With Ligambi trial, will feds kneecap the mob?

Posted: October 09, 2012

JURY SELECTION begins Tuesday in the racketeering trial of reputed acting Philadelphia mob boss Joseph "Uncle Joe" Ligambi and six lieutenants.

Five co-defendants have pleaded guilty in the case and three other co-defendants facing lesser charges will be tried separately. Jury selection could take up to a week. The trial is expected to last at least two to three months.

Federal prosecutors hope that convicting Ligambi, 73, and his top lieutenants will do lasting damage to the city's already depleted crime family.

The government's trial evidence is expected to include recordings of conversations among the defendants and their co-conspirators; testimony of cooperating witnesses, including former members and associates of the Philadelphia mob, victims and other witnesses; physical evidence, including bank, business, tax and other records; as well as surveillance photographs and videotapes and testimony of expert witnesses.

Court filings in the case state that Ligambi and his associates operated a criminal enterprise that included: extortion of property and money from people involved in both legitimate and illegitimate businesses; illegal gambling businesses involving sports bookmaking and video-poker machines; and loan-sharking, including making usurious loans and extortionate extensions of credit, financing extortionate extensions of credit and collecting extensions of credit by threatening violence.

Prosecutors say that Ligambi became the acting boss of the Philadelphia mob after former boss Joseph "Skinny Joey" Merlino was convicted of racketeering and related offenses in 2001 and got a 14-year sentence. (Merlino was released from a federal halfway house earlier this year and is living in Boca Raton, Fla.)

The only defendant who has agreed to testify for the government in the Ligambi trial is Louis "Bent Finger Lou" Monacello, 45, an associate of jailed mobster and co-defendant George Borgesi, who is Ligambi's nephew. Monacello assisted Borgesi in running the mob's loan-sharking and gambling operations while Borgesi was behind bars for other offenses not charged in the case, authorities said.

In August, the presiding judge in the case ordered that an anonymous jury be empaneled to hear the case and that jurors be sequestered during lunch and recesses. They will be transported each trial day by U.S. marshals to and from an undisclosed central location, from which jurors will commute to their respective communities.


Contact Michael Hinkelman at hinkelm@phillynews.com or 215-854-2656. Follow him on Twitter @MHinkelman.

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