The Chicago Syndicate: Joey Merlino
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Showing posts with label Joey Merlino. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Joey Merlino. Show all posts

Friday, November 20, 2020

Did a Trump Supporting Mob Boss in Philadelphia Rig the Election for Biden? Despite the Lack of Evidence, Some Say Hell Yes

No, the Philadelphia mob did not stuff the ballot box for Joe Biden.

"Never, never," the city's former Mob boss, Ralph Natale told Fox News. "They were told if you do one thing it will be the end of us for all time. This is their chance to become human beings."

Natale, born and raised in the South Philadelphia neighborhood that is the city's mafia home base, ruled the Philadelphia mob in the late 1990s. He flipped and testified for the government against his reputed successor, Joe "Skinny Joey" Merlino in 2000, after pleading guilty to racketeering, murder, and drug conspiracy charges. He also admitted to eight gangland murders. He says organized crime may resort to almost every crime imaginable but putting the fix in for Biden is not one of them.

"The Dems won the election fair and square," he said.

The prospect that the mafia interfered in the election to tip it to the President-Elect in the key state of Pennsylvania, was first raised on the internet by a Buffalo, N.Y. website and then amplified by several of President Trump's supporters. Jordan Sekulow, the son of top Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow, retweeted the claim that Merlino helped fake 300,000 illegal ballots for Biden, at $10 each, for a $3 million underworld score that handed the state to the Democratic nominee.

Besides Natale, authorities and Merlino's lawyer say the story is not true.  "This claim published by a disreputable website has been thoroughly debunked," Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner spokesperson Jane Roh told Fox News.

"Joey is a Trumper and any allegation of fixing this is just completely fiction. Maybe they should write a movie script, this is not reality," Merlino's attorney John Meringolo told Fox News. He says his client supports President Trump because "he is against cooperating witnesses and against making uncorroborated deals with snitches, which is what the president is against."

President Trump's personal lawyer, former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, who is also heading the campaign legal efforts, was asked about the possibility of mob election interference during an interview on the Fox Business Network. He said that "although there is an allegation of a mobster involved, but I think it's a far-fetched one."

South Philadelphia is largely composed of seven Wards, and the president won only one of them: Ward 26, with 54.9% to Biden's 44.3%. In all, the neighborhood went for Biden by a margin of about 76.49% to the president's 22.53%.

One source close to the Philadelphia mobsters told Fox News that the unusual voting block overwhelmingly backs the president because "he is a no-nonsense type of guy."

Natale has another view, noting that Biden, who was born in the state, has long been a strong union supporter. "Biden, Biden is a beautiful man. Quiet, he's nice. He has had suffering in his life, and he is not a braggart,” he said.

In fact, Natale gives the president-elect the highest compliment a made guy can give another one: "he's a man's man."

Natale was not only a member of the Angelo Bruno Philadelphia crime family for decades, but was also the head Bartenders Union Local 170, and says he helped the mob-run the Atlantic City casinos starting when gambling was first legalized in 1976. As a top union official...and mobster, he says he routinely dealt with elected officials and politicians. He was instrumental in helping federal prosecutors nail Camden New Jersey Mayor Milton Milan in 2001 on charges of taking mob payoffs, laundering drug money, and stealing campaign funds.

"They are so easy to bribe they will take an Indian penny. That's why they become politicians."

Natale detailed his life in his recent book, "Last Don Standing: The Secret Life of Mob Boss Ralph Natale."

Natale is now working with producer Dan Pearson of Dan4Entertainment (D4E) on telling the story of his mob days for Hollywood, who says "when you peel back the onion, politics and the mob are one in the same."

As someone who has been on both sides of the law, Natale predicts that President Trump will end up being indicted for what some have alleged could be business fraud charges by New York State prosecutors when he leaves office. "He's almost really broke, you'll see what is going to happen within six months," Natale says. "I think he is afraid that he will get arrested when is not president anymore. He is what he is. He has conned people...he is just a big liar."

President Trump and his campaign have continued to push unsubstantiated and false claims about the election in Philadelphia, which have caused Natale to pine for days gone by. "I remember when I was a little boy, every Italian home in South Philly had a picture of FDR, in a frame, and they put it in the dining room. They loved Franklin Delano Roosevelt, you know why? He called it as it was. He saved this country's life."

Thanks to Bradford Betz and Eric Shawn.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

2 Gambino Crime Family Associates Charged with Extortion, Arson and Conspiracy

Two reputed associates of one of the most notorious organized crime families in New York have been charged with extorting a businessman and torching his Mercedes Benz in New York City.

Gambino family associates Peter Tuccio, 25, and Jonathan Gurino, 25, were arrested Friday and face federal counts of extortion, arson and conspiracy in the 2015 fire, according to court filings.

Both men were released on $700,000 bail at an afternoon court appearance, despite a request by federal prosecutors that they be jailed pending trial.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Nadia Moore noted that a witness to the 2015 fire found a dead rat placed on her car. Moore argued in court papers that Gurino and Tuccio have strong ties to the Gambino crime family. She said Tuccio attended the Manhattan court proceedings this year of Joseph “Skinny Joey” Merlino, a notorious Philadelphia mob boss sentenced to two years in prison for illegal betting.

“The defendants’ association with organized crime is significant not only because it demonstrates their proclivity for violence, but because it provides them with access to members of organized crime throughout the United States willing to harbor and assist them should they decide to flee or obstruct justice,” Moore wrote.

Gurino’s defense attorney, Todd Greenberg, called the charges “false” and said his client is “looking forward to his trial.” He said he could not comment on the discovery of the rat because he knew nothing about it.

A defense attorney for Tuccio did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

The FBI said a now deceased Gambino crime family captain had extorted the businessman for annual payments, but the businessman began dodging them.

On Dec. 3, 2015, Tuccio, Gurino and a third man, Gino Gabrielli Jr., tailed the businessman “at a high rate of speed” and confronted him outside a pizzeria in Queens, prosecutors said in court filings.

The businessman, who was not identified in court papers, told authorities he heard a loud noise later that night and looked outside his Howard Beach home to see his Mercedes ablaze.

Surveillance video captured Gabrielli pouring a liquid on the vehicle about 4 a.m. and running away with his right pant leg on fire, according to the complaint. New York police recovered a lighter and what appeared to be a burned gas can near the vehicle.

Gabrielli arrived at Jamaica Hospital Medical Center about 20 minutes later with third-degree burns and “clothing that reeked of gasoline,” the complaint says. He initially told police his injuries stemmed from a kitchen fire that erupted while he was cooking chicken and rice at his home. But fire marshals interviewed Gabrielli’s mother, the complaint says, who said “no one had cooked anything that evening, and that there were no dirty dishes in the sink.”

Gabrielli pleaded guilty to arson in 2016. He faces at least five years behind bars but has not yet been sentenced.

U.S. Attorney Richard Donoghue said in a statement that the defendants “delivered a frightening message in the form of fire to force a businessman to pay protection money to a high-ranking gangster.”

“Today’s charges against two alleged crime family associates demonstrate that whether you are a made member or a young associate looking to advance in a crime family, the end result is the same — prosecution and prison,” Donoghue said.

The Gambino crime family’s Mafia associates have for generations used violence, threats and intimidation to wield power and generate illegal profits.

