Queens ‘Mastermind’ Gets 50 Years To Life
A 29-year-old Ozone Park man last week was sentenced to 50 years behind bars for masterminding a crime spree that led to the murder of a pizzeria owner’s son.
Queens Supreme Court Justice Richard Buchter described Francis LaCorte as a “Charles Manson-like figure”, who had “armed, heartless killers at his behest” at the time of the September 2009 murder of Gerardo “Jerry” Antoniello.
Antoniello, 29, a well-liked school custodian, was shot in the back of the head when he came to the defense of his cancer-stricken father, Bartolomeo Antoniello, 61, who was being pistol-whipped by a gang of assailants.
Prosecutors argued during the trial that LaCorte sent the men to rob the elder Antoniello, or break into his home to swipe the proceeds from Romeo’s – an Ozone Park pizzeria that Antoniello owned and operated for more than 20 years.
Prosecutors accused LaCorte of staking out Romeo’s from a cellphone store he operated across the street on Cross Bay Boulevard. Prosecutors also displayed several text messages to jurors that linked LaCorte with the thieves that pulled off the Sept. 9, 2009 murder.
Prior to the sentencing, family members gave a series of victim impact statements to the court, describing LaCorte as the “definition of a true coward”.
LaCorte was convicted in March of recruiting a team of ex-cons who pulled off a series of push-in robberies in the neighborhood. He was convicted of felony burglary and robbery charges in that case.
LaCorte was sentenced to 25 years to life for masterminding the crime wave and another 25 years to life for the murder – a total of 50 years behind bars.