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FBI nabs 13 reputed Philadelphia mafia bosses and associates

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The FBI rounded up 11 of 13 reputed Philadelphia mafia bosses and associates in a sweep that took a decade to prepare and complete. The alleged wise guys were escorted into federal court today, two were missing in action.

A 50-count-indictment unsealed by the FBI charges Philadelphia boss Joseph Ligambi, Philadelphia family underboss Joseph Massimino, George Borgesi, Martin Angelina, Anthony Staino Jr., Gaeton Lucibello, Damion Canalichio, Louis Monacello, Louis Barretta, Gary Battaglini, Robert Verrecchia, Eric Esposito, and Robert Ranieri with a host of crimes, including racketeering conspiracy, extortion, loan sharking, illegal gambling and witness tampering.

The charges were announced today by Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; U.S. Attorney Zane David Memeger for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania; William H. Ryan Jr., Acting Attorney General for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania; George C. Venizelos, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Philadelphia Field Division; Special Agent in Charge Eric Hylton of the Philadelphia office of Internal Revenue Service (IRS)-Criminal Investigations; Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey; Pennsylvania State Police Commissioner Frank Noonan; and Superintendent of the New Jersey State Police Colonel Rick Fuentes.

“Today’s arrests and charges are the largest enforcement action in a decade against La Cosa Nostra in Philadelphia,” said Assistant Attorney General Breuer. “We have pried loose La Cosa Nostra’s grip on power and influence in the United States. But there is still work to be done. We will continue use all the tools at our disposal—including wiretaps, undercover operations, and consensual recordings—to build cases against these individuals and to bring them to justice.”

The indictment alleges that for more than a decade, 10 of the defendants, including Ligambi as the boss and Masimino as the underboss, as well as other members and associates of the Philadelphia mafia family, conspired to conduct and participate in the affairs of the Philadelphia family through a pattern of racketeering activity and through the collection of unlawful debts. The alleged racketeering activity includes numerous acts involving extortion, extortionate extensions of credit through usurious loans, extortionate collections, illegal gambling, and witness tampering.

The organization’s collection of unlawful debts allegedly relates to its loan sharking operations and debts that arose from their illegal gambling businesses, according to the FBI.

The FBI stated that Ligambi, Massimino, Staino, and other conspirators allegedly ran illegal electronic gambling device businesses, providing video poker machines and other gambling devices for bars, restaurants, convenience stores, coffee shops, and other locations in Philadelphia and its suburbs, and then collected the illegal gambling proceeds. After federal law enforcement agents seized 34 of their illegal electronic gambling devices, Ligambi, Massimino and Staino allegedly forced the owners of another illegal electronic gambling device business to sell their illegal businesses to them, including 34 machines.

In another example, the superseding indictment charges that from 2002 to 2006 Massimino extorted yearly tribute payments from a bookmaker to the Philadelphia LCN family so that the bookmaker could avoid personal harm and disruption of the illegal bookmaking business, according to the FBI.

The defendants are also charged with promoting and furthering their illegal money-making activities through violence, actual and implied threats of violence, and the cultivation and exploitation of the Philadelphia LCN family’s long-standing reputation for violence, according to the FBI.

The defendants also used this reputation for violence to intimidate and prevent victims and witnesses from cooperating with law enforcement. The indictment alleges various instances where defendants used phrases such as “chop him up” and “put a bullet in your head” when threatening victims. In one instance, Canalicho allegedly used a bat to beat a victim for not paying a loan debt, according to the FBI.

Each charge of racketeering conspiracy, collection of unlawful debt, collection of extensions of credit through extortionate means, making extortionate extensions of credit, financing extortionate extensions of credit, and witness tampering carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The illegal gambling charges each carry a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine, according to the Attorney General of Pennsylvania.

The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney John S. Han of the Criminal Division’s Organized Crime and Gang Section, Assistant U.S. Attorneys David E. Troyer and Frank A. Labor III for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, and Senior Deputy Attorney General Heather A. Castellino of the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General.

The case is being investigated by the FBI, the IRS-Criminal Investigations, the Pennsylvania State Police, the New Jersey State Police, and the Philadelphia Police Department. Additional assistance was provided by the New Jersey Department of Corrections, according to today's statement by the FBI.

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