Numbers On South Philly Streets Continue To Balloon, One-Time Mafia Chief ‘Faffy’ Back In Town

The Philadelphia mob keeps getting more crowded with more and more members filtering out of prison in recent years. And now, here comes another one. Famously-fearless and capable Francis (Faffy) Iannarella, a 1980s-era syndicate captain and reputed hitman, got back to Philadelphia this week after nearly 30 years in the joint for racketeering – he was convicted of a murder at his original 1989 trial, but had the guilty verdict thrown off the books almost a decade later. The 68-year old Iannarella will be residing in a halfway house-and/or-on house arrest until he’s released from government custody for good in early July. The past several years he’s resided in a federal correctional facility in Kentucky.

The mafia underworld in South Philly Iannarella returns to is an uneasy and complicated brew of 1980s era and 1990s era wiseguys all attempting to coexist. Experts on Philadelphia mob politics contend there are four factions currently comprising the Bruno-Scarfo crime family in the City of Brotherly Love, one led by alleged official don Joseph (Skinny Joey) Merlino, one led by Merlino’s former consigliere George (Georgie Boy) Borgesi, just “off paper” since back in the summer and the other two headed by Joseph (Joey Punge) Pungitore and Phil Narducci, like Iannarella, both button men from the treacherous Little Nicky Scarfo regime.

Local insiders predict Iannarella will support Joey Punge on the outside. He’s been locked up since his arrest in 1987 as part of a huge RICO dropped on virtually the entire Scarfo organization and resulting in convictions across the board. Joey Punge and Narducci both went down in the bust too and did 20-year plus prison sentences. Merlino and Borgesi play of the filling-the-void process in the aftermath of the Scarfo crew getting demolished by the government’s legal assault – they fought a war with Little Nicky’s predecessor, Sicilian-born John Stanfa through the first half of the 1990s until they themselves and their loyalists emerged in control of the Philly mob.

Before joining the mafia, Iannarella was a U.S. Marine. He was as formidable as any tough guy in the syndicate’s bloody Scarfo empire, known to leave debtors shaking in their proverbial boots when word of his desire to speak to them about their gambling losses were relayed. FBI and court documents claim he was a go-to enforcer and seasoned murderer for the hot-tempered and erratic Little Nicky in a crime family full of them.

“Faffy is stone-cold gangster to the core, he’s as stand-up and reliable as they come in ‘the Life,’ he never wavered, didn’t blink a millisecond in 30 fucking years,” one GR source said. “Just really, really loyal to the street and what its all about to have a button.”

In his previous mob heyday of more than three decades ago, Iannarella found himself implicated by the FBI in at least four gangland hits – the slayings of John Calabrese (1981), Robert Riccobene (1983), Sammy Tamburrino (1983) and Frank (Frankie Flowers) D’Alfonso (1985). Authorities peg Iannarella the trigger man in the Calabrese and Riccobene murders and a co-conspirator in the others.

Calabrese was a South Philly drug dealer who fell out of favor with the Scarfo gang.The Calabrese hit got Iannarella “made,” per court testimony and informant intelligence, an induction into La Cosa Nostra (the American mafia).

Riccobene, a lieutenant in a rival Philly mob contingent led by his brother, grizzled east coast gangland vet Harry (The Hunchback) Riccobene, who refused to yield to Scarfo’s demands, was executed in front of his mother, who looked on in horror and was struck in the face with the butt of a shotgun, allegedly by Iannarella. Tamburrino, an associate of the Riccobene brothers, was killed weeks earlier, with his mother watching on as well and Iannarella allegedly acting as the getaway driver. Once close to legendary Godfather Angelo Bruno (slain in 1980), D’Alfonso was a Scarfo rival thought to be too greedy for not sharing more of his large stable of rackets.

Iannarella was initially convicted alongside Narducci for his role in D’Alfonso’s killing, but had the case tossed on appeal and was acquitted at a 1997 retrial. Also relieved of responsibility for the Frankie Flowers hit in 1997 was Narducci and Joseph (Uncle Joe) Ligambi, Joey Merlino’s alleged acting boss and Georgie Borgesi’s uncle on his mother’s side. Narducci walked free in 2012. Merlino and Borgesi were nailed on RICO charges in a 2000 indictment and did 12 and 14 years respectively in the can.

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  1. Joe

    he was a captain with a lot of influence when he went away you gotta think if he’s part of Joey Pungs crew Joey will give him a lot more power than the other guys under him