Template:Infobox Criminal organization The Philadelphia crime family, also known as the Scarfo crime family, Bruno crime family, Philadelphia Mafia, or Philly Mob, is an Italian American criminal organization based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It is one of the most active American Mafia families outside of the Five Families of New York. The family has been known to hold territory or influence in other nearby areas outside Philadelphia, including Atlantic City, South Jersey, Trenton, Camden, Chester, Delaware, Baltimore, and Newark. The Philadelphia family is notorious for their violence and for being a particularly dysfunctional family, mostly due to having a succession of very violent bosses.

Under Angelo Bruno, the family enjoyed its most peaceful and prosperous reign. He was murdered in 1980 and Nicky Scarfo took over. He involved the family in narcotics, which Bruno had refused to do. The 1980s through the 1990s was a bloody reign and nonstop internal warfare took place. Scarfo's tenure saw the murder of over 30 of his own men. Eventually, he and his supporters were put in prison and Joseph Merlino took over. A young and flashy gangster, Merlino shared the personality type of John Gotti and attracted too much attention from the media and law enforcement. He was also put in prison in 2001, and Joseph Ligambi has been trying to stabilize the weakened family as boss ever since.

Other powerful members have included mobsters such as Philip "Chicken Man" Testa, Salvatore Merlino, Joseph "Chickie" Ciancaglini, Nicholas "Nicky The Crow" Caramandi, Salvatore "Salvie" Testa, "Tony Bananas" Caponigro, Phil Leonetti, and Harry Riccobene.

History[edit | edit source]

The beginning[edit | edit source]

In the early 20th Century, several Italian-American Philadelphia street gangs joined to form what would eventually become the Philadelphia crime family. Salvatore Sabella was the first leader of the group that would later bear his name. They busied themselves with bootlegging, extortion, loansharking and illegal gambling, and it was during the Prohibition era that Sabella and his crew were recognized as members of the wider Sicilian crime syndicate of New York and Chicago. Sabella retired in late 1931.

John Avena and Joe Dovi[edit | edit source]

After Sabella's retirement two of his top lieutenants, John Avena and Giuseppe Dovi, began a five year war for control of the family. Avena was murdered by members of his own faction on August 17, 1936, and Joseph "Joe Bruno" Dovi became boss of the Philadelphia family.

Dovi had good connections with the Chicago Outfit and the Five Families of New York, and expanded operations to Atlantic City, South Philadelphia and parts of South Jersey. Narcotics, illegal gambling, loansharking and extortion activities provided the family's income, and connections to the Genovese and Gambino crime families grew throughout the 1930s and early 1940s.

On October 22, 1946 Dovi died of natural causes at a New York City hospital, and Joseph "Joe" Ida was appointed by the Commission to run the Philadelphia family and its rackets.

Influenced by Vito Genovese[edit | edit source]

Joseph "Joe" Ida ran the family throughout the 1940s and early 1950s. Ida and the Philadelphia organization were heavily influenced by the bosses of the Five Families, especially the Genovese crime family, which sought to control both families as Vito Genovese, Underboss of the Genovese crime family assumed control in 1956 after the shooting of former boss Frank Costello, who subsequently retired due to illness. As the Philadelphia family gained more power in Atlantic City and South Jersey, they were viewed as a large faction of the Genovese crime family. Ida and his Underboss Dominick Olivetto were present during the 1957 Apalachin Convention with roughly 100 other top mobsters. Around this time Philadelphia separated from the Genovese crime family, and were given a seat in the national Mafia body, The Commission. The meeting was raided by US law enforcement and over 60 mafioso were arrested and indicted for association with known organized crime members. Ida was named in the indictment and fled to Sicily not long after the meeting, leaving Antonio "Mr. Migs" Pollina as Acting boss in Ida's absence.

