PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – A secret 2011 case against a veteran Rhode Island mobster was quietly unsealed by a federal judge late Friday, revealing never-before-seen details about the case that ultimately led to Robert DeLuca wearing a wire for the FBI.
According to the case file, DeLuca, then 64, was charged with “RICO conspiracy” for his role in a scheme to extort protection payments for Providence strip clubs.
The case outlined against DeLuca said he and former mob boss Luigi “Baby Shacks” Manocchio worked together to arrange protection payments from the Satin Doll and Cadillac Lounge strip clubs beginning around 2006.
Manocchio was the head of the New England La Cosa Nostra (NELCN) at the time.
Payments from the strip clubs ranged between $4,000 to $6,000 a month, according to the court document, and DeLuca and Manocchio had two mob associates – Thomas Iafrate and Richard Bonafiglia – working inside each club to manage the payments.
“Approximately $125 a day was set aside from the proceeds of the Cadillac Lounge by delivery to the NELCN,” the criminal information document states. “This amount was kept in a safe in the manager’s office of the Cadillac Lounge, and covered the protection payments to the NELCN from the Satin Doll, Cadillac Lounge and the owner’s other adult entertainment businesses.”
Iafrate and Bonafiglia later pleaded guilty to their role in the scheme.
DeLuca was officially charged on July 8, 2011, the same day he signed a plea agreement with the Rhode Island U.S. Attorney’s Office where he pledged to cooperate with federal investigators.
“Defendant will meet with government representatives as often as necessary and provide complete and truthful information to them,” the plea agreement states.
It also called on DeLuca to testify against his underworld colleagues if any of the cases went to trial. None of them did; each defendant eventually pleaded guilty under the threat of lengthy prison time.
For agreeing to cooperate, prosecutors said they would recommend a lower sentence for DeLuca, who already had a criminal record.
Oddly, there is no docket entry for Deluca’s Feb. 2, 2012, sentencing hearing before U.S. District Court Chief Judge William Smith. But an indictment against DeLuca out of Massachusetts, unsealed Monday, reveals DeLuca only served one day of incarceration: the day he was arrested.
Federal prosecutors acknowledge DeLuca was putting himself at risk by cooperating in a case against his longtime employer – and its outfit of mobsters and associates – and that they offered to give him protection.
“It is understood that defendant’s truthful cooperation with the United States is likely to reveal activities of individuals who might use violence, force, and intimidation against his family and loved one,” the plea deal states. “Should defendant’s cooperation present a significant risk of physical harm the United States, upon written request of defendant, will take steps that it determines to be reasonable and necessary to attempt to ensure his safety and that of his family and loved one.”
Those steps included the possibility of putting DeLuca into the U.S. Marshals’ Witness Protection Program or the FBI’s “relocation program.”
DeLuca vanished from the streets of Providence around 2011 and did not reappear on the public radar until his arrest in Broward County, Florida, on Monday.
It is unclear if DeLuca had been relocated by the FBI or in the Witness Protection Program at the time. Rhode Island U.S. Marshal Jamie Hainsworth referred questions to the FBI. Kristen Setera, a spokeswoman for the Boston office of the FBI, declined comment, citing the pending case against DeLuca, and referred questions to the Rhode Island U.S. Attorney’s Office. Jim Martin, a spokesman there, also declined comment.
Reached by email, DeLuca’s attorney, Marshall Dore Louis, declined to comment.
Piecing together documents previously released in the case, DeLuca’s cooperation with the FBI included wearing a wire to secretly record other members of the NELCN so prosecutors could build a case against them.
Following DeLuca’s cooperation in July of 2011, a flurry of additional indictments in the case came down that year and into 2012. In all, nine mobsters and associates were snared. Along with Manocchio – who faced additional charges in the new indictments – were then-underboss Anthony DiNunzio of Boston and Mafia capo regime Edward “Eddie” Lato.
On June 28 this year, Assistant U.S. Attorney William Ferland asked Judge Smith to unseal the 2011 case against DeLuca. Ferland said the reasons to seal the case, including “security interests,” were “overcome by more recent developments, not limited to the defendant’s indictment in [Massachusetts].”
“Therefore, the interests of justice dictate that an unsealing of this information occur,” Ferland wrote.
The new case against DeLuca alleges he wasn’t “truthful” with the government, despite his pledge to be in the 2011 plea agreement.
DeLuca was arrested Monday morning in Florida after he was indicted on charges that he lied to federal investigators about what he knew of the 1993 gangland slaying of Boston nightclub manager Steven DiSarro.
The indictment alleges DeLuca claimed he knew nothing of DiSarro’s disappearance when he was questioned by investigators in 2011.
But prosecutors say not only did DeLuca know what happened to DiSarro, he helped coordinate where to bury the body: behind a Providence mill building owned by his friend William Ricci.
DeLuca, now 70, faces a three-count indictment including obstruction of justice and making false statements.
In March, the FBI and Rhode Island Medical Examiners Office exhumed the body of DiSarro after a week of digging behind the Branch Avenue building.
Ricci, 69, was charged in a separate drug and firearms case and struck a plea deal with prosecutors; he is set to be sentenced in October. The Rhode Island U.S. Attorney’s Office has declined to comment if there is a connection between the two cases.
On Friday, DeLuca waived his right to be released on bail, meaning he will eventually be transported to Massachusetts to face charges in federal court in Boston.
According to court documents, federal prosecutors are recommending Ricci receive 45 months in prison.