Thanks to Jim Mustain.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Joseph "Uncle Joe" Ligambi Has Feds Dismiss Case After He Beats Gambling and Racketeering Charges Twice

Federal prosecutors abandoned their pursuit of a reputed Philadelphia mob boss on Monday after he twice beat charges in a gambling and racketeering case.

Joseph "Uncle Joe" Ligambi could have faced a third trial after jurors acquitted him last week of witness tampering while deadlocking on three other charges. But prosecutors filed a motion seeking to dismiss the remaining counts — a rare setback in their decades-long campaign against the Philadelphia mob.

Ligambi's attorney, Ed Jacobs, praised the decision and said he expects his client to be released from a federal detention center Tuesday. A judge still has to sign off. "They have properly exercised their discretion," Jacobs said. "They have failed twice in their efforts to convict Joe, and I don't think they think the third time's the charm."

A spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney Zane Memeger declined comment.

The Ligambi case largely involved the collection of small gambling debts and loans, and the operation of video poker machines at neighborhood bars.

Prosecutors won convictions against Ligambi's reputed underboss and enforcer — who were sentenced to 15 years and 11 years in prison respectively — and several associates. But two juries deadlocked on the main racketeering charge against Ligambi, 74, and he was acquitted of six of nine counts overall.

Authorities say Ligambi took over a weakened La Cosa Nostra after his predecessor, Joseph "Skinny Joey" Merlino, was convicted and sent to prison in 2001.

An indictment unsealed in 2011 said Ligambi and other reputed mobsters remained dangerous, using threats to kill or harm people who hadn't paid their debts to the Mafia.

Ligambi has spent nearly three years in prison following his arrest.

Jacobs, who has called the case a witch hunt, said Monday the government should "put all this time and effort and money to better use chasing somebody else."

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Skinny Joey Merlino, Former Philly Mob Boss, Calls "Jersey Shore" Guys a Disgrace to Italians

Ex-Philadelphia mafia boss "Skinny Joey" Merlino -- who served 12 years in federal prison for racketeering -- says the guys from "Jersey Shore" are a big, fat "disgrace to the Italians" ... seriously.

Merlino -- who was released from the slammer last year -- was at LAX yesterday, where he was picked up from the airport by Howard Stern's favorite mob family member Johnny Fratto.

It's unclear why Joey is in L.A. -- but as Johnny drove off with Merlino riding shotgun, he picked an interesting song choice to bump in his car ... Elton John's "Philadelphia Freedom."

FYI -- Merlino was rumored to have been a heavy gambler before he got locked up ... and when we asked if he had any advice for Harvey (who's been getting killed with his NFL picks) ... "Skinny Joey" had one solid piece of advice ... and it involves one Thomas Edward Patrick Brady.

Thanks to TMZ.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Reputed Philly Mob Boss Joseph "Uncle Joe" Ligambi Along with Alleged Underboss Joseph "Mousei" Massimino Among 12 Arrested

The reputed boss of the Philadelphia mob, his alleged lieutenant and 11 others were hit with federal racketeering and gambling charges in an indictment unsealed Monday that federal authorities said shows that violent organized crime remains a real-life menace.

Alleged mob leader Joseph "Uncle Joe" Ligambi, reputed underboss Joseph "Mousie" Massimino and the others ran illegal gambling operations and engaged in loan sharking, according to the 70-page indictment that described a "Godfather"-like world in which reputed mobsters used threats to kill or harm people to recoup business debts.

Eleven people, including Ligambi, were arrested Monday. The other two defendants were already in federal custody.

Ligambi, 72, pleaded not guilty during an initial appearance. His attorney, Joseph Santaguida, said the case against his client isn't strong and that he should be granted bail at a hearing later this week.

Massimino, 61, said in court that he didn't yet have an attorney. He has a bail hearing scheduled for Thursday. A judge also scheduled bail hearings for many of the other defendants this week.

The arrests were the largest action taken against Philadelphia's crime family in a decade.
"They used violence and the threat of violence to exert control over others," Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer said at a news conference, noting that organized crime in Philadelphia had shown "a remarkable ability to reorganize and reinvent itself."

Ligambi, Massimino and the others provided video poker machines and other illegal gambling devices to bars, restaurants and convenience stores in and around Philadelphia, prosecutors said.

Ligambi, Massimino and another defendant tried to make the business appear legitimate to hide the money from the federal government, prosecutors said. Ligambi, Massimino and other defendants also "approved, supervised, and otherwise participated in extortions" to generate income for the enterprise and its members, the indictment said.

In one instance, between about 2002 and 2006, Massimino and another defendant extorted a bookmaker by demanding that the bookmaker provide "yearly tribute payments" to the Philadelphia La Casa Nostra in order to "avoid personal harm" and the disruption of business, the indictment said.

The indictment is also riddled with allegations of defendants threatening to kill or harm people who haven't paid their debts, including alleged threats to "put a bullet in your head" and to "chop him up." Massimino allegedly told one victim that he wouldn't "be able to hide anywhere in the U.S.," prosecutors allege.

"The defendants also used express and implied threats of physical violence and economic harm to instill fear in their victims and to preserve and sustain the enterprise," the indictment said.
U.S. Attorney Zane David Memeger said the arrests should serve as a warning that law enforcement hasn't forgotten about the Mafia.

"Today, we make clear that such activity will not be tolerated by my office and that La Cosa Nostra remains a priority for the Department of Justice," Memeger said.

Ligambi took over the Philadelphia mob after former boss Joseph "Skinny Joey" Merlino was convicted of racketeering in 2001, according to investigators. Merlino was later acquitted of a murder charge in 2004.

Ligambi was convicted in the 1985 gangland slaying of Frank "Frankie Flowers" D'Alfonso and spent 10 years in prison before he was acquitted on retrial in 1997.

Merlino is currently serving a six-month term at a Florida halfway house after being released from federal prison in March.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Martin Angelina, Mob Underboss, Sentenced to Probation for Aggravated Assault

Nearly a year after spitting in the face of a Margate police officer, mob underboss Martin Angelina was sentenced Friday to a year's probation and fined $1,000 for aggravated assault.

Angelina, 48, said little during the sentencing hearing before Atlantic County Superior Court Judge Bernard DeLury. Neither he nor his lawyer, M.W. "Mike" Pinsky, would comment as they left the third-floor courtroom.

Dressed in a blue striped polo shirt and jeans, the once roly-poly wiseguy appeared tan and fit as he stood before DeLury at his brief court appearance.

Asked by the judge if he had anything to say, Angelina replied, "Nothing."

DeLury described Angelina's confrontation with Police Officer Christopher Taroncher as "boisterous and profane," but said he would accept a plea deal between Pinsky and the Atlantic County Prosecutor's Office.

The South Philadelphia resident formally entered his guilty plea in June.

The fact that Taroncher was not injured apparently played a role in the prosecution's decision to downgrade the charge to a fourth-degree offense that did not require a jail sentence.

Angelina, DeLury pointed out, has 12 prior arrests and six convictions. He also has a driving-while-intoxicated charge pending in Philadelphia Common Pleas Court. His most serious offense was a conviction for racketeering in 2001. Angelina served nearly six years and was twice jailed for probation violations after his release because he associated with organized-crime figures.

The current probation sentence includes a similar prohibition for the mobster. He also will be required to attend weekly counseling sessions at Alcoholics Anonymous or a similar organization.

Pinsky told DeLury that the current charge was not connected with organized criminal activity. He said it grew out of a domestic dispute.

