Did New York Plot To Hit Philly Bosses Ligambi, Borgesi, Mazzone?

Does the Mafia learn from its mistakes? Whether it does or doesn't, it appears it is greed that wins in the end. New York's greed once destroyed the Philadelphia Cosa Nostra. But based on court testimony, the New York Mafia in fact was so greedy, it appeared willing to commit a very similar move against Philadelphia in the late 1990s by wiping out Joseph "Uncle Joe" Ligambi, probably the best boss to arise in Philadelphia since Angelo Bruno. Nevertheless he was slated for death along with his underboss and consiglieri...

Joseph Ligambi, once part of the Scarfo gang, showed he was able to adapt under Merlino
Uncle Joe, who New York wanted dead....

The March 1980 murder of mob boss Angelo Bruno shattered what had been for two decades a peacefully run, highly profitable criminal syndicate based in South Philadelphia.

The crime family had operations in the City of Brotherly Love's metropolitan areas, as well as in the Delaware Valley, Southeastern Pennsylvania, and in New Jersey, especially South Jersey.

Bruno's consigliere, Antonio "Tony Bananas" Caponigro, was behind the old-school boss's brutal murder, immortalized in grizzly newspaper photographs that cannot be posted on this blog, or Google will penalize us again.

Tony Bananas believed he had permission from the Commission, thanks to the duplicity of Genovese boss Funzi Tieri, who was still riled over a 1979 sitdown that cost him a cut of a North Jersey-based numbers operation that generated $8 million monthly.

About three weeks afterward, Caponigro was found murdered in his own ghastly tableau. The Commission ordered the hit, which Nicodemo "Little Nicky" Scarfo likely pulled off.

"(Caponigro) thought he was going to be knighted as head of the family," former FBI agent Joaquin "Jack" Garcia said in testimony at the November 2012 trial of Joseph "Uncle Joe" Ligambi, George Borgesi and five others. "Instead he was tortured and killed and money was left in every orifice of his body."

The Commission officially crowned Bruno's underboss, Philip "The Chicken Man" Testa, as boss. He wasted little time trying to rebuild the crime family, inducting new members and promoting others in an effort to try to unify the riven borgata.

But a nearly unbelievable development occurred: A nail bomb blew Testa to pieces about a year into his reign. The Commission was defied again, this time by Peter Casella, Testa's underboss, and Frank "Chickie" Narducci, a capo (both of whom The Chicken Man had promoted). Casella fled to Florida, where he later die of natural causes. Narducci was gunned down in the streets.

The violent Scarfo era began. The diminutive Cosa Nostra boss is alleged to have ordered more than 30 murders throughout his 1980s reign. Then, in 1989, Little Nicky went down. His nephew / underboss, Phil "Crazy Phil" Leonetti, flipped and testified against him.

The violence continued, with the Philadelphia mob splitting into factions as Joseph "Skinny Joey" Merlino went up against John Stanfa, the unwanted Sicilian official boss.

The violence and murders brewed into a full-fledged mob war. The Cosa Nostra entity, which Bruno ran peacefully for decades, seemed to be in a state of hopeless and perpetual violence.

John Stanfa, former Philadelphia boss.

Stanfa and Merlino and a host of guys finally went away. First, Stanfa was hauled off the street, to be convicted in November 1995 and sentenced to five consecutive life sentences. Merlino got off easier. In 2001, he was convicted of several RICO charges but was only sentenced to 14 years; he was released on parole in 2011 and moved to Florida.

It was Joseph "Uncle Joe" Ligambi who came in and took control. He cooled down the flaring tempers and ran the family for years in relative peace. There was an occasional hit, but Ligambi was credited by both law enforcement and the New York mob for his ability to pull the regional Cosa Nostra entity together.

Ligambi, once part of the Scarfo gang, showed he was able to adapt under Merlino -- and when his time came, he showed he had the chops to be boss. He revived the crime family, which was close to extinction.

Peter "Pete the Crumb" Caprio, the source of this testimony, had told of how, in 2000, he'd been planning a series of murders with members of the Genovese and Gambino crime families (though he said three crime families were behind the plot in total). 

Caprio testified at the November 2012 racketeering conspiracy trial of Ligambi, George Borgesi and five others.

If what he said is true, Ligambi had only earned the fleeting goodwill of New York mobsters.

"They wanted to make a move and get rid of all of them," Caprio said on the witness stand in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia.

Caprio, a Newark-based capo for the Philadelphia crime family at the time, said the Genovese crime family wanted to distribute illegal video poker machines throughout Philadelphia and South Jersey without interference and without having to pay Ligambi tribute.

Caprio, 83 when he last testified at the Ligambi trial, had been arrested and began cooperating in July 2000.

He testified for nearly four hours, according to George Anastasia, the Big Trial reporter who covered the trial and wrote of this plot in November 2012.

Caprio had previously told of the plot to oust and kill the bosses in a 2001 trial, which ended with the convictions of George Borgesi, Steve Mazzone, Merlino and four others. Ligambi was not part of that trial.

"They live on violence," Caprio said of Cosa Nostra."One time I almost cut a guy's hand off," he said on the stand.

Caprio had previously confessed to his role in committing three murders, as well as conspiring to commit five additional murders (including the three Philly bosses).

He'd spent some six decades working for the Mafia, first as an associate, then as an inducted member. During those years, he participated in a range of violent acts, including beatings, stabbings and assaults.

He noted that the plot to kill Ligambi, Mazzone and Borgesi was simply a business decision for the three New York crime families, which had voiced their intent to support and back Pete the Crumb Caprio to be the new boss of the Philadelphia crime family.

George Borgesi was one of three targets.

And the plotting had grown beyond the talking phase, too. He testified that he and others in on the plotting had begun to seek out good places to bury the three bodies of Ligambi, Borgesi and Mazzone. Several landfills and construction sites were under consideration. The plan was to first lure the high-ranking trio to a meeting to occur in North Jersey.

Caprio was arrested before the hits could be carried out, he testified from the stand.

Mob associate Philip "Philly Fay" Casale had been cooperating with the Feds; he apparently recorded conversations with Caprio.

In his 2012 testimony, he recapped what had happened to him since. He'd been sentenced to 75 months in prison after pleading guilty. He wound up serving just over five years. After his release, he moved to another part of the country and lived under a new identity; he benefitted from the Fed's financial assistance to cover medical and living expenses.

In total, he had been paid about $360,000 between his two court appearances.

As noted most of Caprio's 2012 testimony had been heard in that 2001 trial, as Anastasia reported.

Those in the courtroom perked up, however, when he detailed how in the late 1990s, when Merlino was at the pinnacle, Caprio had not paid the young boss a single red cent in tribute; Merlino, in fact, had paid him.

One Lingering Question

One of Caprio's allies allegedly in on the deal to whack Ligambi and the administration is still alive today. When last written about, he was still a South Philadelphia-based steakhouse-owner and high-level bookmaker. Danny D'Ambrosio had been allied with "Pete the Crumb" Caprio.

One query raised at trial was how could the associate have gotten away with his life for plotting the murder of Ligambi and the others?

At the trial, Jack Garcia noted that he was stumped as to why D'Ambrosio wasn't dead. "He must have gotten a pass," the former FBI agent noted, adding: "I don't have inside information as to why (he) has a pass, but he does."


  1. Philly mob??? You mean RatFellas!!!

    1. Uncle Joe is solid...the dead Gambino had his own radio show....

  2. Ya new york dont have any rats beter known as rathattan


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