Well-liked Philadelphia mafia figure Joseph (Joey Bongs) Bongiovanni died of cancer this week. He did a federal prison stint in the 1980s for gambling and racketeering.

A longtime presence in the area underworld, the 70-year old Bongiovanni maintained close ties to Philly mob boss Joseph (Skinny Joey) Merlino and consigliere Joseph (Chickie) Ciancaglini. As a young man, Bongiovanni worked as a cop in the Philadelphia Police Department.

Merlino, 55, is currently under federal indictment out of New York for gambling and health-care fraud affairs he allegedly oversaw from his new home in Boca Raton, Florida, where he relocated after he got out of a 12-year term behind bars for racketeering in early 2011. Mob watchers placed Skinny Joey on the Jersey Shore last weekend. When Merlino first got out of a prior prison stay in the 1990s for robbing an armored bank truck, he lived in Bongiovanni’s condo in the Girard Estates section of South Philly as he planned his takeover of the local crime family – Bongiovanni backed Merlino in the war he fought with Sicilian-born don John Stanfa between 1992 and 1994 to grab the reins of a Borgata he’s yet to relinquish.

Bongiovanni and Ciancaglini went down together in a racketeering case in U.S. District Court in the winter of 1981. While Joey Bongs did three years in prison for the bust, Chickie Ciancaglini, 83, only just walked free two years ago in the spring of 2015 after serving more than three decades as a guest of the government.

According to court records and FBI documents, Bongiovanni traces in mob roots to bookmaking and numbers running for Ciancaglini and Skinny Joey’s dad, deceased Philadelphia mafia underboss Salvatore (Chuckie) Merlino, in the 1970s. Per his 1980 federal tax form, Bongiovanni was employed at a wholesale meat company connected to another deceased Philly mobster named Anthony (Tony Meats) Ferrante, who controlled the city’s meat-packing district and portions of the city’s pro boxing scene on behalf of the mafia. Chuckie Merlino died of natural causes in prison at 73 years old in October 2012.


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