N.J. mobster pleads guilty to racketeering in Phila.

Louis Fazzini
Louis Fazzini
Posted: October 06, 2012

This story has been updated to reflect that Fazzini has pleaded guilty.

Louis "Big Lou" Fazzini, a North Jersey mobster charged with racketeering, has decided to take his chances with the sentencing judge rather than put his fate in the hands of a federal jury.

Fazzini, 45, pleaded guilty Friday morning before U.S. District Judge Eduardo Robreno in Philadelphia.

Fazzini had pleaded not guilty this year to a racketeering conspiracy charge linked to a mob-controlled gambling and loan-sharking operation. There is no indication he is cooperating with authorities.

His court-appointed attorney did not return a call seeking comment.

A one-page notice filed Thursday disclosed that the change-of-plea hearing had been scheduled.

Fazzini and North Jersey mob capo Joseph "Scoops" Licata were added as defendants in the pending racketeering case this year. They were charged along with acting Philadelphia mob boss Joseph Ligambi and 11 others in a case built around charges of illegal sports betting, the distribution of video poker machines, loan-sharking, and extortion.

Fazzini was convicted of similar charges in 1999 in federal court in Newark and sentenced to 48 months in prison. Licata, 71, was convicted in the same case.

Tapes expected to be played for the jury in the trial include a secretly recorded conversation in a North Jersey restaurant in which Fazzini and Licata talked and joked about Fazzini's initiation into the crime family.

The so-called making ceremony was presided over by Ligambi, both men say on that tape. Ligambi was also recorded during the meeting, held at a restaurant in Kenilworth in May 2010.

Authorities have described Fazzini as a key operative for Licata, a capo, or captain, who heads the Philadelphia crime family's Newark-area operations.

The Ligambi trial is scheduled to begin Tuesday with jury selection and is expected to last eight to 12 weeks. Ligambi, 73, and six others are now set for trial. Three other defendants will be tried later.

Fazzini would be the fourth defendant to enter a guilty plea. Others who have pleaded guilty are mobsters Martin Angelina and Gaeton Lucibello and mob associate Louis Barretta.

There is no indication from the document filed Thursday what kind of sentencing range Fazzini faces, but several observers predicted it would be similar to the 57-month sentence Robreno imposed on Angelina last month.

Lucibello, at a separate hearing, got 51 months. Barretta was sentenced this week to 33 months.

Those sentences, according to law enforcement and underworld sources, appear moderate and are seen as a signal from Robreno, who has a reputation for handing out tough sentences after trials that end in convictions.

The signal: Those who plead guilty and avoid trial can expect a better deal than those who are convicted. Courthouse speculation is that Ligambi and most of his codefendants will face prison terms of 12 years or more if they are convicted.

Fazzini, a former associate said, was smart enough to see that and opted to plead out.

Contact George Anastasia at 856-779-3846 or ganastasia@phillynews.com.


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