Biaggi Gets 8 Years in Wedtech Scandal, Loses Teary Plea to Save Son From Prison

Associated Press

Former U.S. Rep. Mario Biaggi was sentenced Friday to eight years in prison for racketeering in the Wedtech scandal after reasserting his innocence and tearfully pleading for mercy for his co-defendant son.

“I’m still of the belief, I always have been, that I am innocent,” the 10-term Democratic congressman told U.S. District Judge Constance Baker Motley before she sentenced him to prison and fined him $242,000.

Biaggi, 71, in a voice racked by sobs, pleaded with the judge to spare his eldest son, Richard, from prison.


“The worst possible punishment Your Honor could administer would be to put my son in prison,” said Biaggi, his eyes brimming with tears. “I appeal to you as a father . . . . Do what you want with me. My time is done. Don’t hurt Richard.”

Richard Biaggi, 39, of Ft. Lee, N. J., took off his glasses, buried his face in his hands and wept during his father’s plea.

He later was given two years in prison and was fined $71,000. He had been acquitted of racketeering charges but was convicted of receiving a bribe, mail fraud and tax charges.

Prosecutors said afterward that the former congressman would be eligible for parole after serving 40 months in prison.

Biaggi, a highly decorated city police officer from 1942 to 1965, was convicted Aug. 5 of all but one of the 16 counts against him, including racketeering, extortion and mail fraud.

He was accused of turning Wedtech Corp., a defunct South Bronx defense contractor, into a racketeering enterprise that paid millions of dollars in bribes to public officials for help in obtaining no-bid contracts.

He resigned from office a day after his conviction.

The elder Biaggi left the courtroom without comment after the sentencing. He was ordered to surrender to authorities on Jan. 9.

“But for the defendant’s age and the state of his health, his prison term would be substantially longer,” Motley said.

The judge received about 170 letters urging leniency and recounting Biaggi’s many contributions over the years, including 37 from Republican and Democratic congressmen.

Three of the four other people convicted with the Biaggis last August also were sentenced by Motley: former Bronx Borough President Stanley Simon, 58, five years and $70,000 in fines; Wedtech founder John Mariotta, 58, eight years, $291,000; and former Small Business Administration official Peter Neglia, 40, three years and $30,000.

The sentencing of Biaggi’s former law partner, Bernard Ehrlich, 59, who also was convicted of racketeering, was postponed because he was committed to a hospital after being found incompetent to stand trial in a state case.