The Gentle Don[edit | edit source]

After Ida retired in 1959, and Pollina was demoted, Angelo "Gino" Bruno, nicknamed "The Gentle Don", was appointed by the Commission to run the Philadelphia family. Bruno, the first boss of Philadelphia with a seat at the Commission, gained much respect in the underworld and was soon to be seen as the most powerful Mafia boss outside the New York and Chicago area, as he expanded the family's profit and operations in lucrative Atlantic City, which had now became known as the Philadelphia family's turf. Bruno himself avoided the intense media and law enforcement scrutiny and outbursts of violence that plagued other crime families, as well as avoiding lengthy prison terms despite several arrests; his longest term was two years for refusing to testify to a Grand Jury. In addition, Bruno did not allow his family to deal in narcotics, or to be in any part of the drug trafficking that led to Vito Genovese's 15 year prison-sentence in 1959. Apparently, Bruno preferred more traditional operations like labor racketeering, illegal gambling, extortion, bookmaking and loansharking. During the early 1960s, the Philadelphia family was officially recognized as the Bruno family.

Philadelphia Mafia War[edit | edit source]

Murders of Bruno and Testa[edit | edit source]

Bruno held complete power over his family for two decades, but the offroad navigation of the narcotics operations, that many factions below him thought they should have a piece of, eroded his support. Additionally, he allowed the Five Families to work in Atlantic City after it turned into a gambling mecca. Atlantic City had long been recognized as part of the Philadelphia family's domain, but the New York families thought that Atlantic City, like Las Vegas, was too lucrative for one family to get all of the action. However, under the rules of the Mafia, a family couldn't set up shop in another family's territory without permission. While Bruno was initially unwilling to invite them, he realized he couldn't hope to challenge all Five Families and eventually let them in.

On March 21, 1980, the sixty-nine-year-old Angelo Bruno was killed by a shotgun blast to the back of the head as he sat in his car. It is believed that Bruno's Consigliere, Antonio Caponigro, ordered his murder. Caponigro was apparently ready to step up, but he was killed by Vincent Gigante's crew and stuffed in a body bag in New York. About $300 in bills were jammed in his mouth and anus. It was alleged that the Commission ordered his murder because Caponigro had assassinated a family boss, and a member of the Commission, without their sanction. After Caponigro's murder, various short-lived leaders were to run the family. Philip 'Chicken Man' Testa led the family for about one year, but was killed by a nail bomb at his home on March 15, 1981. The roofing nails in the bomb were to make it appear that it was retaliation by the K&A Gang for the killing of union president John McCullough. After taking over as Boss, Nicky Scarfo had the real conspirators, Frank Narducci and Rocco Marinucci, murdered for the unsanctioned hit. Testa's death resulted from an attempt by Peter Casella, Testa's reputed Underboss, to become the Boss of the Philadelphia family.

In the aftermath of Bruno's murder, many crime families across the country, including the Five Families, the Chicago Outfit, and the New Jersey-based DeCavalcante crime family, mediated between the rival factions and took advantage of the situation. This included, among other things, the rackets in Atlantic City, of which the Genovese crime family eventually took large parts. The relations between the Philadelphia and the New York families eventually declined, and their seat at the powerful Commission was eventually taken from them in the 1980s.

Testa's killing spawned a string of intra-family wars that lasted until 1995. Testa's son, Salvatore Testa, became a rising star in the Philadelphia family. A few months after Testa's death, Scarfo, his successor, made Salvatore a caporegime.

The fierce regime of Nicky Scarfo[edit | edit source]

