PHILADELPHIA (AP) — The FBI paid mob informants more than $500,000 and overlooked their crimes to try to bolster a racketeering case that’s “been on life support for a long time,” a defense lawyer argued Monday.
The FBI has little to show for its 13-year investigation into La Cosa Nostra under reputed boss Joseph “Uncle Joe” Ligambi, veteran mob lawyer Edwin Jacobs Jr. told a jury in closing arguments. Federal prosecutors believe the 73-year-old Ligambi has quietly run the Philadelphia mob since his flashy, younger predecessor, Joseph “Joey” Merlino, went to prison in 1999.
“Things changed in 1999. They just don’t want to admit it. This indictment … has no guns, no knives, no explosives, no beatings, no killings,” Jacobs said. “You got nothing but some gambling talk and a couple of angry conversations.”
Prosecutors have a chance to make rebuttal arguments Monday afternoon before the jury begins deliberations Tuesday. They accuse Ligambi of running a financial enterprise centered on loansharking, sports betting and illegal video poker machines — all controlled with threats of violence.
But the defense notes that thousands of wiretaps have produced no proof that Ligambi and the six other defendants — including nephew and reputed underboss George Borgesi — did anything more than make private loans and rent poker machines to bars and social clubs.
By comparison, the government witnesses include aging mobster Peter “Pete the Crumb” Caprio, who admits killing several people but spent just five years in prison. The FBI has also paid him nearly $400,000 and watches over him in the witness protection program, according to trial testimony. In exchange, the FBI rolls Caprio out every few years to testify at a mob trial, Jacobs said.
“For $367,000 and a free pass on so many murders he can’t remember them all, he’s willing to come down here and say (anything),” Jacobs said. “These criminals have been playing the FBI.”
Another government witness, former loanshark and gym owner Louis “Bent Finger Lou” Monacello, appeared eager to turn his testimony into a Hollywood audition. Jacobs said his “venom” for the Ligambi and Borgesi families was clear, given that he even took shots at their women.
A few dozen of the defendants’ friends and relatives come to court each day from South Philadelphia. They frequently chuckle at the testimony and cheer on their loved ones during breaks. One woman in court Monday clutched a set of rosary beads.
Although there hadn’t been a mob hit in Philadelphia in nearly a decade, police last month charged a gambling figure in a brazen daytime shooting that occurred hours after the government rested its case.
Anthony Nicodemo is charged with killing Gino DiPietro in broad daylight last month near the victim’s home. DiPietro’s name had come up in wiretaps played in court. Nicodemo has not yet had a preliminary hearing, and the motive for the slaying remains unclear.
More Related Stories
- 80-year-old becomes oldest to climb Mount Everest
- Before FBI shooting man implicated self, Tsarnaev in triple murder
- Paul McCartney backs Pussy Riot
- UK emergency committee convenes after attack
- Brave scout leader tried to reason with London attackers
- If Alex Pareene was a cable news executive...
- El Salvador court delays ruling on abortion case while woman's life hangs in the balance
- UK officials: Radical Islam behind London attack
- Pa. governor "can't find" any Latinos to work in his administration
- London machete attack could be linked to terrorism
- Conservative group blames military sexual assault on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" repeal
- Lois Lerner, IRS disaster
- Donald Rumsfeld worried that marriage equality will lead to polygamy
- Experts: Fox News spying scandal a game-changer
- San Francisco Giant Jeremy Affeldt apologizes for homophobic past
- 9-year-old slams Rahm over Chicago schools
- Stockholm riots rage for third day
- Wall Street firm's "Golden Pitchbook" is totally sexist, full of lies
- Must-see morning clip: Toronto's eccentric and allegedly crack-smoking mayor
- Federal court strikes down Arizona abortion ban
- Jodi Arias: I deserve a second chance
Featured Slide Shows
The week in 10 picsclose X
- 1 of 11
Credit: AP/LM Otero
Credit: AP/Matt Rourke
Credit: AP/Jenny Aicher
Credit: AP/Molly Riley
Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite
Credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster
Credit: AP/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Jeff Scheid
Credit: AP/NASA/Chris Hadfield
Credit: AP/Jacquelyn Martin
Credit: AP/The Duluth News-Tribune/Clint Austin
Recent Slide Shows
- 1 of 11