News Canada

Actor who played mobster jailed

QMI Agency
Tony Conte at the courthouse in Montreal, Monday, December 5, 2011. (CHANTAL POIRIER/ QMI AGENCY FILE PHOTO)

Tony Conte at the courthouse in Montreal, Monday, December 5, 2011. (CHANTAL POIRIER/ QMI AGENCY FILE PHOTO)

MONTREAL — In a case of life imitating art, a Quebec actor who once played a mobster on TV was sentenced Thursday to 3 1/2 years in prison for his role in a cocaine ring.

Tony Conte, 48, was convicted last month of conspiracy and cocaine possession for the purpose of trafficking.

He had failed to convince a jury he was meeting the sick godfather of a friend when police arrested him in a downtown hotel room during a $500,000 drug deal.

Head down and looking tired, Conte sighed when Judge Sophie Bourque handed down the sentence at the Montreal courthouse following a trial that lasted several months.

Conte played the role of mobster Vincenzo Spadollini in the 1999 series "Omerta: The Last Men of Honour."

Conte, two associates and a Mexican drug dealer were arrested in October 2008 as they tried to buy 30 kg of cocaine from men who they thought were members of a drug cartel. The sellers were in fact Montreal police officers.

He testified that he stumbled into the hotel room by accident while looking for someone else — testimony the judge deemed "surprising."

During his trial, Conte was presented with a text message he received days before the drug deal that said, "remember: the deal is for 30."

Conte testified he never saw the message because he's bad with cellphones. What's more, he said, he doesn't know how to read or speak a word of English.

His wife and his manager both backed up his story on the stand.

Conte stuck to his story even after the Crown pointed out he has acted in English productions.

The Crown also entered into evidence Conte's resume, which clearly says he speaks English.

Two Conte associates, Paul Maravita and Anthony Riccio, pleaded guilty in 2010 and were each sentenced to three years in prison.

Conte has had previous brushes with the law and was once represented by Loris Cavaliere, chief counsel for the Rizzuto crime family.

In 1998, Conte was seen at the funeral of Paul Cotroni, son of mafia boss Frank Cotroni.