A long-suspected underboss of the reigning New England crime family has reached a criminal defense plea agreement with federal and state criminal law authorities, which will net him a 6-year federal prison sentence.
Federal and state law prosecutors and law enforcement officials announced yesterday that Carmen S. “Cheeseman” DiNunzio, 51, of Boston, has agreed to plead guilty to a variety of federal and state criminal charges, thus avoiding prolonged federal and state trials on those charges. If ending in guilty verdicts, those trials could have netted Dinunzio decades in federal and state prisons. Through this plea agreement, authorities secured the guilty findings they sought, secured prison time for DiNunzio, and sent a message to other crime family members that they too can be pursued.
With respect to the federal charges, DiNunzio pled guilty to charges of conspiring to bribe a state official in connection with a proposed sale of materials to a project related to the Massachusetts Central Artery Tunnel Project, otherwise known as the “Big Dig,” and for providing a $10,000 down payment on the illegal payoff. On the state charges, DiNunzio will also plead guilty in a separate hearing in Essex County Superior Court on July 8, 2009, to state charges of extortion, promoting an illegal gambling operation, and conspiring to violate state gaming laws in connection with his role in the ongoing mob-related extortion of local bookmakers. Authorities brought no charges involving violent crime, such as murder, assault and battery, or drug trafficking. These are common charges involving organized crime, along with extortion and money laundering.
Under the terms of the joint plea agreement, DiNunzio’s six-year prison terms for both the federal and state offenses will be served concurrently, not consecutively. By pleading guilty, DiNunzio admitted that in 2006 he and two other men conspired to bribe a state official to obtain a lucrative contract to provide 300,000 cubic yards of “loam” (i.e., dirt and clay) to the Massachusetts Highway Department for use on the Big Dig. He also admitted that, in addition to agreeing to take part in the bribery scheme, he provided $10,000 cash, intended as a down payment on a larger payoff, for a person he believed was a Massachusetts Highway Department inspector capable of ensuring that the group would obtain the lucrative loam contract. The inspector was, in fact, an undercover agent. The plea agreement also reflects that in 2001 he extorted $500 per month from a North End bookmaker in exchange for allowing a gaming/numbers office to operate; managed and financed a gaming organization with several offices and numerous agents in the North Shore area that took bets on the outcome of professional and college sporting events; and conspired with others to operate a gaming enterprise.
Acting United States Attorney Michael Loucks said, “Carmen DiNunzio believed that public officials in Massachusetts could be bought; that is precisely what he was trying to do, and what he admitted to today. The only thing DiNunzio´s bribe of $10,000 will buy him is six years in federal prison.”
All in all, not a bad deal for DiNunzio, or for federal and state prosecutors. As a Massachusetts criminal defense attorney, I can assure you that, if found guilty on even a few of the several charges brought against him, DiNunzio would have gone away for a lot longer than six years. DiNunzio is known as “The Cheeseman”, owing to the fact that he’s operated a cheese shop in Boston’s North End for years (allegedly a front for his criminal enterprises.) Looks like The Cheeseman is going to age some in one of our finer federal shops. Let’s hope this cheese softens, not hardens, over time.