Nicodemo "Little Nicky" Scarfo, a powerful leader of the Atlantic City faction, had risen to become the full Boss of the Bruno family, which became known as the Scarfo family, and promoted his cousin Anthony Piccolo to Consigliere and later his nephew Phil Leonetti to family Underboss. Scarfo, a mobster quite different from Angelo Bruno, cut a deal with the Five Families of New York that allowed them a piece of the action in Atlantic City while keeping a significant slice for himself aiming to keep the partnership between Philadelphia and New York working. However, Scarfo was also known for being ruthless and organized the murders of at least 30 members in his own family, either because they were suspected rivals or even potential informants. During his bloody regime of the 1980s, reputed captain John Gotti of the Gambino crime family organized the shooting of his Boss Paul Castellano and his driver in 1985, leaving Gotti as the new Boss of the powerful Gambino crime family of New York. Scarfo was a close ally of Gotti during the time, and hoped Gotti would bring them back into the Commission in New York. However, Gotti had murdered his Boss without the approval of the other families and rival Genovese crime family Boss Vincent "Chin" Gigante conspired with Lucchese crime family leaders Vittorio "Vic" Amuso and Anthony "Gaspipe" Casso to murder Gotti. A 1986 attempt on Gotti's life instead killed his Underboss Frank DeCicco. As Gotti's enemies conspired in the late 1980s, Scarfo's relations with New York lapsed. Scarfo and Gotti would soon become enemies.

US authorities had been investigating the Philadelphia crime family since the late 1970s, and many members of the family, including Scarfo, were charged with racketeering, illegal gambling, loansharking, extortion, drug trafficking, and murder. At the end of 1989, twenty members of Scarfo's organization were serving lengthy prison sentences, and another ten were on trial. To make matters worse, five members of the family had turned state's evidence against Scarfo: soldiers Nicholas Caramandi and Eugene Milano, reputed capos Thomas DelGiorno and Lawrence Merlino, and worst of all, Underboss and nephew Phil Leonetti. On April 5, 1989, Scarfo was convicted in Common Pleas Court of first degree murder in the 1985 death of rival mobster Frank D'Alfonso, along with six of his lieutenants. Scarfo, who had already been sentenced to 15 years in prison on extortion and conspiracy charges, was sentenced to life imprisonment the following day.

Later that same year, Scarfo's son Nicodemo Scarfo, Jr. was shot and wounded in a South Philadelphia Italian restaurant. Some reports suspect Joey Merlino of being Scarfo Jr.'s assailant. Fearing his rivals had sanctioned his son's murder, Scarfo had him inducted into the Lucchese crime family in 1990 to provide protection. Scarfo's cousin Anthony "Tony Buck" Piccolo became the acting boss of the family from the time Scarfo was arrested until the early 1990s. In the early 1990s mobster Giovanni "John" Stanfa was then promoted to official boss, but his reign ended in 1995 after a two year war with Joseph Merlino in an attempt to gain the family's control. Several murder charges resulted in Stanfa being sentenced to five consecutive life sentences in 1995. Ralph Natale, a former Bruno associate and ally of Merlino, took over as boss upon Stanfa's conviction. In a move that remains controversial today, Natale was inducted into Cosa Nostra by Joey Merlino, who was at the time just a soldier in the Philadelphia crime family. Natale immediately took over the title of boss on the same day as his induction.

Ralph Natale eventually became a government witness after he was arrested for running the Philadelphia and South Jersey rackets. After years of being plagued with internal power struggles, informants and federal indictments Joey Merlino took over as boss of the family in the late 1990s with Steven Mazzone holding the title of underboss and George Borgesi as consigliere. However, the entire administration was imprisoned soon after, passing leadership to acting boss Joseph Ligambi, who is Borgesi's uncle.

The rise of Ligambi[edit | edit source]

Ligambi, who took over as the official boss in 2001, has stabilized the family,[1] increased membership, and more importantly has restored relations with the New York families.[2] He has had to contend with the damage Merlino had done to the family's relationship with illegal bookmakers, who refused to do business with the Philadelphia crime family because Merlino would make huge bets, then never paid when he lost.[3] The family currently consists of approximately 50 soldiers, half of whom are incarcerated, in addition to almost 100 associates.[4][5] Around a dozen made men will be released from prison in the following years, filling the ranks.[6] Many of these men were young players who fell victim to the unstable Scarfo and Merlino eras, and are now middle-aged. Much of the Philadelphia family's earnings come from illegal poker machines.[7] Ligambi is now considered, by the FBI and the New York families, the indefinite godfather of the Philadelphia Mafia.[1] In contrast to Merlino, Ligambi maintains a low profile, and is more interested in making money, not headlines.[1] He has named Anthony Staino, his closest and most loyal associate, as his underboss.[1]

