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The Baltimore Sun

Low-level member of Outfit gets 40 months

Tribune staff reporter

A bit player in the Family Secrets mob conspiracy case was sentenced to more than 3 years in prison Thursday by a federal judge who noted it takes a lot of low-level associates of the Chicago Outfit to make the organization work.

Joseph Venezia, 65, had pleaded guilty to gambling and tax charges before the landmark trial last year.Venezia had sought a sentence as light as probation Thursday, arguing he was merely a pawn to the Outfit when he did his job picking up cash from video poker machines.

But U.S. District Judge James Zagel sentenced Venezia to 40 months in prison, within federal guidelines, telling him he helped the mob inflict damage on society by assisting the syndicate in making money.

"Without the Joseph Venezias of the world, the enterprise of which he was a part would, in fact, crumble," Zagel said.

In court filings, Venezia's attorney, Kevin Bolger, had argued that the only reason the government described Venezia as an associate of organized crime because his name ends in a vowel. Bolger said Venezia was just following orders as an employee.

Assistant U.S. Atty. Markus Funk argued in a response to the court that the label had everything to do with the evidence in the case and "not the orthography of this particular defendant's last name."

Venezia ran a route for a gambling business owned by Michael "Mickey" Marcello and his mob boss brother James, Funk said Thursday.

Venezia, Funk said, also was the front man for another Outfit-related business, a Cicero lounge used for prostitution.

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