The brother of Sydney crime figure Fortunato “Lucky” Gattellari was just “going along for the ride” in a 2013 plot to extort up to $15 million from killer property developer Ron Medich, a court has heard.
Codenamed the “assistant coach”, Frank Gattellari, who turns 74 next week, was spared jail on Friday despite his role as an “essential conduit” to his brother’s messenger, Robert McCarthy, in an attempt to strike a deal to help Medich escape conviction for the execution of Michael McGurk.
A former electrician from Sydney’s southwest, he was convicted of conspiracy to defraud and sentenced to a prison term of one year and nine months – to be served as an intensive corrections order – in Downing Centre District Court.
Judge Penny Hock said despite his code name he played a limited but key role in the plot, which was directed by his brother as the conspiracy’s “mastermind”.
The court heard that in his police interview in 2016 Frank Gattellari said he was “just going along for the ride” but hoped to receive a cut of the enormous bounty.
“While family loyalty seems to be the motivating factor … he frankly acknowledged in his police interview he hoped the $300,000 his brother owed to his business would be repaid,” Judge Hock said.
His involvement came about due to his “understandable loyalty to his brother Lucky and misguided attempts to help him”, she said.
Judge Hock said it now appeared Frank Gattellari, a long-time drug user who now suffered from serious ill health, had “unfortunately” become estranged from his brother Lucky, 70.
Frank Gattellari pleaded guilty to his role in April.
The court heard Lucky Gattellari and McCarthy met inside Long Bay jail in 2012, where Gattellari was being held following his conviction as an accessory to the murder of businessman Mr McGurk in 2009.
The former boxer had organised the hit on behalf of Medich but turned on his friend when he refused to help pay for Gattellari’s $1 million legal fees following his arrest.
The 2013 plot hatched behind bars was that Lucky Gattellari, who became a key witness at Medich‘s Supreme Court trial in 2017 and 2018, would promise to throw his testimony in exchange for the cash.
The initial asking price was $10 million, which was later upped to $15 million.
At the promise of a $200,000 cut McCarthy became Lucky‘s messenger to the Medich family upon his release from jail in June of that year, while Frank Gattellari passed on his brother’s orders via regular phone conversations and visits to Long Bay.
The court heard Frank Gattellari’s involvement was also intended to give McCarthy’s story credibility, as he knew the Medich family.
After six months of negotiations both McCarthy and Frank Gattellari seemingly withdrew in December 2013 after the latter became suspicious of the Medich’s supposed go-between – an undercover cop known as ‘George’.
Months earlier the Medich family had told police about McCarthy’s approach and a strike force had been formed to investigate the extortion attempt.
Lucky Gattellari was given a prison sentence in excess of three years for his role in the plot, while McCarthy was handed an 18 month bond.