By Rick Pfeiffer
Niagara Gazette — BUFFALO -- A prominent former Falls and Lewiston chef and restaurateur will spend the next 10 years behind bars for his guilty plea 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.
U.S. District Court Judge Richard Arcara sentenced Filippo Inglima, 46, 2825 Thornwood Road, Wheatfield, to the minimum prison term he could have received.
"The only thing I want to say is, I'm ashamed of myself," Inglima said just before he was sentenced.
Arcara noted that Inglima was well regarded in the community and had never been in trouble before being charged in the drug conspiracy.
"This is not a pleasant position I find myself in," Arcara said. "It's unfortunate (Inglima) finds himself in this position. But he was involved with a major drug dealer, with 20 (other dealers) under his control. And they weren't passing out medicine, they were passing out poison."
Inglima said he was leaving his fate in Arcara's hands.
"I'll leave it up to you," he said to the judge. "Whatever you think is right."
Inglima, his business partner in a North Buffalo restaurant, David Gambino. 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 Gambino and others.
While the pot was flowing into the U.S., Inglima confessed that he was assisting Gambino 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.
Inglima's defense attorney, Judith Kubiniec, said her client met Gambino, who worked as a mortgage broker, when he was refinancing his home. She said Gambino became a "partner" in Inglima's restaurant because the business was losing money."
"This (drug conspiracy) came about because (Inglima) was a better cook than businessman," Kubiniec said.
Federal prosecutors said Inglima was involved in moving more than 100 kilos of coke and over 1,800 kilos of marijuana during the conspiracy.
Inglima, who is not a United States citizen, would have faced the prospect of deportation as a result of the drug conviction. Law enforcement sources have confirmed for the Gazette that the drug plea, coupled with a 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 10-year sentence.
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 2012. 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.