Niagara Gazette — LOCKPORT — A Niagara County Court judge reserved her decision on Tuesday on whether to allow a prominent local chef and restauranteur, to withdraw his plea of guilty to the sexual abuse of a teenager.
Filippo Inglima, who appeared in court with a new lawyer, argued that when he agreed to a plea deal with Niagara County prosecutors, in March, he wasn’t told that the conviction, along with his expected plea in a federal drug conspiracy case could lead to his deportation. Defense attorney Andrew LoTempio argued that both county and federal judges were “obligated to advise (Inglima) of the (deportation) consequences” of pleading guilty to the sex crime.
LoTempio said the courts failed to explain those consequences until after Inglima had pleaded guilty a single count of second-degree sexual abuse. The charge stemmed from a case that dates back to July 2004 and carries a maximum one-year jail sentence.
Assistant District Attorney Robert Zucco gave Judge Sara Sheldon Farkas a copy of a transcript from a federal court hearing from October, weeks after Inglima’s arrest by local authorities. Zucco told the judge the transcript shows that there was a discussion, at the hearing, of the possibility of deportation if Inglima was convicted on sex crime charges.
A Niagara County grand jury indicted Inglima on four counts of first-degree sexual abuse, one count of second-degree sexual abuse, three counts of third-degree sexual abuse and a single count of endangering the welfare of a child in November.
Farkas said she would issue a written decision on Inglima’s request to withdraw his plea by Aug. 1. She also postponed Inglima’s scheduled sentencing, which had been set for July 18.
This new delay in his sex crime case, could also lead to another delay in Inglima’s federal drug case. He is currently scheduled for a plea hearing in federal court on Friday.
Inglima, 46, 2825 Thornwood Road, Wheatfield, his business partner in a North Buffalo restaurant and 22 other individuals were indicted in November 2009 on charges of conspiracy to possess and distribute more than 1,000 kilograms of marijuana, 5 kilograms of cocaine and more than 500 grams of so-called “club drugs” like Ecstacy.
Sources have told the Gazette the federal plea offer in the international drug smuggling case could leave Inglima facing up to a decade in prison.
The chef and owner of popular Italian restaurants in Lewiston and the Falls, was accused of “sexually touching” and having “sexual contact” with a then 14-year-old girl beginning in July 2004 and continuing that contact until July 2005. Prosecutors said the contact occurred on six occasions when the victim was at Inglima’s Wheatfield home.
He was also charged with sexually abusing the same victim, now 21, while she worked at a South End restaurant in the Falls in July 2011.
Inglima is currently free on $500,000 bail, posted in connection with his federal drug case.