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40-year term is sought for reputed mobster

Federal prosecutors in Boston are seeking a 40-year prison term for a reputed New England Mafia associate who was convicted in November of several crimes, including the attempted murder in 1989 of former Mafia boss Francis “Cadillac Frank” Salemme.

Enrico M. Ponzo, 45, who lived as a fugitive for more than 16 years until his arrest in Idaho in 2011, is scheduled to be sentenced Monday. Prosecutors filed their sentencing recommendation last week.

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Ponzo was convicted in US District Court in Boston of a sweeping racketeering indictment that included the Salemme shooting, money laundering, and drug trafficking.

In its sentencing recommendation, prosecutors alluded to a bloody power struggle between Mafia factions during the 1980s and 1990s that prompted slayings and attempted murders, which they said Ponzo participated in before fleeing in 1994.

“The reign of terror imposed on the city of Boston by Ponzo, his confederates, and their enemies during the shooting war impacted the lives of everyone who lived here,” prosecutors wrote. They added, “All of Ponzo’s criminal conduct was premeditated and due to greed for status, power, and money.”

The jury found Ponzo responsible for the attempted murder in June 1989 of Salemme, who was shot by masked men outside an International House of Pancakes in Saugus. Salemme survived the attack and later became head of the New England mob.

Jurors also found that prosecutors failed to prove Ponzo was responsible for other crimes, including six slayings and attempted murders.

In his court filing Friday, Ponzo, who is representing himself, requested a sentence of 15 years or less. He insisted he had lived a “hardworking, selfless life in Idaho from 2000 through 2011 as a stay-at-home dad, cattle rancher, and elected community volunteer.”

Prosecutors painted a different picture of Ponzo’s life on the lam. They wrote that he stayed in touch with Bay State mobsters while living in Arizona and “plugged into a major marijuana distribution operation.”

While in Idaho, prosecutors said, Ponzo “engaged in money laundering, using his saved drug proceeds to purchase (among other things) land in Idaho, $65,000 worth of gold coins, more than 20 firearms, and more than 30,000 rounds of ammunition.”

Ponzo downplayed his role in the marijuana ring, writing in court papers that he was “minimally involved in the alleged packing and shipping” of the drug in Arizona between 1994 and mid 1997. While prosecutors wrote that he was sitting on about $200,000 in drug proceeds while in Idaho, Ponzo said that money came from his late father.

Ponzo is being held at the Donald W. Wyatt Detention Facility in Central Falls, R.I.

William G. Felts of Marsing, Idaho, where Ponzo was arrested, was one of several neighbors who wrote letters to the court in support of Ponzo, whom he knew as Jay Shaw.

“I believe he left the old life behind and can be a good citizen and a contributing member in our community,” wrote Felts, a retired truck driver and former prison guard.

Prosecutors labeled Ponzo a “vicious, violent, cold-blooded criminal” who “would pose a serious danger to the many witnesses who testified in this case.”

Shelley Murphy and Milton J. Valencia of the Globe staff contributed to this report.
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