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Cosa Nostra

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NEWS
February 6, 1986 | By Steve Twomey, Inquirer Staff Writer
"I want you to see something. " Judge Giuseppe DiLello led the way down a bleak hall of the Palace of Justice, past the omnipresent armed men who guard him and the other judges, and opened the door of a large room and stepped inside. "This is our case," he said. He knew it would impress. From floor to ceiling, covering all four walls, were metal shelves, and every shelf was crammed with police files, photos, confessions, financial records and transcripts of recordings - hundreds upon hundreds of papers in legal folders and binders.
NEWS
August 28, 2005 | By George Anastasia INQUIRER STAFF WRITER
It was all there in a federal courtroom in Lower Manhattan last week - a moment in time that perfectly captured what has happened to the American Mafia. Cosa Nostra, the "honored society" that spawned Mario Puzo's classic saga, has become the stuff of comic books and supermarket tabloids. "This thing of ours" is now a caricature of itself. The Sopranos writ large. Art imitating life imitating art. So here was Curtis Sliwa, the flamboyant founder of the Guardian Angels and a local morning radio personality, on the witness stand pointing a finger at a mobster who allegedly pumped two bullets into his belly back in 1992.
NEWS
July 2, 1987 | By Michael B. Coakley, Inquirer Staff Writer
Frank "Frankie Flowers" D'Alfonso was in trouble on the night of Oct. 29, 1981. He had just been scraped up off a South Philadelphia pavement and rushed to Pennsylvania Hospital where a bevy of emergency room doctors and nurses were trying to put him back together. The brutal beating with blunt instruments had fractured his skull and broken his jaw and the bones beneath his eyes. His left kneecap and leg were shattered. Even for a reputed member of Philadelphia's fratricidal underworld, this was trouble enough; and then the question from the police detective: "Who did it?"
NEWS
May 20, 2012 | By Frances D'Emilio, Associated Press
ROME - A bomb exploded Saturday outside an Italian high school named after the wife of an assassinated anti-Mafia prosecutor, killing one student and wounding at least seven others, officials said. There was no immediate claim of responsibility, and police were trying to determine who had planted the bomb. But an anti-Mafia prosecutor said it didn't appear to be the kind of attack that organized crime has carried out in Italy. The bombing also followed a spate of attacks against Italian officials and buildings by a group of anarchists.
NEWS
October 18, 1991 | by Jim Smith, Daily News Staff Writer
For the next two weeks, a federal courtroom in Philadelphia will be the site for a highly unusual "imported" trial, one offering a rare opportunity to see firsthand the Italian criminal justice system at work. Beginning Monday, under tight security, three Italian judges who are presiding over a 50-defendant Sicilian Mafia heroin trial in Palermo will sit in the U.S. Courthouse at 6th and Market Streets, to take sworn testimony. The only significant element missing will be the defendants, who weren't invited to confront their accusers.
NEWS
December 8, 1995 | By George Anastasia, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER
He answered questions for nearly two hours. But he said very little. Gaetano Badalamenti, 72, once a high-ranking member of the Sicilian Mafia's ruling commission and a major figure in the notorious Pizza Connection heroin case, was on the witness stand in U.S. District Court yesterday, supposedly to tell Italian authorities what he knew about a series of mob murders that are the focus of two current murder trials in Palermo. Questioned at length by two Italian magistrates, a public prosecutor and a defense lawyer, the grandfatherly mobster offered no hard information.
NEWS
November 10, 1990 | By Douglas J. Keating, Inquirer Staff Writer
The Mafia, a fertile source of material for American writers, usually appears in plays, books or films about crime. Armand's Place may be the first work in which a Mafia don plays a role - not unexpectedly, a negative one - in a play about race relations. In this case, the Mafia gets a bad rap, and the play by Ron Schultz suffers a great loss of credibility by having a mob leader named Don Thomas Del Vecchio as a character. Armand's Place, receiving its initial production from Venture Theater, is set in a pool hall in Queens in 1974.
