'Bent Finger Lou' Testifies in Philly Mob Trial

'Bent Finger Lou' said he was
Uncle Joe's tax collector.
Philly.com reports:

Louis "Bent-Finger Lou" Monacello said he never killed anyone.

He stole cars, supervised gambling operations, collected debts and "tax" payments that reputed Philadelphia mob boss Joseph Ligambi allegedly demanded from other criminals. Occasionally, Monacello told jurors Friday, he smashed windows, slashed tires, even cracked heads.

Once, on orders from above, Monacello staked out a South Philadelphia rival's house for three months before finally catching the man as he left to walk his dog one night, he said. Bat in hand, Monacello went to work.

"I swung with all my might," Monacello said, "and split [his] head open."

Monacello, 46, was the latest in a parade of informants and turncoats to testify in the racketeering trial of Ligambi, his nephew George Borgesi, and five other defendants.

A former high-ranking associate, he was the most significant witness to date, an insider enlisted to bolster prosecutors' claims that the defendants used violence - or the threat of it - to run rackets for more than a decade.

Defense lawyers have derided the case as "racketeering lite," a 10-year investigation built on criminals seeking deals and on thousands of secretly recorded conversations with tough talk but little proof of violence.

Monacello's message was that intimidation was often enough.

"You would remind them who you were working with and where the money is going to, and usually that would do the trick," he said. "There was always that underlying thing - that you're with the mob, and if they don't pay, they're going to get hurt."

His appearance marked his first as a government witness, a role he assumed after being arrested with the others in May 2011. His former codefendants, notably Borgesi, glared his way as Monacello, dressed in a dark suit, light shirt, and lavender striped tie, entered the courtroom, walked to the stand, and poured a glass of water.

Defendant Damon Canalichio turned and smiled at a friend in the gallery as the witness raised his right hand - its index finger bent - and swore to tell the truth.

At first, Monacello appeared to avoid looking toward the defendants. Then he settled in. For more than five hours, he glided comfortably along, at times talking to jurors as if he were trading war stories over a beer.

He laughed as he described catching the friend who told Monacello's wife he was having an affair. Yes, he was cheating on her, Monacello told jurors, but not with whom his friend thought... 

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