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 Jury Convicts Philadelphia's Mob Leader

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vinny nip

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PostSubject: Jury Convicts Philadelphia's Mob Leader   Fri Feb 06, 2009 11:12 am

Jury Convicts Philadelphia's Mob Leader



By SELWYN RAAB

Published: November 22, 1995



At various stages of his career, John Stanfa described himself as the quintessential immigrant who through hard work rose from a bricklayer to the ownership of a food distribution company.

Yesterday a Federal jury in Philadelphia applied a new title to Mr. Stanfa -- mob boss -- and found him guilty of racketeering charges, including conspiring to murder gangster rivals and heading a ring that engaged in kidnappings, extortions and gambling activities.

Law-enforcement experts said the racketeering convictions of Mr. Stanfa, 54, and seven men who were portrayed by prosecutors as his top henchmen virtually eliminated the main Mafia faction in Philadelphia and southern New Jersey. The Philadelphia family, the experts said, has been in disarray since the killing in 1980 of Angelo Bruno, the group's last powerful boss.

"The term organized crime is a misnomer for the Mafia in Philadelphia," Frederick T. Martens, former executive director of the Pennsylvania Crime Commission, said in an interview. "There is no longer any centralized control, discipline or lines of communication."

At a seven-week trial, the primary evidence against Mr. Stanfa came from three admitted hit men who became witnesses for the prosecution and from 178 secretly recorded conversations between Mr. Stanfa and other defendants.

Prosecutors said that many of the conversations concerned plots by Mr. Stanfa to kill members of a rival Mafia faction in Philadelphia. In a conversation taped on April 29, 1993, the prosecution said, Mr. Stanfa discussed a plan to lure an opponent, Gaeton Lucibello, to a meeting for assassination.

"You know what I'll do," Mr. Stanfa said in the recording. "I'll get a knife, I'll cut out his tongue, and we'll send it to his wife. We put it in an envelope, put a stamp on it."

In 1964, at age 23, Mr. Stanfa immigrated to the United States from Sicily, listing his occupation as bricklayer. That same year he married, and he and his wife, Lena, settled in New York City. In the late 1960's, they moved to Philadelphia, where, Mr. Stanfa said later in court documents, he supported his family as a construction worker.

Law-enforcement officials insist, however, that when Mr. Stanfa arrived in New York he had introductions to the Gambino crime family from his two brothers and a brother-in-law who were inducted members of the Sicilian Mafia. Mr. Martens said Gambino family leaders arranged for Mr. Stanfa to work for Mr. Bruno, who was known as the Docile Don and was a major Mafia leader for 20 years.

On March 21, 1980, Mr. Stanfa was seated next to Mr. Bruno in his car when Mr. Bruno was killed by a shotgun blast. Mr. Stanfa was slightly wounded and splattered by Mr. Bruno's blood, but he was unable to identify the gunmen.

After testifying before a grand jury about the killing, Mr. Stanfa disappeared. In December 1980, he was arrested in Baltimore, where he was working as a baker in a pizza shop, and taken back to Philadelphia on charges that he had lied to the grand jury about meetings with mobsters after Mr. Bruno's death.

He was convicted in 1981 of perjury and served eight years in prison. Law-enforcement officials have said that it is unclear whether Mr. Stanfa was involved in Mr. Bruno's killing but that his silence earned him the respect of other mobsters.

While Mr. Stanfa was in prison, Nicodema Scarfa emerged as the boss of the Philadelphia crime family after a mob war that resulted in more than a dozen slayings. In 1988, Mr. Scarfa was convicted of racketeering and sentenced to 69 years in prison.

That same year, Mr. Stanfa was released from prison. A balding man of medium height and build, Mr. Stanfa said at the time that upon gaining his freedom he joined one of his three sons in operating a food importing and distribution system. Unlike stylish mob bosses who favor elegant clothes and banker's hours, Mr. Stanfa customarily wore black leather jackets with jeans and normally was at work in his food warehouse by 8 A.M.

But Federal law-enforcement officials said that once Mr. Stanfa left prison, he moved boldly to take over the Philadelphia family. Mr. Martens said Mr. Stanfa was supported in Philadelphia by the country's two most powerful Mafia families, the Genovese and Gambino groups, which are based in New York.


Mr. Martens said many old-time mobsters in Philadelphia resented Mr. Stanfa's accession, viewing him as an outsider who had not worked his way up in the organization.

"Under Stanfa there was a steady decline in the quality of people he brought into the family," Mr. Martens said. "He needed a cadre fast, and he brought in tough kids who came from nowhere who were willing to kill and break legs."

The jury deliberated for 30 hours over six days before convicting Mr. Stanfa and the other defendants yesterday. Mr. Stanfa was convicted on 33 of the 35 charges against him.

He faces a sentence of life in prison. Jack M. Meyers, his lawyer, asserted in his summation that the prosecution's main witnesses were confessed professional killers whose testimony was untrustworthy because they made deals for lenient sentences.

Officials in the Federal Bureau of Investigation and other experts in organized crime say that the Mafia's decline in Philadelphia is part of a national trend. The officials maintain that except for the crime families in New York and Chicago, the nation's 20 other Mafia families have been severely weakened in the last decade by major prosecutions and defections.
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