Friday, January 25, 2013

The Mob Mouse That Roared

By George Anastasia

It was an underworld version of The Mouse That Roared, a less than flattering look at mob underboss Joseph "Mousie" Massimino captured on FBI wiretaps that were replayed today for the jury deliberating the fates of Massimino, mob boss Joseph "Uncle Joe" Ligambi and five co-defendants.

Massimino, 62, has been one of the more verbal defendants throughout the three-month trial, drawing smiles and laughter from friends and family members with his quips and asides, predicting not guilty verdicts and telling everyone to "keep those martini glasses on ice" for the victory party.

But the career criminal had little to say today -- other than calling a reporter a "jerkoff" -- when he strode into court to hear the tapes the jury had asked to be replayed.

What those in the courtroom heard was not the easy-going and glib defendant, but rather what the prosecution alleges was the volatile, take-no-prisoners underboss.

"You fuckin' bet, you motherfucker, you don't wanna pay?" he said in one conversation with an associate that was recorded in 2003.

Later on the same tape, Massimino appeared to put himself in the middle of a sports betting operation, one of the key charges in the case. 

"Why didn't you do like I said?" he asked the associate. "Why didn't you turn all the sports bets in?"

Anger and frustration surfaced in another taped phone call from 2004 in which he threatened an unidentified gambler.

"Do you think you're a motherfucking tough guy," the thin and always dapper Massimino asked. "I'm gonna come and get you...And then I'm gonna show you how fuckin' tough you are."

The tapes were played late in the morning today in an abbreviated deliberation session for the anonymously chosen jury panel. The jurors, concerned about bad weather, opted to leave at 2 p.m., completing their 12th day of delibertions in a case that began on Oct. 18.

Both defense and prosecution camps are hard pressed to interpret the deliberation process. The conventional wisdom now is that the panel has completed an assessment of the individual charges in the case and is focusing on the racketeering conspiracy count, the most damaging charge in the 52-count indictment.

But when the jury will complete its deliberations is still an open question.

One defense attorney joked as the day ended, "They want to know if they have to deliberate on Valentine's Day."

The case includes charges of sports betting, loansharking, extortion and the distribution and operation of illegal video poker machines. Ligambi, 73, also faces fraud and obstruction of justice charges.

In addition to Massimino, the other defendants are mob capos Joseph "Scoops" Licata, 71, and George Borgesi, 49 (Ligambi's nephew), mob soldiers Anthony Staino, 55, and Damion Canalichio, 42, and mob associate Gary Battaglini, 51.

In addition to asking to rehear the Massimino tapes this morning, the jury also asked for a replay of two tapes recorded by an undercover FBI agent meeting with Staino. At the end of the day, the jury also asked for all records from a company Staino had set up that engaged in the distribution of video poker machines.

The records include tax returns, pay stubs -- Ligambi's wife was on the company payroll -- and other documents. Staino's defense has been that the company was a legitimate operation and that the distribution of video poker machines is not illegal.

The racketeering conspiracy charge includes an allegation that Ligambi, Staino and Massimino set up the company after forcing another distributor to give up a business route in South Philadelphia that included 34 machines in 20 locations.

The defense claims the machines and the routes were purchased. Company records requested by the jury today include a sales agreement and receipts indicating that Staino paid $60,000 for the business. The government alleges that that was substantially less than the business was worth and that the former owners were forced to sell.

One of those owners testified for the prosecution and said he did not want to sell, but agreed to do so because Staino, Ligambi and Massimino were mobsters. 

The indictment alleges that Ligambi, Staino and Massimino set up company, known as JMA (the initials stood for Joe, Mousie and Anthony, authorities allege), in order to mask an extortion. It charges that "To conceal this extortion (Massimino) attempted to force the owners to sign a fictitious agreement of sale and paid the owners a portion of the true value of the business."

George Anastasia can be contacted at

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