Skip to comments.Youngstown-area Mob Boss Sent to Prison
Posted on 01/28/2004 11:19:09 AM PST by gdani
Youngstown-area mob boss sent to prison
Plain Dealer Reporter
The last Mafia boss in Ohio came out of hiding Tuesday, long enough to be sentenced to nearly 13 years in prison for killing a rival, gunning down a prosecutor and corrupting a region's political system.
Despite his deeds, federal authorities asked for a reduced sentence for Lenine "Lenny" Strollo, longtime crime boss of Youngstown, because of what prosecutors call his "incredible cooperation" in helping authorities on mob cases in Cleveland, Detroit and Pittsburgh.
Strollo, 73, pleaded guilty to corruption and tax charges in 1999 and went into the witness-protection program in a federal prison, where he snitched on his former brothers in La Cosa Nostra, prosecutors said in court documents.
In the program, Strollo and other informants were segregated from others in a place that federal officials refuse to reveal. In fact, the federal prison system's public database indicates "we have no record of Lenine Strollo."
His cooperation helped bag former U.S. Rep. James Traficant by giving the FBI information that "opened a whole new vein," Assistant U.S. Attorney Craig Morford said. Strollo also helped convict Sonny Ciancutti, a Pittsburgh mobster whose sports-gambling ring earned $50,000 a week.
"Lenny Strollo did everything that he promised he would do," Morford said. "His information was extensive and powerful. When he told us something, it was like money in the bank."
Traficant and more than 70 others from the Mahoning Valley were convicted in the investigation. Several went to prison based on Strollo's testimony, including former Mahoning County Sheriff Phil Chance.
U.S. District Judge Kate O'Malley said that she has no sympathy for Strollo but that without his help, prosecutors would not have been able to break decades of mob control in the Mahoning Valley.
Residents, she stressed, must "understand the government's broader goals."
Tony Biondillo said he couldn't do that: "He got off because he's a rat." His brother Ernie, a Youngstown gambler, was killed June 3, 1996 - a slaying that Strollo ordered. Three days later, Strollo offered condolences to Biondillo's family at a funeral home.
"What a hypocrite you are," Ernie Biondillo's daughter Melissa Rich said in court. "I used to hate you. Now, I pity you."
Mahoning County Prosecutor Paul Gains told O'Malley that Strollo's thugs left him for dead after a 1996 shooting in the prosecutor's kitchen. He would have died, but the gun jammed after a shot struck Gains.
"My life will never be the same," Gains said. But he said the way local, state and federal agents worked together to bring down Strollo and his mob was worth it. He called it "ridding the community of this scourge."
Strollo leaned on a cane during the hearing. His lawyer, Roger Synenberg, said Strollo suffers from a heart condition and failing health. When Strollo rose to speak, he wobbled.
"In my lifetime, I've made a lot of bad decisions," Strollo said. "I apologize to the people I've hurt." He then quoted an adage: "You get old too soon, but wise too late."
Within minutes, the obituary of Ohio's most powerful mob was complete.
Sopranos fans with sharp memories may remember that Youngstown is where Paulie Walnuts was doing his time last season. (Busted on a gun charge when he was visiting Steubenville because it's the birthplace of Dean Martin).
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