A Palm Desert man identified by authorities as a longtime organized crime figure entered a conditional guilty plea Monday to charges of selling 83 grams of cocaine to an FBI agent.
Robert Ralph D'Agostino, 54, became the first of 15 alleged Mafia leaders and associates to admit to charges in an 18-count indictment targeting what federal prosecutors say is the entire hierarchy of the Los Angeles crime family.
D'Agostino admitted to the cocaine charges after federal prosecutors produced taped conversations in which D'Agostino boasted to FBI Agent Robert M. Hamer that he had been "in the . . . kitchens in Bogota, Colombia, and Lima, Peru," where cocaine is processed and could produce a kilogram of the substance "anytime you want; all day."
Government prosecutors have agreed to dismiss additional racketeering charges and say there has been no agreement for D'Agostino to testify against other defendants in the case. They include alleged Los Angeles family leader Peter John Milano and his brother, reputed underboss Carmen Milano.
However, D'Agostino has retained the right to seek dismissal of the cocaine charges on grounds of government misconduct, in which case his guilty plea would be withdrawn, said his lawyer, Alan May.
"There's basically no defense at trial on the cocaine counts," May said. "It's on tape. He did do it."
However, FBI agents failed to disclose that they had evidence of D'Agostino's cocaine dealings on which they planned to try him during an earlier hearing in which D'Agostino's parole on an earlier mob-related cocaine conviction was revoked, May said.
The lawyer said that, because of the earlier conviction, he cannot argue that D'Agostino was entrapped into the cocaine transactions but that there is evidence that it was Hamer who suggested the drug dealing after D'Agostino approached him about joining his video business.
U.S. District Judge Ferdinand F. Fernandez set a Sept. 21 hearing on the dismissal motion, and set sentencing on the guilty plea for Oct. 19.