Angelina was arrested early on Sept. 1, 2009, at an apartment in Margate where he was staying with a girlfriend, according to police. Neighbors had complained about shouting. He and the girlfriend had been arguing while drinking at some local bars and the dispute continued at home, police said.

Angelina spent several hours in the Margate lockup and was being released around 8 a.m. when, officials said, he got into an argument with Taroncher, who was in the process of freeing him. He then spit in Taroncher's face. Angelina was rearrested on an assault charge and remained in the lockup for two more hours before $2,500 bail was posted.

Once described by a federal prosecutor as a "bully running with a gang of misfits," Angelina was a close associate and enforcer for jailed mob boss Joseph "Skinny Joey" Merlino, who ruled the Philadelphia mob family in the late 1990s. Merlino, Angelina, and five codefendants were convicted in the 2001 racketeering case in Philadelphia.

Angelina, according to federal and local police, was named underboss, the number-two man, in the local mob by reputed boss Joseph "Uncle Joe" Ligambi after Angelina completed his prison sentence. The move was seen in law enforcement and underworld circles as a favor to Merlino. Angelina is not considered a close associate of Ligambi's.

Ligambi, 70, has taken a low-key approach to running the crime family and frowns on actions - like spitting on a police officer - that attract media attention.

Angelina, Ligambi, and nearly a dozen other mob figures are the focus of a racketeering investigation being conducted by the FBI and U.S. Attorney's Office in Philadelphia, according to witnesses and investigators involved in that probe.

Thanks to George Anastasia

Saturday, June 26, 2010

New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement will not appeal Casino License to a construction firm that it believes has ties to Organized Crime

Bringing a contentious case to a close, the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement will not appeal the award of a casino license to a construction firm that the agency believes has ties to organized crime.

The New Jersey Casino Control Commission, over vehement objections from the DGE, approved a license in May for Pleasantville-based Bayshore Rebar Inc. and its owners, Joseph N. Merlino and his mother, Phyllis Merlino.

The DGE, which had discussed the possibility of an appeal, had 45 days in which to challenge the commission's ruling in state court. However, the division allowed the appeal deadline to lapse. DGE spokesman Paul Loriquet said Friday that the agency would not comment further about the case.

The licensing dispute pitted two government agencies against each other, with both sides accusing the other of misconduct as the case unfolded. The commission serves as the chief regulatory body for Atlantic City's $3.9 billion casino industry, while the DGE acts as an investigative agency.

John M. Donnelly, an Atlantic City attorney representing the Merlinos, said he is relieved the grueling regulatory battle has finally come to an end. "It's been an expensive ordeal," Donnelly said. "We don't need any more litigation."

During Bayshore's licensing hearing, DGE attorneys alleged that the Merlinos were linked to organized crime through their relatives. Joseph N. Merlino's cousin is jailed Philadelphia mob boss Joseph S. "Skinny Joey" Merlino. The late Lawrence "Yogi" Merlino, a high-ranking mobster, was Joseph N. Merlino's father and the ex-husband of Phyllis Merlino.

In a unanimous vote May 5, the five-member Casino Control Commission concluded the Merlinos were not connected to organized crime. The license allows the Merlinos and Bayshore to do business with Atlantic City's casinos.

The ruling reversed 21 years of state policy. The Merlinos were denied a license by the commission in 1989 and again in 1997 based on the belief that they had "inimical associations" with organized crime.

This time around, the commission ruled the Merlinos were free of any mob influence. Joseph N. Merlino and his mother insisted they had long ago severed all ties to any family members involved in organized crime.

Thanks to Donald Wittkowski

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Skinny Joey Merlino Family Ruling Slammed by New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement

The New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement fired a verbal blast at a Casino Control Commission hearing examiner Monday, contending that the agency had "distorted" facts and ignored evidence in recommending that relatives of a jailed mob boss be granted a casino service-industry license.

The recommendation was "replete with distortions of testimony and proven facts and/or selective omission of critical facts and testimony," attorneys for the DGE wrote in a blistering 24-page list of exceptions to findings of William T. Sommeling.

Sommeling, who sits on the five-member Casino Control Commission, was appointed hearing examiner in the case.

Last month, he ruled that Joseph N. Merlino, his mother, Phyllis, and the Pleasantville construction company they own, Bayshore Rebar, were entitled to casino service-industry licenses.

Merlino is the cousin of jailed mob boss Joseph S. "Skinny Joey" Merlino. Phyllis Merlino is the jailed mobster's aunt. They and their company had twice before been denied licenses because of suspected mob ties.

Sommeling, who heard 14 days of testimony in a hearing that stretched over two months, found that the Merlinos and their company had severed ties to any organized-crime figures, including family members.

He blasted the DGE for its conduct during the hearing process, charging that it presented evidence that was "unreliable, uncorroborated and, in some instances, demonstrably false."

The pointed comments in Sommeling's findings and the DGE response are a marked departure from the usual tone of filings in licensing cases.

The full five-member commission is expected to hold a hearing next month to vote on Sommeling's recommendation. The commission can accept, modify, or reject it.

In a response that was at times dripping with sarcasm, the DGE urged the commission to again deny the Merlinos and their company the right to do casino-related construction work.

Sommeling's decision "manages to render meaningless" the standards and precedents established over the years by the commission to keep mob influences out of the casino industry, the DGE argued.

The DGE's response was presented in a document prepared by state Deputy Attorney General Alice Way and Assistant Attorney General Anthony J. Zarrillo Jr., prosecutors in the Merlino hearing.

The Merlinos' attorney, John Donnelly, has five days to respond.

In their filing, the DGE lawyers claimed that Sommeling came into the hearing with a preconceived notion of the case and that the DGE "lost . . . before its opening statement."

They chided Sommeling for showing favoritism, contending that "diplomacy has been afforded to the applicants, while derision has been saved for the Division."

The commissioner misunderstood or failed to adequately analyze scores of phone records that showed contact between the Merlinos and organized-crime figures, the DGE argued.

They included calls from Joseph S. Merlino and mobster Martin Angelina while the men were in federal prison in Philadelphia in 2000 and 2001 on racketeering charges.

The DGE cited more than a dozen calls from the inmates to the unlisted telephone of Joseph N. Merlino.

It also argued that Sommeling ignored the significance of calls to and from numbers listed in the names of the wives of mob figures, including the wife of reputed Philadelphia mob boss Joseph Ligambi.

Sommeling's ruling, the DGE argued, "contravenes the long established law enforcement intelligence technique that recognizes organized crime affiliates use their wives, mothers and girlfriends to circumvent detection of their criminal activities."

Finally, the DGE argued that Sommeling erred when he dismissed allegations that Anthony Giraldi, a longtime friend of Joseph N. Merlino's, was a mob associate.

Giraldi, a South Philadelphia plumber, was described by the DGE as a bookmaker and associate of the local crime family. Among other things, it cited social gatherings he had attended, such as weddings and funerals, where mob figures were present.

The Merlinos, who testified in their own defense, said they were never part of organized crime. But in order to satisfy the concerns of gaming regulators, they said, they made a decision about 10 years ago to sever all ties with the Merlino side of their family.

Thanks to George Anastasia

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Reputed Mobster Joseph Merlino Ran Construction Firm Says Witness

Far from being the self-made man he says he is, Joseph N. Merlino was set up in the construction business by his father, a convicted Mafia killer, a retired federal corruption investigator testified yesterday.

