SALEM — He had worked out a deal with a judge that would have meant as little as four to five months in a house of correction.
But former Gloucester resident Antonio Zappa will now spend four to five years behind bars, and they'll be in a state prison, after court officials discovered that Zappa had failed to disclose a duplicate passport, as well as a secret trip to Europe just a week before his plea hearing last month.
Zappa, 49, pleaded guilty last month to multiple counts of identity and credit card fraud for swindling a disabled, 70-year-old Lynn man out of at least $50,000, some of it to pay for a life insurance policy on the man that named Zappa as the sole beneficiary.
Zappa used the man's identity to rack up thousands more in credit card debt, and even signed over the man's home to himself.
The victim, who died before the case could go to trial, didn't know what was going on because he used a wheelchair and could not go to the second floor, where Zappa, his wife and his mother-in-law had moved in.
Zappa once ran a company on Cape Ann called Northeast Ambulance (with no connection to a local ambulance company called Northeast Regional Ambulance) and had started another ambulance company, at least on paper, using the victim's address.
In part because the victim had died, prosecutors, the judge and Zappa's lawyer had worked out a plea deal that called for Zappa to serve no more than nine months in jail (he'd be parole eligible after serving half that time) and pay $50,000 in restitution. They even agreed to a stay of the sentence until August.
Then, on the day after his plea, Zappa showed up to turn in a passport that turned out to be a duplicate. When confronted about that, he disappeared, according to court records.
Police and probation officers tracked him down outside a Saugus home improvement store two weeks later, and he's been held without bail since.
Because of the violation, the deal was taken off the table, and on Friday, Salem Superior Court Judge John Lu imposed a four-to-five-year state prison term requested by prosecutor Karen Hopwood, as well as 15 years of probation to follow his release.
Julie Manganis may be contacted at 978-338-2521or jmanganis @gloucestertimes.com.