PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- The former New England Mafia boss was sentenced Friday to 5 1/2 years in prison for his role in the shakedown of Providence strip clubs, becoming the first ex-mob leader to be locked up in a case that has ensnared nine people described by prosecutors as having ties to organized crime.
The sentence for the 84-year-old Luigi "Baby Shacks" Manocchio means he may live out his final days in prison. He turns 85 next month.
But U.S. District Court Judge William E. Smith said he believes Manocchio, a former skier who loves the outdoors, will survive. "I think you are going to make it through this prison sentence and come out on the other end," Smith said.
Prosecutors had asked for a prison term of five years and 10 months. Under a plea agreement, Manocchio faced between 5 years and 3 months and 6 1/2 years.
After being sentenced, Manocchio waved and gave a thumbs-up to his family, who sat in the back of the courtroom. His brother declined to comment.
Manocchio's role in the extortion plot went back to the 1990s and netted $800,000 to $1.5 million in ill-gotten gains through protection payments paid by strip clubs, including the Satin Doll and Cadillac Lounge, according to prosecutors. Manocchio acknowledged at sentencing that his conduct was "unlawful," but he maintained he did not personally threaten anyone.
"By virtue of my position, I inherited the deeds of my associates," said Manocchio, who wore headphones for assistance.
"I don't want my family or any of my friends to believe I personally threatened anyone," he said.
Prosecutors said whether Manocchio explicitly threatened anyone "is beside the point." Assistant U.S. Attorney William J. Ferland said that after a strip club owner reduced his payment to the mob, Manocchio visited him and informed the owner he needed to pay $4,000 a month.
"It's his personal appearance. It is who he is and what he represents that constitutes a threat," Ferland said.
The judge agreed to a request from defense attorney Joseph J. Balliro Sr. to recommend that Manocchio serve his sentence at a prison in North Carolina or Florida. The warmer climate is better for Manocchio's medical conditions, including osteoarthritis, vertigo and prostate problems, Balliro said.
Manocchio, Balliro said, was a mentor in the Federal Hill neighborhood where he lived in Providence and kept young people out of trouble.
"I think for anyone of the age of Mr. Manocchio any time at all is very, very serious," he said.
Last month, authorities arrested reputed acting New England mob boss Anthony L. DiNunzio, 53, on charges connected to the same plot. DiNunzio, who lives in the East Boston section of Boston, has pleaded not guilty and is being held without bail.
Edward "Eddy" Lato, 65, the captain of the mob's Rhode Island crew, and mob member Alfred "Chippy" Scivola, 71, have also pleaded guilty to charges in connection to the scheme. They await sentencing.
The payments were set aside for the Mafia by Thomas Iafrate, 71, a former bookkeeper at the Cadillac Lounge, prosecutors said. Iafrate is serving a 2 1/2 -year prison sentence for racketeering conspiracy. The monthly payments ranged from $2,000 to $6,000, the indictment said.
Manocchio started overseeing the collection of the protection payments in 1995 after another member of the Mafia was imprisoned, prosecutors said. Manocchio resigned his position as crime boss in 2009 but remained a member of the organization, according to authorities.
Another man, Raymond "Scarface" Jenkins, 48, was sentenced Friday to 3 years and 1 month in prison for his role in a plot hatched by the mob to shake down a used-car salesman for $25,000. He pleaded guilty to extortion conspiracy and admitted to being a mob associate, prosecutors said.
Defense attorney William C. Dimitri disputed the "Scarface" alias given to Jenkins by authorities. He called the moniker "horrible."
"No one calls him that except the press and law enforcement," Dimitri said.
Prosecutors say the used-car salesman, who owed a debt to a third party, approached Jenkins about the situation and asked for help.
Jenkins agreed to intervene, but the salesman later said he could not come up with the money he once thought he could get, prosecutors said.
The salesman borrowed the money after having defrauded his employer, Dimitri said. He added that the lender wanted the money repaid, leading the salesman to fear he would be exposed to his employer.
An admitted mob associate, 54-year-old Albino Folcarelli, went to the Johnston dealership where the salesman worked to intimidate him, according to prosecutors. The man was not there at the time of the visit and two people called to warn him to stay away from work, prosecutors said. Later, Folcarelli drove into the driveway of the salesman's home, prosecutors said.
After that, the man paid $20,000 to Jenkins, and $5,000 to a different person, prosecutors said. The funds, prosecutors say, were withdrawn from a retirement account belonging to the salesman's wife.
"He hasn't made excuses for what he did," Dimitri said.
Folcarelli has pleaded guilty to extortion conspiracy. He is scheduled to be sentenced in July.