Reputed Philly Mob Associates, The Traitz Brothers Skated On Murder Charges, Still Went Away For Second Time On Drug Bust

Convicted felons and Philadelphia labor-union princes Stevie and Joey Trait avoided being convicted of a grisly gangland homicide almost thirty years ago. Their dad, former Roofers Union president and mob associate Steve Traitz died at 79 of natural causes last week. The Traitz brothers, both former boxers trained by their father, were acquitted at trial in 2001 of the spring 1987 slaying of drug dealer Bobby Hammond, their partner in a crystal meth ring being run out of Joey Traitz’s farm property in Montgomery County.

The Traitzs eventually pled guilty to federal narcotics charges and did nearly a decade in prison, being released in 2008. At the time of Hammond’s murder, they were out on bond awaiting trial on racketeering charges besides their pops related to illegal activity in the labor union – all three were convicted and did prison terms.

“We thought we had them on the Hammond hit, it didn’t play in court though,” reflected one retired FBI agent formerly of the Philadelphia organized crime beat. “There were some margins of doubt with the jury, the thing was close to open and shut, but not open and shut enough to get them nailed for it.”

The 49-year old Hammond was shot to death, struck four times in the head and neck at point-blank range, around 8:00 p.m. on April 14, 1987 while he sat idling on a secluded upstate Pennsylvania road in the driver’s seat of his daughter’s silver-colored Honda Civic station wagon. The weapon was fired from the passenger’s seat. Joey Traitz was alleged to have been the shooter. Stevie Traitz is said to have called Hammond on the phone to lure him to the kill site with the promise of Traitz and his younger brother paying off a $35,000 drug debt they owed him. Another drug-pusher pal of theirs’, Pete Grippi, allegedly shuttled Joey Traitz away from the scene of the crime in his own vehicle.

Hammond’s bullet-riddled body was discovered by a passing motorist in the minutes after the fatal shooting in Upper Macungie Township sitting behind the wheel of his daughter’s car, the motor still on.The Traitz brothers told investigators they were both attending a birthday party at the time Hammond was slain. Upper Macungie Township is located in the western part of the Lehigh Valley. The patch of property Hammond was killed at sat on the outskirts of a Boys Scouts summer camp.

Family patriarch Steve Traitz was Philly’s Roofers Union President in the 1980s and connected to the city’s then-Italian mafia don Nicodemo (Little Nicky) Scarfo, a diminutive, yet deadly mob boss responsible for ordering literally dozens of murders. According to trial testimony and state police records, the Traitz brothers got permission to clip Bobby Hammond in February 1987 from Scarfo and his underboss and nephew Philip (Crazy Phil) Leonetti, explaining that they thought he was an FBI informant who’s ratting led to the arrest of John Schoenberger, the father of the Traitzs’ brother-in-law, Richie Schoenberger, for possession with intent to distribute 10 pounds of crystal meth.

Philadelphia has long been known as the capital of America’s crystal meth trade. Richie Schoenberger, convicted alongside the Traitz family in the Roofers Union racketeering case in the late 1980s, was busted for dealing crystal meth in May 1994 and turned over on his brother-in-laws, providing the government all he knew about the Hammond hit and entering the witness protection program.

Per Schoenberger’s testimony, he provided Joey Traitz the murder weapon, a 38-caliber Smith and Wesson pistol, and the Traitzs’ father instructed them to attend Hammond’s funeral and wake. Schoenberger’s father, John, testified that Joey Traitz told him “I took care of that problem for you,” in a conversation they had in the weeks following Hammond’s murder.

Holes, however, existed in the prosecution’s case. A ballistics expert testified one of the shell casings recovered didn’t come from a 38-caliber bullet. Defense attorneys pointed to witnesses that saw three motorcycle gang-types speeding away from the crime scene. Hammond routinely did business with upstate Pennsylvania motorcycle gang boss Chris (Chopper) Rigler of the Warlocks.

Hammond’s son, Robert (Buffalo Bob) Hammond, Jr., a Traitz brothers’ friend and fellow former boxer and then-drug dealer, told authorities his father was on his way to a meeting with the Traitzs the night he was killed, drawn out to the rendezvous with a promise of them repaying the 35k he had fronted them towards a purchase of P2P (the main ingredient in meth production) months earlier. The Traitzs admitted having a meeting scheduled with Hammond the day he died, but said it was slated for an area Holiday Inn hotel and was about going into business together on a series of boxing promotions before Hammond had cancelled it at the last moment.

Traitz family patriarch and fmr. Roofers Union president Steve Traitz. He died last week at 79.

Traitz family patriarch and fmr. Roofers Union president Steve Traitz. He died last week at 79.

Current reputed Philly mob boss Joseph (Skinny Joey) Merlino attended Hammond, Jr’s December 1985 wedding, according to federal documents. Informants told the FBI that Merlino’s presence upset the Traitzs. Merlino and his father, Salvatore (Chuckie) Merlino would soon get into a monumental beef with Scarfo – in prison today doing life – after Scarfo demoted Chuckie Merlino from being his underboss in the coming year.

Chuckie Merlino died three and a half years ago serving out his final years of a federal racketeering and murder convicted (the same one Scarfo is incarcerated for). Joey Merlino is the top suspect in the 1989 attempted murder of Scarfo’s son, Nicky Jr., survivor of a fusillade of point-blank gunfire inside a popular South Philly eatery on Halloween.

Multiple Gangster Report sources say Stevie (56) and Joey Traitz (55) are closely aligned with Merlino’s former consigliere, 53-year old George (Georige Boy) Borgesi, allegedly one of several faction leaders in the modern day Philadelphia underworld with Merlino away spending most of his time these days in the Florida sun. Trial testimony in 2001 ties the Traitz brothers to the Salvo brothers (Mike and Dave) in 1990s drug affairs together.

The Salvos, linked to the Roofers Union dating back years, are known to be tight with Borgesi too and some of the names being tossed around as possible new initiates “made” into the crime family recently – they, along with Borgesi, were questioned in the 1995 gangland murder of local street tough Ralphie Mazzuca, allegedly killed for robbing Merlino’s driver-turned-informant Roger Vella’s parents’ home.  While Vella was admittedly the shooter, Borgesi and the Salvos were eyed for helping him with the clean-up and disposal of Mazzuca’s body.

Dave Salvo once acted as a bodyguard for alleged acting Philly mafia Godfather Joseph (Uncle Joe) Ligambi, Borgesi’s uncle on his mother’s side. He watched Ligambi’s back throughout portions of his first stint as Merlino’s acting boss in the late 1990s and 2000s when Merlino, Borgesi and most of the rest of their inner circle served time as guests of the government spawning from their own RICO bust. Several media outlets reported Ligambi, who beat a RICO case with a pair of hung juries in 2013 and 2014 respectively, reassumed day-to-day control of the Bruno-Scarfo crime family mid-last year following 18 months in the syndicate’s consigliere post.

During his boxing career, Stevie Traitz – seen in this article’s feature image – was an impressive 22-1 with 19 knockouts. Both him and his dad are in the Pennsylvania Boxing Hall of Fame. The elder Traitz trained a lengthy list of state champions and golden glove champions out of his Montgomery County Boys Club.

Leave a Reply