Ligambi expected to be 'available for lunch' today

Posted: January 29, 2014

JOSEPH LIGAMBI, the 74-year-old reputed Philadelphia mob boss, hasn't been convicted of a crime, but he's been locked up at the Federal Detention Center since May 2011, held without bail while awaiting trial on a massive racketeering indictment.

Yesterday, after a 13-year investigation and two lengthy trials, the government threw in the towel, filing a one-sentence motion to drop all charges. Both juries had failed to convict Ligambi of racketeering conspiracy, gambling, loan-sharking, theft of medical benefits or obstruction of justice.

"Two and a half years," said Ligambi's attorney, Edwin Jacobs Jr. "Who the hell wants to stay in jail for 2 1/2 years waiting for trial? We moved for bail both times and failed both times."

But that's how it works with the feds: Prosecutors bite down hard and hate to let go. Win or lose, they usually take a chunk out of the defendant.

Juries returned mixed verdicts in February and last week, acquitting Ligambi on some charges and deadlocking on others. They found him guilty of nothing. Ligambi's 50-year-old nephew and co-defendant, George Borgesi, was found not guilty of racketeering conspiracy and was released Friday.

"Finally, we have some good news," Ligambi's son, Stephen, told the Daily News yesterday. "Of course we're bitter that he had to sit in prison. The holding cells are worse than prison. But we're going to focus on the positive. He's coming home."

U.S. District Judge Eduardo Robreno is expected to sign an order for Ligambi's release following a conference call with the attorneys this morning.

"It looks like it's going to be over," Jacobs said. "He should be signing the order at 9 a.m. and Joe should be available for lunch."

Federal authorities say Ligambi took control of the mob after Joseph Merlino got busted in 1999. He's kept a low profile, compared with Merlino and prior Philly bosses like John Stanfa and Nicodemo "Little Nicky" Scarfo. Ligambi did nearly 10 years in prison for the 1985 murder of Frank "Frankie Flowers" D'Alfonso, but was released in 1997 after the conviction was overturned.

Stephen Ligambi thanked those who stood by the family and "showered us with prayers during this long, arduous process." He said his father is misunderstood outside South Philly.

"The way that the media portrays him and the way the government looks upon him is not how he is in real life. When people think 'mafia' they think 'Goodfellas' and 'The Sopranos' and everything they see in pop culture," Stephen Ligambi said. "My father is one of the most caring, loving guys you'll ever meet. He'd take the shirt off his back for you. He's such a strong pillar in the community."

Assistant U.S. Attorney Frank Labor declined to comment yesterday, other than to say that the decision to drop the charges against Ligambi was "made in consultation with the Department of Justice" in Washington, D.C. Several Ligambi associates, including Anthony Staino, Joseph "Mousie" Massimino and Damion Canalichio, were convicted in the first trial.

"They're not stupid lawyers," Jacobs said of federal prosecutors. "They saw what two juries did to their case against Joe."


On Twitter: @wbender99

Blog: ph.ly/DailyDelco

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