His arrest was at least the fifth in a crackdown on the mob that began in mid-September, following a series of gangland shootings that have left four dead and four wounded this year.
Police Chief Inspector Richard Zappile described Tavella as a well-known and longtime associate of Stanfa, who is at war with the Joseph Merlino faction of the mob for control of the crime family.
Tavella, 35, was arrested at 2:35 p.m. in the 800 block of Mountain Street in South Philadelphia. He owns a candy store nearby, at Ninth and Mountain.
Police were in the area as part of their continuing surveillance of organized-crime figures. Officials said the task-force officers noticed Tavella on the street and called him over to talk. Tavella leaned his left hip against the car door, blocking one of the officers from getting out. The officer noticed a sag in the right-hand pocket of Tavella's jacket.
"Gary, you've got a gun on you," one of the officers said.
"No, no, I don't," Tavella answered. "I'd go back to jail."
The officers searched him for their own safety - Tavella is righthanded and could have drawn the weapon from that pocket - and arrested him. He was to be arraigned last night.
In April, Tavella pleaded guilty to carrying an unlicensed firearm in a case that stemmed from a botched kidnapping at a Montgomery County restaurant. He was sentenced to 11 1/2 to 23 months in the county prison, followed by a year of probation, but apparently was free on a work-release program yesterday, police said.
The kidnapping case against Tavella and an alleged hit man, Rosario Bellocchi, was crippled when the purported victim took off for Italy and didn't come back. The March 19 abduction attempt failed when the suspects were seen as they tried to force Fernando Vincente, a waiter, into a van outside the San Marco Restaurant on City Avenue.