May 15, 2020 — Philadelphia mob lawyer Joe Santaguida passed away this week at 81 from Parkinson’s disease. Santaguida was an esteemed member of the Philly and North Jersey legal community and represented Bruno-Scarfo crime family leaders Joseph (Skinny Joey) Merlino, Joseph (Uncle Joe) Ligambi and Joseph (Joe Mousie) Massimino, among others. Local mob expert and Fox29 television investigative reporter Dave Schratwieser broke the news of Santaguida’s death on his social media accounts Wednesday night.

Santaguida was the swaggering Merlino’s attorney through his rise to power in the 1990s. Merlino, 58, has headed the Philly mafia since he won a shooting war for control of the crime family 25 years ago.

In the years following the war, Santaguida paid Merlino’s childhood friend, mob soldier Gaetano (Tommy Horsehead) Scafidi, a visit behind bars to tell him all was forgiven after Scafidi jumped ship to the rival camp over a fear that Merlino was going to kill him. Scafidi didn’t believe him and agreed to enter the Witness Protection Program shortly thereafter.

The low-key, stately “Uncle Joe” Ligambi, 80, has been the much higher-profile Merlino’s acting boss and consigliere throughout his reign. Mousie Massimino, 70, was Ligambi’s underboss when he was acting boss in the 2000s while Merlino served a prison sentence for racketeering. The pair co-owned a video-poker machine distribution company.

Ligambi and Massimino were indicted together on federal racketeering charges in 2011. Ligambi beat the case. Using Santaguida as his trial counsel, the gruff, rough-around-the-edges Massimino was found guilty at his 2013 trial and tried unsuccessfully to appeal his conviction on the grounds of Santaguida’s failing mental health.

Massimino is slated for release from his prison sentence in 2024. He’s currently serving his time in a federal correctional facility in North Carolina.

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