Ciancaglini gets 9 years in mob case He had been convicted of racketeering. His lawyer played down his role in La Cosa Nostra.

Posted: December 11, 2001

John Ciancaglini, whose two brothers were gunned down - one killed, the other crippled - in a bloody 1993 mob war, was sentenced to nine years in prison yesterday for his conviction on racketeering charges this summer.

U.S. District Judge Herbert Hutton imposed the sentence, which was 13 months less than the maximum Ciancaglini faced, following an hour-long hearing in which the defense and prosecution presented decidedly different pictures of the South Philadelphia mobster.

Ciancaglini's lawyer, F. Emmett Fitzpatrick, portrayed his client as a hardworking businessman who got involved in an underworld bookmaking operation but who was not a key player in La Cosa Nostra.

Fitzpatrick, a former Philadelphia district attorney, said Ciancaglini was targeted for prosecution in part "because of his name."

But Assistant U.S. Attorney Barry Gross, the lead prosecutor in the racketeering trial that resulted in the convictions of Ciancaglini, mob boss Joseph "Skinny Joey" Merlino, and five others, said Ciancaglini "is in the position he is today because of his actions, not because of his last name."

Ciancaglini, 46, was convicted of racketeering and racketeering conspiracy. The charges were built primarily around his involvement in the mob takeover of a South Philadelphia bookmaking operation.

He was acquitted of a murder charge that was at the heart of the prosecution's case. In fact, jurors returned verdicts of not guilty or not proven to a series of murder and attempted-murder charges that were a major part of the case.

Ciancaglini had been charged, along with Merlino and two others, with participating in the 1995 slaying of William "Billy" Veasey.

That murder, authorities said, was the final chapter in the bloody saga of the Ciancaglini family, a crime family within a crime family in the South Philadelphia underworld.

Joseph "Chickie" Ciancaglini Sr., the father of the family, is serving a 45-year sentence following his racketeering conviction in 1988. Ciancaglini Sr. was a capo in the Nicodemo "Little Nicky" Scarfo mob.

John Ciancaglini was also convicted during the Scarfo era and served nearly seven years for extortion. He was released from prison in 1995.

By that point, his brother Joseph Jr. had been crippled in a gangland shooting and his brother Michael had been killed in a separate underworld ambush.

Joseph Jr. was the underboss for John Stanfa during a 1993 mob war that pitted the Stanfa organization against a faction headed by Merlino and Michael Ciancaglini.

Michael Ciancaglini was killed by John Veasey, brother of William Veasey and a Stanfa hit man who later became a cooperating witness. On the day John Veasey was to testify in Stanfa's racketeering trial, Oct. 5, 1995, William Veasey was gunned down near 20th Street and Oregon Avenue in South Philadelphia.

Prosecutors contended that the shooting was carried out to avenge the Michael Ciancaglini murder and alleged that John Ciancaglini was one of the shooters.

Ciancaglini, who testified in his own defense, denied any involvement in the murder.

Prosecutors also alleged during the trial that Merlino and four associates were involved in the March 1993 shooting that left Joseph Ciancaglini blind in one eye, deaf in one ear, and both mentally and physically disabled.

George Anastasia's e-mail address is ganastasia@phillynews.com.

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