Enrico Ponzo, a former Boston mobster who spent more than 10 years living incognito in Marsing as a rancher, will spend an extra 23 months in prison on illegal gun possession charges.
Ponzo was indicted by federal authorities in Boston in 1997 on a variety of charges including attempted murder, racketeering, distribution of drugs and extortion for his role in trying to usurp control of Frank Salemme, who authorities say controlled the Patriarca Family of La Cosa Nostra in the 1990s.
Ponzo had already been missing for three years when the indictment was handed down and authorities believed he would have fled to places like New York, Florida, New Jersey, or Italy.
More than 16 years later, federal agents raided a home in Marsing and arrested a man neighbors say they came to know as Jeffrey John “Jay” Shaw.
Except the name was an alias.
Much to the community’s surprise, Jay Shaw was actually Enrico Ponzo. He was transported back to Boston where according to court documents, he was found guilty of numerous charges related to an attempt to kill two mob rivals, including Salemme.
He was sentenced to 28 years in prison.
Ponzo was then flown back to Idaho to face weapons charges after federal agents discovered a cache of more than 30 weapons hidden inside his Marsing home.
At the Thursday morning sentencing hearing in Boise, Ponzo called witnesses to attest to his character and corroborate his argument that he is a “reformed man.”
First to take the stand was Jessie Jackson. Jackson lived next door to Ponzo. She claimed she never saw him with a firearm and said she would “gladly welcome him back to the community” if the chance arose.
After Jackson left the stand, Ponzo called Don Michael Ferney, who described himself as a friend and neighbor of Ponzo for 16 years. Ferney told the court Ponzo was a “good neighbor” who was a “hell of a good father.” Ponzo was caring for two children while hiding in Idaho.
The prosecution asked for Ponzo to receive a 57-month sentence for the gun charges, on top of his 28 years he received when sentenced in Massachusetts. They claimed he was violent while incarcerated at the Ada County Jail. He was described as “one of the worst prisoners” jail guards had ever seen, with 90 disciplinary infractions while jailed in Ada County, five for the use of violence.
Ponzo, who elected to defend himself in court, called the Ada County Jail the “worst jail I’ve ever been in.” He then went on to claim he reportedly spent seven days in the “hole” for having a Bible in his possession. Ponzo also claimed jail guards unnecessarily strip-searched him.
When he resisted, he alleged the guards placed him in a chokehold.
Ponzo argued that, although he did bad things in the past, his life “drastically changed” in 1997 when his mother passed away. He claimed he is now “a new person.”
Before his sentence was handed down, Ponzo spoke at length about his Marsing arrest in 2011 and circumstances surrounding the incident. He believed his ex-wife likely tipped off federal agents about his whereabouts.
Authorities never publicly identified the person who provided the tip, but a one-page FBI report included in a court filing by Ponzo leaves little doubt that his wife was the tipster. While her name is blacked out in the report, it says the tipster and “Ponzo have two children together.” The report said the witness was “very concerned” due to threats Ponzo had made to have her “family killed if he was ever arrested on his (Boston) criminal arrest warrant.”
Ponzo argued the guns he possessed were owned by his ex-wife, he was just holding them for her. He said he attempted to get rid of the weapons through his ex-wife — but she refused for “nefarious reasons.”
Judge Edward Lodge handed down a sentence of 46 months. Half of that time will be served concurrently, not adding to Ponzo’s 28-year sentence for the Boston crimes. The other half, 23 months, will add nearly two more years to his total prison time.
Following the sentencing, Ponzo argued that a plea deal he reached with the Department of Justice was broken by the sentencing and he wants to appeal the case. The judge responded that an appeal would be needed to be done in writing and adjourned.
The prosecution team said after the trial the plea deal made with Ponzo gives him the right to appeal, but only for specific reasons. They added the 9th Circuit will determine if Pozno’s appeal meets this requirement in order to get a hearing.
The Idaho Statesman contributed.