The reputed former leader of the New England mob pleaded not guilty to federal extortion and conspiracy charges on Thursday, as a judge ordered him kept in custody until a bail hearing next week.
A lawyer for Luigi "Baby Shacks" Manocchio entered the plea on behalf of the suspected former boss of the Patriarca crime family in U.S. District Court in Providence. A magistrate judge set another hearing for Tuesday to allow the court to evaluate property the defense proposed posting as bail surety.
Manocchio, 83, and another man, 69-year-old Thomas Iafrate, are accused of extorting thousands of dollars from city strip clubs. At one club, the Cadillac Lounge, where Iafrate worked as a bookkeeper, prosecutors said in court filings, audio surveillance and other evidence show Iafrate setting aside $125 per day in protection payments, which he delivered to Manocchio on a monthly basis.
Federal prosecutors requested that Manocchio be held pending trial. Scott Lawson, a prosecutor in the Department of Justice's Organized Crime and Racketeering Section, called him a danger to the community who has a history of running away from charges against him.
"Manocchio is an experienced and sophisticated traveler who would have no difficulty undertaking a successful pattern of evasion of international scope," prosecutors wrote in a memorandum filed with the court Thursday. "The court has before it a proven track record of what this defendant does when charged with a serious offense: he flees."
Lawson noted in court that after an indictment on murder charges in 1969, Manocchio went on the lam for a decade before turning himself in to face the charges.
He also said the government anticipates it will file additional charges against Manocchio and others.
Mannochio's lawyer, Mary June Ciresi, said the government's argument for detention contained "a lot of conclusions and not much in the way of fact."
She disputed prosecutors' claims that Manocchio appears to have few family ties and no apparent assets apart from a pre-paid funeral plan. In Thursday's memorandum, Lawson wrote that Manocchio gave an FBI agent's name as an emergency contact _ rather than the name of a family member or friend _ when arrested in Florida.
Ciresi said one of Manocchio's brothers, whom she described as a long-time Rhode Island resident, had offered to let Manocchio live with him under house arrest and electronic surveillance. She also said a number of Manocchio's relatives and friends had offered property as bail surety.
The magistrate judge, David Martin, did not reject the request, but said he wanted to know more about the properties and to speak to the owners before he made a decision.
After the hearing, Ciresi told reporters she was "optimistic" that her client would win release on bail. She declined to comment further.
The government's filing Thursday details what investigators say are Manocchio's continued close ties to top New England mafia figures, as well as previously undisclosed background about the government's investigation and Manocchio's life.
The filing says investigators believe Manocchio stepped down as head of the New England mob in 2008 or 2009, under pressure from increased law enforcement scrutiny. In November 2008, he was searched by FBI agents and found to have about $2,900 in cash in his coat pocket, which prosecutors say was protection money from the Cadillac Lounge.
That search took place immediately after a meeting between Manocchio and Iafrate at a restaurant, Euro Bistro, in Providence's Federal Hill neighborhood, according to the filing, close to the small apartment where Manocchio lives alone.
Prosecutors say Manocchio has been seen by law enforcement meeting with high-ranking members of the mob as recently as June.
In addition, they say Manocchio's frequent travel, remarkably good health and access to private aircraft owned by an alleged associate of the mob make him a serious flight risk.
Manocchio was arrested in Florida last month as part of a roundup of more than 120 suspected mobsters and associates. Iafrate was arrested in Rhode Island as part of the same sweep and pleaded not guilty to charges of extortion and conspiracy.
Manocchio has denied any connection to organized crime.