Even as the Philly Mafia has declined in membership and power over the last three decades, it continues to be sought out by other organized-crime groups and gangsters longing to work with an established criminal network. This helps explain why the cops are still keeping an eye on them.
It also helps explain why Marty Angelina got sent back to the slammer for violating his parole last month. Angelina, you may remember, was part of imprisoned mob boss Joseph “Skinny Joey” Merlino’s crew and was convicted of racketeering in July 2001. But ever since his recent release, lawmen were documenting his conversations and “accidental” meetings with alleged mobsters Steve Frangipani, Damion Canalichio, Michael Lancellotti and reputed boss Joseph “Uncle Joe” Ligambi.
Told about those meetings, a federal judge sent Angelina back for another five months. The Federal Bureau of Prison’s Web site now has him slated for a June 3 release from an Oklahoma City facility.
All’s not well for the investigators, though. The city organized-crime unit has been temporarily reassigned to the city’s drug-ravaged neighborhoods where they’re supposed to help figure out who’s running which drug corners, who’s trafficking in guns and what role street gangs may be playing in the ever-rising homicide rate.
“I don’t mind doing this,” one organized-crime investigator tells City Paper, “but I don’t think a lot of these killings are the result of street gangs. There are some gangs out here, that’s true. And they’re violent. But most of the murders, that’s kids using guns to settle personal disputes. That’s what it is. Kids using guns to collect a drug debt. Kids looking for payback because they think they’ve been disrespected or somebody talked to their girlfriend wrong.”
Local mobsters agree. One claims La Cosa Nostra occasionally works with African-American prison-connected gangs and several local black crews. But, the insider points out, those groups exert limited control only in certain neighborhoods, and that much of the street-level violence is random and out of the control of any black organized-crime group.
“Them kids don’t listen to nobody. They blast each other in a New York minute!” the associate explains. “The corner drug dealers change every couple months. Some mook gets shot. Another mook goes to jail. Then it’s new faces. All the time. Nobody’s really in charge there. You got a gun, you’re in charge till someone else with a gun says you ain’t.”
Now, a law-enforcement source claims, nobody is paying close attention to the local Mafia, and the mob seems to be taking full advantage: Ligambi has been seen holding early-morning meetings with alleged associates at a corner store at Ninth and Moore streets lately. Just last week, a group of outsiders were seen inside the store chatting up several mob associates. Speculation in the underworld is that they are members of a Northeast Philly crew — many of them Irish-Americans — that recently allied with the Mafia.
“You know when we’ll be back working South Philly?” one cop asks. “The next time there’s a mob hit. Headlines. TV news. Then our bosses will be saying, ‘Who did it?’ That’s when we’ll be back working organized crime.”
The Pagan Nation outlaw biker gang is adding dozens of new members in Philadelphia, South Jersey and Delaware. “Some of them have never ridden a motorcycle before,” one law enforcement source explains. “Soon as they’re recruited, they have to buy a chopper and learn to handle it. Pagans are expected to complete a club run, or road trip, at least once a year. So they have to be up to speed but some look pretty silly trying to handle their new hogs.”
The Pagans are managing to recruit despite last November’s indictment of 16 Pagans and 16 associates in Delaware for racketeering and drug trafficking. Delaware state troopers allege that the Pagans worked with Hispanic cocaine dealers to distribute drugs in Delaware, southeastern Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia.
An outlaw-biker source says the Pagans are furious with the Delaware State Police, which, he says, incorrectly identified a new Pagan recruit as a drug-trafficking suspect; that bad information led to the recruit’s death at the hands of Wilmington police.
Derek J. Hale, a former Marine who served two tours in Iraq before joining the Pagans, was mistakenly identified as a suspect in a drug investigation. Wilmington police, acting on that information, attempted to arrest Hale last year on Nov. 6. Hale was tasered three times and shot three times when he refused to take his hands out of his hooded-sweatshirt pockets.