Reputed Genovese Mobster Gets Four Years for Illegal Gambling, Dodges Murder Charge
Posted on: January 27, 2022, 11:41h.
Last updated on: January 28, 2022, 01:08h.
An alleged Genovese crime family member from Yonkers, New York has been sentenced to four years in a federal prison on illegal gambling and obstruction charges, The Journal News reports.
Prosecutors had wanted to put John Tortora, aka “Johnny T.”, away for murder and racketeering. But that case collapsed after government lawyers failed to prove his complicity in the 1997 killing of 29-year-old landscaper Richard Ortiz.
Ortiz was stabbed to death outside the Mill, a Yonkers bar. Four days after the killing, police arrested a former convict, Abdill Saez. But the charges were later dropped for lack of evidence.
Prosecutors originally contended that Tortora had ordered the hit on the 29-year-old. He suspected him of stealing from gambling machines Tortora had installed in area bars. But the evidence didn’t stack up.
‘Bragged About Killing’
The murder-for-hire charge was largely based on the testimony of Carmine Francomano Jr., a reputed Lucchese associate. Francomano claimed Tortora had directed Saez to kill Ortiz.
But Tortora’s lawyers argued it was Francomano’s own gambling machines that had been robbed, and the prosecutors’ star witness was the one who had ordered the hit. Additionally, Ortiz may have failed to pay for drugs he was dealing for Francomano and may have told authorities about an after-hours bar he operated, according to the defense.
Francomano had been in the Mill at the time of the murder and had driven Saez away from the scene. He was an early suspect and was even charged with the crime in 2015.
Tortora’s lawyer, Barry Levin, produced witness statements from individuals who said they had heard Francomano talking about the killing.
“Francomano also bragged about the murder to many people over the years, never once mentioning Tortora’s involvement,” Levin told the court. “None of this had anything to do with Tortora.”
Ultimately, Tortora was allowed to plead guilty to the lesser crimes. The obstruction charge related to the destruction of surveillance footage at his check-cashing business. That was after federal investigators witnessed Genovese family captain Daniel Pagano visiting the premises in October 2018, and requested the tape.
The illegal gambling charge stemmed from Tortora’s 20-year involvement in an illegal sports betting ring.
According to documents filed by the defense, Francomano and Saez have now admitted their complicity in the killing. But The Journal News noted there is no record in the federal court database of arrests or guilty pleas from the pair.
“At the end of the day, to go from facing the death penalty for a murder you had nothing to do with to a four-year term, we’ve come a long way,” Levin, told The Journal News. “On the other hand, the government had no case.”
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