Transcript: How wiseguys are “made,” in their own words

Posted: May 04, 2012

A detention memo filed this week in U.S. District Court by federal prosecutors provides a “fly-on-the-wall” look at a May 2010 mob meeting in an unnamed New Jersey restaurant. The memo was filed in support of a government motion to deny bail to Joseph “Scoops” Licata, 70, and Louis “Big Lou” Fazzini, 45, who were added as defendants in a racketeering case against Philadelphia mob leader Joseph “Uncle Joe” Ligambi and 11 others.

The memo includes more than a dozen references to secretly recorded conversations picked up on a body wire worn by a cooperating witness While the witness is not identified by authorities, reliable sources say it was Nicholas “Nicky Skins” Stefanelli, a soldier in the Gambino crime family who wore a wire for the FBI for two years.

What follows is a partial transcript from that meeting, with Licata reminiscing about the 2007 “making” ceremony at which Fazzini and others were formally inducted into the Philadelphia crime family, refered to in the document as “LCN” (La Cosa Nostra).

Licata notes that Fazzini and Eric Esposito, a co-defendant in the racketeering case, were made at the same ceremony conducted by Ligambi. He states that Anthony Staino, another codefendant, also was present, along with Michael Lancelotti. Staino and Lancelotti, referred to as “Lance,” have been described as capos or captains in the Ligambi orgnaization.

Five others, including codefendant Damion Canalichio, were inducted in an earlier ceremony, Licata says, noting that Canalichio was initiated shortly before he went to prison (the “can”) for a drug conviction.

Licata references then-jailed mob boss Joseph “Skinny Joey” Merlino, who he says had proposed three others for membership. Ligambi declined to “make” those unnamed associates, Licata says, because he didn’t know them well. He tells Licata that Merlino can make them himself when he he comes home from prison.

Also below, from the detention memo, is the federal prosecutors’ analysis of the transcript.

Note to readers: The transcript contains frequent profanity.

Joseph Licata: It was five before you, and it was two that night. That’s seven guys. Seven guys. That’s it. That’s it. Seven made.

Cooperating witness: That’s enough.

Licata: See, that’s it … (unintelligble)

Cooperating witness: You want quantity or quality, you know?

Licata: Damion [Canalichio] was before you.

Louis Fazzini: Before me?

Licata: Then he went to the can. Yeah. Damion was before. He might have been with the first five.

Fazzini: Right.

Licata: Yeah. First five. Then you guys came. And it was five that night supposed to be with youse. When I got there, there was only three. I says what happened? Said when he [Merlino] comes home let him do it. He, he… (unintelligible) so I said where’s the other three, 'cause we’re all sitting in the room. They’re all downstairs. When he comes home.

Cooperating witness: (unintelligible)

Fazzini: See this joint? When I, when I got straightened out, you either knew you were getting straightened out or you’re getting clipped. One of the fucking two.

[Laughter]

Fazzini: Because I was alone. And then — you see when they’re in Good Fellas, when they walked in and the joint’s empty?

Licata: Yeah. Yeah.

Fazzini: It was a fucking old meat market. And I walk in, and they put me at a table, and I’m waiting, and they’re all upstairs.

Licata: We brought you up first, though.

Fazzini: And I’m all by myself.

Licata: We brought you up first, though. We brought you up first, though. You went before Damion.

Fazzini: Yeah. But I was still downstairs.

Licata: Yeah, but you were… (unintelligible).

Fazzini: Youse brought me up, and I’m at a table. I says, man, good thing I know I ain’t got a dirty...

Cooperating witness: We, we did it by five… (unintelligible) five of us… (unintelligible)...They went by age.

Licata: Did they? By, by age?

Cooperating witness: By age.

Licata: Now, when we were walked in, Anthony [Staino] walked us in, ‘cause he picked us up. So, he says, Louie, you go there. C’mon Joe, we’re going up, and I walk in and Joe’s sitting there with a shirt and tie on. Joe’s all duded up.

Cooperating witness: I mean, they’re all good guys.

Licata: Yeah.

Fazzini: And then I’m, I’m in the, I’m, I’m, the joint’s closed. It was like a fucking banquet hall.

Licata: Yeah, yeah. It was locked. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

Fazzini: You know the joint, you know. And I’m downstairs, and I’m sitting at a table by myself.

Licata:[Laughs]

Fazzini: And, uh, they’re all upstairs. And I don’t know. Was Eric [Esposito] downstairs with me? (unintelligble)

Licata: No. They brought him in. Lance [Michael Lancelotti] brought him in.

Fazzini: Yeah. Yeah.

Licata: He came late. He came late with him.

Fazzini: Yeah. And then, uh –

Licata: Lance. Caporegime.

Fazzini: Yeah. Then they called me up. I said, all right. At least I know I’m not…

Licata: No. You came up first. ‘Cause Joe set it up.

Fazzini: I know I didn’t do nothing to nobody, but...

Licata: No, no. He said bring Louie up first. He gave me that honor. You know? Which, you want to know the truth? The kid was from Philly; it should be him. You know? But he brought him up first, which was nice.

Cooperating witness: Good… (unintelligible) Same thing.

Licata: Yeah.

Fazzini: It was nice.

Licata: Then we all went and ate. Right? With a big spread.

Fazzini: Right.

Licata: And he couldn’t get, couldn’t get the fucking blood out of his finger, with the pin. And he got the fucking knife...

Cooperating witness: We had, we had another guy, too.

Fazzini: Yeah. Yeah.

Licata: The fucking blood splashed all over his shirt, my shirt...

Fazzini: And he got a knife like this here…

Licata: Joe’s shirt!

Fazzini: (unintelligible) Yeah. Yeah. I had, yeah.

Licata: (unintelligible) … all full of blood.

Fazzini: I still got the shirt at home. I saved it. I don’t fit in it anymore, but I have it at home.

Licata: Madone! It splashed all over me.

Cooperating witness: That’s funny.

Licata: And Joe got it.

Cooperating witness: That’s funny.

Licata: He, I can’t get through with this! It was so funny. Well, at least we can laugh about it.

This passage shows that Fazzini is a “made” member of the Philadelphia LCN Family, that Licata sponsored Fazzini, and that Ligambi, assisted by Staino, presided over the ceremony. This conversation also reflects that codefendants Damion Canalichio and Eric Esposito are “made” members of the Philadelphia LCN Family. The conversation explicitly acknowledges elements of the LCN “making” ceremony such as pricking the finger of the proposed member and the presence of a knife. It demonstrates Fazzini’s understanding that he was gaining membership into a violent organization (reference to the Good Fellas movie and the cutting of his finger with the knife), and his willingness to commit acts of violence in furtherance of the enterprise. The ever-present specter of violence is manifested by Fazzini’s comment he didn’t know if he was going to be initiated (“straightened out”) or murdered (“clipped”). Fazzini’s pride in his membership and adherence to LCN values is demonstrated by his comment that he kept the bloody shirt as a trophy of his induction ceremony.

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