By George Anastasia
Ron Galati, the South Philadelphia auto body shop operator with a Godfather complex, was sentenced to nearly 23 years in federal prison this morning in a convoluted murder-for-hire case that was more suited for Mob Wives than Mario Puzo's classic American Mafia saga.
Citing the "callous" nature of the crime, but acknowledging Galati's age (64) and health problems, Judge Joseph Rodriguez imposed a sentence of 271 months, less than the maximum 308-month sentence sought by prosecutors but considerably more than the "home confinement" Galati's defense attorney had asked for.
No one from Galati's family attended the sentencing hearing and Galati, dressed in a green prison jump suit, his toupee neatly in place, opted not to comment when asked by the judge if he had anything to say.
Andrew Tuono, on the other hand, took a series of parting verbal shots at his one-time friend. The victim of the shooting, Tuono asked for a maximum sentence, telling Rodriguez that he lives every day with the aftermath of the attempted murder that Galati set in motion.
Tuono, 35, was dating Galati's daughter Tiffany when he was shot multiple times outside the Atlantic City townhouse they shared in November 2013.
"I have no doubt this came from him," Tuono, dressed in jeans and a starched white shirt, said after being called to the witness stand by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason Richardson. Tuono said he still has a bullet lodged in his pelvis that gives him constant pain and that two of the fingers on his left hand are paralyzed from another bullet that ripped through his hand during the attempted murder.
Richardson, the prosecutor in the case, said the murder-for-hire plot was in many ways a twisted love story involving two men who loved the same woman. Tuono was living with Tiffany Galati at the time and her father didn't think he was good enough for her, the prosecutor said.
"Why was he shot?" Richardson asked. "Because Ron Galati didn't like him...That's no reason to shoot somebody, but Mr. Galati apparently thought it was."
Galati, according to family members and friends, soured on Tuono after he began dating Tiffany. Several members of the family said Galati considered Tuono a "low life" who was involved in drugs and who had driven a wedge between Tiffany Galati and her family.
Testimony during the trial, which ended in September with the jury convicting Galati of all four counts he faced, offered a look at "the dual life of Ron Galati," Richardson said. On the one hand he was "the gregarious businessman" and on the other "a diabolical, manipulative person."
Tuono, Tiffany Galati, the two hitmen hired to killed Tuono and a third conspirator all testified for the government during the trial. The hitmen and their co-conspirator have all pleaded guilty and are awaiting sentencing.
Tiffany Galati has since broken up with Tuono and according to some sources has reconnected with her jailed father and other family members. Speculation that she might show up and be called as a defense witness at the sentencing hearing proved unfounded.
Tuono said the shooting and its aftermath have ruined his life.
"I went from hitting the lottery to being half-dead," he told the judge. The shooting not only left him disabled but destroyed his relationship with Tiffany Galati whom he described as "the love of my life."
"Part of me and Tiff died when I got shot," he said.
While Tiffany Galati was present during the shooting, she was not hit by any of the gunfire. One of the hitman told authorities that he was instructed to make sure that she was not in the line of fire. During the trial Anthony Voci, Galati's lawyer, implied that Tiffany Galati, not her father, might have set the attempted murder in motion.
Voci said again today that there was no physical evidence tying Galati to the crime. His client, he added, continues to insist that he is innocent.
The jury didn't see it that way.
Galati, who will be in his 80s before he can be released from federal prison, intends to appeal his conviction. He is also facing another trial in Common Pleas Court in Philadelphia on separate murder-for-hire charges involving the same hitmen and dozens of charges tied to a multi-million dollar insurance fraud scam.
Identified by authorities as a friend of several South Philadelphia mobsters, including crime leaders Joseph "Uncle Joe" Ligambi, George Borgesi and Joseph "Skinny Joey" Merlino, Galati has been described in some circles as a "stand up guy" for not cutting a deal with the government and offering information about the mob. He was said to be fascinated with organized crime and frequently quoted lines from classic mob movies like The Godfather and Goodfellas.
Andrew Tuono clearly doesn't see it that way. As he left the fifth floor courtroom after today's hearing, Tuono told two reporters that he had one request.
"Do me a favor," he said. "Don't call Galati a stand up guy. What kind of stand up guy tries to blame his own daughter for a (an attempted) murder.
Tuono then walked away toward the elevators, but quickly returned, adding, "He's as fake as his wig."
George Anastasia can be reached at George@bigtrial.net