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on the border line between the US and Mexico

Friday, May 29, 2020

American Who Laundered Money for a Colombian Drug Cartel Seeks Reduction of His 660-Year Sentence

"MX" for Borderland Beat; Providence Journal
Saccocia and his wife Donna, both convicted

Rhode Island coin dealer Stephen Saccoccia is serving 660 years for laundering millions of dollars for a Colombian drug cartel in the 1990s. Now, at age 62, after serving 28 years behind bars, he is again trying to cut that sentence short. He is seeking clemency from President Donald Trump.

And even more recently, he is arguing that he should be released on time served due to the risks posed by the coronavirus pandemic and his disproportionately long sentence for committing a “non-violent” financial crimes.

Saccoccia is asking U.S. District Judge William E. Smith to free him based on the “emergency conditions” created by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has now claimed the lives of 55 federal inmates. Saccoccia cites his hypertension and high cholesterol as making him at high risk for complications should he contract the virus.

“For this reason, Saccoccia’s medical risk from COVID-19, 'taken alone, arguably constitutes extraordinary and compelling circumstances justifying his release,'” his lawyer, Lisa Holley, wrote. She emphasized, too, Saccoccia’s low risk of reoffending and the unwavering support of his family and friends.

But federal prosecutors say not so fast. They argue that he has failed to show the existence of any medical condition that would place him at a heightened risk. They also cite a prison disciplinary record that includes bribing an officer $50 for tobacco, possessing wine in his cell, and abusing phone privileges.

“The fact is that, for roughly five years, defendant played a critical role in ensuring the financial success of a major Colombia drug cartel well known for its violent activities, laundering tens of million of dollars in drug proceeds and thereby fueling the attendant misery such trafficking entails ... Viewed from any angle, defendant is vastly more culpable than the typical dealers this court has sentenced. He has not demonstrated that he is a changed man, such as to justify granting his motion for compassionate release,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Terrence P. Donnelly wrote.

Saccoccia is seeking relief under the First Step Act, a sweeping sentencing reform law enacted late last year. Its provisions include changes to the compassionate release process that lowered the eligibility age to 65 and give prisoners the ability to appeal to federal court. The act empowers judges to reduce sentences in “extraordinary and compelling” circumstances.
Saccoccia and his wife Donna leave the courtroom in Providence in 1992
A jury in 1993 convicted Saccoccia, a onetime Cranston High School West math whiz, of running what prosecutors described as one of the biggest money-laundering operations in the nation on behalf of the Cali Cartel. He received the maximum sentence under mandatory sentencing framework — 660 years.

His wife, Donna Saccoccia, was convicted and sentenced to serve 14 years in prison. She was released in 2004. A judge ordered the Saccoccias to forfeit more than $136 million in assets as punishment for laundering that sum in a drug lord’s cocaine profits and imposed a $16-million fine.

In seeking clemency from President Trump, Saccoccia contrasts his sentence with the the current average sentences for money laundering: 67 to 70 months. He notes, through New York lawyer Aubrey E. Levesque, that Joaquin Archivaldo Guzman Loera, “El Chapo,” was sentenced to a life term plus a consecutive 30 years for running the Sinaloa cartel in Mexico.

“Mr. Saccoccia has exhausted his appeals, sought relief under every sentencing reform law under which he could make a colorable claim, and even sought a presidential pardon from President Barack Obama ... It is my hope that you, who bravely championed for the First Step Act and made it your mission to utilize the pardons and commutations powers granted to your office to write the wrongs of injustices overlooked by your predecessors...,” Levesque wrote April 5.

Also weighing for Saccoccia, on Providence Police Department letterhead, is his cousin and former Rhode Island Parole Board member, Providence Police Cmdr. Thomas Verdi.

“In a modern and civilized society there should exist a fundamental fairness to punishment; a moral link, a moral justification, between the offense(s) and the sentence imposed. Shouldn’t punishment be proportional to the crime committed?,” Verdi wrote.

"...No one will ever convince me that Stephen, at age 32, was beyond hope; was beyond reform and rehabilitation; that he could not change his criminal behavior ... Stephen, and people like him, do not deserve to suffer in prison for 50+ years only to die in a jail cell. Is not the Christian faith about grace and forgiveness?” U.S. Attorney Aaron Weisman’s office declined comment.


  1. 660 years?? Got pedos out here getting house arrest/6 month sentences....something aint right

  2. This is a pretty crazy story- the feds couldnt get to his money- so they started bringing in his friends and doing interviews UNDER OATH. i think it was his brother in law was the 1 who snitched that he had a bunch of gold bars buried in his moms backyard..
    Then the feds used ground penetrating radar to find it..
    Says he laundered over 136 million over a 15 month period. Charging between 5-10%
    He made between 25-50 million

    Heres the dumbest part- he was already worth 10 million due to his "precious metals" business according to the irs-
    What an idiot

  3. Very interesting post MX. This guy is very famous among the money laundering world. He was a jeweller and laundered money through trade-based mechanisms not only for the Cali cartel, but also for several Cosa Nostra families

  4. Wow 660 yrs for laundering money...
    So many other white collar criminals from wall street get lesser sentences...the system is rigged to favor the rich ivy league powerful oligarchs

    1. Resistence- Yea for every Bernie Madoff there are literally thousands who get a slap on the wrist. If you sell drugs and make millions you get 1000yrs. BUT if you steal millions and destroy countless lives you get 10yrs and you're out in 3. It's total bull $h!t.

  5. Her hairdo alone warranted a superseding indictment.

  6. Reminds me of a hilarious conversation between a judge and a career criminal i witnessed in a NYC Courtroom:
    The judge sentenced this older guy to 4 years in prison. The guy was super upset and told the judge " I can't do 4yrs in prison" the judge replied "Well just do your best" haa

    660yrs is crazy. However this is an example of why its best for Mexico to extradite cartel bigs to the US. The US doesn't play especially when it comes to drug trafficking. The only way to break communication tween cartel bosses and underlings is to ship em out to U.S. Serving time in US makes it far far more difficult to run things from prison.

    1. What do you mean the U.S. doesn’t play?
      Look at the case of Chino Ántrax. The Zambadas and many more

    2. I spit my dinner laughing at "U.S. doesnt play with drug traffickers " still laughing so hard im afraid to eat dessert.

    3. Common belief is that Chino Antrax was a snitch. Its not hard to imagine when looking at his sentence. Had he kept his mouth shut he'd still be in prison for decades. I'm not saying U.S. doesnt make sweetheart deals with animals to gain intel and capture even worse animals. The Flores brothers, who snitched on Chapo, are STILL in prison, and the witness protection program and alive. Any way this is just MY take on things. Just an opinion fellas.


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