There was a time when Filippo Inglima was known for his rice balls, lobster ravioli and the iconic Italian chef statue that stood outside his North Buffalo restaurant.
Tuesday, Inglima became a convicted drug dealer and sex offender destined for 10 years in federal prison – and eventually deportation back to Italy.
“I’m ashamed of myself,” he told U.S. District Judge Richard J. Arcara.
Inglima, the former owner of Filippo’s on Hertel Avenue and Villa Fortunata in Lewiston, was sentenced by Arcara for his role in a cross-border drug ring.
As part of a plea deal with prosecutors, he admitted smuggling both cocaine and marijuana into the U.S. from Canada.
“He was involved with a major drug dealer, and he was a big part of it,” Arcara said of the defendant.
One of 24 people named in a 2009 indictment, Inglima was accused of distributing more than 220 pounds of cocaine and nearly 4,000 pounds of marijuana on behalf of others involved in the conspiracy.
Inglima’s defense lawyer acknowledged his role in the drug ring but suggested his participation was reluctant and due in large part to money he had borrowed from David Gambino to keep his restaurants afloat.
Gambino, the alleged head of the drug ring, was sentenced last month to 15 years in prison.
“Despite his best intentions, he became involved with Mr. Gambino,” said defense attorney Judith M. Kubiniec. “He felt he was trapped in this situation.”
Before sentencing Inglima, who is not a U.S. citizen, Arcara asked Assistant U.S. Attorney Frank T. Pimentel if he was likely to face deportation.
“I think there’s a good chance of that your honor,” Pimentel said.
Inglima’s sentencing came just nine months after he pleaded guilty in state court to sexually abusing a teenage girl in Niagara County.
Charged with molesting the girl in his home in 2004 when she was 13, he is still awaiting sentencing in that case.