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Photo: Shutterstock
Photo: Shutterstock

A veteran mobster will be spending several years behind bars after letting a minor traffic dispute in Howard Beach ignite his road rage.

On Thursday, Bonanno crime family member Vincent Asaro, 82, was sentenced to 96 months for violating the Travel Act by using a telephone to order the torching of a vehicle. Asaro previously pleaded guilty to the crime on June 27, 2017.

In sentencing Asaro, United States District Judge Allyne R. Ross factored in Asaro’s past connections to the 1969 murder of Paul Katz, the 1978 robbery of the Lufthansa Airlines Terminal at John F. Kennedy Airport, and loansharking as of 2013. Asaro was also ordered to pay $21,276 in restitution for the damage to the burned car.

“Today’s sentence holds Asaro accountable not only for using his power as a member of organized crime to address a perceived slight by another motorist, but for a lifetime of violent criminal activity,” stated Bridget M. Rohde, Acting United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York.

As described in court documents and statements made in court appearances, the road rage incident took place back in April 2012 when another driver switched lanes in front of Asaro at a traffic light. Asaro then engaged in a high-speed pursuit of the other vehicle. The victim drove to Ozone Park while trying to call the police, driving in circles around a block that he knew to have red-light cameras.

After the chase was over, Asaro contacted a member of the Gambino crime family who he knew had access to local law enforcement databases, according to a press release from the sentencing. After obtaining the victim’s license plate number and address, Asaro then ordered an unnamed associate from the Bonanno family to carry out the arson. That associate recruited Asaro’s co-defendants Matthew Rullan and John J. Gotti to help him douse the car in gasoline and ignite it.

Also in court to announce the sentence were NYPD Commissioner James P. O’Neill and FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge William F. Sweeney, Jr.

“The anger that propelled Asaro to action is reminiscent of so many scripted Hollywood dramas,” Sweeney stated. “But unlike the fame and fortune of the big screen, Asaro’s story ends on a different note.”

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