Friday, November 30, 2012

Video Poker Machines and Espresso, a South Philadelphia Tradition

A South Philadelphia video poker machine vendor reluctantly offered jurors a look at the finances of the illegal gambling business Friday when he put a dollar figure on his 10-year run as a distributor.

Curt Arbitman, testifying in the racketeering trial of mob boss Joseph "Uncle Joe" Ligambi and six co-defendants, said when he agreed to plead guilty and cooperate with prosecutors he was forced to forfeit $600,000.

The money, he said, was an estimate of his take from a distribution network that he controlled from about 2000 until his arrest in September 2009.

His income, he told the jury, was based on a profit-sharing arrangement he had with the owners of the stops -- bars, restaurants and social clubs -- where his machines were placed. He said he worked a 75/25 split, meaning the stop owner got 75 percent of the take and he got 25 percent.

In effect, the buisness generated $2.4 million over that 10-year period.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Mob Boss Rips Goverment Case As "Bullshit"

Mob boss Joseph "Uncle Joe" Ligambi is apparently less than impressed with the government's evidence against him.

"This case is all bullshit," Ligambi said Thursday to several friends and family members who were seated in the second row of the courtroom.

Ligambi's comment came during a break and with the jury out of the courtroom. But his assessment, while not in legal terms, has been repeated privately by defense attorneys as the government continues to offer evidence and witnesses but, in the defense estimation, no smoking gun.

"It's like watching paint dry," one defense lawyer said of the two days of detailed and often esoteric testimony from an FBI gambling expert who provided the jury with an inside look at the sports betting and video poker businesses that prosecutors contend were major money-makers for the Ligambi organization.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

For Amusement Only?

The sign taped across the front of the Dodge City video poker machine read "for amusement only."

It was, federal prosecutors said, false advertising.

Video poker machines have long been a major money-maker for the mob, according to law enforcement authorities, and Wednesday the jury in the racketeering trial of mob boss Joseph "Uncle Joe" Ligambi and six co-defendants got a detailed lesson about the ins and outs of the business.

The testimony from James Dunlap, a retired Baltimore police detective and nationally recognized gambling expert, set the stage for the next phase of the six-week old trial. On Thursday Curt Arbitman, described by investigators as a major distributor ofillegal poker machines in South Philadelphia, is expected to take the stand for the prosecution and discuss his business dealings with Ligambi and co-defendants Anthony Staino and Joseph "Mousie" Massimino among others.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Motive Behind the Martorano Murder

It's not part of the case, but clearly on the FBI's to-do list: solve the 2002 gangland murder of mobster Raymond "Long John" Martorano.

Long John
Jurors in the ongoing racketeering conspiracy trial of mob boss Joseph "Uncle Joe" Ligambi (long suspected of ordering the hit) got a sampling of what authorities know Tuesday when a secretly recorded conversation involving mob bookmaker Gary Battaglini, one of Ligambi's six co-defendants, was played as the trial entered its sixth week.

Battaglini was speaking with his brother-in-law Peter Albo, a convicted gambler, drug dealer and thief who was then about $10,000 in debt to what authorities say was a mob-controlled bookmaking operation.

Albo was also wired for sound.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Jury Gets Underworld Primer On Bookmaking And Loansharking

Taking bets and chasing debts.

That was the business of bookmaking outlined Tuesday in a series of secretly recorded FBI recordings played for the jury in the racketeering trial of mob boss Joseph "Uncle Joe" Ligambi and six co-defendants.

With the trial now in a week-long Thanksgiving holiday hiatus, jurors will get to ponder terms like "in the red" and "the Lakers for a dime" as they enjoy their turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce. Everyone will be back in court on Nov. 27.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Pete the Crumb's Hits and Misses

In January 2000, Peter "Pete the Crumb" Caprio plotted with members of the Genovese and Gambino crime families to kill the leaders of the Philadelphia mob.

The reason? As always, money.

The targets? Then acting boss Joseph "Uncle Joe" Ligambi, underboss Steven Mazzone and consigliere George Borgesi.

"They wanted to make a move and get rid of all of them," Caprio said Monday after taking the stand in the racketeering conspiracy trial of Ligambi, Borgesi and five others in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia.

