Prosecutors dragged the octogenarian ex-capo from Newark, N.J., out of retirement in an undisclosed location to give the jury a daylong lesson of Mafia 101 and to explain that La Cosa Nosta's history of violence is what enabled the Philadelphia crime family to profit during the last decade.
"They live off violence," and "there'd be no mob" without it, he said.
Caprio, his once-gray hair apparently dyed black to match his sweater, said that he'd spent years "shylocking" and that anyone who didn't repay their debts - plus steep interest - would have "a problem." He said a baseball bat can be effective in resolving certain financial predicaments.
"Your head was your collateral," Caprio recalled for Assistant U.S. Attorney David Fritchey.
But the current indictment against Ligambi and other "made" men in the Philly mob focuses on gambling, loan-sharking and extortion. It includes no murders.
"The whole case is a joke," Ligambi's nephew and co-defendant, George Borgesi, was overheard telling a relative during a break.
Caprio's failing hearing made for some awkward moments during cross-examination:
"Aren't you responsible for about a half-dozen murders?" asked Ligambi's attorney, Edwin Jacobs Jr.
"What?" Caprio responded. Jacobs repeated the question. Didn't help.
"I can't hear you," Caprio said.
Caprio, who said he got his nickname from eating coffee cakes and doing "crummy" things, came off as a remorseless killer, and prosecutors sought to draw a parallel between his life of crime and that of Ligambi's crew.
"They're gangsters," Caprio said, "just like me."
But Jacobs portrayed Caprio as a mob rat who would say anything to stay out of prison. The federal government has paid him $360,000 since he's been in the witness-protection program, Jacobs said.
"You don't have a conscience, do you?" Jacobs asked.
"No, sir," Caprio responded.