Ligambi has created a tight-knit group around the family's new leadership, rarely conducting business without going through intermediaries, thereby insulating himself from law enforcement scrutiny.[1] His inner circle includes longtime Philadelphia mobsters such as Joseph "Mousie" Massimino, Gateon Lucibello, and Michael "Mikey Lance" Lancelotti.[8] Recently released Merlino faction leaders Martin Angelina, John Ciancaglini, and Steven Mazzone have also appeared to have fallen in line behind Ligambi. What role Merlino would have when his parole restrictions expire was unknown.[1] Merlino was released from prison on March 15, 2011, and served six months in a halfway house in Florida.[9]

On May 23, 2011, Ligambi and 13 other top members of the crime family were indicited by the FBI on racketeering charges related to illegal gambling operations and loan sharking.[10][11] No murder or violent crimes were alleged. Steve Mazzone, who was not charged and is not on probabtion, has been named acting boss as a result of the arrests made.[7] Merlino is reportedly running the crime family from Florida and may have been in charge the entire time he was in prison.[12][13]

Current leaders and membership[edit | edit source]

In September 2009, it was reported by George Anastasia that Joseph Ligambi was boss, Marty Angelina was serving as acting underboss, Anthony Staino was a capo running South Jersey, and Michael Lancelotti was a capo running Philadelphia. In May 2012, recorded conversations reveal that Joey Merlino has been the boss even while serving jail time dating back to 2001 and that Joseph Ligambi was merely Acting Boss during this time. [14]

  • Boss - Joseph "Skinny Joey" Merlino[15][16][17]
  • Acting Boss - Steve Mazzone - Former Merlino era Underboss. Named acting boss after Ligambi's 2011 arrest.
  • Underboss - Joseph Massimino[15][16][17] - Old school mobster, close associate of Ligambi. Was acting underboss before his imprisonment in 2004, has since been released. Has been arrested 34 times and spent more than 20 years, including half his adult life, in prison.[18]
  • Consigliere - George Borgesi - Ligambi's nephew who was scheduled to be released from prison in July 3, 2012 before being charged with overseeing a loan sharking operation in Delaware County from his prison cell in North Carolina.[19] His relationship with Ligambi is said to be strained.[20][21] The two have a couple other members of their family working as associates for the Philadelphia crime family.[22]


  • Anthony Staino, Jr. - crew leader in charge of South Jersey. Has also been listed has the #2 man in the family. He is Ligambi's closest and most trusted man. Has never been convicted of a crime.[14][23]
  • Michael Lancelotti - crew leader in charge of South Philadelphia
  • Joseph Licata - North Jersey crew leader

Merlino faction

  • Marty Angelina - Former acting underboss. Was a Joey Merlino faction leader. Was elevated to acting underboss temporarily to appease former Merlino faction.[24]
  • Steve Mazzone - Former underboss of Joey Merlino. Is off of probabtion and maintains a low profile. He is now reputed to be the acting boss while Ligambi is in prison.[22]

Historical leadership[edit | edit source]

Bosses (official and acting)[edit | edit source]

Underbosses (official and acting)[edit | edit source]

Consiglieres (official and acting)[edit | edit source]

Government Informants[edit | edit source]

