The odds are stacked against George Bratsenis, 74, of Monroe, who reportedly has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and cancer.
There's also no parole in the federal prison system.
Unless he’s granted a compassionate release for health reasons, Bratsenis will have to serve just about all of the plea-bargained 16-year sentence approved by a U.S. District Court judge in Newark on Wednesday, March 29 -- if he lives that long.
The Stamford CT native had the proverbial “long as your arm” rap sheet when onetime political operative Sean Caddle hired him to whack Michael Galdieri in 2014.
The victim was the son of former State Sen. James Galdieri (D-Jersey City) and a prominent figure in local Hudson County politics. Caddle, meanwhile, had been an aide to former State Sen. Ray Lesniak (D-Elizabeth) and previously worked with Democratic U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez.
Bratsenis was a U.S. Marine Corps veteran of the Vietnam War who had served prison time for his role in a 1980 crew recruited by a mob-connected Stamford police lieutenant to kill a drug dealer and steal a kilo of heroin.
He was also part of a gang that went on a jewelry store holdup spree in New Jersey, New York and Connecticut that netted more than $1 million worth of bling. The robbers set fires elsewhere in each to distract police.
Bratsenis infamously hatched an escape plan while he was being held in the Passaic County Jail for the jewelry store heists.
The scheme had his sister smuggling in a balloon filled with a drug that would make him sick. Bratsenis planned to keep it hidden in his rectum for two weeks, ingest it to get sick and then make a break for it at the hospital, where armed henchmen would be lying in wait.
Jailhouse snitch Anthony Sheppard – known as “The Rat” -- blew that up, however.
Bratsenis testified in March 2022 that he recruited a longtime criminal partner, Bomani Africa, 62, of Philadelphia, to help him carry out the Galdieri hit in May 2014.
SEE: Career Criminal From Connecticut, 73, Admits Committing Murder-For-Hire Of Jersey City Politico
Africa -- formerly Baxter Randolph Keys -- had a criminal history that included convictions for robbery and drug-related crimes beginning soon after he turned 18.
He and Bratsenis had met while both were doing time in Northern State Prison in Newark. They agreed to work together once they were released, investigators said.
Their opportunity came in April 2014, when the ex-cons robbed a People’s United branch on Old Kings Highway in Darien, CT.
It was right around that time – spring of 2014 -- that Caddle also offered Bratsenis thousands of dollars to rub out Galdieri, U.S. Attorney for New Jersey Philip R. Sellinger said.
Bratsenis immediately recruited Africa, the U.S. attorney said.
The partners stabbed Galdieri to death and torched his apartment at 158 Mallory Street in Jersey City on May 22, 2014, Sellinger said. Firefighters found the body after dousing the flames.
Caddle then met Bratsenis in the parking lot of an Elizabeth diner and paid him thousands of dollars, which Sellinger said he then shared with Africa.
In September of that same year, Bratsenis and Africa robbed a bank in Trumbull, CT of $29,937. As in the previous holdup, they leaped onto bank counters, pointed guns at the tellers and had them empty the cash drawers. They then torched their stolen getaway car for cover, authorities said at the time.
The Galdieri murder lingered as a cold case until Caddle abruptly entered a plea in January 2022. Africa quickly followed, then Bratsenis.No motive has ever been mentioned, but that didn’t matter in the end.
By taking deals, all risked the consequences of a trial that likely would have involved one or more testifying against another. It also spared the government the time and expense of a trial.
UPDATE: Admitted Hit Man From Philly Gets 20 Years In Bizarre Murder-For-Hire Of NJ Politico
ALSO SEE: NJ Political Operative Admits Paying Hit Men To Kill Longtime Associate
Africa was sentenced this past February to 20 years in federal prison. Caddle, meanwhile, had his sentencing postponed to June 29. Like Bratsenis, they will have to serve out just about all of their sentences.
Both Bratsenis and Africa also received lengthy state prison sentences for the Connecticut bank holdups. Those would have to be served after their federal stretches were completed, however.
Africa has already been imprisoned for nearly eight years in Rhode Island for a bank robbery there. He's also written a book about his life.
Sellinger credited special agents of the FBI’s Newark Field Office with the investigation leading to the pleas and sentences in the Galdieri killing, secured by Executive Assistant U.S. Attorney Lee M. Cortes Jr. and Assistant U.S. Attorney Sean Farrell, who’s the chief of his Cybercrime Unit.
He also thanked the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office for its assistance.
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