Philly mob boss (reputed), others indicted

Philly mob boss: On Monday, in a move that could signal the end of Ligambi's run, the alleged mob kingpin, was named in an indictment built around gambling and loan-sharking operations.

By , The Philadelphia Inquirer/McClatchyTribune

  • close
    US Attorney Zane Memeger (c.) speaks during a news conference, on May 23, in Philadelphia. 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.
    View Caption

Reputed mob boss Joseph "Uncle Joe" Ligambi was all about money, not murder, say law enforcement and underworld sources who have tracked the surprisingly long tenure of Philadelphia's low-key, circumspect Mafia don.

On Monday, in a move that could signal the end of Ligambi's run, the alleged mob kingpin, 71, and a dozen other reputed members and associates of his organization were named in a 50-count indictment built around gambling and loan-sharking operations that sources say may have generated millions of dollars over the last 10 years.

But the indictment contains no alleged acts of violence: no murders, no beatings, no assaults. Instead, the allegations — centered on illegal sports betting and video-poker-machine businesses — allude to threats of violence, fear and intimidation, the tools that authorities allege Ligambi used to maintain order, solidify his control, and line his pockets.

Recommended: Online gambling 101: What the new gambling expansion means for states

Ligambi was charged with heading a crime family that U.S. Attorney Zane Memeger said used the threats of "force and violence to instill fear and exert power in order to make money."

The arrests, which went off without incident early Monday morning in South Philadelphia and South Jersey, capped an investigation that dates back at least 10 years, when Ligambi took over as acting boss of the organization for jailed mob leader Joseph "Skinny Joey" Merlino.

Unlike the indictments that brought down mob bosses such as Merlino, John Stanfa, and Nicodemo "Little Nicky" Scarfo, the 50-count indictment unsealed Monday contains no charges of murder, attempted murder or assault. But it is replete with alleged threats of violence, several attributed to defendants who were secretly recorded during the investigation.

In one conversation, Anthony Staino Jr., a top Ligambi lieutenant, threatened to send "two gorillas" to deal with a deadbeat gambler.

Staino, who was arrested at his home in Woolwich Township, Gloucester County, headed the South Jersey operation of the crime family and was one of the few members of the organization who met regularly with Ligambi, investigators say.

On the tape, Staino, 53, demanded that a $48,000 debt be repaid and told an associate of the deadbeat, "I'm going to kill him, OK? I'm telling you right now, I'm going to kill him."

On another tape, reputed mobster Damion Canalichio, who was also named in the indictment, told an individual identified only as "Victim A" that the money he owed from a gambling debt was "Uncle Joe's money" and that if the debt wasn't paid, Canalichio, 41, would resort to violence. He then boasted about how he had beaten another debtor with a bat.

Ligambi, who appeared in court dressed in a white, open-collared golf shirt and blue jeans, pleaded not guilty to the charges, which include racketeering conspiracy, gambling, loan-sharking and witness intimidation, during a brief hearing Monday afternoon in U.S. District Court. A bail hearing has been set for Thursday.

Bail hearings are also scheduled for Staino and several others charged in the case, including Joseph "Mousie" Massimino, 61, the reputed underboss of the organization; Martin Angelina, 48; Gaeton Lucibello, 58; and Louis "Bent Finger Lou" Monacello, 44.

Two of the defendants, Canalichio and George Borgesi, 47, are in jail serving time on unrelated charges.

The indictment alleges that both Borgesi, who is in a federal prison, and Massimino, who was released more than a year ago from a New Jersey state prison, where he had been serving time on gambling and racketeering charges, continued to take part in mob activities from behind prison bars.

Borgesi, who is Ligambi's nephew, was implicated with Monacello in a gambling and loan-sharking operation that included the collection of at least $8,550 in debts from one individual.

Massimino, according to the indictment, continued to benefit from and issue orders about a video-poker-machine and loan-sharking operation from his prison cell.

Massimino, Staino and Ligambi, the indictment alleged, also set up a front company called JMA Industries that they used to coordinate the video-poker-machine business.

The company's name came from the first initials of their names or nicknames — Joe, Mousie and Anthony, authorities said. The indictment also alleged that the company issued W-2 forms and paychecks to Staino and to Ligambi's wife.

The indictment also made repeated references to threats of violence employed by those under Ligambi's direction to advance the operations of the organization.

The indictment charges that Ligambi and his associates forced one owner of a video-poker-machine company to sell his assets to them and that they tried to disguise the takeover by creating phony sales documents that transferred ownership of the company.

It also alleges that bookmakers now aligned with the crime family were forced to pay an annual stipend — or "street tax" — to avoid harassment from the mob.

While authorities declined to answer questions about the amount of money generated by the poker-machine operations, sources in both law enforcement and the underworld said that machines in good locations could generate from $500 to $1,000 a week in profit.

The machines were in bars, restaurants, convenience stores and coffee shops in Philadelphia and the Pennsylvania suburbs, according to the indictment.

