U.S. District Judge Richard L. Williams, calling a District restaurateur "a minnow" caught in a government investigation of other people, gave him a five-year suspended sentence yesterday for conspiring to distribute 27 grams of cocaine in October 1983.
Savino Recine, 35, part-owner of Galileo Restaurant at 2014 P Street NW, was placed on five years' probation and was ordered to pay a $10,000 fine and to perform 500 hours of community service. The judge said he will recommend that Recine, a native of Italy, not be deported.
Recine was convicted June 11 of conspiring to sell the cocaine for $1,800 to Angelo Puccinelli, a former waiter at Alexandria's Terrazza Restaurant. The jury failed to reach a verdict on a second charge of possession of cocaine with intent to distribute. The charge was dismissed later.
Williams said he thought it was significant that the government did not prosecute Recine for 1 1/2 years. Noting that Recine had worked to establish his business and "had potential for being a good citizen," Williams said no "good purpose" would be served by sending him to prison.
"This was an investigation on the part of the government to get some people . . . and they wound up with two minnows in this net -- you and Puccinelli," Williams said. He said only 16 persons had been prosecuted in federal courts across the country in the past two years for distributing an ounce of cocaine, roughly equal to the 27 grams Recine distributed.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Lawrence Leiser reminded Williams that Recine sold the cocaine in 1983, only two months after leaving a halfway house for a previous misdemeanor drug charge.
Testimony at Recine's trial disclosed that in 1983 the FBI placed a informant and an undercover FBI agent in Terrazza, at 710 King St., as part of an investigation into alleged racketeering, drug dealing and money laundering by restaurant people, including Giulio Santillo, owner of Terrazza and Tiberio Restaurant in the District, who has not been charged.
Recine's drug deal with Puccinelli was discovered in the course of that investigation.
Neither was arrested until last April, to protect the covers of the FBI informant and agent, an FBI agent testified. No other arrests are known to have been made in that investigation.
Puccinelli, who now lives in Florida, pleaded guilty to possession of cocaine. Last week he was given a three-year suspended sentence and fined $1,000 by Williams.
Recine, who had faced a maximum penalty of 15 years and a $125,000 fine, said yesterday he was "very happy" with his sentence. Business at Galileo has gone up since his trial, he said.