FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -

Anthony "Little Tony" Ferrari was sentenced Thursday to life in prison without parole for helping orchestrate the 2001 mob-style slaying of a prominent businessman who ran a fleet of gambling ships and founded the Miami Subs restaurant chain.

A jury this week recommended against the death penalty for the 56-year-old Ferrari in the shooting death of Konstaninos "Gus" Boulis, former chief of the SunCruz Casinos. Circuit Judge Ilona Holmes said Thursday she would not override that recommendation and prosecutors did not ask for it.

"I have very little discretion," Holmes said. She did, however, tack on another 30 years for a murder conspiracy conviction.

"It's never a good day when anyone gets sentenced to life in prison but I'm sure Mr. Ferrari will vigorously litigate his appeals and hopefully get a new trial," said Ferrari's attorney, Chris Grillo.

Trial testimony showed that Ferrari and Anthony "Big Tony" Moscatiello plotted to have Boulis killed by a mob hit man in a battle for control of the SunCruz fleet. Witnesses testified that Moscatiello had ties to New York's Gambino crime family.

"The fact that he's not the triggerman, to me, doesn't really morally change anything. To me -- in some respects -- even more reprehensible that he plotted and planned for months and thought about this and put something together like that," said prosecutor Gregg Rossman. "It takes a certain kind of evil to be able to do that."

Moscatiello, 75, was on trial with Ferrari but was granted a mistrial when his attorney became ill. He will be retried at some point in 2014, and prosecutors again are expected to seek the death penalty. He has pleaded not guilty and is free on bail.

A third man charged in the killing, James "Pudgy" Fiorillo, pleaded guilty to murder conspiracy and testified for the prosecution in exchange for a lenient sentence. Fiorillo admitted conducting surveillance on Boulis and getting rid of the murder weapon, but insisted he was not directly involved.

Ferrari, who testified in his own defense that he did not plot to kill Boulis, said very little at Thursday's brief hearing except to thank Holmes for her time. Boulis' sister, Mersina Boulis, said in a statement read by a prosecutor that Ferrari's conviction and sentence is one step toward recovering "from this tragic loss."

"He is greatly missed every day," her statement said. "He was and is the example of the American dream."

Read: Mersina Boulis' statement

The murder plot unfolded a few months after Boulis, 51, sold the SunCruz fleet to New York businessman Adam Kidan and Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Kidan brought in Moscatiello and Ferrari, giving them lucrative contracts with the gambling ships that were threatened when Boulis made it clear he wanted to regain control.

Boulis was fatally shot in his car on a downtown Fort Lauderdale street on Feb. 6, 2001, by a mob hit man. Witnesses said the triggerman, John "J.J." Gurino, was later killed in a dispute with a Boca Raton delicatessen owner.

Kidan testified that both Moscatiello and Ferrari confessed to him that they plotted the slaying. Kidan and Abramoff pleaded guilty to fraud in their $147.5 million purchase of SunCruz and served federal prison time, but they were never implicated in Boulis' killing.

Abramoff was also the key figure in a Washington influence-peddling case that resulted in charges against 21 people on corruption charges, including former U.S. Rep. Bob Ney, R-Ohio. The saga was made into a 2010 movie, "Casino Jack," starring Kevin Spacey as Abramoff, part of which focused on the Boulis killing.