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.

The most effective witness to date in the three-week old racketeering trial, Monacello completed his direct testimony and withstood about four hours of cross-examination from Ligambi's attorney Edward Jacobs Jr. before trial ended for the day.

The cross is scheduled to continue Wednesday morning when the trial resumes before U.S. District Court Judge Eduardo Robreno.

While Monacello has testified at length about the gambling, extortion and loansharking opeations that are a major part of the indictment, his most spirted comments have been personal in nature and are a pointed attack on Ligambi and Borgesi, the two defendants with whom he apparently had the most dealings.

"Joe Ligambi and his nephew, they hate each other," he said in response to one question posed by Jacobs. "Ligambi told me he hopes his nephew does a hundred years. And the nephew wanted to choke his uncle."

Monacello's version of the family dynamics revolved around power, greed and money. Both Ligambi, 73, and Borgesi, 49, were constantly jockeying for postiion even while Borgesi was serving a 14-year prison sentence in a federal prison in West Virginia.

Monacello has been portrayed as Borgesi's point man in a Delaware County-based gambling and loansharking operation tied to the mob family. He has testified repeatedly that while he was "supporting" Borgesi by funneling cash from mob activities -- sometimes as much as $2,800-a-month -- to the wife of the jailed gangster, Ligambi and Borgesi's younger brother Anthony repeatedly tried to undermine him.

In testimony on Friday he said Anthony Borgesi was "jealous" because George Borgesi had chosen him over his brother to run his mob operations while he was in jail. He said George Borgesi once told him that "the only thing my brother is capable of is screwing young girls and lifting weights."

Monacello has also testified that Ligambi wanted him "out of the way" so that he could take control of his bookmaking and loansharking gambits. He said Ligambi sided with mob capo Martin Angelina in several disputes over money even though Angelina was indirectly reducing the amount of cash available to Borgesi, Ligambi's jailed nephew.

The trials and tribulations of the crime family were the focus of many of his comments and his disdain for Ligambi was clearly on display for the jury when he imitated the mob boss while recounting two separate incidents.

Monacello said after he was released on bail in 2008 following his arreest in a Pennsylvania Attorney General's investigation into the Delaware County gambling operations, Ligambi came to his South Philadelphia home to offer his support.

Monacello, rolling his eyes and shaking his head, said he was released on bail at 3 a.m. and that by 8 a.m. Ligambi was knocking on the door of his South Philadelphia home.

"Here come mob boss Joe Ligambi," Monacello said, rapping his knuckles on the wooden witness stand as if he were knocking on a door.

Then, speaking in the rapid, high pitched voice that he said was Ligambi's, he said the mob boss told him, "Don't worry about nothing. Here's the lawyer to hire. Just do what he tells you."

Monacello said he knew at that point that Ligambi distrusted him and was upset over reports that he, Monacello, had plotted to have Angelina, a high ranking mob figure, assaulted.

"He made this speech in front of my whole family," Monacello told the jury.

Then he looked over to the defense, began to clap his hands and said, "It was a great peformance, Joe. An Academy Award winning speech."

Later he recounted another confrontation in front of Ligambi's South Philadelphia home in September 2009 that was filmed by Fox 29 TV. While there was no audio with the video that was shown to the jury, Monacello said he had gone to Ligambi's home to deny reports being circulated by Angelina that he, Monacello, was granting an interview to a reporter.

"It wasn't true, but it was another case of Angelina causing trouble for me," he said.

Monacello said that after he denied that he intended to grant an interview, he brought up the fact that Ligambi himself had been profiled in Philadelphia magazine.

Ligambi, he said, went on a rant,complaining that popular disk jockey Jerry Blavat had set the magazine interview up. Again returning to the high pitched, rapid fire voice that he said was Ligambi's, Monacello said the mob boss screamed, "That motherfucker Jerry Blavat. See that cocksucker...I'm gonna kill that motherfucker. He set the whole thing up."

When Jacobs on cross-examination suggested that Ligambi "didn't really intend to murder Jerry Blavat," Monacello said of Ligambi, "Any time he says he wants to hurt somebody, I take him seriously."

Many of the family members and friends of the defendants who packed the 15th-floor courtroom made no secret of the fact that they didn't take Monacello seriously. Several joked about him and mocked him during breaks, with the jury out of the room.

"I told you he was a punk," one friend of Borgesi's shouted to him.

"You were right," Borgesi replied. "I was wrong."

Several others asked Ligambi if they could see his Oscar from the Academy Award speech.

Ligambi and Borgesi, who have been held without bail since their arrests in May 2011, shared in the laughter. But if the jury buys the story that he has been telling from the witness stand, it will be Bent Finger Lou who has the last laugh.

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