Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Reputed Mobster Gets 30 Months

Friends of ours: Salvatore Locascio, Frank Locascio, John Gotti

Salvatore Locascio was indicted in February on multiple felonies alleging he received several million dollars from a massive, illegal phone cramming operation that scammed thousands of customers. With a sick wife and a felony charge to which he had already pleaded guilty, North Naples resident and reputed Mafia captain Salvatore Locascio entered a New York courtroom Monday hoping to avoid a prison term at his sentencing. Locascio, 45, didn't succeed, but he did persuade the judge to sentence him to well below the minimum under federal guidelines — 2½ years in prison. The sentencing took place in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn.

Locascio, pleaded guilty in February to money laundering. He was indicted on multiple felonies alleging he received several million dollars from a massive, illegal phone cramming operation that scammed thousands of customers by placing charges on their bills for unauthorized, unordered services. He faced up to 10 years in prison, with federal sentencing guidelines calling for between about five and seven years behind bars. So the 2½-year sentence was several years below the minimum.

"Now he hopes to return to his family and focus on them so they can cope with his absence for the next year and a half," one of Locascio's attorneys, Eric Franz, said after the hearing. Judge Carol Amon granted Locascio's request to begin his prison sentence June 1, 2006. He wanted to remain free to attend his son's high school graduation and care for his wife, who has multiple sclerosis.

The subject of the Mafia actually played little part in the sentence, even if prosecutors alleged it played a significant part in Locascio's past. Locascio's father, Frank, was the consigliere, or counselor, to Mafia crime boss John Gotti. The U.S. Attorney's Office has alleged Salvatore Locascio inherited his father's Bronx street crew in the mid-1990s. And the federal prosecutors argued the phone cramming operation was a Mafia-related business, with the payments to Locascio as tribute due to his position as a captain in the crime family.

The defense had signed a stipulation indicating they wouldn't oppose the characterization of Locascio as a mobster for purposes of the sentencing. One of the grounds under which the defense asked the judge to sentence below the minimum was for "extraordinary rehabilitation." So despite initial denials by Locascio and his attorneys that he was part of the organized crime world, they relied on that allegation to argue he had left the mob to start a clean life in Naples. He has a prior conviction and prison term in a tax evasion case.

Franz didn't want to comment on any mob-related allegations. But he said the business that conducted the illegal phone cramming, Creative Program Communications, was formed by Locascio and several other investors 20 years ago and had nothing to do with the Mafia.

Franz said Locascio moved from New York in 2000 or 2001 "to start a new life in Florida, free of organized crime, and the money he received was not a form of tribute." When asked Monday by Judge Amon whether the U.S. Attorney's Office had any evidence Locascio is currently involved in organized crime activities, the prosecutors said they didn't. So with there being no dispute over that issue, the judge didn't press for any argument or discussion on it during the sentencing. Locascio addressed the court and asked for any form of punishment that didn't involve incarceration. He spoke mostly of his family in North Naples and the need to care for his wife. Until he turns himself in to begin his sentence, he'll remain free on $10 million bond.

After his prison sentence, he must also serve three years of supervised release, which is similar to probation. He'll pay a $50,000 fine. And he must satisfy a $4.7 million asset forfeiture. Franz said Locascio may consider selling his Pelican Marsh home, valued at $2.1 million. And Robert Nardoza, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office, said Locascio has said he'll forfeit property on Indigo Bush Way in Grey Oaks. He'll sell commercial property he owns in the Bronx. And he presented the court with a check for more than $500,000 on Monday.

The phone cramming scheme generated $50,000 to $600,000 a day between 1997 and 2001. In total, the scheme is alleged to have produced about $200 million in gross revenues and $100 million in profits, prosecutors said. (From 1997 to 2001, assuming the full years for each is 5 years total. My calculator procudes a gross revenue range of $91, 250,000 to over a Billion dollars. The average take was probably a little over $100,000 day. It's good work if you can get it.)

If convicted of charges under his original indictments, Locascio could have faced up to 20 years in prison on the racketeering charge; 20 years in prison on the racketeering conspiracy charge; 20 years in prison on each wire fraud charge, five years in prison on the wire fraud conspiracy charge, and 20 years in prison on the money laundering conspiracy charge, federal prosecutors said. Instead, almost all those charges were dropped as part of the plea agreement.

Thanks to Chris Colby

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