A magistrate judge in Rhode Island agreed to release the reputed former boss of the New England mob on $500,000 bond Tuesday, but federal prosecutors said they will fight the decision by bringing it to a higher-ranking judge.
Luigi "Baby Shacks" Manocchio is accused of extorting protection money from Rhode Island strip clubs and adult bookstores. He has pleaded not guilty to charges of racketeering conspiracy, extortion conspiracy, and extortion.
Magistrate Judge David Martin granted Manocchio's request to be released pending trial after family members agreed to post their homes as collateral. The judge said the suspected former head of the Patriarca crime family could be freed once the homes are officially appraised and found to be collectively worth $500,000 or more.
Martin ruled that Manocchio would have to remain confined in his brother's home in Glocester, R.I., under electronic surveillance, except for pre-approved medical and court appointments. The judge also forbade Manocchio from using a cell phone, which can be more difficult to monitor than a landline telephone.
Federal prosecutors argued that Manocchio should remain in custody because he is a flight risk and a danger to the community. They said they will ask a U.S. District Court judge to review Martin's decision.
In 1969, Manocchio fled murder charges and remained on the lam for a decade before turning himself over to authorities. In that case, he pleaded no contest to a murder conspiracy charge and was sentenced to time served. Prosecutors Tuesday said the fact that he fled _ along with Manocchio's penchant for travel and access to private aircraft _ makes him a serious flight risk. They also cited Manocchio's age, 83, as a reason he would be inclined to jump bail.
"There are no conditions that can overcome his desire to be free in his final days," said Assistant U.S. Attorney William Ferland.
Prosecutors have said Manocchio's ties to organized crime make him a threat to potential witnesses against him and to the community at large.
Manocchio's lawyer, Mary June Ciresi, presented several properties _ including the homes of Manocchio's brother and nephew _ that her client's family members offered as bail surety. She said Manocchio's actions in 1969 do not reflect the current likelihood that he would flee, citing his advanced age, his good track record of showing up for court dates since he turned himself in, in 1979, and recent developments in tracking technology.
She also called into question the government's evidence that Manocchio is the leader of a criminal organization or a threat to any specific individuals.
Ciresi told reporters she and Manocchio were pleased with the judge's decision, though she noted that it remains to be seen whether a district judge will agree with Martin's decision.
Manocchio was arrested in January as part of a mob sweep that netted over 120 suspected mobsters and associates. Prosecutors say Manocchio used intermediaries to collect several thousands of dollars in monthly protection payments from Rhode Island strip clubs and adult bookstores.
Three other men have been charged in the case.
Thomas Iafrate, who worked as a bookkeeper at the Cadillac Lounge strip club, has pleaded not guilty to charges of racketeering conspiracy, extortion conspiracy and extortion. Prosecutors say Iafrate, 61, set aside $125 of the club's revenue each day as protection money and delivered the money to Manocchio on a monthly basis.
Manocchio had the owner of the Cadillac Lounge hire Richard Bonafiglia as a bouncer and Theodore Cardillo as a manager, according to prosecutors. They say Manocchio ordered the men to keep him informed of the goings-on at the club. The men have pleaded not guilty to racketeering conspiracy and extortion conspiracy.
Iafrate and Cordillo, 67, remain free on unsecured bond. Last week, Martin ordered the 57-year-old Bonafiglia, who has a long criminal history, held pending a bail hearing on Thursday.