Call it Marino's choice.
Gambino wiseguy Daniel Marino - a still powerful capo who just celebrated his 70th birthday behind bars - is facing some difficult options in his pending federal case. Option #1 is a plea bargain which resolves all the charges he faces, including two murders, in exchange for six years in prison.
Option #2 is a deal with a shorter prison term of five years, but there's a catch: He has to plead guilty to a particular murder conspiracy.
And then there's Option #3 - his right to go to trial and try to beat the case.
From what Gang Land hears, the ailing Marino doesn't have much interest in rolling the dice at trial. Which leaves him the five-year deal versus the six-year deal. That should be easy, right?
Wrong. A closer look shows that the government's Option #2 proposal is rather unseemly.
In order for Marino to get the better deal, he would have to admit that he was part of a mob plot to whack his own nephew. Even the government's key witness on that subject took issue with that scenario in his prior testimony concerning the April 1998 murder of Frank Hydell, which took place while Marino was in prison.
No one's talking about this on the record, but sources say that Manhattan federal prosecutor Elie Honig made the offer to defense attorney Gerald Shargel during recent talks regarding a possible global plea deal for all 11 remaining defendants awaiting trial for numerous crimes - including using a 15-year-old girl as a prostitute.
Since top Justice Department officials announced the indictment with gusto - focusing attention on allegations that the gangsters used underage hookers in a call-girl ring for two years - the feds have shortened the alleged time frame to just three months. Another blow to the case was the revelation that the key witness in the sex-trafficking aspects of the case, Jude Buoneto, is a convicted child molester himself.
Despite the embarrassment of publicly - but quietly - scaling back the scope of the charges, prosecutors, as Gang Land reported two months ago, have been playing hardball in plea negotiations with Marino & Company.
Both plea bargains now on the table, sources say would require that Marino fork over $2 million that the feds say he's earned over the years through a number of scams. In addition to the two mob hits, Marino, whose alleged crime family ties go back 50 years, is charged with labor racketeering as far back as 1980, as well as more recent schemes involving extortion, loansharking and gambling.
Neither Honig nor Shargel would discuss the ongoing negotiations, but knowledgeable sources tell Gang Land that the six-year plea deal would require Marino to plead guilty to extortion in the construction industry as well as tax charges stemming from the labor racketeering schemes.
He could shave a year off that, sources say, by agreeing to plead guilty to murder conspiracy charges in the Hydell plot. By all accounts, Gambino soldier Thomas (Huck) Carbonaro set that in motion when he learned that Hydell was cooperating against two Carbonaro nephews who were implicated in the slaying of a corrupt union official a year earlier.
Carbonaro, who was convicted of Hydell's murder in 2004, is serving life. His nephews copped plea deals in the killing earlier this year, and took 15 years behind bars. Mob associate Edward Boyle was acquitted of the murder in January, but faces 20 years on unrelated racketeering charges he was convicted of at the same trial.
At Boyle's trial, turncoat capo Michael (Mikey Scars) DiLeonardo testified that the crime family never sanctioned the killing, but that sometime before it happened, he sent a message informing the imprisoned Marino "that this kid's no good" and to "handle it in any way he has to."
DiLeonardo never heard back, but when Marino was released from prison in 2000, he questioned Mikey Scars about the slaying, seeking to determine whether his nephew "was a rat" or if he died "for nothing," DiLeonardo testified, adding that during that conversation, Marino "was clearly stating that he didn't murder him."
Marino, who has been detained as a danger to the community since his arrest in April, is still viewed by the feds as one of three family capos who serve on a ruling panel that now runs the beleaguered crime family - a factor that obviously has some bearing on the government's hard-nosed tactics.
Sources say Marino's co-rulers are Sicilian-born capo John Gambino, 70, who was released from federal prison several years ago after a 15-year stretch for a 1988 murder he committed for John Gotti, and a 61-year-old Queens-based capo, Robert (Pepe) Vernace.
Meanwhile, mob associate Steven Maiurro, who faced up to 20 years for being part of the sex-trafficking aspect of the Marino case, copped a plea deal 10 days ago that calls for a prison term between 21 and 27 months.
Maiurro, 31, had a relatively minor role in the case. But two days after the indictment was announced, he was big news on the Clear Channel Outdoor billboard in Times Square. That happened after he walked into the FBI's Manhattan headquarters and surrendered and became the focus of an FBI news release which screamed that he was CAPTURED BY THE FBI.