Merlino and his mother are seeking a license that would permit their company, Bayshore Rebar of Pleasantville, to work in the Atlantic City casino industry.

Merlino admits that his father, Lawrence "Yogi," and his cousin Joseph "Skinny Joey" Merlino were mobsters. But he says Bayshore is free of mob influence and is unrelated to his father, who died in 2001 while in the witness protection program.

Ronald Chance, who investigated mob ties to the construction industry in the 1980s for the U.S. Department of Labor, said Bayshore was founded and run by the elder Merlino.

"Larry Merlino created Bayshore," Chance said. "Bayshore was the minority company of Larry Merlino."

Chance said Merlino listed his wife as the owner to get around requirements that a portion of some contracts be awarded to companies owned by women or minorities, and had his son on the payroll as well.

He testified during a hearing of the New Jersey Casino Control Commission that Phyllis Merlino and Joseph N. Merlino were listed as company officers, but Lawrence Merlino was the real boss in the mid-1980s.

"Not one single person ever had any dealings with Joseph or Phyllis Merlino," Chance testified. "Their dealings were with Larry Merlino."

That testimony contradicted the Merlinos' claim of how Bayshore was founded - as a legitimate company free of any mob taint or influence from Lawrence Merlino.

The Merlinos' lawyer, John Donnelly, denied the truth of Chance's testimony.

"He's absolutely, unequivocally, dead wrong," Donnelly said. "It's already found to have been untrue by the Casino Control Commission."

Chance testified that his agency began investigating Lawrence Merlino in the 1980s after an ironworker whose wife had just given birth was hit with a $4,300 hospital bill. The worker went to his union to ask why the hospital said he had no insurance coverage, and was told to see a higher-up in the union, who in turn referred him to "the boss," Lawrence Merlino, Chance testified.

Confronting him at a work site in Atlantic City, Lawrence Merlino grabbed the worker by the throat, told him to open his mouth, stuck a gun inside it, and promised that he would kill the worker if he saw him again, Chance testified.

An investigation determined that Merlino's main company, Nat-Nat, had not been making required payments to a union benefits fund, Chance testified.

"That was the way Nat-Nat got all the jobs: because it wasn't making health and welfare payments," Chance said. Skipping the payments saved the company money and enabled it to underbid other competitors, he added.

The hearing is due to resume Friday.

Thanks to Wayne Parry

Company Seeking Casino License Was Founded by Mobster, Charges Ex-Fed

Far from being the self-made man he says he is, Joseph N. Merlino was actually set up in the construction business by his father, a convicted Mafia killer, a retired federal corruption investigator testified Monday.

Merlino and his mother are seeking a license that would permit their company, Bayshore Rebar of Pleasantville, to work in the Atlantic City casino industry.

Merlino's father, Lawrence "Yogi" Merlino, and his cousin, Joseph "Skinny Joey" Merlino, were mobsters, he admits. But Joseph N. Merlino claims Bayshore is free of any mob influence and is unrelated to his father, who died in 2001 while in the witness protection program.

Ronald Chance, who investigated mob ties to the construction industry in the 1980s for the U.S. Department of Labor, said Bayshore was founded and run by the elder Merlino. "Larry Merlino created Bayshore," Chance said. "Bayshore was the minority company of Larry Merlino."

Chance said Merlino listed his wife as the owner to get around requirements that a portion of some contracts be awarded to companies owned by women or minorities, and had his son on the payroll as well.

He testified during a hearing of the New Jersey Casino Control Commission that Phyllis Merlino and the younger Joseph Merlino were listed as company officers, but Lawrence Merlino was the real boss in the mid-1980s.

"Not one single person ever had any dealings with Joseph or Phyllis Merlino," Chance testified. "Their dealings were with Larry Merlino."

That testimony is important because it contradicts the Merlinos' claim of how Bayshore was founded , as a legitimate company free of any mob taint or influence from Lawrence Merlino.

The Merlinos' lawyer, John Donnelly, flatly denied Chance's testimony. "He's absolutely, unequivocally dead wrong," Donnelly said. "It's already found to have been untrue by the Casino Control Commission."

Chance testified his agency began investigating Lawrence Merlino in the 1980s after an ironworker whose wife had just given birth was hit with a $4,300 hospital bill. The worker went to his union to ask why the hospital said he had no insurance coverage and was told to see a higher-up in the union, who in turn referred him to see "the boss," Lawrence Merlino, Chance testified.

Confronting him at a work site in Atlantic City, Merlino grabbed the worker by the throat, told him to open his mouth, stuck a gun inside it and promised he would kill the worker if he ever saw him again, Chance testified.

An investigation determined that Merlino's main company, Nat-Nat, had not been making required payments to a union benefits fund, Chance testified. "That was the way Nat-Nat got all the jobs: because it wasn't making health and welfare payments," Chance said. Skipping the payments saved the company money, and enabled it to underbid other competitors, he added.

The hearing is due to resume Friday.

Thanks to Wayne Parry

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Is the Philadelphia-South Jersey Mob in Decline?

Joseph Ligambi, reputed boss of the Philadelphia-South Jersey mob, heads a criminal organization that has nearly as many active members in jail as it does on the streets.

Decimated by a 20-year onslaught of federal prosecutions, bloody internecine power struggles, and turncoat testimony, the local branch of La Cosa Nostra - which in the 1980s had roughly 80 members - now has a base of about 20 "soldiers." And nine of them are in prison.

Simply put, the Philadelphia Mafia has fallen on hard times. It is no longer the dominant player in the underworld, and is dwarfed in size by some of the area's more violent drug gangs.

That's the picture that has emerged based on a crime-family organizational chart compiled by the Philadelphia Police Department and introduced as evidence at an ongoing hearing into a casino service-industry license for Joseph N. Merlino, cousin of jailed Philadelphia mob leader Joseph S. "Skinny Joey" Merlino.

The hearing, before a Casino Control Commission examiner, resumes today. Joseph N. Merlino is scheduled to testify by the conclusion of the proceedings this week.

Merlino, 42, and his mother, Phyllis, head Bayshore Rebar, a Pleasantville construction company that has twice been denied a service-industry license because of suspected mob ties.

The hearing has included testimony from an ex-FBI agent called as a witness for Merlino who has said that, based on his knowledge and on information from mob informants, he does not believe Merlino, his mother, or Bayshore have organized-crime connections.

Other former agents also are expected to testify on Bayshore's behalf.

The Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE) has presented law enforcement testimony, surveillance reports, and videos it contends show a continuing organized-crime association.

It is in that context that a picture of the beleaguered Philadelphia-South Jersey mob has emerged.

The chart compiled by the Intelligence Unit of the Philadelphia Police Department has provided a graphic outline of the current structure of the crime family.

Sgt. Daniel McCullough, a unit supervisor, testified for the DGE and noted that Ligambi, mobster Martin Angelina, and other high-ranking members of the organization are under constant surveillance by Philadelphia police or other law-enforcement agencies.

McCullough said he could not testify about specifics without "jeopardizing ongoing investigations." But he did present an overview of the crime family.

His remark underscored reports from other law enforcement sources that the Ligambi organization is the target of an FBI racketeering probe.

The Police Department chart used by the DGE included color photos of most of the key figures in the organization along with their birth dates, addresses, and criminal identification numbers.

Ligambi, who turned 70 last month, is listed as the boss. Angelina, 46, is the acting underboss.

Michael Lancellotti and Anthony Staino are said to be capos, or captains. Staino's data includes the designation "South Jersey."

