HONESDALE - A 78-year-old Waymart man who dealt drugs from a golf course he owned was sentenced Friday to 31 to 120 months in state prison and ordered to pay fines totaling $40,000.
Angelo Pozza apologized in Wayne County court, saying, "I deeply regret what I've done...I struggle every day to find out what I did. I just don't want to live anymore."
Pozza could be eligible for release after serving 23 months.
The former owner of Red Maples Golf Course in South Canaan pleaded guilty in March to felony counts of running a corrupt organization, criminal conspiracy to deliver more than 50 milligrams of cocaine, criminal use of a communication facility and delivery of a controlled substance in excess of 50 milligrams of cocaine.
Pozza was part of a large-scale drug ring that was busted in February 2013 after a 2-½ year investigation.
The investigation, known as "Operation Penalty Stroke," exposed a $1.4 million Bronx to Northeastern Pennsylvania cocaine trafficking ring.
Sixteen other defendants have been sentenced in the case.
The leader, Catherine Gabriel, 48, of Scott Township, Lackawanna County, faces up to 47 years in prison when she is sentenced June 26.
Pozza's lawyer, Thomas Jones of Scranton, asked the court for leniency. He said his client is a generous person who really didn't benefit from the drug operation - his take was only about $10,000.
Jones also said Pozza is not in good physical health and has "very, very serious conditions," including cancer and kidney disease.
The lawyer said Pozza's involvement in the ring was more of a "social engagement" that he deeply regrets.
Jones asked the court for a sentence of either a long probationary period, home confinement or imprisonment at the county level.
Jones also expressed concern that state prison would not be equipped to handle an inmate of Pozza's needs.
Jones, who has known Pozza for years, said he was "shocked" when he got the call that Pozza had been arrested.
"I couldn't understand it," he said.
The lawyer also noted that the case was an anomaly, saying the average drug defendant is 33 years old, 45 years younger than Pozza.
Deputy Attorney General Timothy Doherty, who prosecuted the case, acknowledged Pozza cooperated with authorities after his arrest.
Judge Raymond Hamill agreed that Pozza, except for his crime, is a generous person who helped neighbors, friends and family.
"And then you dealt cocaine for three to four years," the judge told the defendant.
Hamill also tried to figure out what Pozza's motive was in dealing the drugs.
"It seems to me that you can't say no to someone because you want to be liked," the judge told Pozza.
Hamill believed a prison sentence was necessary. "Four felonies and you hope to get probation?"
Hamill also noted that Pozza can get proper, intensive treatment at a state facility, contrary to what was said by the defendant's lawyer.
During the investigation, narcotics agents made 14 controlled purchases from Pozza at Red Maples, court papers state.
A grand jury found Pozza had used the golf course as the primary base of operations, selling a minimum of $300,000 worth of cocaine he obtained from Gabriel.
Agents believe Gabriel was responsible for trafficking approximately 15,000 grams of cocaine into Pennsylvania.
Agents said Pozza and Gabriel had regular customers throughout Northeastern Pennsylvania, who would purchase cocaine for either personal use or redistribution.