NEW YORK (Reuters) - A man described by authorities as an honorary member of the Gambino crime family was sentenced to 13 years in prison on Wednesday for conspiring to murder a garbage company owner in 1989.
The U.S. Attorney's Office said Joseph Watts, 69, was carrying out orders from Gambino Godfather John Gotti when he planned to ambush and murder Frederick Weiss, who ran a sanitation business on Staten Island. In the end, Weiss never showed up and was later gunned down by a separate team of hitmen outside his apartment building.
Watts had pleaded guilty in January to charges of conspiracy to commit murder and assault.
Prosecutors declined to elaborate on why it took more than 20 years to charge Watts.
Even though he was never formally inducted into the mob because he lacked Italian heritage, Watts was important enough to be given the status of a Gambino Capo, the U.S. Attorney's Office said.
According to court documents, Gotti ordered the hit on Weiss, whose decision to fire a lawyer favored by the Gambino family convinced Gotti that Weiss was a government informant.
Gotti, the flamboyant crime boss known as a snappy dresser who loved media attention, spend his last years in prison, dying behind bars in 2002 at age 61 of cancer.
"Today's sentence should serve as a sober reminder that if you kill or harm an actual or potential government witness...we will find you and send you to prison for a very long time," Manhattan Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement.
(Reporting by Bernd Debusmann Jr., editing by Barbara Goldberg and Greg McCune)