HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — A 75-year-old man who federal authorities say was a player in the notorious French Connection heroin ring decades ago was sentenced Thursday to nine years in prison for running an illegal narcotics operation in Connecticut.
Danbury resident Alfred Catino was sentenced in federal court in New Haven.
He was among 16 people busted in Connecticut in 2012 by a federal Drug Enforcement Administration task force and area police officers for distributing marijuana, cocaine and oxycodone in Fairfield County. He pleaded guilty to a drug conspiracy charge in 2014.
Catino, who authorities say had several aliases including "the old man," admitted in his guilty plea that he was part of a group involved in a failed effort to distribute about 200 pounds of marijuana from California to Connecticut and sell cocaine and oxycodone. The other defendants also pleaded guilty.
Federal authorities said they were surprised to learn after they arrested Catino that he had links to the French Connection, which was the major supplier of heroin to the United States in the 1960s and 1970s that spawned the 1971 Oscar-winning movie of the same name starring Gene Hackman and Roy Scheider.
Catino expressed remorse for his actions during the sentencing hearing but again challenged some of the evidence against him in comments to Judge Jeffrey Meyer.
Although he pleaded guilty, Catino plans to appeal a judge's rejection of his request to exclude wiretap evidence and certain testimony by law enforcement officials, whom he accuses of providing misleading information that led to his arrest warrant, said his lawyer, Frank Riccio II.
Prosecutors asked for a 10-year prison term for Catino, while Riccio sought the mandatory minimum five-year sentence.
"While the court did closely analyze all facets of Mr. Catino's case, I believe this sentence is excessive, especially considering his advanced age of 75," Riccio said.
Riccio has said that Catino doesn't deny being part of the French Connection.
Federal authorities say the French Connection involved Turkish heroin refined in Marseille, France, and smuggled into the U.S. A big bust in the case in 1962 by New York City detectives was the subject of the 1971 film.
Catino's criminal record is a colorful history of drug dealing and prison sentences dating back to the 1960s. His illicit career took him from the streets of the Bronx in New York City to France to Connecticut's Gold Coast.