Reputed Mobsters to Face Their Own Words in Federal Racketeering Trial
PHILADELPHIA (AP) _ Armed with hours of secretly recorded tapes, prosecutors plan to break Philadelphia’s organized crime leaders with their own tough talk of mob turncoats, extortion and detailed ways to kill someone.
``I’ll cut out his tongue and we’ll send it to the wife,″ reputed mob boss John Stanfa is heard saying of one target.
As Stanfa and Sergio Battaglia go over the plans for killing three suspected rivals, the question arises of what to do with the bodies.
Battaglia, a reputed mob soldier, suggests spreading them from New York to Delaware.
Stanfa, a former bricklayer, replies that he would prefer putting them in pre-mixed concrete overnight.
``This way, the concrete hardens and we’ll go dump them,″ he says on the tape.
That wiretapped conversation and hundreds of others are expected to be played in the federal racketeering conspiracy trial that starts today for Stanfa and seven other reputed mobsters.
Jurors will not be sequestered but their names, addresses and jobs will be kept secret.
Stanfa, who authorities say was backed by the Gambino crime family of New York and the Sicilian Mafia, will be tried with Anthony ``Tony Buck″ Piccolo, Frank Martines, Salvatore ``Shotsie″ Sparacio, Vincent ``Al Pajamas″ Pagano, Raymond Esposito, Battaglia and Herbert Keller.
They are among 27 people charged in a 13-count indictment last year as the government moved to end a gangland war between Stanfa and Joseph ``Skinny Joey″ Merlino, who wasn’t charged.
Eight of those indicted will be tried separately, one is a fugitive and 10 have pleaded guilty in the 18 months since Stanfa, 54, surrendered peacefully to the FBI at his home in Medford, N.J.
At least five men were killed and five wounded between November 1992 and March 1994 as Merlino battled with Stanfa’s allies for control of a multimillion-dollar gambling and loan-sharking empire from Philadelphia to Atlantic City, N.J.
Key witnesses John ``John-John″ Veasey and Philip Colletti have already pleaded guilty to racketeering-murder charges. Veasey, three days after turning government informant, was shot on Stanfa’s orders but survived, according to the indictment.
For 435 days and at a government cost of $517,673, federal agents wiretapped conversations inside the law offices of Salvatore J. Avena, Stanfa’s lawyer.
The recordings include 65 voices plotting murder, extortion and other mob business, authorities have said.
At one point, Avena tells Stanfa in a demonstration of loyalty, ``If you want me to put my brains in the toilet, I’ll put my brains in the toilet.″ Avena also was indicted and is among the second group of defendants scheduled for trial.
Several bungled hits are likely to be detailed in court, including Rosario Conti Bellocchi’s admitted attempt to kill Biagio Adornetto, a fellow Sicilian immigrant who had courted Stanfa’s daughter, Sara.
Authorities say the hit failed because Bellocchi had loaded the wrong-size shells into a shotgun that misfired as he pointed it at Adornetto’s head.
Adornetto fled and Bellocchi became engaged to Ms. Stanfa, but the wedding is said to be off now that Bellocchi has pleaded guilty and agreed to become a government informant.
The defense is expected to attack the tapes as well as the credibility of informants who have pleaded guilty to various charges.
Stanfa faces life in prison if convicted and most of the others face sentences of at least 40 years. The trial is expected to last two to four months.