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Armed robbery mastermind sentenced to 77 years

The mastermind behind a series of armed robberies that killed a Greek businessman in 2009 and terrorized a half-dozen other people was sentenced to 77 years in federal prison Friday — a lengthy term that earned a round of applause from his victims at the close of the court hearing.

Nikolaos Mamalis, 55, used his friendships with Maryland business owners to rob them of thousands of dollars. He had a gang of men under his control enter their homes and offices under false pretenses, leaving the business owners tied up and frightened , prosecutors said.

His first victim was Constantine "Dino" Frank, who owned Precision Vending in Canton and pool halls in Parkville and Dundalk.

Two of Mamalis' accomplices entered Frank's Baltimore business in late July 2009 disguised as deliverymen, brandished a gun and used zip-ties and duct tape to restrain the 54-year-old man, who suffered a stroke while he was tied up. Frank died 11 days later.

Frank's death saddened the city's Greek community. His family appeared at the sentencing Friday.

"You are an evil man," Frank's mother said to Mamalis, who wouldn't turn to face her. "Shame on you," added Frank's wife.

The second robbery targeted a Havre de Grace pharmacy owner in early September, just weeks after Frank's death. The robbers gained entry to the man's home by pretending to be police, and they again wielded a gun and tied up the victims — who included the business owner, his wife and three cleaners who showed up during the robbery.

"I hope he dies in jail and rots in hell," the pharmacy owner said in court Friday.

At the end of September, the group targeted a restaurant owner, making away with about $150,000 after handcuffing the man to one of his own kitchen chairs.

Their crime spree fell apart on Nov. 6 that year when investigators learned through a wiretap that they planned to hit a home in New Jersey. They were followed and arrested in Atlantic City two days later.

"Mr. Mamalis was the architect and prime driver" of the group, said prosecutor Thiru Vignarajah.

A jury convicted Mamalis in February of seven counts of conspiracy, armed robbery and use of a handgun in a crime of violence. His four conspirators pleaded guilty to their roles and were sentenced to prison terms ranging from 33 months to nearly 12 years.

Mamalis faced a minimum of 57 years when he walked into court Friday.

U.S. District Judge Benson E. Legg spent the first hour of the hearing determining the legal guidelines for Mamalis' sentencing.

"It's a difficult sentence because it concludes an emotional case," Legg said, calling Frank's death tragic.

"He was certainly a wonderful and charismatic man around whom a family and a community would coalesce," Legg said, summarizing what he'd learned of Frank throughout the trial.

"Mr. Mamalis is deserving of a stiff sentence," Legg said, but he also expressed a reluctance to be "perceived as piling on."

He chose the 77-year term with Vignarajah's guidance — a lengthy period that's likely to keep Mamalis in prison for the rest of his life and withstand any reduction a federal appeals court could impose. Mamalis' attorney, William L. Welch III, outlined plans Friday to appeal the sentence.

The lengthy term will "insulate the sentence from the possibility that … there will be a reversal," Legg said. He will award restitution later, after the attorneys confer.

Mamalis, following Welch's advice, remained silent throughout the proceeding. No witnesses appeared to speak on his behalf.

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