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LI banana executive's former driver sentenced in drug-death case

The onetime driver for Long Island banana executive Thomas Hoey was sentenced to 45 days in prison Thursday for trying to help his boss dodge responsibility for the drug-related death of a woman during a 2009 sex party in his Manhattan hotel suite.

Alejandro Noriega, 42, of Hempstead, told Manhattan U.S. District Judge Kevin Castel that he regretted removing, on Hoey's orders, a black bag with cocaine from the room where Kim Calo died of an overdose, and later not telling police about the drugs.

"I didn't tell the police because I was worried about my job," said Noriega, who asked for probation. "I realize my behavior interfered with the investigation, and I'm really deeply sorry about it."

Hoey, 46, of Garden City, the owner of Long Island Banana Co., a fruit distributor, pleaded guilty in August to supplying cocaine to Calo, 41, of Glenwood Landing, during a party at the Kitano Hotel, and to obstruction of justice.

He has been jailed for a year, and will be sentenced in January on the federal charges. He is scheduled to be sentenced Friday in state court on a separate conviction of assaulting his girlfriend and tampering with evidence.

Prosecutors said Noriega wasn't present in the room when cocaine was being used and pressed Hoey to get medical help for Calo, but they charged that he did try to hide the black bag from police and had been present on other occasions when his boss used drugs.

Noriega was described by his lawyer as an uneducated Mexican immigrant who entered the U.S. illegally at 24, began working as a truck and personal driver for Hoey in 2003, and protected him out of both loyalty and self-preservation.

Defense lawyer James Neuman said Noriega, the married father of a 10-year-old, now has a green card. "There is a possibility, I hope remote, that he could be deported," Neuman told the judge.

Castel said he had to impose some jail time as a deterrent. "I don't believe Mr. Noriega is inherently a bad person or an immoral person, but . . . he let his own financial interests supersede his obligations," the judge said.

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