Man's plea deal: I'm a mob boss

A 73-year-old heart patient in a racketeering case admits heading a South Florida crew.

Published February 2, 2007

FORT LAUDERDALE - An aging heart patient admitted Thursday that he was the South Florida boss of the Genovese crime family and pleaded guilty to federal racketeering charges, which could send him to prison for the next 20 years.

Renaldi "Ray" Ruggiero, 73, admitted in a plea agreement that he was a "capo" in the New York Mafia family and supervised a Florida crew that committed numerous crimes including extortion, robbery, money laundering and possession of stolen property.

"I plead guilty, your honor," Ruggiero told U.S. District Judge James Cohn at a hearing.

Sentencing was set for April 27 for Ruggiero, who could also be fined $25,000. Ruggiero pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy, but did not agree to cooperate with federal Mafia investigators in his written deal.

The guilty plea came after another federal judge rejected Ruggiero's attempt to throw out evidence from more than 12,000 phone calls intercepted on FBI wiretaps and 130 other undercover recordings that provide details about the group's plots and crimes.

Ruggiero submitted medical documents to the court showing that he has had a series of heart attacks over the past 33 years, suffers from high blood pressure and diabetes and takes at least seven prescription medicines.

He had contended that his main line of work was the restaurant business, and he owned a restaurant in Palm Beach County called Soprano's. In fact, court documents show the crew members sometimes discussed the popular HBO mob series, on one occasion complaining that it was bad for business because it so accurately portrayed their underworld.

Like fictional boss Tony Soprano, Ruggiero oversaw a wide range of all-too-real criminal activities, some of them involving violence and threats with weapons, prosecutors said. In one 2003 case, members of Ruggiero's crew stuck a gun to the back of a man's head at an office in suburban Coral Springs and demanded he pay them $1.5-million.

Later, Ruggiero described a beating the man suffered, saying that the attackers "broke his fingers, messed up his other hand, beat him up, and told him if he did not pay him his money by next week, he'll know what to expect."