Mr. DiFiore is one of the “oldfellas,” aging Mafia members who have been sentenced in recent years in Federal District Court in Brooklyn. While defendants facing sentencing often focus on a harsh upbringing or good works or family, these men have highlighted their faltering health and advancing age as they seek leniency.

“I want to thank Your Honor for taking such an interest in my medical problems here,” Mr. DiFiore said on Tuesday.

A heavyset man, Mr. DiFiore was dressed in navy prison scrubs and wore his gray hair combed away from his face and glasses. He added that he had missed the previous summer with his grandchildren, and “I really don’t want to miss another summer — I don’t know how many I have left.”

Sally J. M. Butler, one of Mr. DiFiore’s lawyers, argued that the plea agreement allowed Judge Ross to consider Mr. DiFiore’s medical history as she created his sentence. Ms. Butler then detailed Mr. DiFiore’s blood-sugar levels for the judge, explaining that they had “again gone through the roof.”

“It’s just not stabilized, as hard as everyone’s tried,” Ms. Butler said, as Mr. DiFiore shook his head and mouthed “Never.”

Ms. Butler criticized the health care staff at the Metropolitan Detention Center, the federal jail in Brooklyn where Mr. DiFiore is being held. They were late in giving him his insulin shot on Monday, she said. They have given him compression socks for the swelling, but they have not helped. He was supposed to have regular CT scans, and those were not being performed. He still needed a full work-up on his kidneys, and on his eyes.

That criticism made the end of the proceeding all the stranger. After sentencing Mr. DiFiore, Judge Ross offered to recommend a transfer to a medical facility run by the Bureau of Prisons. His lawyers declined.

“To have him moved to a different facility would be counterproductive because of the stress that that takes,” one of the lawyers, Steve Zissou, said, requesting that Mr. DiFiore be kept at the Metropolitan Detention Center.

The sentence was in the range sought by prosecutors — 21 to 27 months.

“He’s getting these illicit earnings off of other people’s backs,” Alicyn L. Cooley, an assistant United States attorney, said.

The charge, of conspiracy to collect unlawful debt, stemmed from a 2013 dispute over a loan. A man affiliated with the Bonanno crime family, for which Mr. DiFiore was the “street boss,” had lent money to a carwash employee who was affiliated with the Gambino crime family. But the Bonanno affiliate did not have clearance from his higher-ups to make the loan, and the loan was not being repaid.

Bonanno members intervened, including Vincent Asaro, 80, who is scheduled to go on trial this fall in Brooklyn in connection with the 1978 Lufthansa heist, among other offenses. “Stab him today,” Mr. Asaro told a friend about the Bonanno affiliate. “Today!”

The Bonannos resolved it by getting a $30,000 payment. Mr. Asaro figured $10,000 for himself, $10,000 for his son, $6,000 for the friend and $4,000 for Mr. DiFiore, though Mr. Asaro said he had taken Mr. DiFiore’s portion.

That apparently did not sit well with Mr. DiFiore, as Mr. Asaro described in a June 2013 conversation with an informer.

“Did you give, what’s his name, Tommy the money?” the informer asked. “Tommy, the $4,000?”

“I had a big fight with him the other day. We had $30,000 coming, he took $15,000 of it. I want to kill” him, Mr. Asaro responded.

“He’s that type of guy?” the informer asked.

Mr. Asaro described Mr. DiFiore in a term unprintable here, and added that he made a former Bonanno boss “look like St. Anthony.”



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