A gangster who attempted a hit on a notorious Mafia boss, then spent 16 years on the lam, posing for years as a cattle rancher in Idaho, was sentenced Monday to 28 years in prison, despite spirited pleas that he literally became a new man during his time on the run.
Enrico Ponzo, a New England Mafia associate from Boston, said he turned away from a career of crime and drugs, settling into a life as a cattle rancher named Jay Shaw and being “Mr. Mom” to his two children.
“If I was the Enrico Ponzo of 20 years ago, you never would have caught me; I would have escaped,” he told US District Court Judge Nathaniel M. Gorton before a packed courtroom in Boston.
Gorton expressed little sympathy, however, telling Ponzo, “After all the posturing, rhetoric, excuses, blaming others, the time has come for you to pay for your crimes.
“You can run, but ultimately you cannot hide from your sordid past in organized crime,” the judge said.
Ponzo, 45, known for his animations in the courtroom, stood solemnly, fumbling through paperwork and stopping to take a drink of water.
The theatrics of Monday’s sentencing hearing punctuated what had been a colorful, at times circuslike case since Ponzo was arrested in February 2011.
The arrest of a New England Mafia associate in Marsing, Idaho, a farming town of just over 1,000 people about 40 miles from Boise, made national headlines. Ponzo added drama to court hearings in the years since, getting animated during the proceedings, at times interrupting his court-
appointed lawyers. He was finally allowed to represent himself. His readiness to engage with prosecutors and the judge added to the theater.
“I’m preserving my objections for the record,” he repeatedly told Gorton Monday, occasionally chuckling at prosecutors’ arguments.
He had dozens of objections to the way the judge calculated the sentence, even though he had faced a harsher sentence of 30 years to life under the guidelines.
Ponzo was an associate of a faction of the New England Mafia that was involved in a bloody power struggle in the late 1980s; a jury found him responsible for the attempted killing of two rivals, including former Mafia leader Francis P. “Cadillac Frank” Salemme, who was shot by masked men outside an International House of Pancakes in Saugus in 1989.
Ponzo was convicted of a racketeering conspiracy that included that shooting, as well as marijuana and cocaine dealing, money laundering, gun possession, and witness intimidation. He must forfeit $2,250,000 from his drug sale proceeds. Authorities plan to seize his Idaho home, as well as $100,000 in cash and $65,000 in gold coins they found at the time of his arrest.
Marilyn Diaz, who knew Ponzo as Jay Shaw in Idaho and wrote a letter on his behalf, said she was disappointed with the sentence.Milton J. Valencia can be reached at mvalencia@
globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @miltonvalencia.