Prosecutors up and down the East Coast have been sending that same message the last 15 years as mob bosses and their top associates in New York; Newark, N.J.; Boston; Providence, R.I.; and Hartford, Conn., have been carted off to jail.
But nowhere has the mob been hit as hard and as often as in the City of Brotherly Love.
To date, 25 of the 29 individuals charged in the 1994 Stanfa racketeering indictment have been convicted or pleaded guilty. Most of the major players, like those sentenced last week, are doing heavy jail time.
For Stanfa, who was sentenced to five life terms, the ``sea of opportunities'' and ``river of money'' he talked about in a conversation secretly recorded by the FBI back in 1993 have quickly dried up. The Sicilian-born Mafia don has been in jail since his arrest in March 1994 and will likely spend the rest of his life in prison.
That also appears to be the fate of the others sentenced last week. Frank Martines, at 42 the youngest defendant, was sentenced to life in prison. Anthony Piccolo, 73; Salvatore Sparacio, 74; and Vincent Pagano, 66, might as well have been.
Piccolo, the crime family's consigliere, was given a 45-year sentence. Sparacio, a capo in charge of a bookmaking operation, got 30 years. Pagano, another capo, was hammered with an 80-year term. Under new federal sentencing guidelines that have eliminated parole and curtailed the amount of good time that can be accrued, each defendant will be required to serve about 85 percent of his time.
Convicted of racketeering and racketeering-conspiracy charges that included allegations of murder, attempted murder, extortion, gambling and obstruction of justice, they join a growing list of prominent mob figures from around the country doing hard time as a result of an unprecedented 15-year federal assault on La Cosa Nostra.
* As in the Stanfa case, turncoat testimony and electronic surveillance have ripped away the veil of secrecy that once protected the organization, shattering omerta, the Mafia's sacrosanct code of silence, and the bonds of honor and loyalty that supposedly held La Cosa Nostra together.
No fewer than five trusted Stanfa associates, including three formally initiated, or ``made,'' members of his organization cooperated with the government. Three admitted hit men took the stand. Two had worn body wires and recorded conversations. Even by the standards of Philadelphia - where there have been more Mafia turncoats per capita than in any other city in the United States - that was unprecedented.
Those investigative tactics, coupled with tough racketeering laws and stringent sentencing guidelines, have turned the American mob upside down.
Based on the Philadelphia experience, a leading mob figure can expect to wind up dead or in jail. Consider the fate of the city's last four Mafia bosses:
* Angelo Bruno, shotgunned to death in front of his South Philadelphia rowhouse in March 1980.
* Philip Testa, blown up by a nail bomb planted under the porch of his home in the Girard Estates in March 1981.
* Nicodemo ``Little Nicky'' Scarfo, convicted of conspiracy and racketeering, now serving consecutive 14- and 55-year federal prison sentences; in jail since January 1987.
* Stanfa, arrested in March 1994 and sentenced to life with no chance of parole.
Other major mob figures who have been, like Bruno and Testa, ``permanently retired'' include Frank Sindone; Anthony Caponigro; Alfred Salerno; Frank Narducci Sr.; Frank Monte; Pasquale Spirito; Phil Testa's charismatic son, Salvatore; and, most recently, Michael Ciancaglini. They are, for better or worse, the city's lost generation of Mafia leadership.
And those, like Scarfo and Stanfa, who will likely grow old behind bars include Salvatore Merlino, Joseph Ciancaglini Sr., Frank Iannarella, Charles Iannece, Joseph Grande, Frank Narducci Jr., Philip Narducci, Anthony Pungitore, Salvatore Scafidi and more than a dozen of the 29 reputed gangsters swept up in the Stanfa investigation who are already doing time or are in jail awaiting sentencing.
``It's important to let members of the community know that when they cross that line and join the activities of La Cosa Nostra, they are taking a step that has very serious consequences for them,'' Courtney said during last week's sentencing process.
* But whether that message is getting through remains a question.
Courtney is part of a team of career prosecutors that has targeted the mob in the city. He, Joel Friedman, Barry Gross and Paul Mansfield worked the Stanfa case. Friedman and Gross have been making cases against the organization since the Bruno era.
They and a team of veteran FBI agents headed by James Maher, who now supervises the organized-crime squad and who has been investigating the mob for more than 20 years, know the drill. They are masters of the long-term, all-inclusive investigation, content to gather information and evidence for months, or even years, before bringing a case.
After Stanfa's sentencing, Friedman said the case was the result of ``good, hard law-enforcement work.''
``We will go after all vestiges of La Cosa Nostra that remain,'' Friedman said as he left the courthouse after Stanfa's hearing.
That was a not-so-veiled warning to the new leaders of the Philadelphia mob, identified by authorities as veteran mobster Ralph Natale, 66, and his reputed underboss, Joseph ``Skinny Joey'' Merlino, 34.
Both have extensive ties to the organization, Natale having been a top Bruno associate back in the '70s and Merlino's father, Salvatore (now serving a 45-year prison term), having been Scarfo's underboss.
Both, authorities believe, are now following the career paths of Bruno, Testa, Scarfo and Stanfa.
And both, investigators predict, will end up as part of one of the two retirement plans that claimed those four Mafia dons.