NEWS
September 17, 1995 | By George Anastasia, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER
It is, by any measure, the most dysfunctional Mafia family in America, an organization torn apart by its indiscriminate use of violence and lack of self-discipline. Since 1980, two of its bosses have been brutally slain. Three others have spent more time in jail than they have on the streets. Thirty members and associates, including a generation of potential leaders, have been killed. Three dozen more have been convicted and sentenced to long jail terms. And, most troubling of all from an underworld perspective, nearly a dozen members and associates have testified in court, shattering omerta, the Mafia's time-honored code of silence, and the concepts of honor and loyalty that supposedly went with it. This is Cosa Nostra Philadelphia-style - a crime family without any recognizable value system.
ENTERTAINMENT
December 9, 1988 | By Desmond Ryan, Inquirer Movie Critic
In the matter of Spike Fumo, a kid from Brooklyn best described as street- dumb, it is possible for honest men and women to have a difference of opinion. Not to mention dishonest men and women. In the candid appraisal of Baldo Cacetti, the Mafia chieftain who rules the Bensonhurst section, Spike is "a loser. Face facts. His dad's a jailbird, his old lady's a dyke, and Spike ain't got no future. " In the kinder opinion of Angel Cacetti, his Mafia princess of a daughter, Spike is just another "dumb Italian guy, but he is cute.
NEWS
July 26, 2010 | By JOHN F. MORRISON, morrisj@phillynews.com 215-854-5573
ONE OF THE jobs of the FBI's organized crime investigators was listening to endless hours of wire-tapped conversations among mob figures. Gino L. Lazzari was especially good at transcribing such tapes because of his Italian heritage, but one day he heard mob figure Phil Testa use a phrase that sounded like, "I rose and lost. " How could that be? It didn't make sense. Only later did Gino realize that Testa was saying, 'La Cosa Nostra," literally "Our Thing," the Mafia's name for its organization.
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NEWS
March 24, 2013
A Portrait of Italy's Most Powerful Mafia By Petra Reski Nation Books, 269 pp. $16.99 paperback Reviewed by George Anastasia A year after Mafia boss Bernardo Provenzano was arrested, I was in Sicily on vacation with my wife and other family members. Provenzano, known as "Binnie the Tractor," was taken into custody in April 2006, after 42 years on the run. He was found in a farmhouse in a small village near Corleone, where he had grown up and where his wife still lived.
NEWS
May 20, 2012 | By Frances D'Emilio, Associated Press
ROME - A bomb exploded Saturday outside an Italian high school named after the wife of an assassinated anti-Mafia prosecutor, killing one student and wounding at least seven others, officials said. There was no immediate claim of responsibility, and police were trying to determine who had planted the bomb. But an anti-Mafia prosecutor said it didn't appear to be the kind of attack that organized crime has carried out in Italy. The bombing also followed a spate of attacks against Italian officials and buildings by a group of anarchists.
NEWS
May 24, 2011 | By WILLIAM BENDER, benderw@phillynews.com 215-854-5255
AS HE LEFT the U.S. Attorney's Office in 2007, renowned mob prosecutor Barry Gross spiked the football - right in the faces of all the South Philly wiseguys he'd put behind bars. "We defeated the mob," Gross proclaimed during a post-retirement interview with the Daily News . Yesterday's sweeping indictment against reputed Philadelphia mob boss Joseph "Uncle Joe" Ligambi and 12 alleged associates is clear proof that Gross was wrong. Or was he? The Philadelphia faction of La Cosa Nostra is a shadow of its former self, eclipsed by the more sophisticated and creative Russian mafia and other underworld groups that profit from vice and scams.
NEWS
July 26, 2010 | By JOHN F. MORRISON, morrisj@phillynews.com 215-854-5573
ONE OF THE jobs of the FBI's organized crime investigators was listening to endless hours of wire-tapped conversations among mob figures. Gino L. Lazzari was especially good at transcribing such tapes because of his Italian heritage, but one day he heard mob figure Phil Testa use a phrase that sounded like, "I rose and lost. " How could that be? It didn't make sense. Only later did Gino realize that Testa was saying, 'La Cosa Nostra," literally "Our Thing," the Mafia's name for its organization.