In most cases, according to investigative sources, businesses that agreed to have the machines split the profit with the mobsters, who placed the machines at the locations and provided maintenance.

Part of the federal case was developed by the Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office, whose investigators seized more than 80 machines during a series of raids last year in South Philadelphia.

Those machines were linked to Ligambi, Staino and Lucibello, according to state law enforcement sources.

Two different sources who asked not to be identified said Ligambi and his associates could have been generating more than $1 million in income each year from the video-poker-machine operations, which date back several years.

Another state investigation, operation Delco Nostra, which focused on gambling and bookmaking in Delaware County, appears to have formed the basis for the charges filed against Borgesi and Monacello in the most recent indictment.

Monacello pleaded guilty to gambling and obstruction-of-justice charges in the Delaware County case and was sentenced to a year in a work-release program.

He and Borgesi face considerably more time for the conspiracy and gambling charges now pending — a maximum of 20 years.

Authorities allege that Monacello oversaw a gambling and loan-sharking ring for Borgesi, that Borgesi issued orders from prison, and that money was funneled back to him.

A key figure in that case, mob associate-turned-informant Frank "Frankie the Fixer" DiGiacomo, wore a body wire and recorded dozens of conversation for investigators.

The long-rumored indictment of Ligambi and his top associates was, in fact, handed up in January, but remained under seal until Monday.

When asked, Memeger said the delay was part of an ongoing investigation.

Others charged in the case were Louis Barretta, 47; Gary Battalgini, 50; Robert Verrecchia, 42; Eric Esposito, 40; and Robert Ranieri, 36.

The indictment, said George C. Venizelos, head of the FBI office in Philadelphia, demonstrates that "organized crime is not glamorous, not honorable, but that it has not disappeared."

Share this story:

We want to hear, did we miss an angle we should have covered? Should we come back to this topic? Or just give us a rating for this story. We want to hear from you.




eZ debug

Clear cache:

Quick settings:

Timing: Jul 09 2014 09:32:12
Script start
Timing: Jul 09 2014 09:32:12
Module start 'content'
Timing: Jul 09 2014 09:32:12
Module end 'content'
Timing: Jul 09 2014 09:32:12
Before parse_includes
Strict: PHP: E_STRICT Jul 09 2014 09:32:12
Non-static method MugoViewExtras::get_view_extras() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /var/www/ on line 37
Warning: eZTemplate:def @ extension/csm_base/design/csm_design/override/templates/extra/archive.tpl:21[1] Jul 09 2014 09:32:12
Variable 'view_extra_node' is already defined.
Timing: Jul 09 2014 09:32:12
After parse_includes
Timing: Jul 09 2014 09:32:12

Timing points:

CheckpointElapsedRel. ElapsedMemoryRel. Memory
Script start 0.0000 sec0.0141 sec 1,285.9922 KB1,162.1328 KB
Module start 'content' 0.0141 sec0.0041 sec 2,448.1250 KB732.4531 KB
Module end 'content' 0.0183 sec0.0411 sec 3,180.5781 KB3,058.4688 KB
Before parse_includes 0.0594 sec0.0386 sec 6,239.0469 KB389.6641 KB
After parse_includes 0.0979 sec0.0007 sec 6,628.7109 KB-178.1406 KB
End 0.0986 sec  6,450.5703 KB 
Total runtime:0.1045 sec
Peak memory usage:6,916.7969 KB

Time accumulators:

 Accumulator Elapsed Percent Count Average
Load cache0.0050 sec4.7038%310.0002 sec
Mysql Total
Mysqli_queries0.0426 sec40.0717%590.0007 sec
Looping result0.0014 sec1.2753%560.0000 sec
Template Total0.0476 sec 44.8% 6 0.0079 sec
Template load0.0037 sec3.4834%60.0006 sec
Template processing0.0461 sec43.3988%60.0077 sec
Cache load0.0022 sec2.0466%60.0004 sec
state_id_array0.0025 sec2.3691%50.0005 sec
state_identifier_array0.0019 sec1.7982%50.0004 sec
String conversion0.0000 sec0.0177%30.0000 sec
dbfile0.0003 sec0.3249%180.0000 sec
View Extra building0.0258 sec24.2959%20.0129 sec
Total script time:0.1063 sec

CSS/JS files loaded with "ezjscPacker" during request:


Templates used to render the page:

UsageRequested templateTemplateTemplate loadedEditOverride
1pagelayout.tpl<No override>extension/csm_base/design/csm_design/templates/pagelayout.tplEdit templateOverride template
1modules/mugo_view_extras/extra_cached.tpl<No override>extension/mugo_view_extras/design/standard/templates/modules/mugo_view_extras/extra_cached.tplEdit templateOverride template
1setup/debug_toolbar.tpl<No override>design/standard/templates/setup/debug_toolbar.tplEdit templateOverride template
 Number of times templates used: 3
 Number of unique templates used: 3
 Time used to render template usage: 0.0001 secs