Man linked to French Connection drug ring to be sentenced

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — A Connecticut man who federal authorities say was a player in the notorious French Connection heroin ring of the 1960s and 1970s is set to be sentenced to at least five years in prison in a new drug case.

Alfred Catino, 75, of Danbury, was among 16 people busted in Connecticut in 2012 for distributing marijuana, cocaine and oxycodone in Fairfield County. He pleaded guilty to a drug conspiracy charge in 2014.

He’s scheduled to be sentenced Monday in federal court in New Haven.

Catino’s lawyer, Frank Riccio II, is asking the judge to impose the mandatory minimum five-year prison sentence, while prosecutors are seeking a 10-year prison sentence.

Catino’s criminal record is a colorful history of drug dealing and prison sentences dating to the 1960s, when federal authorities say he was part of the French Connection heroin smuggling ring that spawned the 1971 Oscar-winning movie of the same name starring Gene Hackman and Roy Scheider.

The French Connection was the major supplier of heroin to the United States, sending in hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth for years until police busted it up in the early 1970s. Federal authorities say it involved Turkish heroin refined in Marseille, France, and smuggled into the U.S.

A big bust in the case in 1962 by New York City detectives was the subject of the movie.

Law enforcement officials say they had no idea about Catino’s history when they arrested him in the latest drug case, and were surprised when they found out.

Riccio has said Catino doesn’t deny being part of the French Connection.

Catino pleaded guilty in June to conspiring to sell controlled substances, admitting he was part of a group involved in a failed effort to distribute about 200 pounds of marijuana from California to Connecticut and sell cocaine and oxycodone. All of the other defendants also pleaded guilty.

The bust was the result of an investigation by the Drug Enforcement Administration, Connecticut State Police and local officers that included court-ordered wiretaps on the cellphones of Catino and others.

Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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