Reprinted with permission from Gang Land News
By George Anastasia
Nicodemo (Little Nicky) Scarfo checked out quietly.
The remains of the former Philadelphia mob boss were returned to the Philadelphia area shortly after he died in a federal prison hospital in Butner, NC, on Friday, January 13. Scarfo was 87 and had spent the last 30 years of his life behind bars. But details about his burial and final resting place are a mystery.
No big time mob funeral for the violent Mafia don. No FBI agents snapping pictures outside a funeral home where wiseguys and wannabes line up to pay their final respects. No filigreed coffin carried out of some cathedral while television cameras roll and newspaper photographers snap front page pictures.
And usually reliable sources in the underworld, and law enforcement, are keeping his final resting place a secret from Gang Land. Or perhaps they don't have a clue. One unconfirmed report is that Scarfo was cremated and that any memorial was strictly a small, family affair.
When it comes to Scarfo, family is an interesting word.
You could make the argument that the diminutive crime boss destroyed the Philadelphia crime family he inherited in the early 1980s after the murders of Angelo Bruno and Philip (Chicken Man) Testa. The low-key and highly efficient mob family run by Bruno (who was in charge from 1959 until his death in March 1980) was turned upside down during Scarfo's bloody reign, which began in 1981 and ended with convictions for extortion, racketeering and murder in 1988 and 1989.
For Bruno, who was posthumously nicknamed The Docile Don, murder was a negotiating tool of last resort. If all else failed, somebody might get whacked. For Scarfo murder was a calling card. He set out to avenge the death of his mentor Phil Testa by having those suspected of being involved in that plot killed. But his paranoia and fear led to even more violence, culminateting with Scarfo's order to have Testa's son, Salvatore, murdered in 1985.
Salvie Testa was the crown prince of the Philadelphia crime family, handsome, charismatic and fearless. He led the charge for Little Nicky in an internecine power struggle in the 1980s, personally killing the man behind the plot to murder his father and then serving as point man for the Scarfo faction in a gangland war with a group headed by Harry Riccobene.
Scarfo's decision to have Salvie Testa killed was the last straw.
"If he could kill Salvie, he could kill any of us," former mob soldier Nicholas (Nicky the Crow) Caramandi said in explaining why he decided to become a cooperating witness. His testimony along with that of fellow mobster Thomas (Tommy Del) DelGiorno led to the conviction of Scarfo and 16 co-defendants in a sweeping 1988 racketeering case that ended the Scarfo era.
But the story of Scarfo's family didn't end there. He had three sons and a nephew, all of whom grew up in his shadow and all of whom suffered the consequences.
His oldest son, Chris, wanted no part of the mob life. Caramandi said Scarfo would frequently mock his son, using his fingers to form the shape of a gun and then shaking his head in dismay over the fact that Chris Scarfo wanted no part of it.
Chris Scarfo assumed his wife's maiden name after getting married and still resides at the New Jersey shore, not far from the Atlantic City home where the Scarfo family once resided.
Scarfo's youngest son, Mark, tried to commit suicide during his father's 1988 racketeering trial. The then-17-year-old was found hanging in the Georgia Avenue apartment where the Scarfos lived. He remained comatose for more than 25 years before passing away two years ago.
Scarfo's middle son and namesake, Nicodemo S. Scarfo, followed his father into the world of organized crime. In a pact that Little Nicky worked out with his former prison mate pal, mob boss Vic Amuso, Scarfo Jr. was inducted into the Luchese crime family.
For a time, he was riding high with boats, cars and a luxurious home outside Atlantic City. But the bubble burst in 2011, and he is currently serving a 30-year federal prison sentence for fraud and extortion. It's his third prison stint and absent some appellate court ruling in his favor, the 51-year-old mob scion is looking at a December 2037 release date.
His cousin, Scarfo's nephew Philip Leonetti, has publicly encouraged the young Nicky Scarfo to cut a deal with the government. (More on that later.) Leonetti, once known as Crazy Phil, did just that after he was convicted in that 1988 racketeering case.
Leonetti admitted his own involvement in 10 gangland-style slayings and for serving as an enforcer, and later the underboss for his volatile uncle. His decision to cooperate and testify in a series of trials up and down the East Coast led to a substantial reduction in his 45-year prison sentence.
He did five years, five months and five days before a federal judge, citing his extraordinary cooperation, set him free. Now living in another part of the country, Leonetti could be the poster boy for the federal Witness Security Program. He has literally recreated himself and is a model citizen whose neighbors know him only as a friendly and successful businessman.
Leonetti co-authored a book Mafia Prince, in which he likened his uncle to Svengali. According to one source, when Leonetti was informed that the date of his uncle's death was Friday the 13th, he replied, "That's appropriate."
Another cooperating witness had a somewhat different take on the passing of Little Nicky.
Now living in Florida, the one-time mobster who did business with members of the Philadelphia mob and was an earner and enforcer for two New York crime families operating in North Jersey, said there was no doubt that Scarfo was "unhinged."
"I can tell you that with the utmost certainty," the ex-wiseguy wrote in a short eulogy posted online after Scarfo's death was reported.
"You can't be a real guy in the life unless you have the ability to kill," he wrote, noting that "none of his victims were virgins or saints."
But while all too many former associates are willing to badmouth Scarfo now, most went along with his program when they were making money with him, the former gangster opined.
"He was Little Nicky for 30 years before he became boss, so they knew the drill. But he enjoyed killing people and would be demonstrative in telling you that. A lot of guys have done work, doesn't mean they enjoyed it."
Scarfo, he said, clearly did.
But watching from afar he said he sees a certain underworld "hypocrisy" in guys like Crazy Phil and Nicky Crow who now paint Little Nicky as a monster.
"They all basked in his shadow when he was on the street…and they all ate at his table. He was a bad guy in a bad life…As a human being he was flawed, inept and delusional. In the end he was just an old man who died alone."
George Anastasia can be reached at George@Bigtrial.net
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