Sunday, October 29, 2006

Bonanno's Baldo Gets Life in Prison for Murders

Friends of ours: Baldassare "Baldo" Amato, Bonanno Crime Family
Friends of mine: Sebastiano DiFalco, Robert Perrino

Baldassare Amato, a powerful Bonanno crime family figure who represents the group’s traditional Sicilian roots, stood silently with his arms crossed yesterday as a federal judge denounced him and meted out a life sentence for two 1992 Mafia murders.

As the judge, Nicholas G. Garaufis of United States District Court in Brooklyn, tore into him for “using murder as a business tactic,” at several points Mr. Amato raised his right hand to his chin and then crossed his arms again in front of his chest. “Mr. Amato,” said the judge, making no effort to mask his disgust, “you’re just a plain, wanton murderer and a Mafia assassin. The sentence I’m going to give you, as far as I’m concerned, is a gift.”

Mr. Amato, 54, dressed in a gray prison sweatshirt and khaki trousers, appeared unmoved when the judge handed down the life sentence, almost as though it were a cost of doing business. He and his lawyer had both declined to address the court.

After pronouncing the sentence, Judge Garaufis asked the lead prosecutor in the case, Assistant United States Attorney John Buretta, how much of a fine he could levy. Mr. Buretta said the maximum was $250,000, and the judge levied it.

Mr. Amato, who is known as Baldo and who immigrated to New York from the Sicilian fishing village of Castellammare del Golfo when he was 18, was convicted on July 12 of racketeering conspiracy charges, including the murders of two Bonanno associates.

The jury concluded that he ordered the murder of restaurant owner Sebastiano DiFalco and carried out a second killing himself, shooting Robert Perrino in the head several times.

Prosecutors had presented evidence that the Bonanno family was concerned that Mr. Perrino, a delivery supervisor for The New York Post, might help expose an infiltration of The Post’s delivery operation by the crime family.

The judge said that Mr. DiFalco was killed “possibly because Mr. Amato and his Mafia colleagues wanted to take over the business and they might have had a disagreement over price or some other detail.”

The six-week trial was a primer on the devastation that federal prosecutors in Brooklyn have wrought on the Bonannos, cutting a swath through the family’s ranks and upending its traditions with a growing cadre of informers.

Mr. Amato was also stoical when Judge Garaufis rejected a request by his lawyer, Diarmuid White, for a recommendation that he be sent to a prison in the New York area so his family could visit. “It’s for them, your honor,” Mr. White said of the family.

The judge was unmoved.

“I have compassion for the defendant’s family, and I also have compassion for the members of the families of Sebastiano DiFalco and Robert Perrino,” the judge said. “This defendant made it certain that they would never visit their family member, anywhere.”

Mr. DiFalco’s two nephews were in court yesterday and said they were gratified by the life sentence and the fine against Mr. Amato. “He’s a cold and evil person,” said one of them, Sal Montoro, 42. He said Mr. Amato had gone to their uncle’s wake and vowed to help find the killer.

For Mr. Amato, after the sentence was handed down, it was a brisk, businesslike handshake and a small smile for his lawyer, and he walked out the courtroom’s side door to the holding cells, accompanied by United States marshals.

Thanks to William Rashbaum

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