The Story Of Sal Testa, Former Scarfo Protege

Posted: April 11, 1987

Within hours of the discovery of Salvatore Testa's murdered corpse trussed up by the side of a lonely South Jersey road on the morning of Sept. 14, 1984, the theory was on the minds and lips of law enforcement authorities who study the mob:

Nicky Scarfo did it.

Even given the bloody factional war that had enveloped the Philadelphia mob since the execution of longtime boss Angelo Bruno in March 1980, law enforcement officers viewed the Sal Testa hit as something different.

Testa, 28, was a second-generation mobster, son of Philip "Chicken Man" Testa, who succeeded Bruno and controlled the Philadelphia crime family for a year until he was killed by a nail bomb planted in the porch of his South Philadelphia home in March 1981.

Years earlier, law enforcement authorities said, the elder Testa had taken on Nicodemo "Little Nicky" Scarfo as a protege. When Scarfo succeeded his former patron, it seemed he would do the same for young Sal Testa.

Sal Testa was admitted to the inner circle, was a frequent guest at Scarfo's home and was often seen in the company of the reputed mob boss. In January 1984, when Scarfo emerged from a federal penitentiary in Texas, Testa was among the intimates who flew down to greet him. When the plane landed in Philadelphia, Testa strode by Scarfo's side, carrying his boss' suitcase.

Testa grew wealthy and powerful in Scarfo's service. He owned fancy cars and kept a yacht moored in Ventnor. He was a central combatant in Scarfo's war for control with reputed mobster Harry Riccobene, authorities said, and was critically wounded during that struggle, which claimed several lives.

Then came reports of a falling out.

Two weeks before Testa was found shot to death, according to word that reached authorities, the two men had argued and Scarfo had thrown Testa out of his Atlantic City apartment.

Part of the disagreement was personal, sources said at the time. Testa had ''grown too big for his britches," law enforcement sources said at the time, and did not show enough respect for Scarfo.

Part of it was professional, sources said. Testa wanted to succeed Salvatore Merlino, then facing a long prison term, as underboss and run the crime family's Philadelphia operations, according to sources. Scarfo thought young Testa was becoming too ambitious.

It took law enforcement authorities 2 1/2 years to put together a case. Scarfo, 58, and nine others were charged yesterday with Testa's slaying.

Much of the case against Scarfo and others is based on the testimony of two former mobsters-turned-informants, Thomas DelGiorno and Nicholas "Nicky Crow" Caramandi, District Attorney Ronald D. Castille said.

"Scarfo set the Testa murder in motion," Castille said. "He sent his people out to do it."

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