Alleged threat may cost reputed mobster bail

Anthony Staino (left) was one of 13 reputed mob members and associates, including Joseph "Uncle Joe" Ligambi (right), charged in the racketeering-gambling indictment. (File Photos)
Anthony Staino (left) was one of 13 reputed mob members and associates, including Joseph "Uncle Joe" Ligambi (right), charged in the racketeering-gambling indictment. (File Photos)
Posted: May 24, 2011

Reputed mob leader Anthony Staino had a reputation as a businessman-wiseguy who was more interested in making money than busting heads.

But a conversation secretly recorded by the FBI presents a different side.

In it, according to an indictment unsealed Monday, Staino threatened to kill an individual who owed him $48,000.

The conversation, recorded in June 2003, is expected to be cited Wednesday when federal prosecutors argue that Staino, 53, should be denied bail pending trial.

Staino was one of 13 reputed mob members and associates, including alleged mob boss Joseph "Uncle Joe" Ligambi, charged in the racketeering-gambling indictment.

The government has filed motions to deny bail to Staino, Ligambi, and four other key defendants in the case. A separate bail hearing is scheduled for Wednesday for Gaeton Lucibello. Several other hearings, including one for Ligambi, are scheduled for later this week.

Staino, who lives with his wife in South Jersey, has been described as one of Ligambi's top associates and part of a small inner circle that ran the crime family.

Unlike the other defendants, he has no prior convictions, a fact that in most circumstances would weigh heavily in favor of bail.

But the indictment includes snippets from the 2003 conversation in which Staino threatened to put a bullet in the head of the debtor who owed him $48,000.

In an expletive-laden rant, Staino told an associate of the debtor: "I'm going to kill him. . . . I'm going to have to go [expletive] hurt this guy. . . . I got two [expletive] gorillas . . . [expletive] chop him up."

Staino said Ligambi was "[expletive] flipping" because "nothing's coming in."

The indictment alleges that Staino and several other defendants used fear and threats of violence to collect illegal loan-shark debts and to muscle their way into the highly lucrative video-poker-machine business for the Ligambi organization.

In another conversation in 2004, the indictment alleges, Staino and an associate threatened an individual identified as "Dino" over a loan-sharking debt.

"Please, on my life, I like you. I don't want to have to [expletive] hurt you," Staino allegedly said in urging Dino to keep his payments current.

Dino, according to the indictment, was an undercover FBI agent who was recording Staino's every word.

Those conversations are expected to be used by prosecutors to support their argument that Staino should not be permitted bail.

Staino's attorney, Gregory Pagano, said Tuesday that he would build his argument for bail around two issues.

First, he said, his client has no criminal record and has never been arrested.

Second, Pagano said, the threats cited in the indictment were made at least seven years ago. None was carried out. And the government, which knew about the threats, made no attempt to get his client off the streets.

"These things happened so long ago, and the government waited so long to bring these charges, you have to wonder," Pagano said.

Lucibello's attorney, Christopher Warren, said he would argue that the government's position for no bail was built around an assumption of guilt rather than a presumption of innocence, and was a denial of his client's basic rights.

He pointed out that Lucibello, 58, was denied bail in a 1994 mob-racketeering case and spent 22 months in prison before going to trial.

He was found innocent, and, Warren noted, the government had no way of giving him his 22 months back.

On Thursday, Ligambi, 71, the reputed mob boss; Joseph "Mousie" Massimino, 61, the crime family's alleged underboss; and mob associate Louis "Bent Finger Lou" Monacello, 44, will have bail hearings. And on Friday, mobster Martin Angelina, 48, will seek his release.

Two other defendants, George Borgesi, 47, and Damion Canalichio, 41, are already serving time on unrelated federal charges.

Those defendants and five others were charged in a racketeering-gambling indictment that authorities contend offers a look at the lucrative illegal-gambling and loan-sharking operation that Ligambi controlled.

Sports betting, illegal video-poker machines, and loan-sharking were the big moneymakers for the crime family, authorities say.

On another tape, according to the indictment, Staino talked about a company he, Massimino, and Ligambi had set up, JMA Industries, through which, authorities allege, their illegal income was funneled.

The company, Staino said, allowed them to "hide the money from the feds."


Contact staff writer George Anastasia at 856-779-3846

or ganastasia@phillynews.com.

Follow the Inquirer at www.Twitter.com/PhillyInquirer and www.Facebook.com/PhillyInquirer

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