The Chicago Syndicate: Joseph Ligambi
Showing posts with label Joseph Ligambi. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Joseph Ligambi. Show all posts

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."

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Philadelphia Mafia Takedown Recap


On Monday, a superseding federal grand jury indictment was announced charging 13 members and associates of the Philadelphia La Cosa Nostra (LCN) family with racketeering, extortion, loan sharking, illegal gambling, and witness tampering.

Eleven of the 13—including the reputed boss and underboss of the criminal enterprise—were arrested earlier that day in Philadelphia and New Jersey. Two of the subjects were already serving time in federal prison for previous convictions but managed to continue their racketeering activities from behind bars.

Alleged mob boss Joseph Ligambi rose through the ranks of the Philadelphia LCN crime family and took over at the helm after the 2001 incarceration of previous boss Joseph “Skinny Joey” Merlino on racketeering charges.

The indictment alleges that for more than a decade, Ligambi, underboss Joseph Massimino, and the others conspired to generate money through various crimes. For example, they reportedly operated illegal gambling businesses involving sports bookmaking and electronic gambling devices in places like bars, restaurants, convenience stories, and coffee shops…and pocketed the proceeds. Mafia families like the one in Philadelphia often make millions of dollars and traditionally use gambling proceeds as seed money for other crimes.

The defendants also offered “loans”—at exorbitant interest rates—to victims who knew there would be dire consequences if they failed to repay them within a certain time frame.

To carry out their crimes, the defendants often used actual or implied threats of violence against their victims. According to the indictment, some of the defendants used phrases like, “I’ll put a bullet in your head,” and, “Chop him up,” to threaten victims who weren’t repaying their loans. The defendants used their reputation for violence to intimidate and prevent victims and witnesses from cooperating with law enforcement.

The defendants also actively worked to conceal their illegal operations from law enforcement. For example, they used coded language over the phone, such as calling the electronic gambling devices “coffee machines.” They often took “walk and talks” where they would conduct covert conversations with each other while walking to and from a particular destination because they thought they couldn’t be intercepted. They also established companies that appeared to be legitimate but were actually created to launder money and conceal the illegal nature of their activities.

To collect the evidence needed for these indictments, this long-term investigation included undercover scenarios, court-authorized electronic surveillances, consensual recordings, and many hours of physical surveillance.

This particular case was a good example of law enforcement cooperation at its best—the Philadelphia Police Department, the Pennsylvania and New Jersey State Police, the Criminal Division of the Internal Revenue Service, and the Department of Labor all worked alongside the Philadelphia FBI, with additional assistance from the New Jersey Department of Corrections and the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office.  Prosecutors from the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office and the Department of Justice’s Organized Crime and Racketeering Section are assisting the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania as well.

This arrest of the reputed leadership of the Philadelphia LCN comes on the heels of the large mafia takedown in New York  earlier this year. And law enforcement efforts against the LCN, as well as other types of organized crime—international and domestic—will continue unabated.

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.

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




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