NEW YORK (AP) – A Genovese family capo, facing a five-year jail term in a Brooklyn mob case, disappeared in the middle of his trial – prompting speculation that he instead received a Mafia-imposed death penalty.

“I do not consider my client’s absence to be a voluntary one,” defense attorney Martin Schmukler said in court on Wednesday, the second consecutive day that Lawrence Ricci was missing from the courtroom. Ricci, who generally kept a low public profile, went on trial Sept. 20 in the waterfront corruption case.

Ricci was due in court Tuesday when the trial resumed, but never appeared. He was last seen a week ago; his trial was scheduled to resume Monday.

“We are looking for him” said FBI spokesman Matt Bertrand. “We still haven’t arrested him, or have him in our sights yet.”

The timing of the disappearance was one of the factors in the concerns about Ricci. Even if convicted, he faced only a five-year sentence. And Schmukler said it was “entirely out of character” for his client to not show up, particularly three weeks into the trial.

The attorney said he had spoken Thursday with members of Ricci’s family, but there was nothing new to report.

“The only thing I’ll tell you is I have to continue on with this case,” Schmukler said. “I’m going to do so as if he’s alive and well and sitting in that chair in that courtroom.”

Ricci, who lists his occupation as a dairy salesman, was charged with two officials of the International Longshoreman’s Association with extortion and mail and wire fraud in connection with mob domination of the New York waterfront.

The 60-year-old defendant allegedly insured that a mob-tied pharmaceutical company received a lucrative union contract. His co-defendants were charged with conspiring with the Genovese crime family to install a mob-controlled puppet president at the ILA.

When the trial resumed Tuesday, the co-defendants, ILA executives Harold Daggett and Arthur Coffey, were never joined by Ricci in court. He was free on $500,000 bond during the trial, and was last seen Friday night in Carteret, N.J.

U.S. District Court Judge I. Leo Glasser instructed the jury in the case that they should draw no “negative inference” from Ricci’s disappearance. Prosecutors told the jury in opening statements that the Mafia “developed a stranglehold over the ILA,” allowing the mob to collect money from various sources.

Ricci’s mob ties go back decades. He was convicted two decades ago of extortion with one-time waterfront crime boss Tino Fiumara.


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