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Man behind Navy kickback scam seeks reduced sentence

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — The leader of an $18 million kickback scheme targeting the Navy wants a federal appeals court to throw out his 10-year prison sentence, arguing prosecutors failed to honor promises they made when he signed a plea deal.

Court papers filed by the lawyer for Ralph M. Mariano show he also is arguing the judge failed to award him credit at sentencing for accepting responsibility, which would have resulted in a shorter prison term.

Mariano pleaded guilty to conspiracy, theft of government property and tax evasion in the scheme, which prosecutors say went on for 15 years and involved a number of Navy contractors and subcontractors in Rhode Island and Georgia. Mariano was a civilian employee of the Navy, most recently assigned to the Naval Sea Systems Command headquarters in Washington. He lived in South Arlington, Virginia.

When Mariano agreed to plead guilty, the government had promised to recommend a more lenient sentence if he continued to accept responsibility through his sentencing. He pleaded guilty in May 2013. In September, before he was sentenced, he sent a series of complaints alleging misconduct by prosecutors to the judge in the case, U.S. District Judge Mary Lisi, and the Department of Justice.

When Mariano was sentenced in November, prosecutors declined to recommend a more lenient sentence, telling the judge Mariano had explicitly denied the scheme in the misconduct complaints. Lisi said she would not read Mariano’s complaints but agreed with prosecutors that Mariano had not upheld his agreement to take responsibility. She sentenced him to 10 years, one month shy of the maximum under the sentencing guidelines.

In the court filing, Mariano’s lawyer, John Calcagni, argues it would be a miscarriage of justice and would create a chilling effect on those who see or experience what they believe to be misconduct by prosecutors if he is not allowed to challenge Lisi’s ruling. He wants the district court to take into account his misconduct complaints or disregard his complaints and award him credit at sentencing for accepting responsibility. That would reduce his maximum prison term to seven years and three months.

The U.S. attorney’s office did not comment Wednesday.

The papers were filed last week, although the appeals court gave Calcagni until next week to refile them due to procedural problems with the paperwork.