The nephew of onetime high-profile mobster Ralph "Junior" Staino, Anthony Staino lives in the Swedesboro area and, according to authorities, oversees the mob's South Jersey interests.

He and Angelina have been spotted meeting on a regular basis with Ligambi, according to police. Staino's meetings often take around 6 a.m. as Ligambi walks his dog in the Packer Park section of South Philadelphia, where he lives.

Another major figure, Steven Mazzone, onetime underboss of "Skinny Joey" Merlino, is listed on the chart as a member of the "Merlino faction" but has no rank.

Police sources say this reflects the fact that Mazzone, on supervised release for a 2001 racketeering conviction, has remained low key and has not been spotted meeting with organization members.

Angelina, who was convicted in the same racketeering case, was jailed twice for violating terms of his supervised release. Philadelphia police surveillance reports of Angelina meeting with Ligambi were used to support those violation charges.

According to the organizational chart, the crime family currently is operating without a "consigliere," or counselor. That post is listed as vacant.

The soldiers listed on the chart are John Ciancaglini, Anthony Nicodemo, Martin Curro, Nicholas Olivieri, Frank Gambino, Anthony Pungitore Sr., Anthony Pungitore Jr., Gaeton Lucibello, and Joseph Stanfa, son of jailed mob boss John Stanfa.

The younger Stanfa's designation may simply be a matter of record-keeping. Most sources say he has been "shelved" and not actively involved since his father lost a mob war in 1994 to the organization's Merlino faction.

Three other "inactive" soldiers are listed: Nicholas Milano, a hit man who served nearly 20 years on murder and racketeering charges and who is the brother of mob informant Eugene "Gino" Milano; Luigi Tripodi, a onetime soldier with the Stanfa organization; and "Junior" Staino, a larger-than-life wiseguy who was recently released from prison and who, at 77, is reported to be in poor health.

The jailed members shown on the chart are "Skinny Joey" Merlino; George Borgesi, who is Ligambi's nephew; former Ligambi underboss Joseph Massimino; convicted drug dealer Damion Canalichio; former Stanfa soldier Vince Fillipelli; and four members of the Scarfo organization convicted in a 1988 racketeering case: Frank Narducci, Salvatore Scafidi, Joseph Pungitore, and Charles Iannece.

Thanks to George Anastasia

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Mobsters Heading to The Shore for Traditional Summer Vacations

It's going to be a real mob scene at the Shore again this summer. And police up and down the coast are getting ready.

That's mob as in M-O-B.



From Seaside Heights to Sea Isle City, law enforcement agencies are gearing up for a special group of sun-seekers who trade the sidewalks of South Philadelphia, Newark, and New York for the beaches, bars, and boardwalks of the Jersey coast.

It's part of a summer tradition.

"They go there to unwind," said Ron Rozwadowski, an investigator with the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice and former member of the State Police organized-crime squad that helped dismantle Nicodemo "Little Nicky" Scarfo's crime family back in the 1980s.

Rozwadowski, in fact, did a study on wiseguys summering at the Jersey Shore. Twenty years later, he says, little has changed. "It's easy to blend in," the veteran investigator said. "You have towns where the population quadruples. If there's 20 cars parked in front of a house, it's no big deal."

Crowded bars and restaurants offer easily accessible meeting places. A noisy boardwalk is the perfect barrier to audio surveillance. And the hyperkinetic action at the casinos provides another layer of cover.

That's not to say that all mobsters end their stints at the Shore tanned and rested.

Philadelphia mob boss Joseph "Skinny Joey" Merlino was taken into custody by the FBI at his rented condo in Margate in the summer of 1999, the start of what became a 14-year prison sentence built around a racketeering case.

The Scarfo crime family came undone in 1986 when the State Police bugged a condo on the Boardwalk in Ocean City where mobster Thomas "Tommy Del" DelGiorno was spending the summer with his family. And one of the most damaging pieces of video surveillance played at Scarfo's racketeering trial in 1988 was a shot of him meeting with mob informant Nicholas "Nicky Crow" Caramandi on the Boardwalk outside the Resorts International Casino-Hotel. The tape was used to independently support Caramandi's account of that meeting.

Ralph Natale, another former mob boss, enjoyed spending time in Sea Isle City, where one of his daughters had a home.

His successor, reputed Philadelphia mob leader Joseph "Uncle Joe" Ligambi, has spent several recent summers in Margate, just south of Atlantic City, where a proliferation of upscale restaurants and bars has turned the once-frat-party-like bar scene into a more sophisticated night out.

The presence of Ligambi and other reputed mobsters has not gone unnoticed.

"We just keep our eyes and ears open for the state and federal agencies," said Margate Police Chief David Wolfson, who heads a 33-member department. "We beef up patrols, we do different things," Wolfson said of the department's approach to the influx of tourists and summer visitors. "Our investigative unit goes 24 hours a day. They're always on call."

But reputed mobsters, he said, are treated no differently than anyone else. "If they break the law, they're arrested," he said. "But dealing with them specifically, no, we don't do anything differently."

Low-key and taciturn, Ligambi has spent big chunks of June, July, and August in Margate each summer since his release from prison in 1997 after his mob-murder conviction was overturned. A creature of habit, Philadelphia police sources say, Ligambi last summer routinely headed for his rented Shore home on Thursday or Friday and returned to South Philadelphia on Monday or Tuesday. This year, they say, he has been spotted at his brother's home in nearby Longport, a posh Shore community nestled between Margate and Ocean City.

Barring any unexpected developments - Ligambi is the target of an ongoing FBI racketeering investigation, and the feds have a habit of making their arrests in the summer - the reputed crime kingpin could be celebrating his 70th birthday in August at the beach.

Younger members of the organization are usually part of the weekend crowd at Shore towns up and down the coast. Law enforcement sources say many will end up at Memories in Margate on Saturday nights. The popular bar, owned by Philadelphia's iconic disc jockey Jerry Blavat, draws a young, hip crowd, a mix of movers-and-shakers, wiseguys, and wannabes.

Rozwadowski said the Shore has always been "neutral" territory. He recalled that, during his State Police days, a surveillance in Seaside Heights turned up members of the Genovese, Gambino, Lucchese, and DeCavalcante crime families getting together.

Even before legalized casinos, Atlantic City was a magnet for mobsters. One of the most famous organized-crime confabs in history occurred in 1929 at the old President Hotel on the Boardwalk.

Among those attending was Al Capone, whose trip home to Chicago was short-circuited when he was arrested on a gun charge during a train stop in Philadelphia. He ended up spending about a year in the old Eastern State Penitentiary. His former cell is now a set piece of the prison museum on that site. And while Ligambi might cringe at the ostentation, not every mobster has taken a low-key approach at the Shore.

Scarfo, in the early days of casino gambling, was often spotted ringside at prize fights in the casino-hotels. Other mobsters, before being placed on the casino-exclusion list, would belly up to the craps and blackjack tables.

For younger mobsters and their associates, the game of choice now appears to be poker, and law enforcement authorities keeping tabs on the mob at the Shore regularly check the posh poker lounges in the casino-hotels.

Merlino, even before his arrest on racketeering charges, was a lightning rod for law enforcement. He was cited for gambling in a casino despite the fact that he was on the state's exclusion list, and on Labor Day 1998, he was given a series of citations for public drinking, resisting arrest, and littering. The littering charge came after he took the citation for public drinking, balled it up, and threw it on the ground in front of the police officer who issued it.

