Man linked to French Connection ring battles feds over case

A Connecticut man who federal authorities say was a player in the notorious French Connection heroin ring of the 1960s and 1970s has forced a delay in his sentencing for a 2012 drug bust by continuing to battle authorities over the facts in his case.

Alfred Catino, 75, of Danbury, was among 16 people busted in Connecticut in 2012 for distributing marijuana, cocaine and oxycodone in Fairfield County. Although he pleaded guilty to a drug conspiracy charge in 2014, he has insisted that warrants issued for wiretaps and his arrest were based on misleading information submitted by investigators.

He was scheduled to be sentenced Monday in federal court in New Haven to at least five years in prison. But the hearing was postponed to June 16 because he is contesting part of a presentence investigation report that may affect sentencing guidelines to be considered by Judge Jeffrey Meyer, said Frank Riccio II, Catino's lawyer.

Riccio declined to say which part of the report Catino is contesting. The report by probation officials is sealed from public view. In letters to the judge in recent months, however, Catino has disputed the types and amounts of drugs linked to him in the case.

When he pleaded guilty, Catino admitted 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 the other defendants also pleaded guilty.

Riccio has asked the judge to impose the mandatory minimum five-year prison sentence for the drug conspiracy charge. Prosecutors are seeking a 10-year sentence.

Another judge previously denied Catino's bid to exclude the wiretap evidence and certain testimony by law enforcement officials.

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.