Niagara Gazette — BUFFALO -- A prominent former Falls and Lewiston chef and restaurateur pleaded guilty Thursday to a charge that he conspired to bring marijuana into the United States and send cocaine into Canada as part of an international drug smuggling ring.
Filippo Inglima, 46, 2825 Thornwood Road, Wheatfield, entered his plea during a hearing in U.S. District Court in Buffalo. He faces up to a minimum prison term of 10 years and a maximum of life behind bars when he appears for sentencing before Judge Richard Arcara on Dec. 17.
Federal guidelines suggest Inglima will face a sentence of 14 to 17 years in prison.
Inglima, 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.
In a plea agreement, filed with the court, Inglima admitted that "between 2006 and Nov. 17, 2009 ... (he) traveled to Canada on occasion in order to pick-up quantities of marijuana which (he) smuggled into the United States." Inglima also admitted that he "met couriers" after they had smuggled pot into the U.S. and he then distributed the marijuana to his restaurant partner and others.
While the pot was flowing into the U.S., Inglima confessed that he was assisting his business partner in "transporting quantities of cocaine from the United States to Canada." Inglima also admitted that he smuggled cash in and out of the United States and Canada to pay for the cocaine and marijuana.
Federal prosecutors said Inglima was involved in moving more than 100 kilos of coke and over 1,800 kilos of marijuana during the conspiracy.
The plea agreement notes that Inglima, who is not a United States citizen, could face deportation as a result of his conviction. However, law enforcement sources have told the Gazette that the drug plea, coupled with his previous guilty plea to a sex abuse charge in Niagara County Court, will mean "mandatory deportation" back to his native country of Italy after he serves his prison time.
Inglima tried to avoid that possible deportation by asking Niagara County Court Judge Sara Sheldon Farkas to withdraw his sex abuse plea. Farkas denied that request in a ruling handed down on Aug. 1.
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.
Inglima 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.
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.