Caprio, who was a Newark-based capo for the Philadelphia crime family at the time, said members of the powerful Genovese family had planned to distribute illegal video poker machines throughout Philadelphia and South Jersey. And, he added, they didn't want to cut Ligambi and his organization in on the action.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Another Govement Witness Rips Bent Finger Lou

A second government witness offered a less than glowing description of Louis "Bent Finger Lou" Monacello at the racketeering trial of mob boss Joseph "Uncle Joe" Ligambi, mob leader George Borgesi and five co-defendants Friday as the trial wrapped up for the week.

Mario Camorate, who said he worked with Monacello in the gambling business for more than a decade beginning in the 1990s, called him a braggart and wannabe who constantly touted his mob connections to Borgesi, Ligambi's nephew.

At different times during more than an hour on the witness stand, Camorate, 43, offered these assessments of Monacello:

-- "Louie liked to talk."

-- "Louie said Georgie was his guy."

-- "Louie liked to put his resume out."

-- "Whenever he puffed, he would say he was with Georgie."

He also said he "stood by" comments he had made to a grand jury about Monacello.

"It's hard to be friends with a guy like Monacello," Camorate hold told a federal grand jury, "because his hand was always in your pocket."

When Ligambi's lawyer, Edwin Jacobs Jr., asked Camorate if Monacello "liked to pretend he was part of the mob," Camorate quickly replied, "Yes."

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Frankie the Fixer Then and Now

He was a South Philadelphia plumber who hung with the wiseguys ... and loved it.
Now he's a government witness ... and hates it.

"I turned on my family and my friends," Frank "Frankie the Fixer" DiGiacomo said Thursday from the witness stand in the racketeering trial of Philadelphia mob boss Joseph "Uncle Joe" Ligambi and six co-defendants. "I became the piece of shit no one wants to be."

DiGiacomo's candid assessment came during nearly five hours of testimony in which it was sometimes difficult to tell for whom he had taken the stand.

The prosecution witness described Ligambi and his co-defendants as "good people, great people" and talked about the fun he had hanging with them at bars and restaurants in South Philadelphia.

"I was fascinated by the lifestyle," he said of his days and nights spent in wiseguy hangouts..
Then shaking his head and smiling, he added, "And the women who would go in there..."

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

A Not-So-Golden Oldie at Mob Trial

It was a blast from the past, a not so golden oldie from the audio archives of the Philadelphia mob.
Jurors is the racketeering trial of mob boss Joseph "Uncle Joe" Ligambi and six co-defendants ended their day Wednesday listening to tape recordings from 1999 in which a cackling George Borgesi, a co-defendant in the current case, laughed and joked about how he brutally assaulted mob associate Angelo Lutz.

"I knocked him out," Borgesi is heard saying in a phone conversation picked up by a Pennsylvania State Police wiretap on November 24, 1999. "I kicked him so hard he was sleeping....I ripped his shirt off. He was out like a fuckin' light."

Lutz, at the time a 5-foot-2, 450-pound mob associate of Borgesi's, had lied about trying to cash a check drawn on their pasta buisness, Borgesi explained.

"I started hollering, `Fuck you,'" Borgesi said on the wiretapped conversation. "He answered me like fresh and I went beserk."

Prosecutors played three taped conversations in which Borgesi laughed and mocked Lutz. The tapes came after the jury had heard three days of testimony from another Borgesi's associate, Louis "Bent Finger Lou" Monacello.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Bent Finger Lou Mimics Mob Boss

Lou Monacello does a great Joe Ligambi.

The star government witness in the ongoing racketeering trial of the mob boss and six co-defendants sarcastically imitated Ligambi during testimony Tuesday as he provided the jury with a behind-the-scenes account of a largely dysfunctional crime family.

Monacello, 46, also told the jury that the reason he agreed to cooperate was because he believed his longtime "good friend" George Borgesi, one of the co-defendants in the case and Ligambi's nephew, intended to kill him.

"There's a fine line between me sitting here and there," Monacello, who is known as "Bent Finger Lou," said as he pointed to the defense table from the witness stand.