He paid a fine to settle his criminal problems, but not before he and others suggested they had been "targeted" because of their alleged underworld affiliations. Not so, said the police.

Wolfson, Margate's chief, said he has taken a very basic approach to the presence of reputed mob figures in his town. "They get treated the same way as everybody else," he said. "If they're not going to drive me crazy, I'm not going to drive them crazy."

Thanks to George Anastasia

Saturday, January 31, 2009

First Conviction from "Operation Delco Nostra" Organized Crime Investigation

State prosecutors have scored their first conviction stemming from the "Operation Delco Nostra" organized-crime investigation that led to 17 arrests last summer and exposed an alleged plot to attack Philadelphia mobster Martin "Marty" Angelina.

Daniel Diedrich, a former supervisor in the Delaware County Domestic Relations Department, pleaded guilty yesterday in Media to one count of bookmaking. He was sentenced to two years' probation and fined $1,000.

Diedrich, 34, of Clifton Heights, was a low-level member of the sophisticated bookmaking, gambling and loan-sharking organization that authorities say was run by Nicholas "Nicky the Hat" Cimino between 2002 and 2007.

"He was not in a management position. He was a worker," said Chief Deputy Attorney General Erik Olsen.

Olsen said there was no evidence that Diedrich had engaged in any illegal activity while working in the county courthouse.

The other defendants, including reputed Philly mob associate Louis "Bent Finger Lou" Monacello, are scheduled for a hearing in Delaware County court in March on charges that include gambling, bookmaking, criminal conspiracy and corrupt organizations.

Monacello, 42, of South Philadelphia, who authorities say answers to jailed former consigliere George Borgesi, is also charged in Philadelphia with soliciting aggravated assault. According to a grand-jury presentment, Monacello tried to hire someone to have Angelina - allegedly a "made" member of the mob - beaten so badly he'd be hospitalized.

Monacello's preliminary hearing on that charge is set for next week.

Borgesi, imprisoned in West Virginia, was convicted in 2001 during a 14-week racketeering trial along with former Philadelphia crime boss Joseph "Skinny Joey" Merlino.

Thanks to William Bender

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Mob Strike Force Will Remain Intact to Confront Gangsters Returning from Prison

Recently there's been more intrigue about the fate of the U.S. Organized Crime Strike Force than about mob plots in Philadelphia.

Well, the strike force has dodged a bullet, sort of.

Officials of the U.S. Attorney's Office said Friday that strike-force prosecutors would be devoted to organized crime - La Cosa Nostra and emerging ethnic groups from Russia, Asia, the Middle East and elsewhere. They will not be interchangeable with drug prosecutors, officials said.

The deal was worked out between the U.S. Attorney's Office and the Justice Department in recent days. And it comes not a moment too soon, as dozens of mobsters are returning home from prison.

Last Wednesday, Assistant U.S. Attorney David Fritchey underwent a proper moblike introduction to the cappi di tutti in Washington, D.C.

"This is Dave from Philly. He's a friend of ours," joked Fritchey, about his own introduction as the newly appointed chief of the strike force here.

The Boss of all Bosses, Matthew W. Friedrich, the acting assistant attorney general of the Criminal Division at the Justice Department, blessed Fritchey as chief and preserved the nine-prosecutor unit as part of his special-strike-force duties.

Fritchey, a longtime mob prosecutor, takes over the prestigious strike force, which put scores of mobsters behind bars during the reigns of several mob bosses, from Nicodemo "Little Nicky" Scarfo in the '80s to Joseph "Skinny Joey" Merlino in '01. "I expect to do long-term projects and quick-hitting ones in real time," said Fritchey.

Robert Reed, deputy chief of the Criminal Division in the U.S. Attorney's Office, said that he hopes for "cross-pollination" between the drug unit and strike force, now located next to each other after a move over the weekend.

"I think highly of Fritchey as a prosecutor. He's a very independent guy," said Louis Pichini, retired strike-force attorney and former chief of the Criminal Division. "But how much independence will he have?"

If strike-force attorneys had to try a tsunami of drug prosecutions as earlier suggested, retired prosecutors and investigators said, they would not have time to attack the most complicated organized-crime cases.

Nor could they monitor nearly 30 mobsters released from prison since the early 1980s, or others who pose threats to society, they said.

Recently, an intelligence analyst who studied organized-crime activities to find links among them was transferred to the terrorism unit.

"I strongly disagree with the dilution of the program," said Joel M. Friedman, strike-force chief for 22 years, now working with retired FBI director Louis J. Freeh's consulting firm, Freeh Group International.

"This is one of the most violent LCN [La Cosa Nostra] families in America," Friedman said. "They swear an oath to protect the family. They are getting out [of prison] and will reconstitute the family."

James T. Maher, retired FBI supervisor of the organized-crime unit, is so concerned that he still keeps track of mobsters coming home.

Last March, Vincent "Big Vince" Filipelli, 54, a bodyguard and enforcer for mob boss John Stanfa in the 1990s, was sent back to prison to serve a 66-month sentence for extortion. The "made" member earlier served a 54-month sentence for racketeering extortion in the Stanfa era.

In 2001, mobster Martin Angelina, 45, was convicted of racketeering with Merlino and served a 54-month prison sentence. Last year, Angelina was caught associating with mobsters and returned to prison for four months. And he may be in trouble again - he has a hearing tomorrow on a related matter.

Tomorrow, Thomas R. Perricone will be named deputy chief of the Criminal Division in charge of drugs and organized crime, and Faith Taylor will be named chief of the narcotics unit.

Thanks to Kitty Caparella

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Merging of Federal Organized Crime Strike Force Into Narcotics Unit Questioned by Former Prosecutors

The Organized Crime Strike Force, a prosecuting unit within the U.S. Attorney's Office that has a 20-year record of success in making cases against the Philadelphia mob, is being folded into a larger unit that will also focus on drug dealing and gang violence.

The changes are expected to take place in about a month, according to Laurie Magid, the acting U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, and Linda Hoffa, head of the office's Criminal Division. Both said the move would enhance the unit's ability to make cases.

Critics, including former prosecutors and FBI agents, said the consolidation could hinder the development of intelligence-based investigations and marginalize the fight against organized crime.

Magid said she wanted the same expertise that has been used against organized crime employed in cases against major drug gangs.

"Our commitment to fighting organized crime is in no way diminished," she said yesterday shortly after announcing the changes at a regularly scheduled staff meeting.

Magid, the former first assistant U.S. attorney, was named interim head of the office in July when Patrick Meehan, her boss, resigned.

"The strike force is not being disbanded," added Hoffa. "Far from it. We're putting together a stronger and larger team."

Nine federal prosecutors who work in the strike force unit are being transferred to new offices and will report to Thomas Perricone, currently the supervisor of the narcotics and dangerous drugs section. Perricone, who joined the U.S. Attorney's Office in 1994 from the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office, will head a newly formed narcotics and organized crime section.

Assistant U.S. Attorney David Troyer, who was the supervisor of the strike force, will return to prosecuting cases under Perricone and will hold one of two senior litigation counsel posts created under the new structure. Troyer declined to comment last week.

Two former prosecutors who worked some of the biggest mob cases in Philadelphia history questioned the move, as did James Maher, a retired FBI agent who supervised an organized crime squad that in the 1980s and 1990s worked with the strike force to decimate one of the most violent Mafia families in America.

