By George Anastasia
Wannabe wiseguy Ron Galati, the South Philadelphia auto body shop owner with a Godfather fixation, wants to keep fighting. But it looks like he'll have to do battle without the services of topnotch criminal defense attorney Anthony Voci Jr.
Voci has filed motions to withdraw as Galati's attorney in a pending murder-for-hire case and a massive insurance fraud conspiracy case. Both are listed for trial in Philadelphia Common Pleas Court.
"My client does not have sufficient funds to allow me to continue," Voci said in a brief comment today when asked about the withdrawal motions. Voci, a former Assistant District Attorney, represented Galati in another murder-for-hire case in federal court in Camden earlier this year.
In that case, Galati was convicted of hiring two hitmen to murder the boyfriend of his estranged daughter. The boyfriend survived the hit and was one of several key witnesses. The two hitmen, a third conspirator and Galati's daughter Tiffany also took the stand for the government.
"He's looking at the rest of his life in prison," said one source familiar with the situation.
The two hitmen and their co-conspirator pleaded guilty in a cooperating agreement with federal authorities. They have also agreed to cooperate and testify for the District Attorney's Office in the pending murder-for-hire case.
In that case, Galati is accused to conspiring to have two rival auto body shop owners, a father and son, killed because he believed -- correctly as it turned out -- that they were cooperating with state and city investigators in an insurance fraud case in which he was targeted.
Galati, who served 37 months for fraud charges in a similar insurance scam in the mid 1990s, was accused of orchestrating a multi-million dollar ripoff of insurance companies, using phony reports of accidents and inflated charges to line his pockets and to kick back cash to customers whose cars were damaged.
Galati formerly owned American Collision, a South Philadelphia auto body shop that his son, Ronald Jr., took over. But authorities allege the elder Galati remained in control of the company and orchestrated the scams that generated millions. Galati's wife, his son and two dozen others, including the son of mob boss Joseph Ligambi, were listed as co-defendants in the insurance scam which authorities alleged generated nearly $5 million.
Jailed since his arrest in the Philadelphia murder-for-hire case nearly two years ago, Galati has reportedly told associates that he had no intention of pleading guilty to any of the charges, labeling those who have testified against him and those who have given statement to authorities "liars."
That list, according to court documents, would include dozens of customers whose cars were damaged and who went along with Galati's alleged plan to fabricate insurance reports. One technique cited in the grand jury presentment handed up earlier this year involved fake reports of cars striking deer. Galati, according to the presentment, kept deer blood and hair in his auto body shop and took photos claiming that the damage to vehicles was the result of striking an animal.
That type of accident is a benefit to the owner of the vehicle since, in effect, it is a no fault event.
A source, citing the ongoing investigation, said investigators with the Pennsylvania State Police and the District Attorney's Office have statements from customers who described how Galati would fabricate information, take photos of staged events and inflate repair costs.
One example cited by a source was a customer whose car was damaged in a hit-and-run accident in New York City. When the customer brought the car to Galati, the source said, the accident report filed with the insurance company listed the cause as "struck by a deer." The customer told authorities, the source said, that the pictures of the damage to his car were more than the damage that had actually occurred, indicating that Galati had further damaged the car to inflate the repair and insurance costs.
The customer, the source said, received $3,000 from his insurance company.
At the time of his conviction in federal court in Camden, speculation was that Galati would plead out to the pending cases in Common Pleas Court, perhaps working out a deal that would spare his wife and son. But Galati has apparently nixed any talk of a deal and is now taking a hardline. Without the resources to hire an attorney, he may have to fight his remaining criminal battles with a court-appointed lawyer.
He has also told friends and associates that he has no intention of cooperating with authorities. His links to Ligambi and Ligambi's nephew, convicted mob capo George Borgesi, were mentioned in one pre-trial motion. But sources in both law enforcement and the underworld say Galati doesn't really know enough or have enough information to cut a deal.
What's more, those who know him say, it's doubtful he would make a credible witness. Instead, Galati has apparently decided to go out swinging, fighting all the charges and ripping all of those who have or who will take the stand against him, his daughter Tiffany included.
"He thinks he's doing the honorable thing," said a source. "He thinks he's being a standup guy. What that's going to get him is life in prison."
While the plot to have his daughter's then boyfriend, Andrew Tuono, killed unfolded as a soap opera, according to testimony in federal court in Camden, the pending charges in Common Pleas Court are more hard-edged.
The Raos closed their business before the hits could be carried out, according to court documents.
George Anastasia can be reached at George@bigtrial.net.