CHICAGO A Catholic priest was sentenced to time served on Thursday for trying to help a convicted mob hit man recover a purported Stradivarius violin hidden in the wall of a house, local media reported.
A U.S. district judge gave Eugene Klein a one-day sentence, but since he had already spent time in jail, Klein will spend no more time behind bars, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
Klein, who had been a federal prison chaplain, admitted to conspiring in 2011 to defraud the United States by passing messages from mobster Frank Calabrese to an unnamed associate on how to get the violin out of Calabrese’s Wisconsin home.
If found and authenticated as made by 18th-century instrument maker Antonio Stradivari, such a violin would have been worth millions of dollars. Calabrese had also claimed the violin had once been owned by pianist Liberace, according to local media accounts.
Calabrese, also known as “Frankie Breeze,” was serving a life sentence at the federal prison in Springfield, Missouri, in connection with more than a dozen gangland slayings. He died in prison in 2012.
Federal authorities were selling his property to compensate the families of victims, and he wanted the violin recovered before the house was sold, court documents said.
Klein, of Springfield, Missouri, had been permitted to meet with Calabrese regularly to provide religious ministries, like giving communion. He knew that he was not supposed to pass messages to and from Calabrese, prosecutors said.
Klein’s attorney could not immediately be reached for comment on Thursday. Prosecutors declined to comment.
Klein will also be on supervised release for three years, with the first six months to be served in home confinement with electronic monitoring. He will also perform 200 hours of community service, the Sun-Times reported.
(Reporting by Mark Weinraub and Justin Madden; Editing by Matthew Lewis)