96-year-old mobster to avoid prison

Published: Thursday, March 1, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, March 1, 2007 at 1:29 a.m.
FORT LAUDERDALE - A 96-year-old mobster pleaded guilty Wednesday to overseeing robberies and other crimes for the Genovese crime family, but the man who needed a cane and had trouble hearing in court likely will avoid prison because of his age.
Albert ''The Old Man'' Facchiano sat before the judge because of back pain, but answered ''guilty, your honor'' when asked about the Florida charge of racketeering conspiracy and a New York charge of conspiracy to tamper with a witness.
When Facchiano is sentenced May 25, he will likely face only house arrest due to his health problems.
His attorney said he sees a doctor four times a week for back pain, arthritis and other ailments.
''He couldn't have stood trials in both Florida and New York on this,'' lawyer Brian McComb said.
Facchiano, who will be 97 on March 10, wore a special headset to hear U.S. District Judge James Cohn and told the judge he takes blood pressure pills.
At certain points, Cohn and Facchiano's attorney had to repeat or rephrase questions so that he could hear or would understand.
''Is your mind OK?'' Cohn asked at one point, a question Facchiano appeared to have trouble hearing.
''Oh, yes,'' he eventually responded. ''I can't hear, but I can understand, your honor.''
According to prosecutors, from at least 2000 to 2003, Facchiano supervised associates who committed crimes including extortion, robberies, money laundering and bank fraud.
The charges Facchiano pleaded guilty to carry a total maximum sentence of 30 years in prison and $500,000 in fines.
Under the plea agreement, however, prosecutors recommended Facchiano be sentenced to ''a period of probation with a special condition of home confinement.'' Prosecutors, defense lawyers and Mafia experts have said they can't remember anyone that age facing crimes committed so recently.
At the end of the hearing, Facchiano had some help from his daughter getting out of the courtroom. He took her hand and wore a powder blue sun hat she offered. Facchiano's attorney joked that for his 100th birthday, they'd get him a hearing aid.
Facchiano, also called ''Chinky'' and ''the Chinese Guy,'' was indicted in the two states last year.
He was arrested in Florida along with six others, all of whom have pleaded guilty. They included Renaldi Ruggiero, 73, who acknowledged being a Genovese family ''capo,'' or captain, as part of his plea in early February. He has not yet been sentenced.
Facchiano was accused in a New York indictment of trying to locate and intimidate a government witness in 2005. His guilty plea ends his involvement in the New York case, which accuses more than 30 other alleged Genovese members of a range of mob-related crimes.
A ''made member'' of the nation's largest and most powerful Mafia family for decades, Facchiano was a low-level figure, according to the FBI.
He has an arrest record dating back to 1932 and served eight years of a 25-year sentence on federal racketeering charges after being arrested in 1979.
In the unlikely scenario that Facchiano goes to prison in the most recent case, he would be among the oldest inmates in the country. According to U.S. Bureau of Prisons records, there were 30 inmates 80 and older as of the end of 2003, the last year complete records are available.

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