SPRINGFIELD — A federal judge sentenced a former U.S. Postal Service vehicle maintenance yard supervisor to one year plus one day in prison for extorting two local towing company operators for $56,000 in “taxes” to award them business from the government.
Kenneth LaFlamme, 55, formerly of Springfield and now of Fort Myers, Florida, was sentenced Tuesday in U.S. District Court after pleading guilty to bribery, witness tampering and lying to federal agents.
While Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven H. Breslow lobbied for LaFlamme to serve at least 30 months in prison, Judge Mark Mastroianni sentenced him to a year and one day, hanging the lower sentence on LaFlamme’s military service, 32-year work history and fraught childhood.
Defense attorney David P. Hoose urged the judge to let his client off with probation.
LaFlamme shook the businessmen down to finance a scratch ticket addiction, Hoose said during the sentencing proceeding.
“We think of people with gambling addictions driving fancy cars, hanging out at casinos. … He was standing outside a convenience store scratching 100 tickets a day. There was nothing glamorous about it,” Hoose told Mastroianni. “Every dime he got from this scheme went to those scratch tickets.”
LaFlamme took weekly, $5-per-tow bribes from Bach Towing owner Leonard Eremento and Peter Poniatowski of Hook Ups Towing in Ludlow between 2015 and 2017. Poniatowski’s payouts were less routine, and LaFlamme never made threats toward Poniatowski to come up with the money, according to Hoose.