Monday, July 15, 2013

Canalichio, Staino Battle For Lighter Sentences

Damion Canalichio (right) with George Borgesi
By George Anastasia

They were both in the gambling business, but this time the odds don't appear to be in their favor.

Mobsters Damion Canalichio and Anthony Staino go in front of Judge Eduardo Robreno this week to find out how to plan the next several years of their lives. Both are going to be inmates in federal prisons.

The only question is for how long.

Canalichio, 43, was convicted of racketeering conspiracy in the big mob trial that ended in February. Staino, 56, was convicted of extortion and shortly afterward pleaded guilty to a conspiracy charge on which the jury had hung.

Lawyers for both defendants have filed motions challenging prosecution requests for lengthy sentences. For Canalichio, a brash-talking mob soldier with two prior federal convictions for drug dealing who was picked up on tape boasting about being an enforcer, the government wants from 17 to 21 years.

For Staino, a mob lieutenant and close associate of acting boss Joseph "Uncle Joe" Ligambi, the government is looking for about 10 years. Staino, unlike the other defendants in the case, has no prior convictions. But he was recorded on tape boasting about being the "CFO" and a "member of the board of directors" of the crime family. Those comments would seem to support prosecutors' arguments that he was a leader of organized crime, a designation that enhances federal sentencing guidelines.

Canalichio, of Turnersville, goes before Robreno tomorrow at 9 a.m.

Staino, who lived in Woolwich Township outside of Swedesboro, has a date with the judge at the same time on Wednesday.

The two South Jersey wiseguys already have a sense of where Robreno may be heading. On Thursday the judge sentenced mob underboss Joseph "Mousie" Massimino, 63, to 188 months (nearly 16 years). On Friday mob associate Gary Battaglini, 51, got eight years.

The smart money says that Canalichio and Staino will both draw sentences somewhere in between those two. Both are likely to receive double figures. Canalichio, however, already has two years and two months in. He and several other defendants in the case, including Ligambi, Massimino and George Borgesi, were denied bail after their indictment and arrest in May 2011.

That type of jail time is credited toward any sentence.
Anthony Staino (left) with his lawyer Gregory Pagano

Staino was free on bail until his conviction in February.

Canalichio's brash and arrogant manner during the trial and on the tapes that were played as evidence was in sharp contrast to the portrait painted of him by his court-appointed attorney Margaret Grasso in a pre-sentence memo filed last month.

She described him as a loving husband and father of three young daughters and said he had the support of family members and friends who have written letters to the court. The letters, she said, show that  he "has learned from his incarceration that his family is the most important thing in his life and that he would not do anything in the future to jeopardize his freedom to be with his family once given the opportunity to do so."

Grasso, like lawyers for Massimino and Battaglini, argued that the conspiracy conviction was difficult to analyze since the same jury acquitted the defendants of more than 40 charges tied to gambling, loansharking and extortion that were part of the case.

Canalichio, for example, was found not guilty of bookmaking and dealing in electronic video poker machines. But he was found guilty of racketeering conspiracy.

Grasso said her client should be sentenced under a guideline range of 57 to 71 months, rather than the 210 to 262 months the government is suggesting.

Her plea for a lenient sentenced also included references to Canalichio's difficult childhood where he was raised by his mother after his father abandoned the family and his past problems with drug use.
Prosecutors, however, have identified Canalichio as a mob soldier who has two prior convictions for dealing drugs. One of the tapes played during the trial included Canalichio going on a rant about a "fucking junkie" who was causing problems at a social club that he ran with mobster Martin Angelina.

Canalichio's underworld arrogance, say law enforcement sources, was captured in that conversation. Canalichio, who made thousands dealing cocaine, complaining about a junkie was the height of underworld hypocrisy, they said.
Staino (left) with Uncle Joe Ligambi

Staino will also be hard pressed to overcome tapes in which he was heard extorting an undercover FBI agent while bragging about his position as the chief financial officer and member of the board of directors of the mob.

His lawyer, Gregory Pagano, argued that his background and his decision to plead guilty to the racketeering conspiracy charge should mitigate against the 10 to 11-year sentence the government is seeking. Instead, Pagano argued, Staino should receive a sentence similar to the terms Robreno meted out to mobsters Louis Fazzini (55 months) and Martin Angelina (57 months) who pleaded guilty prior to trial.

"The characteristics of the defendant are unlike any other defendant in this case and unlike most others associated with or connected to organized crime," Pagano wrote in a motion filed earlier this month.

"The defendant grew up in South Jersey," Pagano continued, "and was actively involved in his school and community. He was president of his class all four years in high school [Maple Shade]. He was captain of his football team and went to college for one year. The defendant has an excellent work ethic and work history. In 2010 he started a cleaning business. He and his wife personally cleaned homes to pay their bills. He has always paid his taxes."

Pagano also wrote that Staino had tried to enter a guilty plea prior to the start of the trial, but the government negotiated "in bad faith" and did not offer Staino the same option as others, like Fazzini and Angelina, both of whom have criminal records.

"Inexplicably, the government is asking this court to impose a harsher sentence on the defendant because he is a first-time offender," Pagano added.

George Anastasia can be contacted at

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