Mugshot of Harry Ricobenne
July 27, 1909|
Enna, Sicily, Italy
June 19, 2000|
Dallas, Texas, USA
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Harry Riccobene (July 27, 1909 – June 19, 2000) was a high-ranking member of the Philadelphia crime family who became a major figure in the short, but violent, gang war that followed the 1980 death of boss Angelo Bruno.
Born in Enna, Sicily, to Mario Riccobene Senior and Anna Cimmari. His father, Mario, left Philadelphia to search for a job working in the coal mines in West Virginia and joined him in 1913. His father eventually found work as a stonemason in South Philadelphia. In 1925, Harry's biological mother died of unknown causes and Mario adopted his two nephews, Robert and Mario Jr. after their own mother died during the 1918 flu pandemic. He was born with a slight curvature of the spine that has been suspected of having been caused by lordosis, kyphosis or Pott Disease. He was 5'1" tall and weighed 136 pounds with brown hair and eyes and had a hunchback from a birth defect that earned him the moniker "Harry the Hump." By the 1960s he was separated from his wife Evelyn and is the stepbrother of Mario (Sonny), Robert and Enrico Riccobene. He spoke in a high pitched voice and as he grew older he donned a long white beard. One prospective juror for one of his criminal trials described him as looking like "a little Santa Claus." His legitimate businesses includes television tube companies in Philadelphia, Yonkers, New York and Richmond, Virginia. His arrest record included carrying a concealed weapon, larceny, and possession of narcotics. At one point, Riccobene spent time in prison on a narcotics conviction.
A longtime underworld figure in Philadelphia, Harry became a made man under Prohibition mob boss Salvatore Sabella in 1927. Riccobene witnessed the rash of violence that started with the unsanctioned murder of Bruno and his replacement by Philip "Chicken Man" Testa. After running the family for one year, Testa was killed by a nail bomb at his home. Nicodemo "Little Nicky" Scarfo now became family boss. Riccobene led a faction against Scafo for control of family operations in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Scarfo caporegime Frank Monte informed his crew that he was going to kill Riccobene and take over his loansharking and illegal gambling operations. Monte approached Mario Riccobene, Riccobene's half-brother, and demanded that Mario set up Riccobene to be killed. However, Mario denied Monte by telling Riccobene about the plot. Infuriated, Riccobene ordered Mario and hitmen Joseph Pedulla and Victor DeLuca to instead kill Monte, to "... get them before they get us."
Mario, Pedulla, and DeLuca camped out in van near Monte's parked Cadillac, waiting for him to come outside. Several hours later, Monte emerged and starting getting into his car. Pedulla fired on Monte three times, killing him. Later on, the men unsuccessfully attempted to murder Salvatore Testa, Phil Testa's son, but this time they were arrested by police. Detectives soon connected the three men to the Monte murder and persuaded them to testify against Harry. Riccobene was indicted on charges of first degree murder. During the trial, Riccobene denied any involvement in organized crime and said that he tried to prevent the three men from committing violence amid "unfounded rumors" of death threats made against them by Scarfo. In spite of this, Harry was convicted of murder and sent to prison. In 2000, Harry Riccobene died in Dallas State Correctional Institution from natural causes.
After Riccobene's conviction, Mario told the press that he testified against Harry in hopes of escaping from organized crime and "... to get back at the people who did what they did to my family." Mario entered the witness protection program, but left it in a vain hope to rejoin the Philadelphia crime family. Mario Riccobene was murdered soon after his return to Philadelphia.
References[edit | edit source]
- Sifakis, Carl. The Mafia Encyclopedia. New York: Da Capo Press, 2005. ISBN 978-0-8160-5694-1
- Sifakis, Carl. The Encyclopedia of American Crime. New York: Facts on File Inc., 2005. ISBN 978-0-8160-4040-7
- Blood and Honor: Inside the Scarfo Mob - The Mafia's Most Violent Family by George Anastasia, 2004, ISBN 09410159864
- Bureau of Narcotics, U.S. Treasury Department, "Mafia: the Government's Secret File on Organized Crime, HarperCollins Publishers 2007 ISBN 0-06-136385-5
- Harry Riccobene, 89, Longtime Mob Figure, Philly.com, June 22, 2000