By George Anastasia
Was Joe Ligambi a "garbage mobster" collecting a salary and benefits for a no-show job or was he a hardworking salesman who helped his company, South Philadelpha-based Top Job Disposal, win a highly lucrative contract at the Food Distribution Center?
That may be one of the questions the jury in Ligambi's ongoing mob racketeering case is now wrestling with.
The panel completed a 17th day of deliberations this afternoon without reaching a verdict. But the jury did ask for a copy of Top Job's contract with the center, a piece of evidence introduced by the defense during the 10-week trial.
What does it mean?
"Who knows," said a defense attorney. "They've asked questions about this before. We don't know where they are."
More important, he and others observers said, is whether the jurors know where they are.
Are they, as Assistant U.S. Attorney Frank Labor suggested nearly three weeks ago, "wandering in the desert?" Or are they moving toward a resolution of the 52-count case and the fates of Ligambi and his six co-defendants?
The wandering, if that in fact is the case, will continue this weekend. U.S. District Court Judge Eduardo Robreno has ordered the jury to report at 8:30 a.m. tomorrow and again on Sunday if deliberations continue. The panel will be excused each day at 3 p.m.
The extraordinary weekend session -- coming at the same time as the Super Bowl -- was seen as an attempt by the judge to nudge the now marathon deliberation process along. But the jurors appear to be in no hurry.
"I think they're enjoying themselves," said another observer who has been close to the scene for several weeks.
The one piece of evidence the panel asked to see today was the Top Job contract that called for the company to receive about $17,000-a-week for removing waste from the sprawling 28-acre distribution center when it was located on Packer Avenue in South Philadelphia. It has since moved to Southwest Philadelphia.
Top Job had the contract for 10 years beginning in 2000. Ligambi was hired as a salesman shortly after the contract went into effect. His original salary was $1,000-a-week. In 2008 it was reduced to $500-a-week. He also qualified for medical benefits.
What role he played in obtaining the contract for the company was a fundamental question that was never clearly answered during the trial.
Testimony from a Food Distribution Center executive indicated that Top Job got a chance to meet and pitch its proposal for handling the trash removal business through the intercession of Anthony Borgesi, Ligambi's nephew and the brother of co-defendant George Borgesi.
Ligambi's job at the trash company is related to a charge that he used his "no-show" job to fraudulently obtain $220,000 in union-financed medical benefits for himself and his family. If the jury finds that he had a legitimate job and did work for the company, the fraud charge would appear to be without foundation.
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 what it alleged was 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. (Top Job was affiliated with a New Jersey company at the time.) The SCI labeled them "garbage mobsters" and said they had a "hidden hand" in the highly lucrative operations of the trash and recyling businesses.
Ligambi and his co-defendants are all charged with racketeering conspiracy, the primary count in the indictment. He and the others also face assorted gambling, loansharking and extortion charges. Ligambi is also charged with one count of obstruction of justice.
That the jury is again focusing on Top Job could indicate that it is drawing to the end of its deliberations. Then again, it could just mean that the panel is wandering around in a 52-count indictment and still unable to reach any conclusion.
Contact George Anastasia at email@example.com.