BY JULIE MANGANIS STAFF WRITER
The Salem News
---- — MIDDLETON — A Middleton man linked to a Boston organized crime gang will spend three years on probation after admitting yesterday that he had stored a homemade pipe bomb and an unlicensed Uzi machine gun in his basement.
Augustus LaFace, 56, was identified as a suspect during a wiretapping investigation into reputed Boston mobster Mark Rossetti’s activities.
In June 2010, investigators learned that LaFace may have been involved in marijuana distribution and obtained a search warrant for his home, prosecutor Michael Patten said.
Inside a Rubbermaid storage container in the basement of LaFace’s 61 Park Ave. home, police found a small amount of marijuana, along with a pipe bomb that contained about a pound of gunpowder and was coated with nails, according to court papers.
They also found the gun, which was not licensed.
During yesterday’s change-of-plea hearing in Salem Superior Court, defense lawyer Richard Chambers Jr. began to describe how the storage container containing the gun and the bomb had been taken from his mother’s home in East Boston after his brother died.
“What’s your point?” asked Salem Superior Court Judge David Lowy, questioning whether Chambers was trying to make a claim that LaFace didn’t know the items were in the container.
Chambers did not answer the question, going on to describe LaFace’s family obligations, including a girlfriend who had suffered a stroke.
Lowy again interrupted the lawyer, pressing him.
“This was an aberration,” Chambers said. “It was out of character.”
Chambers then told the judge about LaFace’s recent diagnosis of lymphoma, for which he is receiving daily chemotherapy.
But the judge again raised the question: Was Chambers suggesting that the items did not belong to LaFace?
Finally, Chambers answered the question, telling the judge that LaFace was taking responsibility for the items.
With that settled, Lowy accepted the guilty plea to charges of possessing an infernal machine (the bomb) and possession of a firearm without a firearms identification, and sentenced LaFace to three years of probation, the first year of which LaFace will spend on house arrest, with conditions that include an electronic monitoring bracelet and a $1,000 fine.
He was also ordered to surrender his passport within 24 hours and was specifically barred from traveling to the Dominican Republic.
A similar sentence and order was imposed in Suffolk County Superior Court earlier this month, where LaFace pleaded guilty to a charge of conspiracy to violate the controlled substance laws.
In that case, he was fined $2,500.
LaFace, who spent most of his time awaiting trial free on $50,000 cash bail, told the judge that he will need at least six months to pay his fines yesterday. His lawyer said the bail money came from a niece.
LaFace was among more than 30 individuals charged in connection with the Rossetti operation.
Courts reporter Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @SNJulieManganis.