Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Putting out the old organized crime figures out to pasture in Connecticut

CONNECTICUT NEWS
Suicide Victim At Motel Had Links To The Mob
January 10, 2007
By VANESSA DE LA TORRE, Hartford Courant Staff Writer

BERLIN -- A man who shot and killed himself Monday morning as U.S. marshals came to arrest him at a Berlin Turnpike motel has been identified as Donald Scoffone, a mob associate who was convicted with 23 others after a federal and state investigation into organized crime's control over illegal gambling in Connecticut.

Scoffone, 61, formerly of Meriden, pleaded guilty in December 2004 to conspiring to conduct an illegal gambling business. Federal prosecutors said that Scoffone for years provided a Cherry Master video poker machine to the Elks Club Lodge No. 35 in Meriden, where it was kept in a locked room that only members could access. The machine's average weekly take was $1,000, which was split evenly between the Elks Club and Scoffone.

Investigators say that the New England family of La Cosa Nostra, also known as the Patriarca family, has operated numerous illegal gambling businesses throughout the state, among them sports bookmaking, football betting slips and illegal gambling machines such as the Cherry Master.

In March 2005, Senior U.S. District Judge Alan Nevas sentenced Scoffone to two years of probation that included participating in alcohol and drug abuse programs. His offense carried a maximum five-year prison sentence. Attorney Jeremiah Donovan of Old Saybrook described his client as a former mason in poor health.

But Scoffone, court records show, repeatedly skipped appointments at the U.S. Probation Office in New Haven, where he was supposed to be tested for drug use. In July 2006, he admitted to drug use and refused to take a test, saying that he knew it would turn out positive. So in August, Scoffone was supposed to appear in court and explain why his probation should not be revoked. He did not show up.

In September, after Scoffone was convicted of violating probation, Nevas ordered that he undergo a neuropsychological exam to determine his "mental and emotional condition" for sentencing.

In November, after missing another court date, an arrest warrant was issued.

About 9:30 a.m. Monday, two deputy U.S. marshals showed up at his Mount Royal Motel room, expecting to take him into custody. According to a preliminary state police investigation, Scoffone let the marshals in and seemed prepared to leave with them. Instead, he suddenly pulled out a gun and shot himself, state police said.

The office of the chief state medical examiner conducted an autopsy Tuesday and ruled the death a suicide.

Tom Carson, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office, said that Scoffone was scheduled to appear before Nevas in Bridgeport this morning.

Contact Vanessa de la Torre at vdelatorre@courant.com.

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