Openings Thursday in Ligambi mob trial

Posted: October 18, 2012

Opening arguments are scheduled Thursday in the racketeering trial of reputed mob boss Joseph "Uncle Joe" Ligambi and six codefendants.

A final group of alternate jurors were selected Wednesday to hear testimony in the case, which is expected to last from eight to 12 weeks.

Twelve jurors and six alternates were selected in a process that began last week. For security reasons, jurors were selected anonymously, a safeguard often used in high profile criminal cases involving alleged underworld figures.

The racketeering conspiracy case includes charges of gambling, loan-sharking and extortion. In addition, Ligambi is accused of defrauding a Teamsters Union health fund of more than $200,000 in medical and dental expenses for himself and his family.

The charges stem from what prosecutors allege was Ligambi's no-show job at a South Philadelphia trash hauling company.

Ligambi, 73, is being tried along with reputed mob members Joseph "Scoops" Licata, 71, Joseph "Mousie" Massimino, 62, Anthony Staino, 54, George Borgesi, 49, and Damion Canalichio, 42, and mob associate Gary Battaglini, 51.

The prosecution is expected to call several former mob members and associates who are now cooperating witnesses. Other testimony will come from FBI agents, undercover operatives and victims of alleged mob extortions and shakedowns.

The jury will also hear dozens of secretly recorded conversation made during an FBI investigation that began in 1999 and ended with the unsealing of the indictment against Ligambi and the others in May 2011.

As it has done in pretrial motions, the defense is expected to argue in its opening statements to the jury that the government's case is built around less than credible witnesses and is a cobbled-together string of unrelated alleged crimes that do not justify a racketeering charge.

The defense has also pointed out that the case does not include any allegations of murder, attempted murder or assault, charges that have been highlighted in several earlier mob trials.

In fact, the case has been dubbed "racketeering lite," by veteran criminal lawyer Edwin Jacobs Jr. who is representing Ligambi.

Prosecutors, however, have charged that the Ligambi organization used its reputation for violence, built over years to instill fear and to intimidate those targeted for extortions and shakedowns.

Four defendants in the case pleaded guilty prior to the start of the trial. Three others are to be tried at a later date.


Contact staff writer George Anastasia at 856-779-3846 or ganastasia@phillynews.com.

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