|Philadelphia Special Agent in Charge George Venizelos, at podium, announces indictments.
On Monday, a
superseding federal grand jury indictment was announced charging 13
members and associates of the Philadelphia La Cosa Nostra (LCN) family
with racketeering, extortion, loan sharking, illegal gambling, and
Eleven of the 13—including the reputed
boss and underboss of the criminal enterprise—were arrested earlier that
day in Philadelphia and New Jersey. Two of the subjects were already
serving time in federal prison for previous convictions but managed to
continue their racketeering activities from behind bars.
Alleged mob boss Joseph Ligambi rose
through the ranks of the Philadelphia LCN crime family and took over at
the helm after the 2001 incarceration of previous boss Joseph “Skinny
Joey” Merlino on racketeering charges.
The indictment alleges that for more
than a decade, Ligambi, underboss Joseph Massimino, and the others
conspired to generate money through various crimes. For example,
they reportedly operated illegal gambling businesses involving sports
bookmaking and electronic gambling devices in places like bars,
restaurants, convenience stories, and coffee shops…and pocketed the
proceeds. Mafia families like the one in Philadelphia often make
millions of dollars and traditionally use gambling proceeds as seed
money for other crimes.
The defendants also offered “loans”—at
exorbitant interest rates—to victims who knew there would be dire
consequences if they failed to repay them within a certain time frame.
To carry out their crimes, the defendants often used actual or implied threats of violence against their victims.
According to the indictment, some of the defendants used phrases like,
“I’ll put a bullet in your head,” and, “Chop him up,” to threaten
victims who weren’t repaying their loans. The defendants used their
reputation for violence to intimidate and prevent victims and witnesses
from cooperating with law enforcement.
The defendants also actively worked to conceal their illegal operations from law enforcement.
For example, they used coded language over the phone, such as calling
the electronic gambling devices “coffee machines.” They often took “walk
and talks” where they would conduct covert conversations with each
other while walking to and from a particular destination because they
thought they couldn’t be intercepted. They also established companies
that appeared to be legitimate but were actually created to launder
money and conceal the illegal nature of their activities.
To collect the evidence needed for these
indictments, this long-term investigation included undercover scenarios,
court-authorized electronic surveillances, consensual recordings, and
many hours of physical surveillance.
This particular case was a good example of law enforcement cooperation at its best—the
Philadelphia Police Department, the Pennsylvania and New Jersey State
Police, the Criminal Division of the Internal Revenue Service, and the
Department of Labor all worked alongside the Philadelphia FBI, with
additional assistance from the New Jersey Department of Corrections and
the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office. Prosecutors from the
Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office and the Department of Justice’s
Organized Crime and Racketeering Section are assisting the U.S.
Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania as well.
This arrest of the reputed leadership of the Philadelphia LCN comes on the heels of the large mafia takedown in New York
earlier this year. And law enforcement efforts against the LCN, as well
as other types of organized crime—international and domestic—will
– Press release