Updated at: 11/14/2012 6:05 PM
By DAVID KLEPPER
(AP) PROVIDENCE, R.I. - The acting head of the New England Mafia was sentenced on Wednesday to 6 1/2 years in prison for shaking down local strip clubs for protection money.
Anthony L. DiNunzio, 53, pleaded guilty to one count of racketeering conspiracy in September under a plea agreement in U.S. District Court in Providence. The sentence was the maximum amount of time recommended by prosecutors under the plea deal.
DiNunzio is the eighth associate of the New England mob to be convicted and sentenced following an investigation into the extortion of strip clubs. Federal authorities said his conviction and sentencing deal another blow to what was once a far more formidable criminal organization.
"Taking down the head of the family is a significant step," Rhode Island U.S. Attorney Peter Neronha said.
U.S. District Court Judge William Smith said the maximum sentence was appropriate because he doesn’t believe DiNunzio is likely to rehabilitate and because he was the acting leader of the enterprise.
"You’re the person at the top, and when you’re at the top you have to take the most responsibility," the judge told DiNunzio.
DiNunzio, of Boston, was arrested in April. Among the other people who pleaded guilty 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 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 when he ascended to the role of acting boss of the New England Mafia in late 2009 and early 2010.
According to prosecutors, DiNunzio and another man, Theodore Cardillo, manager of the Cadillac Lounge, netted at least $2 million from the scheme. Cardillo has agreed to plead guilty to his role in it.
DiNunzio’s attorney, Robert Sheketoff, had asked the judge to impose a sentence of just over five years. He said his client suffers from high blood pressure and back problems and nothing would be served by keeping him in prison an extra year.
"He’s accepted responsibility," Sheketoff said. "He’s prepared to do his time."
Sheketoff said DiNunzio wants to serve his sentence at a federal facility in Devens, Mass., so he can be close to his family. The facility also houses inmates with special medical needs.
DiNunzio, who also will be supervised for three years following his release from prison, had no reaction as the judge announced the sentence. He nodded farewell to prosecutors as they left the courtroom. One said, "Good luck to you."
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)