Mob photos used as evidence against Ligambi, Borgesi

Ligambi
Ligambi
Posted: January 08, 2014

MAYBE THE Philadelphia mob fizzled out when Joey Merlino got pinched in 1999.

Or maybe it continued to thrive well into the 21st century on a steady diet of video-poker revenue and loan-sharking juice.

Depends on your benchmarks for a successful criminal organization.

But those photos? They were a bad idea.

As closing arguments began yesterday in the retrial of reputed mob boss Joseph "Uncle Joe" Ligambi and his nephew George Borgesi, federal prosecutors broke out the photo album again.

Not grainy, long-focus photos snapped by FBI agents hiding in a van. These are happy, smiling wiseguys, posing for the camera - group photos they took themselves.

Murderous mob boss Nicodemo "Little Nicky" Scarfo alongside Ligambi and Borgesi and other made men on the beach in 1986. Borgesi smiling with mob associate-turned-informant Louis "Bent Finger Lou" Monacello in prison. The whole Philly crew at mob capo Anthony Staino's wedding in 2010.

In a racketeering-conspiracy case that requires the government to prove relationships among key players, the photos help tie it all together. They could be effective visual aids for a jury that will soon sift through decades of mind-numbing evidence.

"As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words," said Assistant U.S. Attorney John Han. "These are portraits of a crime family."

Han said some La Cosa Nostra members treasure their mob photos, like photos with the president.

"They are like badges of honor," he said.

The defense came out swinging in closing arguments, with Ligambi lawyer Edwin Jacobs Jr. attacking the credibility of well-paid mob rats and Borgesi lawyer Christopher Warren dismissing government evidence as "androgynous bovine excrement."

"They investigated this for years and came up with ugatz - nothing," Warren said.

The trial is the culmination of an investigation that began in 1999. Borgesi, 50, has been in prison since 2000 on a prior racketeering conviction and while awaiting trial on the latest indictment. A conviction for Ligambi, 74, could amount to a life sentence. They are being retried after an earlier jury deadlocked on some of the charges.

Jacobs said the case is built on flimsy testimony from a perjurer, a murderer, a bank robber and other "unscrupulous con men" who have been paid more than half a million dollars collectively and would say anything to stay out of prison.

Besides, Jacobs added, the Philly mob was essentially "dismantled" more than a decade ago by a series of federal indictments and the erosion of the old code of silence, or omerta. Today's mobsters, he insisted, are more like "independent contractors," no longer joined at the hip as they were in the 20th century.

"This is no mob," Jacobs said. "This is not even the shell of a mob anymore."

Closing arguments continue today.


On Twitter: @wbender99

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