The mob didn't disappear from Philadelphia and the Jersey Shore after former leaders Joseph Ligambi and Joseph “Skinny Joey” Merlino were sent to prison, federal authorities revealed Monday.
Over the past five years, in fact, new leadership of the Philly and Atlantic City La Cosa Nostra beefed up the ranks, commanding illegal sports gambling, extorting victims through loansharking, selling cocaine, heroin and opioids -- even conspiring to kidnap a drug dealer who sold them bad dope, they said.
Fifteen reputed mobsters and associates of the organized crime family were charged in a federal grand jury indictment unsealed Monday in Philadelphia by U.S. Attorney William M. McSwain.
They range in age from 33 to 81, with nicknames such as “Big Vic,” “Joey Electric” and “Tony Meatballs.”
Some are convicted or accused members of previous regimes, including the man believed to be the organization's highest-ranking member, accused Underboss Steven Mazzone, 56.
"Stevie" Mazzone reportedly was a protege of former boss Ralph Natale and a childhood friend Joseph "Skinny Joey" Merlino, who authorities said succeeded Natale.
Natale eventually flipped, becoming a government witness and testifying that Mazzone shot and killed mobster "Little Felix" Bocchino in 1992 and participated in a failed attempt on the life of Joseph Ciangalini Jr. the following year.
Mazzone and his co-defendants were all acquitted of murder following a trial. He was convicted of racketeering, extortion and illegal bookmaking, however, and was sentenced to nine years in prison.
Mazzone was placed on federally-supervised release for three years in February 2008. Soon after, federal authorities said, he ascended to acting boss.
The FBI in Philadelphia began building a new organized crime case in October 2015. That's when, the indictment says, Mazzone joined Domenic “Dom” Grande, 41, and Salvatore “Sonny” Mazzone, 55, in a ceremony inducting several new soldiers at a South Philly residence.
Over the next several years, the indictment alleges, the organization:
- sold heroin, cocaine, fentanyl, methamphetamine and oxycodone;
- collected tens of thousands of dollars in bookmaking and other debts ‘owed’ to the group -- at interest rates as high as 400%;
- conspired to kidnap or murder a drug dealer in order to protect the family's reputation after members were sold fake drugs (the plan was never carried out).
Others named along with the Mazzones and Grande in the indictment are John Michael Payne, 33; Louis “Louie Sheep” Barretta, 56; Victor “Big Vic” DeLuca, 56; John Romeo, 58; Joseph “Joey Electric” Servido, 60; Daniel Bucceroni, 66; Daniel “Cozzy” Castelli, 67; Kenneth Arabia, 67; Joseph Malone, 70; Anthony “Tony Meatballs” Gifoli, 72; Daniel Malatesta, 75; and Carl Chianese, 81.
Some or all are charged with various crimes, including racketeering conspiracy, illegal gambling, loansharking, extortion, and drug trafficking, said McSwain, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
The FBI’s Philadelphia Field Office and Atlantic City Resident Agency assembled the case, assisted by the Philadelphia Police Department, the Pennsylvania State Police and the Pennsylvania Office of the Attorney General, he said.
"Thanks to the dedicated and courageous efforts of federal law enforcement over the past several decades, the Philadelphia mob isn’t what it used to be, and thank God for that," McSwain tweeted Monday afternoon. "But it is still a problem and is still allegedly committing serious federal crimes, which is why we at the Department of Justice are focused on stamping it out.
"We will not rest until the mob is nothing but a bad memory."
Handling the case for the government are 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, he said.
Joining McSwain at a news conference Monday were Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian C. Rabbitt of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and Special Agent in Charge Michael Driscoll of the FBI’s Philadelphia Field Office.
Click here to sign up for Daily Voice's free daily emails and news alerts.