"That wasn't by chance, it was because of the commitment," said Barry Gross, a former federal prosecutor who worked dozens of mob cases during a career that spanned three decades.

A member of the prosecuting teams that convicted mob bosses Nicodemo "Little Nicky" Scarfo, John Stanfa, Ralph Natale and Joseph "Skinny Joey" Merlino, Gross said he was "surprised and disappointed" by the change.

Louis Pichini, a former strike force prosecutor who directed the 1988 racketeering prosecution of Scarfo and 16 of his top associates - a case that gutted the local mob family - said "the acid test will be in the implementation" of the proposed changes.

Pichini, who also headed the criminal division before leaving the U.S. Attorney's Office, said it was important for "the unit to maintain an identity and expertise" and to be given the time to develop long-term cases.

If not, he said, prosecutors working there would be interchangeable with prosecutors from any other section, and the expertise and mandate of the strike force would be lost.

Strike forces were set up in the 1970s to develop broad-based cases and intelligence in the fight against traditional organized crime groups like La Cosa Nostra and the Sicilian Mafia. Over the years, their targets have been expanded to include Russian and Eastern European crime cartels, Asian criminal organizations, and ethnic gangs like the Latin Kings.

In the Eastern District, the strike force left its biggest mark attacking the South Philadelphia-based mob that once dominated the local underworld.

Perricone said yesterday that he had "tremendous respect" for those accomplishments.

"Having grown up in South Philadelphia and seeing what the mob can do, I can tell you that not on my watch will I allow resources to be taken away," he said. But critics question whether what is being called an expansion is in fact a dilution of a unit that had a clear agenda and a defined focus.

One current federal prosecutor, who asked not to be identified, said that without a supervisor to advocate and promote strike force cases, investigations could get bogged down or marginalized in the internal politics and bureaucracy of the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Sources in both the U.S. Attorneys Office and the FBI have said that an ongoing investigation into reputed mob boss Joseph Ligambi and his top associates had gone "off track" twice because of bureaucratic squabbling.

Maher, who headed the FBI's organized crime squad in Philadelphia for nearly two decades, called the strike force "one of the most important weapons" in the war against organized crime. "Agents working the cases had attorneys who spoke the same language," Maher said in an e-mail response to questions about the consolidation.

He pointed out that the local mob family is built around "people who have grown up with one another in evolving relationships. ... To combat those relationships, you need agents and attorneys who don't need to learn them all over again when a case starts to develop."

Strike forces were once separate entities from U.S. Attorney's Offices. They were consolidated into those offices but remained separate units. Now they may be the victims of their own successes as well as the changing priorities of the Justice Department.

Traditional organized crime has taken a series of prosecutorial hits in most major cities and experts say that the American Mafia in 2008 is an organizational shell of what it was just 30 years ago.

In addition, the emergence of violent ethnic drug gangs, the proliferation of illegal weapons, and the need to focus on terrorism and its related threats have led federal prosecutors in other cities to reassign assets and resources, and consolidate strike force operations.

Thanks to George Anastasia

Friday, November 16, 2007

Mob Tied to Altantic City Sports Gambling Ring

An illegal sports gambling ring run out of a high-stakes poker room in an Atlantic City casino was busted Wednesday, authorities said, and 18 people were arrested, including four with mob ties.

Since March 2006, the ring took in $22 million in bets on college and professional football and basketball in the poker room of the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa, said New Jersey Attorney General Anne Milgram.

The off-the-books exchanges of cash and casino chips were unraveled only when an informant told authorities what to look for using the casino's eye-in-the-sky surveillance cameras, Milgram said.

The suspected ringleader of the operation, Andrew Micali, 32, of Ventnor City, New Jersey, is an associate of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, mob boss Joseph "Skinny Joey" Merlino, according to a New Jersey law enforcement official who spoke on condition of anonymity because the criminal complaints do not mention any reputed mob ties. Micali was charged with promoting gambling, money laundering and loan-sharking.

Three associates of Micali also were arrested. Vincent Procopio, 41, of Brigantine, New Jersey, was charged with promoting gambling. Anthony Nicodemo, 36, and Michael Lancellotti, both of Philadelphia, were charged with conspiracy to promote gambling.

"They sought to escape detection by enlisting casino employees in their crimes," Milgram said. "I'm pleased to say they greatly underestimated our vigilance and determination to keep organized crime out of Atlantic City casinos."

Twenty-three people in all are charged, and authorities were seeking five on Wednesday. Most were charged with promoting gambling or money laundering.

Unlike Las Vegas, Nevada, Atlantic City has no legal sports book.

Authorities said the Borgata cooperated with the investigation and let investigators use casino surveillance video. Borgata spokesman Rob Stillwell said the ring involved "rogue employees." No one was arrested on the casino floor, and the integrity of the casino's operations was never compromised, he said. The casino employees charged included poker room supervisors, dealers and a bartender.

The state Casino Control Commission was expected to punish the casino workers, commission spokesman Daniel Heneghan said.

The four men with alleged mob ties, along with Borgata supervisor Joseph Wishnick, 42, of Brigantine, were taken into custody Wednesday. Bail was set at $100,000 for Micali and $50,000 for the others. Wishnick was in custody Wednesday at the Atlantic County Jail. It was not immediately clear whether the others had posted bail or were waiting to be processed at the jail. None could be reached for comment by The Associated Press on Wednesday.

The state Attorney General's Office said lawyers had not come forward for any of the 23 suspects.

If the charges are proven, the case would be among the most serious mob incursions into the Atlantic City casino industry since the first casino opened in 1978.

Milgram said authorities followed the money in the case from the casino to so-called "wire rooms" in Philadelphia. The wire rooms were used to tally the bets and calculate winnings and payouts for the ring.

The ring was publicized mainly by word of mouth among illegal gamblers, who were advised whom to see in the poker room to place their bets.

Authorities said the ring engaged in "massive money laundering" facilitated by casino employees who would not record certain exchanges of cash and gambling chips. This is a common method of money laundering at casinos called "chip washing," Milgram said.

"It involves taking cash, turning it into chips, 'washing' the chips by betting and then turning them in, and taking cash out," she said.

Losing bettors were forced to take out loans from the ring at more than 50 percent interest to cover their losses, authorities said.

In their search Wednesday, authorities seized more than $40,000 worth of cash and Borgata chips from a safe deposit box Micali maintained at the casino. The state also obtained a court warrant freezing Micali's bank account with more than $200,000 in it.

Fear of organized crime led New Jersey to institute tight controls when legal gambling began, but regulations have been loosened over the years.

The anxieties were expressed in a now-famous speech by then-Gov. Brendan T. Byrne when he signed the law authorizing casinos on June 2, 1977: "I've said it before and I will repeat it again to organized crime: Keep your filthy hands off Atlantic City. Keep the hell out of our state!"

This is the second high-profile sports betting charge in New Jersey in the past two years. In 2006, a state trooper, NHL hockey coach Rick Tocchet and a third man were charged with running a sports gambling ring. All later pleaded guilty.

Thanks to CNN

Friday, October 12, 2007

A Look Back at the Philly Mob

Pop culture is riddled with more mob movies and TV shows than an unlucky gangster's body is with bullets. Americans are fascinated with the dark side and have made “The Sopranos” the poster children for the Mafia and Victoria Gotti, daughter of John “The Dapper Don” Gotti, and her spoiled-rotten offspring its royal family with the reality show “Growing Up Gotti.”

