Attorney General William Barr is launching a crackdown on the Philadelphia Mafia — and some expect that the City’s most senior mobsters are getting ready to flip on former Boss ‘Skinny Joey’ Merlino, who is widely suspected of rigging the presidential election in favor of Joe Biden.
Unless, of course, Merlino flips first.
A superseding indictment was unsealed today against 15 defendants, including alleged members and associates of the South Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey-based criminal organization La Cosa Nostra (LCN), popularly known as the ‘mafia’ or ‘mob.’ The superseding indictment charges various crimes including racketeering conspiracy, illegal gambling, loansharking, extortion, and drug trafficking.
Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian C. Rabbitt of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney William M. McSwain of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, and Special Agent in Charge Michael Driscoll of the FBI’s Philadelphia Field Office made the announcement.The defendants charged in the seven-count superseding indictment are Steven Mazzone, aka “Stevie,” 56; Domenic Grande, aka “Dom,” “Mr. Hopkins,” “Mr. Brown,” and “Dom14,” 41; Joseph Servidio, aka “Joey Electric,” 60; Salvatore Mazzone, aka “Sonny,” 55; Joseph Malone, 70; Louis Barretta, aka “Louie Sheep,” 56; Victor DeLuca, aka “Big Vic,” 56; Kenneth Arabia, aka “Kenny,” 67; Daniel Castelli, aka “Danny,” “Cozzy,” aka “Butch,” aka “Harry,” age 67; Carl Chianese, age 81; Anthony Gifoli, aka “Tony Meatballs,” 72; John Romeo, 58; Daniel Malatesta, 75; Daniel Bucceroni, 66; and John Michael Payne, 33.
According to court documents, the Philadelphia LCN is one of a number of LCN organized crime families based in various cities throughout the United States. The purpose of the LCN in Philadelphia and elsewhere is to make money through the commission of various crimes, including illegal gambling, loansharking, drug trafficking, and extortion.
Like other LCN families, the Philadelphia LCN is operated through a defined hierarchical structure, including a Boss, an Underboss (Steven Mazzone), and Captains (Grande), who oversee “crews” consisting of “soldiers” and “associates.”
As detailed in the superseding indictment, soldiers are members of the family who have been formally initiated through a ritual called a “making ceremony,” during which they swear allegiance to LCN above all else, take a vow of secrecy about the organization (the Code of Silence or “Omerta”), and agree to commit violence on behalf of the LCN if necessary.
After this ceremony, these men (who must be of 100 percent Italian ancestry) are then referred to as “made members” of LCN. Associates are men who engage in criminal activity on behalf of LCN but who have not been formally “made,” either because they are up-and-coming and aspire to full membership, or because they are ineligible to be made because they lack fully Italian ancestry.
Made members and associates who break Omerta are looked upon unfavorably as “rats” and may be targeted for death by other members of the group.
As described in the superseding indictment, the Philadelphia LCN sought to use its reputation and influence to exercise control over criminal rackets like sports bookmaking and loansharking operating in Philadelphia and southern New Jersey, particularly Atlantic City.
During a period beginning in August 2015, 10 of the defendants allegedly conspired to conduct and participate in the affairs of the Philadelphia LCN through both a pattern of racketeering activity and through the collection of unlawful debts.
The remaining five defendants are charged with allegedly committing a variety of other offenses, including conducting an illegal gambling business, conspiracy to make extortionate extensions of credit, and conspiracy to distribute controlled substances, in partnership with other members and associates of the Philadelphia LCN.
As alleged in the superseding indictment, on Oct. 15, 2015, defendants Steven Mazzone, Grande, and Salvatore Mazzone participated in a “making ceremony” (as detailed above) in a South Philadelphia residence, during which several new soldiers were inducted into the Philadelphia LCN.
The superseding indictment describes the various acts allegedly committed by the defendants and others as members of the group including the distribution of heroin, cocaine, fentanyl, methamphetamine and oxycodone pills; the disbursement and collection of tens of thousands of dollars of unlawful bookmaking and other debts ‘owed’ to the group at interest rates as high as 400 percent; and even an alleged conspiracy to kidnap or murder a drug dealer in order to protect the reputation of the Philadelphia LCN after the dealer sold members of the group fake drugs.
The case is being investigated by the FBI’s Philadelphia Field Office and Atlantic City Resident Agency with the assistance of the Philadelphia Police Department, the Pennsylvania State Police and the Pennsylvania Office of the Attorney General.
The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Alexander Gottfried of the Criminal Division’s Organized Crime and Gang Section Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Ortiz of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
An indictment, information, or criminal complaint is an accusation. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.