NEWS
August 28, 2005 | By George Anastasia INQUIRER STAFF WRITER
It was all there in a federal courtroom in Lower Manhattan last week - a moment in time that perfectly captured what has happened to the American Mafia. Cosa Nostra, the "honored society" that spawned Mario Puzo's classic saga, has become the stuff of comic books and supermarket tabloids. "This thing of ours" is now a caricature of itself. The Sopranos writ large. Art imitating life imitating art. So here was Curtis Sliwa, the flamboyant founder of the Guardian Angels and a local morning radio personality, on the witness stand pointing a finger at a mobster who allegedly pumped two bullets into his belly back in 1992.
NEWS
April 30, 2003 | By George Anastasia INQUIRER STAFF WRITER
He is the new face of organized crime in New Jersey, but he wore a hood, dark sunglasses and a baseball cap pulled low over his forehead yesterday when he testified before the State Commission of Investigation. Identified only as "Rey," the admitted drug dealer and "warlord" for a chapter of the Latin Kings was the final witness at the first of two days of hearings into underworld activity in the Garden State. His story supported the themes touched on by nearly a dozen law enforcement officials who also appeared before the panel - "super gangs," particularly the Latin Kings and the Bloods, are emerging as dominant players in the underworld, spreading from urban centers to the surrounding suburbs.
NEWS
December 11, 2001 | By George Anastasia INQUIRER STAFF WRITER
John Ciancaglini, whose two brothers were gunned down - one killed, the other crippled - in a bloody 1993 mob war, was sentenced to nine years in prison yesterday for his conviction on racketeering charges this summer. U.S. District Judge Herbert Hutton imposed the sentence, which was 13 months less than the maximum Ciancaglini faced, following an hour-long hearing in which the defense and prosecution presented decidedly different pictures of the South Philadelphia mobster. Ciancaglini's lawyer, F. Emmett Fitzpatrick, portrayed his client as a hardworking businessman who got involved in an underworld bookmaking operation but who was not a key player in La Cosa Nostra.
NEWS
April 19, 2001 | By George Anastasia INQUIRER STAFF WRITER
Mob boss Ralph Natale was forced to defend his personal life and his organized-crime pedigree yesterday as defense attorneys continued to hammer away at the chief government witness in the federal racketeering trial of Joseph "Skinny Joey" Merlino and six codefendants. During his 13th day on the witness stand in the high-profile mob case, Natale was portrayed as a "con man" who bilked friends and associates out of more than $400,000, as a rogue who spent thousands on a young girlfriend, and as a mob pretender who boasted about "Cosa Nostra" but had no real standing in the organization.
NEWS
April 5, 2001 | By George Anastasia INQUIRER STAFF WRITER
Ralph Natale called it "mob talk. " It was, he said, from his life on "the dark side. " Now he is a cooperating government witness. And yesterday, his fourth day on the witness stand in the federal racketeering trial of Joseph "Skinny Joey" Merlino and six other reputed wiseguys, the onetime mob boss provided the jury with an insider's view of La Cosa Nostra. Responding to questions posed by Assistant U.S. Attorney Barry Gross, Natale talked about mob jargon, explained omerta - the code of silence - and provided an account of a typical "making," or initiation, ceremony.
NEWS
March 31, 2001 | by Kitty Caparella Daily News Staff Writer
One day after defense attorneys called him every name in the book, Ralph Natale took command of the witness box, like the general he described a mob boss to be. His responses were firm, direct, well-rehearsed. Gone was the arrogance and the chip on his shoulder he exhibited last year when he pleaded guilty to eight murders, or when he testified against Camden Mayor Milton Milan at a federal bribery trial. Yesterday, the short, muscular 66-year-old was dressed in a black suit, crisp white shirt and black tie with shaved bald head, gray goatee and mustache - an outfit apropos for a funeral.
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