But contrary to what pop culture loves to portray, the mob is far from glamorous and exciting. Just take a look at where Cosa Nostra — Sicilian for “our thing” — landed South Philly's own tough guys, all of whom made headlines at one point or another: Angelo “The Gentle Don” Bruno, Phil “Chicken Man” Testa and his son Salvatore Testa got whacked, while Nicodemo “Little Nicky” Scarfo, John Stanfa, Ralph Natale, “Skinny” Joey Merlino and Ron Previte are all in prison for racketeering and murder among other offenses,

George Anastasia, who has written extensively about the mob for The Philadelphia Inquirer since the late 1970s and authored four bookson the subject, noted, “If you look at the list, you see where these guys have ended up,” Anastasia, a native of the 1700 block of Watkins Street who now lives in South Jersey, told the Review.

Bruno was the longest running crime boss and perhaps one of the most respected for the low-key approach that earned him his nickname.

Bruno ruled from '59 to March 21, 1980, when he was shot to death in his car with driver John Stanfa in front of Bruno's home at 934 Snyder Ave. Under the Sicilian immigrant's tenure, “he did everything low-key — he didn't do any public shootings in restaurants or in the street” unlike how later-day mobsters such as the ruthless Scarfo conducted business, Capt. Charles Bloom of the police department's Central Intelligence Bureau said. “If you had to describe Bruno, you could say, ‘make money, don't make headlines,'” Bloom said.

His attitude in life did not mark his death. His violent end received press from outlets such as The New York Times, which covered the fallout from Stanfa's trial for perjury in connection to the killing to FBI testimony in '81 that Scarfo was the new head of the family.

Stanfa suffered a graze wound in the Bruno ambush, Anastasia said, adding, “To this day there's conflicting reports. Some people believe Stanfa was part of the plot and he knew what was going to happen and others say he didn't. I tend to believe the former.”

Under Bruno's reign, the Philadelphia crime family was among the most powerful in the United States, trailing closely being New York and Chicago. The Gentle Don carved out a close relationship with Carlo Gambino, leader of New York's family — a friendship that saved Bruno when short-lived Philly boss Antonio Pollina wanted him killed in '59.

As the story goes, Bruno pledged his loyalty to Pollina despite being passed over for the job, but the new boss still felt threatened. When Pollina ordered a hit, Gambino intervened by not only halting the slaying, but putting his new friend in charge of the Philadelphia crime family. The first notch in Bruno's belt of civility was sparing Pollina.

According to Bloom, the Philly mob, which controlled this city and South Jersey including Atlantic City, has always been in New York's shadow and the former often cannot operate without the latter's blessing.

Bruno's death at 69 paved the way for a slew of flamboyant, young wiseguys to take the helm. “That totally destabilized the organization and it's been destabilized since then. It's been disorganized organized crime,” Anastasia said.

The new guns included Bruno underling Testa, who was blown up March 15, 1981, on his front porch on the 2100 block of Porter Street in Girard Estate by a nail bomb and later immortalized in Bruce Springsteen's song “Atlantic City,” whose lyrics say, “Well they blew up the Chicken Man in Philly last night/Now they blew up his house too.” The song, featured on the Boss' “Nebraska” album, which made it to No. 3 on the U.S. Billboard Pop Album charts, brought the scene to the attention of countless music fans worldwide.

More than 20 years later, Testa's fatal bombing is still making news. An Oct. 7 Time article cited the killing in its piece “The Sicilian Connection,” which explores the U.S. Cosa Nostra's alleged link to the Sicilian Mafia.

Months after the Chicken Man's demise, Scarfo had Frank Narducci and Rocco Marinucci whacked for the unauthorized hit of his mentor, according to Anastasia.

Long before he ascended to power, Scarfo was banished to AC by Bruno in the '60s after the young hothead knifed a man inside Oregon Diner, 302 W. Oregon Ave, the writer said. Scarfo stayed in AC — a wasteland at the time — but hung around long enough to benefit from gambling when the casinos hit town.

With Testa gone, Scarfo took over in '81 and made Testa's son Salvatore a capo. That same year, Testa and two others survived an ambush outside the Italian Market, but three years later, the capo wasn't as lucky when Scarfo had the young man killed Sept. 14, 1984. So much for loyalty to his mentor — he had his son killed, Anastasia said, adding, “That's the way he was.”

Testa was lured to a now-gone candy store on Passyunk for a meeting, where a Scarfo hit man shot him, wrapped his body in a rug and dumped it by a dirt road in Gloucester County, N.J., the writer said. Scarfo told his organization he had Testa killed because he broke off an engagement with Salvatore Merlino's daughter, Maria, but according to Anastasia, Scarfo saw Testa as a possible threat. “He used the broken engagement as an excuse,” the author said. In years to come, Merlino's son Joey would become a reputed mob boss.

Scarfo held control for six years until his arrest and conviction for a racketeering case that included counts of murder, Anastasia said. Little Nicky got 55 years and remains in the Big House. But his impression was indelible. In a '91 Time interview with former soldier-turned-informer Nicholas “The Crow” Caramandi, interviewer Richard Behar refers to Scarfo as the “most vicious Mob boss of his generation” and proceeds to ask Caramandi about working under him, as well as the killing of Salvatore Testa.

In '89, Bruno's former driver Stanfa, who grew up on Passyunk Avenue near the Melrose Diner and later moved to Jersey, became boss. In '95, he got five life terms for racketeering and murder.

That opened the way for Natale. After serving 15 years for drug dealing and arson, Natale was released in '95 and became boss in an alliance with Merlino, who was his underling, Anastasia said. Merlino associate Previte helped build a case against Natale by wearing a wire for the feds. The tapes resulted in the then-69-year-old Natale and then-37-year-old Merlino arrested on drug charges in '99 with Natale tied to a major South Jersey meth ring and Merlino to a Boston cocaine ring. Natale became the first mobster to cooperate with the feds and, as a result, got a 13-year sentence, which he's serving in a protected witness wing, Anastasia said.

That leaves Merlino, who by all appearances may be one of Philadelphia Cosa Nostra's last bad boys.

Despite the feds pursuing him aggressively for years, the style-conscious young turk with the striking wife did not shy away from the media, becoming a magnet for his organized softball league and Christmas parties for the poor. In typical Merlino fashion, his 2001 trial on murder and racketeering charges was a press event. And, he may have beaten the rap for Joseph Sodano's '96 murder in Philadelphia court, but a federal judge in New Jersey upheld charges in the same case against the reputed mob boss in October 2001. The New York Times, among other national and international papers, covered the trial.

Merlino and seven codefendants — including Previte — were convicted of bookmaking, racketeering and extortion. These days, “Skinny Joey” is serving a 14-year sentence, set to be released in '11, Anastasia said.

The reigning alleged crime boss has been identified as 68-year-old Joe Ligambi, who was with the Stanfa organization. In '89, Ligambi was sent away for 10 years after being convicted of murder, which was overturned on appeal. Ligambi came back to South Philly in '99 and, when Merlino went to jail, became acting boss, Anastasia said. According to the author, “he's kind of gone back to the Bruno model of low-key, not flashy.”

Bloom contends Cosa Nostra is still very much alive and well. “It's not as powerful as it was 20 years ago but it's still there. They haven't gone away. They took a lot of hits from law enforcement pressure and each other, but they didn't throw in the towel,” the captain said.

Thanks to Lorraine Gennaro


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