Reputed Mob Associate Accused Of Making Death Threat Ronald Galati Allegedly Threatened An Investigator. Galati's Shop Is The Subject Of A Probe.

Posted: February 10, 1994

A South Philadelphia auto-body shop operator, currently the target of a federal insurance-fraud investigation, has been ordered held without bail for allegedly threatening to kill a postal inspector involved in the investigation.

Ronald Galati, a friend and former employer of reputed mobster Joseph ''Skinny Joey" Merlino, has denied the charge. The allegation was outlined in a probable-cause affidavit filed at the time of Galati's arrest last week and again in a hearing that concluded yesterday before U.S. Magistrate Edwin Naythons.

Friends and family members contend that Galati, 42, has been targeted for harassment because of his friendship with Merlino and other reputed members of a dissident faction of the local mob.

"They been investigating this guy for years, and he ain't done nothing," one said.

But Assistant U.S. Attorney Seth Weber argued this week that Galati should be detained, saying authorities took the threat against postal inspector James Trovarello seriously. Weber cited Galati's reputed organized-crime associations and the fact that he owns 17 registered firearms as additional reasons to deny bail.

Galati's attorney, Brian Kenney, is expected to appeal Naythons' order.

According to the affidavit and testimony, Galati threatened Trovarello's life in a conversation Jan. 29 with Philadelphia Police Detective John Spink during a social at St. Monica's Hall.

"I swear to God, if I go to jail, if I lose everything, either I will kill him or have somebody else kill him. That's for sure," Galati is alleged to have said.

Galati, Spink and Trovarello were among several hundred people who attended the fund-raising event for the parish's Home and School Association. Galati and Trovarello have children in St. Monica's School. The two men have known each other for 30 years, according to testimony at the hearing, and live within two blocks of each other.

Trovarello is part of a Federal Insurance Fraud Task Force that has been investigating allegations of phony and inflated insurance claims from Galati's auto-body shop on South 12th Street near Washington Avenue.

In the affidavit and testimony, Spink said he had become concerned for Trovarello's safety at the church social because of the way Galati and several associates had been acting toward the postal inspector.

At one point, Spink said, Galati referred to Trovarello as a "punk." On several occasions, he said, Galati and his associates stared and pointed at Trovarello in what Spink said was a harassing and intimidating fashion.

As Galati was leaving the hall about 11:30 p.m., he threatened to kill Trovarello or to have him killed, Spink said.

Friends of Galati gathered in the hallway outside the hearing this week in U.S. District Court. They said they were skeptical about the allegation.

"Who in his right mind is going to threaten (to kill a federal agent) while he's talking to a cop?" one asked.

Based on the allegations in the affidavit, Galati was arrested Feb. 2 at his home in the 2500 block of Garnet Street. In addition to Merlino, who once worked at the body shop, Galati's organized-crime associates were identified as Michael Avicolli and brothers George and Anthony Borgesi.

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