A former city carpenters union leader cut himself a sweet, jail-free deal by cooperating with the feds to bring down a bribery scam that inflated the union's ranks and lined his pockets.
John "Cigars" DeFalco won't spend any time behind bars, but has to pay almost $150,000 in restitution, U.S. District Court Judge Paul Crotty ordered on Tuesday.
DeFalco, former vice president of the Manhattan chapter of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners in America, flipped on Salvatore Tagliaferro, the ex president of the union's Brooklyn chapter - when he pleaded guilty to conspiracy, honest services wire fraud, and other charges in October 2020.
DeFalco identified targets - wannabe union members - and took bribes from them, usually valued at around $1,500, and then passed their applications on to Tagliaferro, who accepted the victims into his local.
The feds caught on when an unusually high number of people joined the union. Most of the new members could not join as they were not employed by companies eligible for union membership. The carpenters would have to provide proof of employment and other paperwork, but DeFalco didn't request it.
More than half of the new members Tagliaferro and DeFalco accepted applications and payments from didn't clock a minute on the job.
Prosecutors estimated the pair made more than $296,000 in the scam. Federal agents found $150,000 in cash in Ziploc bags in the attic of his vacation house just before he was indicted.
The union chief was charged in June 2019 with Tagliaferro and cooperated with the feds in a successful bid to lower a possible prison sentence.
Tagliaferro was convicted of conspiracy, conversion of union assets, and honest services wire fraud after a week long trial in April 2021. He received a five-year prison term for accepting more than $70,000 in bribes from carpenters looking for work.
In court, Tagliaferro tried to pin the whole thing on DeFalco, who his lawyer argued was a "hardcore criminal" who duped him.
But DeFalco's family and friends painted a different picture. Three members of law enforcement vouched for him and requested leniency from Judge Crotty.
Belleville, N.J. Police Sgt. Angelo Quinn said DeFalco has a "huge respect for the law."
"I have also been involved in two shootings, one in which I had to take another man's life," Quinn wrote in a letter to Crotty. "John DeFalco spent countless days in my living room talking me through the lowest points in my career and honestly my life."
DeFalco's lawyer said he client is pleased with the outcome.
"John is happy to avoid prison," attorney Jeffrey Lichtman told the Daily News.