Damion Canalichio, described by a federal prosecutor as a mob "enforcer" who abused people, was sentenced this morning to 137 months in prison for his conviction on racketeering conspiracy charges.
Judge Eduardo Robreno rejected a government request for a 20-year sentence.
But Robreno said nothing in Canalichio's criminal history, including two convictions for drug dealing and a series of arrests for assault, drug use and solicitation of a prostitute, "has shown the slightest respect for the law."
Robreno had set a sentencing guideline range of 110 to 137 months and, following a two-hour hearing, sentenced the 43-year-old mobster to the top of that range.
After Canalichio apologized to his wife, their three daughters and family members and friends for his actions, Robreno told him it appeared that "you are beginning to recognize that life is passing you by."
But Assistant U.S. Attorney John Han, who argued repeatedly for a higher sentence, didn't see it that way.
"His allegiance is not to family, his children, his wife," Han said, "but to La Cosa Nostra."
The prosecutor said Canalichio was a "career criminal...who will keep his mouth shut and do his time."
In fact, Canalichio will have to serve about eight more years before he is eligible for release.
"He had a reputation on the street for being a very violent person," Han said. "He was an enforcer for the mob...He's the muscle behind all these operations."
Pointing to tapes played as evidence during the racketeering trial that ended in February, Han said Canalichio in his own words had described his role in the organization headed by acting mob boss Joseph "Uncle Joe" Ligambi.
"I'm into collections," Canalichio said on a tape recorded by an undercover FBI agent posing as a gambler.
On wiretaps and other tapes, Canalichio was heard threatening individuals who owed the mob money. On one he said,. "I'm gonna go crack his fuckin' head."
Canalichio's court-appointed lawyer Margaret Grasso had argued for a sentence at the lower end of the guidelines set by Robreno, an argument the judge rejected. But Grasso did convince the judge not to designate Canalichio a career criminal for guideline purposes, a designation that would have increased the top range of his sentence.
Canalichio, of Turnersville, is the third of four defendants convicted in the racketeering trial that ended in February to be sentenced. Anthony Staino, 56, is scheduled to go before Robreno tomorrow morning. Last week mob underboss Joseph "Mousie" Massimino, 62, was sentenced to nearly 16 years and mob associate Gary Battaglini, 52, was sentenced to eight years.
Staino's sentence is expected to be similar to Canalichio's.
Ligambi, 73, and his nephew, George Borgesi, 50, are to be retried on conspiracy charges in October after the jury hung on those counts against them. Ligambi also faces gambling and obstruction of justice charges.
Joseph "Scoops" Licata, 72, the seventh defendant in the case, was acquitted.
Canalichio, dressed in a green prison jump suit, showed little emotion when the sentence was finally imposed in a courtroom crowded with family and friends. The stocky, dark-haired wiseguy nodded to his wife and several others as he was led out of the courtroom in handcuffs.
He was denied bail after his indictment in May 2011. Some of that time will go toward the current sentence. He was finishing a 58-month term for drug dealing, however, when the indictment came down and was required to complete that term first.
Han said Canalichio had spent most of his adult life earning money illegally and, in most cases, for or with the mob. He said the defendant owned a $235,000 home in South Jersey despite the fact that he never claimed more than $5,000-a-year in legitimate income.
"Where does that money come from?" the prosecutor asked of the finances used to buy the home.
He then answered his own question: "Loansharking, bookmaking and threatening people with violence."
In addition to about two dozens friends and family members of the defendant, there were nearly a dozen law enforcement officials in the courtroom for the sentencing. Several took note of Han's description of Canalichio as someone who would go to jail and "keep his mouth shut."
"We'll see," said one investigator.
While Canalichio's lawyer said he just wanted to complete his sentence and return to his family, leaving the life of crime behind, those who have tracked Canalichio's career predicted, like Han, that that was unlikely. They also noted that Canalichio remains a suspect in at least one unsolved gangland murder and that Anthony Nicodemo, a suspect in the same case, is currently in jail on a separate city homicide charge.
"We'll see who gets on the bus first," a law enforcement source said of speculation that someone would cut a deal with the government to avoid a murder prosecution.
George Anastasia can be reached at George@bigtrial.net.