By Jeremy Roebuck
A Philadelphia mob soldier convicted this year of running an illegal gambling business that funneled proceeds to La Cosa Nostra was sentenced Wednesday to more than two years in federal prison.
Eric Esposito, 43, was sentenced to 27 months, the maximum term suggested under federal sentencing guidelines. Still, the sentence U.S. District Judge Eduardo Robreno imposed was below the more than three years prosecutors had asked for, saying Esposito had flouted the law.
At trial in February, prosecutors alleged Esposito ran the First Ward Republican Club, an after-hours South Philadelphia bar that had little to do with politics but that became a frequent hangout for mobsters and their associates.
Also there, according to FBI investigators, were the type of video poker machines that have become a staple of mob operations in the city, and plenty of bartenders coached to distribute illegal payouts.
Esposito has denied he was anything more than a bar employee. Prosecutors maintain that from at least 2006 to 2009, he served as its de facto manager - even as he was serving a period of court-ordered supervision after his release from prison on a drug conviction.
It was also during that period, prosecutor John S. Han said in court filings, that Esposito took a blood oath and became a made member of the Philadelphia mob.
"Esposito has established a complete lack of rehabilitative potential and he has amply earned just punishment through further incarceration," Han wrote.
Esposito was caught in the same 2009 dragnet that landed reputed Philadelphia mob boss Joseph Ligambi, his nephew George Borgesi, and several other alleged mob associates and soldiers in court.
Last year, a federal jury was unable to reach a unanimous verdict on several charges against Ligambi, including allegations that he oversaw a small gambling empire consisting of illegal gambling machines at bars and bodegas across South Philadelphia.
The Justice Department ultimately decided not to try Ligambi again.
Esposito took his case before a jury in February, well after outcomes had been settled for many of his mob colleagues.
His sentencing Wednesday makes him the 13th mob leader, member, or associate convicted in the case.