By Rick Pfeiffer
Niagara Gazette — LOCKPORT — A move by a prominent local chef and restauranteur to withdraw his plea of guilty to the sexual abuse of a teenager has failed.
In a brief comment from the bench, accompanied by a written decision given to the lawyers in the case, Niagara County Court Judge Sara Sheldon Farkas rejected the request from Filippo Inglima to back out of a deal he agreed to with Niagara County prosecutors because he claimed he did not understand that the conviction, along with his expected guilty plea in a federal drug conspiracy case, could lead to his deportation.
"You can see by the decision," Farkas said. "that I'm not granting your request. We'll move to sentencing."
Inglima will return to court Sept. 3 and could face up to a year in jail.
Defense attorney Andrew LoTempio had argued that both Farkas and a federal magistrate judge 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.
Farkas said, in her decision, that the burden was on Inglima to prove he didn't understand the consequences of his plea.
"Unless he was willing to swear, in an affidavit, that he didn't know the implications of his plea, we haven't met the burden (of proof) to withdraw a plea," Lotempio said.
Assistant District Attorney Robert Zucco had shown Farkas a copy of a transcript from a federal court hearing, in October, weeks after Inglima’s arrest by local authorities, that included a discussion of the possibility of deportation if Inglima was convicted on sex crime charges.
LoTempio, who said his client is illiterate in both English and his native Italian, was confused by the legal terms that were being used.
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. He pleaded guilty in March.
The delay in his sex crime case, has also delayed Inglima’s federal drug case. He is currently scheduled for a plea hearing in federal court nest week.
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.