N.j. Mob Figure Gets Prison Term For Racketeering Raymond Esposito Was Convicted With Phila. Boss John Stanfa. He's A Suspect In An Informant's Death.

Posted: November 15, 1996

Raymond Esposito, a South Jersey mob figure and prime suspect in a notorious Camden County gangland murder, was sentenced to 45 years in prison yesterday, nearly a year after he was convicted of federal racketeering charges in a high-profile Philadelphia organized-crime case.

U.S. District Judge Ronald Buckwalter imposed the sentence yesterday afternoon during a brief hearing in the same 17th-floor courtroom where Esposito, mob boss John Stanfa and six others were convicted after a 10-week trial that ended Nov. 21.

Esposito, 54, of Gibbstown, was found guilty of conspiring with Stanfa and the others to murder members of a rival mob faction. The racketeering case also included charges of extortion and obstruction of justice.

Buckwalter imposed the maximum sentence despite an impassioned plea from Esposito's wife, Yolanda, for leniency.

Describing her husband of 31 years as ``generous, kind and unselfish,'' she asked the judge to consider his work in politics and community service and his debilitating health condition as mitigating factors.

Her husband's political work, she said, included fund-raising for the campaign of former New Jersey Gov. James Florio. She also mentioned an earlier political tie to longtime Gloucester County-based U.S. Rep. John E. Hunt and work for the local chapter of the Deborah Heart & Lung Center.

``It would be a sad, sad thing for him to waste his life in jail, because we all need him,'' Yolanda Esposito said.

More than a dozen family members and friends, including the Espositos' three children, sat together in the courtroom during the hearing.

Raymond Esposito's medical problems include the loss of vision in one eye, 70 percent vision in the other, and a heart condition that forced him to give up his job and begin collecting disability at age 27, his wife said.

But Assistant U.S. Attorney Barry Gross argued that Esposito's poor health did not stop him ``from participating fully in the criminal activities of La Cosa Nostra.''

Described by authorities as a ``made,'' or formally initiated, member of the mob, Esposito emerged as a key figure in the Stanfa crime family during a bloody 1993 mob war with a rival faction headed by reputed mobster Joseph ``Skinny Joey'' Merlino, according to testimony at the racketeering trial.

Esposito was convicted of heading a ``crew'' of mob associates who routinely used fear and the threat of violence to extort money from legitimate businessmen. He was also convicted of participating in several murder conspiracies and a plot to obstruct justice in the aftermath of a botched mob kidnapping attempt.

Since his conviction last year, Esposito has also been identified as the suspected gunman in the murder Jan. 7, 1993, of Mario ``Sonny'' Riccobene, a mobster-turned-informant who was shot to death as he sat in his car in the parking lot of the Brooklawn Diner.

No one has ever been charged in that case, which is still the focus of federal and Camden County investigations. A former Stanfa associate who is cooperating with authorities has told investigators that the Riccobene murder was ordered by Stanfa and carried out by Esposito, a former close friend of the victim's.

Esposito, who appeared in court wearing an orange prison sweat suit and white sneakers, declined to make any comment before sentencing. Instead, his lawyer, John T. Drost, asked for a departure from the sentencing guidelines on medical grounds, a request that Buckwalter said he did not feel was warranted.

In addition to the 45-year prison term, Esposito was ordered to pay $13,300 in restitution to one of his extortion victims.

Esposito has been in jail since his arrest along with Stanfa and 20 others March 17, 1994. To date, 25 of 29 defendants charged in the racketeering case have been convicted or have pleaded guilty. Two have been acquitted and two others are awaiting trial.

In July, Stanfa was sentenced to life without parole. He is serving time in a federal prison in Leavenworth, Kan.

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