’88 Mob Murder-Victim Mancini Mentored By Formidable Pittsburgh Wiseguy ‘Ninny the Torch’

Slain Pittsburgh bookie and mafia associate Bobby Mancini got his start in the Steel City gambling rackets under mob enforcer, reputed hit man and arsonist extraordinaire Anthony (Ninny the Torch) Lagattuta. At the time of his murder almost three decades ago, the brash and always-on-the-make 32-year old Mancini co-owned multiple pieces of property with Lagattuta. Yet even a highly-respected and massively-feared Rustbelt Goodfella like Ninny the Torch couldn’t save his protégé Mancini when it was found out he was working for the cops.

Mancini was killed on October 24, 1988, shot in the back of the head at his dining room table as he tabulated betting slips and talked on the phone. He had been feuding with Pittsburgh mafia numbers czar Adolpho (Junior) Williams and was cooperating with Pennsylvania State Police in a probe into Williams’ mob crew and political and police corruption in Mancini’s stomping grounds of McKees Rocks. Mancini was paying off city employees for protection prior to turning government informant.

The names of McKees Rocks’ Mayor and Chief of Police surfaced in an investigation conducted by the state police and the FBI. Mayor Dennis Skosnik was indicted, but had the charges dismissed when Macini was killed. Skosnik was convicted of corruption in his duties as Allegheny County Sherriff’s Department Deputy Chief in 2006 and sentenced to five years in the can.

Williams died of a heart attack late last week at 82, the prime suspect in the Mancini homicide, a murder which never birthed any charges. He was a character on A&E’s ‘Godfather of Pittsburgh’ reality-television show that ran for a single season in 2014.

Back in the second half of the 1980s, Williams, with the blessing of then-Pittsburgh mafia boss Michael Genovese, took command of gambling territory formerly belonging to independent gangster Tony Grosso (incarcerated in 1986), the man who taught Williams and his two brothers Salvatore and Eugene the tricks of the trade on the street. Grosso’s rackets stretched from the East End, where the Williams brothers spawned, to the Hill and McKees Rocks districts.

Before the Williams crew’s insurgence into the area in 1987, Mancini, backed by Ninny the Torch Lagattuta, controlled most of the illegal gambling in McKees Rocks unchallenged. He had climbed the ranks of the Pittsburgh mob as a gofer, sometimes-chauffer and fix-it-man for Lagattuta, longtime Steel City don Sebastian (Big John) LaRocca’s top arsonist (hence the nickname) and one of his most-utilized strong arms. Per state police records, he was close with fellow Pittsburgh Mafiosi like Henry (Zebo) Zottola and Eugene Chiarelli and state congressmen Frank Gigliotti (eventually incarcerated for taking bribes).

According to his state police file, in addition to his talent for torching buildings, Lagattuta was a nightclub owner, loan shark, bookmaker, extortionist with ties to the state legislature, organized labor and the pornography industry. He owned and ran a famous Pittsburgh after-hours joint called the Lotus Club on the city’s South Side. One state police organized crime dossier pegged him a hit man at Big John La Rocca’s disposal.

In 1972, Lagattuta was convicted of mail fraud related to the arson of a business he owned and did just under two years behind bars. Four years later, in the fall of 1976, he was jailed on a parole violation and indicted for beating a lawyer acquaintance of his named Edward Hutton to death, the same year his social club, the Greater Pittsburgh Sportsmen and Travel Association, burned to the ground in another Ninny the Torch special.

The star witness at Lagattuta’s 1977 trial was his then-driver and bodyguard, Roger Fuetter. The year after Lagattuta was convicted, Fuetter recanted his testimony and signed an affidavit claiming he torched the GRSTA with Pittsburgh porno king and LaRocca syndicate associate George Lee, not Lagattuta as he originally testified to.

Lee was slain previous to Fuetter coming forward outside a downtown Pittsburgh restaurant. Lagattuta was released in 1983. Lagatutta and Lee were frequent business partners and tried unsuccessfully to open a Playboy Club in Pittsburgh in the 1970s but failed due to city licensing issues linked to Lagatutta’s connections to the mob. Lee’s murder set off a string of killings in the quest to divvy up his flesh-peddling empire.

Ninny the Torch Lagattuta died of natural causes in January of 1996. He was 66 years old.

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