Case against reputed mob associate began with insurance fraud probe

Posted: December 26, 2013

PHILADELPHIA The attempted murder case against reputed mob associate Ronald Galati had its roots in an insurance fraud investigation of the South Philadelphia auto-body man, according to court documents.

Galati, 63, is charged with ordering the killings of three men, including a rival auto-body shop owner who had testified against him in the insurance fraud case, the documents say. He also stands accused of hiring a hit man to kill the man's son. And he is charged with ordering a hit on his daughter's boyfriend, according to a 10-page affidavit filed in Common Pleas Court.

A onetime associate of former mob boss Joey Merlino, Galati agreed to pay two hitmen $20,000 each for killing the father and son, according to court records.

He is being held on $500,000 bail on charges of attempted murder, solicitation of murder, witness intimidation, witness retaliation, and conspiracy.

Through his lawyer, Anthony Voci, Galati has denied any wrongdoing. Voci has said "there is not a single piece of hard evidence" against Galati.

According to the affidavit, police caught wind of Galati's plans to kill in November when his daughter's boyfriend, Andrew Tuono, was shot outside his Atlantic City home.

Tuono survived three gunshot wounds to his abdomen, and Atlantic City police arrested the two gunmen blocks away. They told police Galati had hired them to kill Tuono, according to court documents. It was unclear why Galati is said to have wanted the boyfriend dead.

The gunmen also told police that Galati had initially hired them to kill the rival South Philadelphia auto-body shop owner and his son, but that those hits had been delayed.

Aware of Galati's suspected mob ties, investigators in New Jersey informed the FBI and the Pennsylvania State Police Organized Crime Unit. Eventually, Philadelphia police joined the investigation, which is continuing.

Galati had first contacted the men through an acquaintance about killing the father and son around Halloween, the affidavit said.

He had hired one of the men in the past to vandalize cars, according the affidavit. Now, he said he needed something bigger done, the affidavit said.

"This guy is ratting on men on an insurance thing," Galati told one of the gunmen, according to the document.

The father and son have "got to go," Galati said, according to the court papers, telling the men he wanted them to go to the garage and shoot both in the head.

Galati reached into his pocket for a $800 down payment, the affidavit states.

The two men said they did "recon" missions to scope out the father and son's auto body shop. The hit was eventually called off, they said, because the shop had been padlocked by the city before the men could act. It is unclear why the shop was shut.

During one trip, one of the gunmen introduced himself to the father and asked him for a job, giving him a fake phone number, according to court papers.

The two men told investigators that after the shop was shuttered, an acquaintance of Galati's told them to "forget about this one" and start focusing on the daughter's boyfriend instead.

The acquaintance often acted as a go-between for Galati and the gunmen and accompanied them on some of the recon trips, according to the court papers. It is unclear from the court records if he has been charged with any crime.

In November, one of the gunmen met with Galati and the acquaintance at a Rite Aid parking lot, where Galati allegedly reminded them he would still need their help after the boyfriend was dead.

"After this job is done, I have two really big jobs that need to be done, and some mediocre ones too," he allegedly told the man.

One of the gunmen told investigators that in the last year, Galati had paid him between $500 and $1,500 to commit 20 acts of vandalism on cars.

The other gunman said he had known Galati for about 10 years. In that time, he said Galati had paid him to perform about 50 acts of vandalism to vehicles and set fire to boats and a house.

He said he was paid between $20 and $50 for each of those acts.

Before his arrest, Galati worked at American Collision & Automotive Center, near 20th and McKean Streets, a business owned by his children. As part of the insurance investigation, surveillance cameras had been trained on the shop, the affidavit said. In October, it said, the cameras captured video of Galati and the three conspirators outside the shop.


mnewall@phillynews.com

215-854-2759

@MikeNewall

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