LOCKPORT – Filippo Inglima, the former owner of Italian restaurants in Buffalo and Lewiston who is under federal indictment on federal drug charges, pleaded guilty Monday in Niagara County Court to a misdemeanor count of sexually abusing a teenage girl.
Inglima’s plea to second-degree sexual abuse will likely send him to the Niagara County Jail for up to a year. It will also guarantee his deportation due to the nature of the charge, according to Assistant District Attorney Robert A. Zucco. Inglima is an Italian citizen living in the United States under a visa.
He is also facing significant prison time after being indicted three years ago on federal drug charges.
In the sex abuse case, Inglima, 46, of Thornwood Drive, Wheatfield, pleaded guilty Monday to one of the most serious of nine counts he had initially faced.
He admitted to Judge Sara Sheldon Farkas that he had sexual contact with a girl under age 14 in July 2004.
Zucco said the abuse started when the girl was 13 in Inglima’s Wheatfield home and continued until 2005. A final incident occurred in July 2011, when the victim was 20, according to the indictment, and took place at Villella’s Restaurant in downtown Niagara Falls, where Inglima had worked.
The defendant previously owned Villa Fortunata’s on Center Street in Lewiston and Filippo’s on Hertel Avenue in Buffalo.
The top count of first-degree sexual abuse was dismissed as part of the plea, which, Zucco said after court, did not involve any brutal force, although Inglima is accused of twisting the victim’s arm. He said the abuse happened over a lengthy period of time.
Farkas previously signed a one-year restraining order barring Inglima from any contact with the victim.
The judge also warned him Monday that one or both of his two adult daughters had been “causing problems for the victim” and that they could face harassment charges if the contact with the victim continued.
“The plea was discussed with the victim and her family, and is based on the dependency of the charges in federal court and the belief that those charges will result in significant prison time,” Zucco told the judge.
Inglima’s attorney, Marc D. Grossman, said his client was aware that, no matter what happens in federal court, by taking a plea to a sexual abuse, he will lose his visa and face deportation back to Italy.
In the federal drug case, a grand jury named Inglima among 24 defendants in a 35-count drug indictment in November 2009.
The indictment alleges he was part of a ring that imported more than 1,000 kilograms of marijuana from Canada and conspired to distribute more than five kilos of cocaine.
Most of the defendants have pleaded guilty, but Inglima’s case is still open, said Barbara J. Burns, spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Buffalo.