There will be wine: Ligambi released, family rejoices

DAVID MAIALETTI / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Joseph Ligambi (center) smiles as he exits the federal courthouse yesterday. He's been locked up the past 32 months.
DAVID MAIALETTI / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Joseph Ligambi (center) smiles as he exits the federal courthouse yesterday. He's been locked up the past 32 months.
Posted: January 30, 2014

JOSEPH "Uncle Joe" Ligambi threw on a woolen trench coat and left the U.S. Marshals office about 11:15 a.m. yesterday. No handcuffs.

The 74-year-old reputed mob boss headed down the escalator, out of the federal courthouse and into the black Cadillac on Market Street that would whisk him away to South Philly. He sat shotgun, a big smile on his face.

You'd think Ligambi's experience with the federal government had consisted of, say, waiting in line at the DMV for a couple of hours - not sitting in prison for 32 months.

Yesterday, U.S. District Judge Eduardo Robreno set Ligambi free after two juries failed to convict him of the charges - including racketeering conspiracy, sports betting and operating video-poker machines, witness tampering and theft of medical benefits - in a sweeping racketeering indictment that had kept him imprisoned since May 2011.

Prosecutors at the U.S. Attorney's Office in Philadelphia, in consultation with the Justice Department in Washington, D.C., decided after the second trial not to try Ligambi a third time.

"Glad to be outta here. Tonight I'm going to go relax," Ligambi said, adding that he could use a vacation. "It's freezing out."

Family and friends celebrated at his Packer Park home. The vino did flow.

"I'm ecstatic," said Ligambi's sister, Manny Borgesi.

Ligambi, who did 10 years in prison on a 1987 murder conviction that later was overturned, has been credited with running a low-key organization since he allegedly took over the mob in 1999 when Joseph Merlino was indicted.

So low-key, in fact, that Ligambi's attorney, Edwin Jacobs Jr., tried to convince the jury that La Cosa Nostra no longer exists in Philly.

"This is no mob," Jacobs said during closing arguments this month. "This is not even the shell of a mob anymore."

Ligambi returns to an uncertain and sparsely populated underworld. Eleven reputed mob members and associates were convicted or pleaded guilty in connection with the 2011 indictment, including wiseguys Joseph "Mousie" Massimino, Damion Canalichio, Marty Angelina, Gaeton Lucibello and Anthony Staino, who once described himself as the mob's "CFO."

Steve Mazzone is believed to have been running the organization since Ligambi's arrest. But federal authorities question whether Merlino, 51, who was released from prison in March 2011, is actually calling the shots from his home in Florida. Ligambi's nephew, George Borgesi, 50, the former mob captain and consigliere, was released Friday after he was acquitted of racketeering conspiracy.

The future could be complicated in South Philly. But for Manny Borgesi, George's mother, everything looked fine yesterday afternoon.

"They're home," she said of her son and brother. "They're finally home."

On Twitter: @wbender99


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