By MICHELLE R. SMITHAssociated Press
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) - A Boston mobster acknowledged he was the acting head of the New England Mafia as he pleaded guilty in federal court Thursday to one count of racketeering conspiracy for shaking down Rhode Island strip clubs for protection money.
Anthony L. DiNunzio entered a guilty plea under a plea agreement in U.S. District Court in Providence. Under the agreement, prosecutors said they would recommend a sentence in the range of just over five years to up to 6 ½ years. Sentencing was scheduled for Nov. 14.
"We have driven a stake through the heart of organized crime in Rhode Island, and we have cut off its head in Boston," U.S. Attorney Peter Neronha said outside court after DiNunzio pleaded guilty.
He said he hoped the case sent a message to others in the mafia, but he acknowledged that organized crime was still a threat.
"Organized crime does not exist by itself in one particular place," he said. "Where there's an opportunity, other families may try to step in."
The 53-year-old DiNunzio was arrested in April and is the eighth person to plead guilty in a federal investigation into extortion by the New England mob. Among the other people convicted in the case are former New England mob boss Luigi "Baby Shacks" Manocchio, Rhode Island capo Edward Lato and mob member Alfred "Chippy" Scivola.
DiNunzio admitted in court on Thursday that he was paid monthly protection money by the owners of the Providence strip clubs the Satin Doll, Cadillac Lounge and Foxy Lady. He began receiving those payments, which over the years had amounted to $2,000 to $6,000 per club, when he ascended to the role of acting boss of the New England Mafia in late 2009 and early 2010.
According to court filings detailing the charge, which DiNunzio admitted to Thursday, he was caught on tape in New Jersey in December 2011, after several people had already been arrested in the strip club scheme, speaking with a senior member of the Gambino crime family. DiNunzio told him: "If I go to the can, I'm still the boss. ... No matter what."
When asked about DiNunzio's assertion, Neronha did not comment on it directly but said authorities had to remain vigilant.
Prosecutors have said DiNunzio and another man, Theodore Cardillo, manager of the Cadillac Lounge, netted at least $2 million from the scheme. Cardillo is described by prosecutors as a mob associate and has pleaded not guilty to racketeering conspiracy and extortion conspiracy charges and is awaiting trial.
One of DiNunzio's predecessors as head of the New England mob was his brother, Carmen "The Cheeseman" DiNunzio, who is serving a six-year sentence for bribing an undercover FBI agent posing as a Massachusetts state official.
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