Suspected Mob Figure Is Arrested In South Phila. Gary Tavella Was Arrested For Carrying A Loaded Gun. Police Described Him As An Associate Of John Stanfa's.

Posted: October 30, 1993

Gary Tavella's problems started when he was spotted in South Philadelphia yesterday by two police investigators from the Organized Crime Task Force.

They got worse when he leaned against the door of the unmarked police cruiser, blocking it from opening.

And they hit bottom when the officers got out and patted him down, finding a fully loaded .380-caliber semiautomatic in the pocket of his green


Tavella, described by authorities as a mid-level associate of South Philadelphia mob boss John Stanfa, was arrested and charged with weapons violations and will likely be headed back to prison for violating probation, police said yesterday.

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.

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