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."

Monacello, 46, testified for three days earlier in the trial about his relationship with Borgesi and his role in running a bookmaking and loansharking operation for the mobster after he was jailed in 2000.

Defense attorneys have argued that Monacello used Borgesi's name and, to a lesser degree Ligambi's, to enhance his standing in the underworld. They have alleged that Borgesi, serving a 14-year sentence for a prior racketeering conviction in a federal prison in West Virginia, was unaware of what Monacello was doing or saying.

Another mob associate, Frank "Frankie the Fixer" DiGiacomo had blistered Monacello during testimony that began Thursday and concluded Friday morning. A top associate of Monacello, DiGiacomo, 48, described Bent Finger Lou as a greedy underworld autocrat who was always out for himself.

The defense hopes to use the testimony of both DiGiacomo and Camorate, two government witnesses, to undermine the credibility of Monacello and the case against Borgesi.

"DiGiacomo gutted Monacello," one defense attorney said after The Fixer had left the stand.
Many individuals in the defense camp, including family members and friends of the defendants who have been attending each day of the trial, agreed.

But one veteran defense attorney offered a cautionary piece of advice.

"It doesn't matter if the jury likes Monacello," he said. "What matters is whether they believe him."
It could be several more weeks before that question is answered.

The trial resumes on Monday for two days, and then goes into a weeklong hiatus for the Thanksgiving holiday. The case may not get to the jury until Christmas.

The jury also heard from a second bookmaker Friday.

Jack Buscemi, convicted in 2008 of running what New Jersey State Police alleged was a multi-million dollar sports betting ring out of the high stakes poker room of the Borgata casino in Atlantic City, said he made a Christmas tribute payment to the mob each year, beginning in mid 1990s and extending through 2006.

"I didn't want to look over my shoulder," Buscemi said of his reason for making the tribute payment, which ranged from $5,000 to $12,500 annually. "I just wanted to work."

Buscemi, who was sentenced to five years in the New Jersey case but spent less than six months behind bars, admitted that he had earned "millions" running a sports betting operation and said the tribute payment to the mob was part of the cost of doing business.

He said he made payments to Joseph "Mousie" Massimino in 2002 and 2003, and after Massimino was jailed, made the payments to Gaeton Lucibello. Massimino, identified as Ligambi's underboss, is a co-defendant in the current case. Lucibello pleaded guilty to a racketeering conspiracy charge prior to the start of the trial.

Buscemi said he was never directly threatened, but that he knew he was dealing with the mob when he made the payments to Massimino and Lucibello. He also said he sought Lucibello's help when a gambler reneged on paying him because Lucibello "had more respect on the street than I did."

Lucibello, he said, resolved the problem during a meeting at Cholly Bears, a bar in South Philadelphia.
The jury was shown a video from May 2006 of Lucibello, Buscemi and the gambling customer entering the bar on the day Buscemi said the dispute was settled.

When the trial resumes Monday, mobster-turned-informant Peter "Pete the Crumb" Caprio is scheduled to take the stand. Caprio, now in his 80s, is expected to testify about his role as a Newark-based capo of the Philadelphia mob in the 1990s.

He last testified in Philadelphia in 2001 at the racketeering trial of Borgesi, then mob boss Jospeh "Skinny Joey" Merlino and five others.

At that trial, Caprio linked Ligambi -- who was not a defendant -- to the gangland murder of mobster Ronnie Turchi in 1999 and detailed an internal power struggle in which he, Caprio, plotted with others to kill Borgesi, Ligambi and other members of the Merlino faction of the mob.

While defense attorneys have described the current case as "racketeering lite" because of the lack of violence alleged in the indictment, prosecutors have said it was the crime family's history and reputation for violence that fueled the extortions that Ligambi and the others were able to carry out.

While DiGiacomo may have testified favorable for the defense in many instances, on redirect before he left the stand Friday, he talked about an assault rifle and a gun that have been linked to Borgesi.

He also acknowledged when he went to Ligambi after being threatended over two large loansharking debts he owed to others, Ligambi was able to eliminate those debts.

That type of problem solving, the prosecution contends, was an example of Ligambi using the orgnaization's reputation for violence to get his way.

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