Mobster shot in Center City Raymond "Long John" Martorano, 74, was ambushed while heading to a doctor's appointment. Some fear the attack could signal a mob war.

Posted: January 18, 2002

Raymond "Long John" Martorano, an aging mobster and one-time major moneymaker for the local crime family, was shot and critically wounded yesterday in what some law-enforcement sources say could be the start of a battle for control of the beleaguered Philadelphia mob.

Martorano, 74, was listed in critical condition at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, where he was rushed after being ambushed at 4:35 p.m. near Eighth and Spruce Streets while driving to a doctor's appointment at Pennsylvania Hospital, police said.

He was shot in the right arm, chest and stomach by a gunman who police say fired three bullets through the windshield of his Lincoln Town Car.

Police said Martorano was riding alone in the black Town Car west on Spruce when the shooting occurred. The car glided across Eighth Street and rammed into a fire hydrant just outside Pennsylvania Hospital.

Investigators last night were trying to determine whether Martorano was shot from another vehicle or by someone on foot. Police were also unclear as to exactly where the ambush occurred.

A police officer who talked to Martorano before he was taken to Jefferson said the victim said that "he doesn't know" who shot him.

One law-enforcement source believed the shooting was connected to an attempt by Martorano to reestablish himself in the underworld.

"These guys never learn," the source said.

Though Martorano was once a major methamphetamine distributor in the city, the source said the veteran mob soldier has been trying to move into the gambling business in South Philadelphia since his release from prison in 1999.

"He can't help himself," said an underworld source. "It's like people who can't retire. They have to have something to do. There's money in gambling. It's the easiest and it's the best money."

The mob's involvement in South Philadelphia's highly lucrative bookmaking and loan-sharking businesses was detailed in the racketeering trial this summer that ended with the convictions of mob boss Joseph "Skinny Joey" Merlino and six top associates.

Federal and state investigators said during that trial that acting mob boss Joseph Ligambi had taken control of the gambling operations in Merlino's absence.

Martorano and Ligambi, 62, were both soldiers under mob boss Nicodemo "Little Nicky" Scarfo in the early 1980s. Both were convicted of gangland murders, and both were released from prison after those convictions were overturned.

While in prison, Martorano reportedly had a falling-out with Scarfo and most members of the organization. Sources say Martorano was angered over the fact that members of the crime family took over his lucrative loan-sharking operation and did not offer to share any of that income with him or his family. Martorano also feuded with Scarfo over the drug conviction of his son, George "Cowboy" Martorano.

Raymond Martorano apparently believed that Scarfo and others could have provided more support for the younger Martorano, who was sentenced to life in prison after pleading guilty to drug-trafficking charges in 1984.

"He's been angry for a long time," said a source who was once close to Martorano.

One law-enforcement official who has been tracking Martorano since his release from prison said the question now is: "Does Long John have enough people around him to shoot back?"

Martorano served more than 17 years in prison on drug-trafficking and murder charges before his release in November 1999. The release came after the Pennsylvania Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling overturning his 1984 conviction in the murder of Philadelphia Roofers Union boss John McCullough. The conviction was tossed out based on prosecutorial misconduct.

The Martorano shooting is considered the first mob hit attempt since the gangland slaying of Ronald Turchi more than two years ago. Turchi was found stuffed in the trunk of his car in South Philadelphia on Oct. 26, 1999. No one has been charged with that murder, but testimony by one mob informant at the Merlino trial linked Ligambi to that slaying.

F. Emmett Fitzpatrick, Martorano's attorney, said last night he had not spoken with his client since Martorano's release from jail.

"I don't know what he was involved in," Fitzpatrick said. "I know he moved back downtown, but I don't know what he was doing."

Martorano, a former Cherry Hill resident, spent some time in Las Vegas after getting out of prison but returned to the area a short time later. He reportedly moved from Cherry Hill to Sixth and Fitzwater Streets last year.

Martorano once owned a popular South Philadelphia restaurant, Cous' Little Italy at 11th and Christian Streets. He was also the point man for the mob in its control of the South Jersey Bartenders' Union in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Martorano surfaced on the mob scene as an associate of mob boss Angelo Bruno in the 1960s and 1970s. Bruno, who was killed in 1980, was a salesman for John's Vending, a cigarette-vending machine company run by Martorano and his brother.

At a news conference held last night less than 30 feet from the blood-splattered Lincoln, Police Capt. Thomas Lippo said investigators were tracking every possible lead in the shooting.

"As far as a gunman, we have no idea," Lippo said of the homicide division. "We're knocking on doors. We're going door-to-door to see if we can come up with something."

While Martorano was listed in critical but stable condition last night, investigators and police crime lab experts fanned out over the crime scene. Working in the almost-surreal glow of overhead, orange sodium lights, crews were closely examining the Town Car and the area around the vehicle. Others worked their way down the block with the aid of high-intensity lights mounted on a trailer.

Investigators said Martorano had a doctor's appointment yesterday at Pennsylvania Hospital, possibly with a cardiologist, although it was unclear last night whether he was headed to or from the appointment.

The shooting occurred in a busy section of the city at the start of the evening rush hour as workers and doctors were ending their shifts at Pennsylvania Hospital. Hospital buildings occupy three corners of the intersection.

One eyewitness, a pedestrian who was late for a doctor's appointment, said he saw the Town Car go through the intersection and jump the curb.

The witness, who declined to give his name, said he and several others rushed to the car. Another man, he said, opened the back door and reached over the seat to shut off the ignition.

The witness said the driver was "slumped over." He said the seat and floor of the car were covered with blood.

A police sergeant who assisted Martorano out of the car said "he looked bad in the car, but when they got him in the back of the [emergency] van, he sat up."

Police towed the Town Car from the crime scene shortly after 8 last night.

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

Martorano's Career

These are highlights from Raymond "Long John" Martorano's underworld history.

1970s: Martorano headed John's Vending and John's Wholesale Distributors Inc. Mob boss Angelo Bruno listed his occupation as a "commission salesman" for the companies. In 1977, in testimony before the New Jersey State Commission of Investigation, Martorano said that Bruno was "the finest salesman we've ever had."

1981: Authorities say Martorano became a "made" member of the mob after allegedly orchestrating the 1980 slaying of Philadelphia Roofers Union boss John McCullough.

1982: Martorano was sentenced to 10 years in prison after his conviction for methamphetamine trafficking.

1984: Martorano was sentenced to life in prison for the McCullough murder.

1999: Martorano was released from prison after the Pennsylvania Supreme Court upheld a 1996 appellate court ruling overturning his conviction in the McCullough murder, citing prosecutorial misconduct.

October 2000: An out-of-court settlement quietly resolved a lawsuit filed against Martorano a year earlier by mob informant Thomas "Tommy Del" DelGiorno, who had sought payment of a six-figure debt he claimed Martorano owed him.

Yesterday: Martorano was shot and critically wounded in Center City.

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