A reputed mob boss known for his wide girth and reputation for violence was sentenced to 25 years in prison Wednesday in a federal court in Chicago.
Michael "The Large Guy" Sarno also was ordered to pay nearly $1.8 million in restitution. A jury convicted Sarno, 54, and four co-defendants in 2010 of racketeering and other charges.
Just before U.S. District Judge Ronald Guzman handed down the sentence, Sarno read from a statement in which he acknowledged "deep regrets." He asked his lawyers to read the rest after he choked up with emotion. Sarno's family sobbed as his attorney, Jeffrey Steinback, finished the statement, which referred lovingly to Sarno's children and wife.
Government attorneys say Sarno and his crew wanted to warn a game distributor not to encroach on their video-poker turf on Chicago's South Side and in the city's suburbs. To make this point, federal prosecutors say Sarno ordered C&S Coin Operated Amusements' Berwyn offices bombed in 2003.
Experts say Sarno's background as an enforcer wouldn't normally have translated into a top mob job. But with aging kingpins behind bars or dying, a weakened Chicago Outfit offered positions to men like Sarno.
His attorney said before sentencing that Sarno is in poor health, suffering from diabetes and high blood pressure, and is "not going to live 25 years."
The judge said he recognized the hardship on Sarno's family was real and "a tragedy." But he said he decided on the lengthy sentence to protect the public and send a message to others who might be tempted to "follow in (Sarno's) footsteps."
He added that Sarno's two prior felony convictions failed to deter him. "He appears single-mindedly determined to engage in criminal conduct of an organized nature," Guzman said.
Sarno's attorneys told the judge they intend to appeal.
Sarno, dressed in an orange jumpsuit, blew a kiss to his family as he was led out of the courtroom.
After the hearing, prosecutors praised the judge's decision and thanked investigators who helped build the case. Assistant U.S. Attorney Amarjeet Bhachu said the sentence "sends a very powerful message that if you are intent upon using force or violence through your connection with organized crime, you're going to pay a heavy price to do that."