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 George Anastasia (December 26, 2010). "Still Home for Holidays". The Philadelphia Inquirer. http://www.philly.com/inquirer/local/nj/20101226_Still_home_for_holidays.html. Retrieved January 4, 2010. 
  2. McGarvey, Brendan. "Happy Birthday to Joe :: News :: Article :: Philadelphia City Paper". Citypaper.net. http://citypaper.net/articles/2007/08/16/happy-birthday-to-joe. Retrieved 2012-07-15. 
  3. Sins of the Fathers
  4. New Criminologist : Police data show Philadelphia mob in decline
  5. Waste And Abuse:
  6. Mob Talk: Joey Merlino Update
  7. 7.0 7.1 Gambling At Heart Of Mob Indictment
  8. Porello, Rick (December 17, 2001). "Meet The New Boss". AmericanMafia.com (Internet). http://www.americanmafia.com/Mob_Report/12-17-01_Mob_Report.html. 
  9. [1][dead link]
  10. Reputed mob boss Ligambi, others indicted by George Anastasia (May 23, 2011) philly.com
  11. "Read the indictment against Joseph Ligambi, 12 others" 6abc.com
  12. [2][dead link]
  13. "Merlino still runs Philly mob, court document says". Philly.com. 2012-05-04. http://www.philly.com/philly/news/local/149902935.html. Retrieved 2012-07-15. 
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 Who’s Who Now In The Philly Mob September 4, 2009
  15. 15.0 15.1 Moran, Lee. 'Boss' of Philadelphia mob arrested on gambling and extortion charges (May 24, 2011)
  16. 16.0 16.1 FBI Makes Major La Cosa Nostra Arrests In Philidelphia (May 23, 2011) Justice Department Section
  17. 17.0 17.1 Reputed mob boss Ligambi and others indicted on gambling, loan-sharking charges by George Anastasia (May 24, 2011) Philly.com
  18. 'Mousie' the mobster ordered held without bail - Philly.com
  19. Ex-mob consigliere Borgesi pleads not guilty
  20. Ligambi ordered held without bail - Philly.com
  21. Jailed Mob Boss In Spat With Relative?
  22. 22.0 22.1 Angry 'Wiseguys' In Corner Argument
  23. Alleged threat may cost reputed mobster bail by George Anastasia (May 24, 2011) Philly.com
  24. Mob Talk: Breaking Down The Indictment
  25. Underboss sentenced as war on mob continues Merlino associate Steven Mazzone was given a nine-year term. The probes go on, authorities say by George Anastasia (December 06, 2001) Philly.com
  26. Mob underboss seeks sentence reduction Joseph Massimino, who ran a gambling operation in South Jersey and Pa., has served half of a 10-year term. by George Anastasia (June 23, 2009) Philly.com
  27. Reputed Philly mobster wins early release from jail (October 11, 2009) Mafiatoday.com
  28. Reputed Mob Underboss Wins Bail Release Myfoxphilly.com
  29. Follow TIME Facebook Twitter Google + Tumblr (1991-06-17). "A Crow Turns Stool Pigeon: NICHOLAS CARAMANDI". TIME. http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,973168,00.html. Retrieved 2012-07-15. 
  30. McGarvey, Brendan. "Die Another Day :: Philadelphia City Paper. 25 Years of Independent Journalism". Archives.citypaper.net. http://archives.citypaper.net/articles/2006-06-15/cb5.shtml. Retrieved 2012-07-15. 
  31. "Harry Riccobene, 89, Longtime Mob Figure - Philly.com". Articles.philly.com. 2000-06-22. http://articles.philly.com/2000-06-22/news/25600305_1_mob-figure-nicodemo-little-nicky-scarfo-fred-martens. Retrieved 2012-07-15. 
  32. "Andrew Thomas DelGiorno - WDW". Whosdatedwho.com. http://www.whosdatedwho.com/tpx_6444101/andrew-thomas-delgiorno/. Retrieved 2012-07-15. 
  33. "Former 'Capo': 'I Was Underpaid'". CBS News. 2007-12-05. http://www.cbsnews.com/2100-18560_162-605432.html. Retrieved 2012-07-15. 

Further reading[edit | edit source]

  • Anastasia, George. Blood and Honor: Inside the Scarfo Mob, the Mafia's Most Violent Family. 2004, ISBN 0940159864
  • Anastasia, George. Goodfella Tapes.
  • Anastasia, George. The Last Gangster.
  • Wagman, Robert J. Blood Oath.

External links[edit | edit source]

Template:Philadelphia crime family Template:American Mafia

fr:Famille de Scarfo it:Famiglia di Filadelfia

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