Friday, December 7, 2012

Tony Soprano and Joe Ligambi, Garbage Mobsters

Not for nothing was Tony Soprano a "solid waste management consultant."

The writers of that highly acclaimed cable televison series borrowed from real life when they created "employment" for the ficticious New Jersey crime boss. The mob, they knew, has always had its hooks into the trash business.

Jurors in the ongoing trial of Philadelphia mob boss Joseph "Uncle Joe" Ligambi are about to get another version of that same story. Prosecutors on Friday began laying the groundwork for one of the last charges remaining in the two-month-old racketeering conspiracy case -- an allegation that Ligambi turned a "no show" job with a South Philadelphia trash hauling company into nearly a quarter million dollars in medical benefits.

The prosecution is expected to rest early next week after additional testimony is presented that details Ligambi's labor arrangement with Top Job Disposal Inc. Authorities allege that the 73-year-old mob boss was on the company payroll for more than 10 years, but did not do any work.

In addition to collecting a salary, authorities say, he and his family received $224,424 in medical benefits from a Teamsters Union health fund. The indictment charges Ligambi with theft of employee benefits, alleging his job was a sham and he was not entitled to health care provided by the union contract.

William Einhorn, the administrator for the Teamsters Health & Welfare Fund of Philadelphia, spent nearly three hours on the witness stand Friday detailing the provisions of coverage provided under the contract between Top Job and the Teamsters Union.

Einhorn confirmed that records showed Ligambi, his wife and one of his sons had received medical benefits between 2003 and 2011. But under cross-examination by Edwin Jacobs Jr., Ligambi's lawyer, he acknowledged that he had no way of knowing whether Ligambi was a legitimate employee of the company.

The prosection is expected to try to establish that point with testimony Tuesday from former Top Job officials. Jacobs, through his questions, seemed to be arguring that Ligambi had a legimate, salaried position with the company.

The indictment alleged that Ligambi "performed no work or productive services for Top Job Disposal" while on the company payroll. Authorities have contended that in additional to medical benefits, Ligambi also received a weekly salary of between $500 and $1,000.

Questions about Ligambi's role with the trash company were first raised in a report by the New Jersey State Commission of Investigation in December 2011. The SCI report, entitled "Industrious Subversion," cited his no-show job as an example of the mob's incursion into the trash business.

Ligambi was one of nearly a dozen mob members and associates linked to trash companies in different parts of the state. The SCI labeled them "garbage mobsters" and said they had a "hidden hand" in the highly lucrative operations of the trash and recyling businesses.

While evidence at the trial is not expected to go into the same detail provided in the SCI report, the principle allegation is at the heart of the "theft of benefits" charge that Ligambi faces.

The SCI report alleged that Ligambi was placed on the payroll by the late Mauro Goffredo, an owner of the company. Goffredo died of natural cases in 2006.

Goffredo was mentioned earlier in the trial by Louis Monacello, a key government witness. Monacello, once a top associate of co-defendant George Borgesi, said Borgesi was livid when he learned that Ligambi had "gotten his hooks" into Goffredo.

"Georgie said Mario (Mauro was frequently referred to as Mario) was his guy," Monacello said.

Borgesi is Ligambi's nephew. Monacello also testified that Borgesi's mother, Ligambi's sister, at one point was dating Goffredo.

At the time the SCI report was released, Gregory Goffredo told a reporter he had no idea why his father had placed Ligambi on the company payroll.

"They were friends," he said, adding that one of the last things his father asked him to do was keep Ligambi as an employee through the life of Top Job's trash hauling contract at the Philadelphia Food Distribution Center which was to expire in 2010.

Gregory Goffredo, who said he got out of the trash business shortly after that contract expired, said he complied with his father's wish. When he was asked if Ligambi ever did any work for the company, he didn't miss a beat.

"Not that I know of," he replied.

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