Philly Mafia Realigns Again, Musical Chairs Within Mob Admin Facing Potential Powder Keg On Streets

Old is new again in the City of Brotherly Love’s underworld. Explosive news out of Philadelphia this week revealed a newly-aligned power structure in the city’s Italian mafia. Award-winning FoxPhilly29’s ace television investigative journalist Dave Schratwieser and renowned east coast mobologist George Anastasia reported Monday night that heavily-respected 76-year old former acting boss Joseph (Uncle Joe) Ligambi is now the current acting boss of the always-fascinating Bruno-Scarfo crime family and Steven (Handsome Stevie) Mazzone, the syndicate’s popular one-time reputed acting boss is now its’ underboss. The FoxPhilly29 probe also confirmed GR’s prior reports of the Family being split down into four factions, a recent infusion of new blood by way of an alleged 2015 making ceremony and a glitzy mobbed-up New Year’s Eve party in Philly’s Packer Park neighborhood attended by Ligambi and fellow mafia heavyweights.

“Schratwieser and the Fox guys nailed it, Uncle Joe is back on top, he’s shooting a lot of moves lately, keeping everyone happy,” said a GR source intimately familiar with the situation at hand.

According to exclusive GR sources, with reputed dashing don Joseph (Skinny Joey) Merlino, like Mazzone, 53 years ‘young’, spending his time jaunting between Florida and Pennsylvania, seasoned mafia-vet Uncle Joe Ligambi – pictured in this story’s featured image – assumed day-to-day responsibilities for the Philly mob clan mid-to-late last summer or at the latest, early fall and the fact that Mazzone is now fulfilling day-to-day underboss duties doesn’t mean previous alleged acting underboss John (Johnny Chang) Ciancaglini was demoted. Ciancaglini, per multiple sources, is still considered “administration” but both Mazzone and Ligambi and their particularly well-honed leadership and mediation style are needed more primary on the syndicate frontlines right now in light of the current state of fragility on the South Philly streets.

Mafia elder statesman Joseph (Chickie) Ciancaglini, reputed to have been the crime family’s ceremonial No. 2 in charge since his release from prison in 2014 after more than 30 years served for racketeering offenses, has replaced Ligambi as consigliere, according to sources. Ligambi originally served as acting boss from 1999 until he was indicted and jailed in 2011, reportedly turning over the reins to Mazzone, who steered the ship until the second half of last year.

Per sources, Ligambi was asked by Joey Merlino to come out of a self-imposed semi-retirement around the time his nephew, former consigliere George (Georgie Boy) Borgesi, got off parole in July, in an attempt by Skinny Joey to “maintenance” Borgesi, finally out of prison for the first time since 2000 last year and eager to “reestablish himself in the mob and settle old scores,” – first and foremost related to an intense beef with childhood pal and co-defendant Marty Angelina, per sources, for Angelina’s “raid on Borgesi’s rackets” while he served a lengthier sentence behind bars than Angelina did for their twin 2001 racketeering convictions. Angelina was Merlino’s underboss and eyes and ears on the street for a portion of Merlino’s 12-year-long imprisonment.

Merlino, Mazzone, Angelina and Borgesi all grew up side-by-side, rising to power together in the Philadelphia mafia the 1990s after fighting a brutal and bloody street war against Sicilian-born boss John Stanfa. Michael (Mikey Chang) Ciancaglini, Chickie’s son, Johnny Chang’s little brother and Merlino’s best friend, was slain in the conflict, gunned down outside a South Philly mob hangout on a sunny afternoon in the summer of 1993, dying in Merlino’s arms. Joseph (Joey Chang) Ciancaglini, Jr., Chickie’s middle son, was nearly killed, maimed in a point-blank shooting months  earlier at a warehouse district diner he ran as his and Stanfa’s daily headquarters. With both Chickie and eldest son Johnny Chang away “at college,” Joey Chang and Mikey Chang ended up on opposite sides of the city’s early-1990s’ shooting war.

Ligambi was “made” during the 1980s Nicodemo (Little Nicky) Scarfo era and emerged from prison in 1997 upon a murder conviction against him being overturned. Known as gentlemanly and gracious among the powers that be in east coast gangland circles, Uncle Joe’s first reign as acting boss stabilized a syndicate that seemed to be on the verge of careening out of control. Ligambi averted an assassination plot in his first year on the job when the plotter, New Jersey-based capo Peter (Pete the Crumb) Caprio, was indicted and flipped. He’s suspected by the FBI of ordering several mob murders in his original stint on the throne, however has never been hit with any homicide charges.

The Merlino-Mazzone-Borgesi “mob triple threat” was the Clinton White House years’ underworld equivalent of N’Sync or the Backstreet Boys – they were young, they were hip, they were fawned over in a city where goodfellas and wiseguys are treated on-par with athletes and actors.  At the peak of their collective power in the Philadelphia mob of the late 1990s, Merlino had Mazzone as his underboss and Borgesi as his consigliere. They all went down in a 2000 RICO indictment, featuring one of Merlino’s mentors, former Godfather Ralph Natale as the government’s star witness. Although charged with multiple murders, they weren’t convicted of any of them at their high-profile 2001 trial in federal court, just the racketeering counts.

Georgie Borgesi (left) c. 1999

Georgie Borgesi (left) c. 1999

Borgesi did the most prison time – avoiding conviction in another RICO case heaved his way while he was incarcerated, before walking free in January 2014. He once allegedly bragged to mob-associate-turned-witness Louis (Bent Finger Lou) Monancello of participating in 11 gangland hits in his mob career. Mazzone got out of the pen in 2008, Merlino followed in 2011, relocating to Boca Raton, Florida and opening a restaurant called, ‘Merlino’s.’ The suave, handsome and magnetic mob boss plays the role of the consummate host at his eatery, glad-handing with customers, posing for photos with admirers to be posted on social media and doing interviews with the press, specifically NY Times Best-Selling author Anastasia, the writer who has brilliantly documented “The Skinny One’s” bold and fearless ascent through the ranks of the American mafia and his reign atop the Philadelphia underworld the past two dozen years.

According to sources close to the situation, Borgesi and Merlino, once, as they say, thick as thieves, aren’t getting along these days and Borgesi heads one of the four separate wings of the crime family as of the start of 2016. As FoxPhilly29 showed in exclusive footage Monday night, Georgie Boy Borgesi and his brother and top lieutenant Anthony have set up a clubhouse headquarters at the corner of 11th and Jackson, the site of a former pizza parlor. Sources in South Philly tell GR that Borgesi and his crew leave the HQ to talk business outside via walk-and-talks on the block or stand-and-talks in front of and inside a church located across the street. The FoxPhilly29 footage showed Borgesi meeting with both Ligambi and Mazzone.

“Georgie thinks Joey owed him better treatment while he was inside and since he’s been out,” said one exclusive GR source. “It’s not that complicated, the guy did a heap of time, could’ve buried a lot of people if he ever became a witness, but didn’t, kept his mouth shut, upheld the code, and he thinks he’s getting punished for it instead of repaid or rewarded for it,”

Besides the two Merlino factions, Scarfo-era soldiers Phil Narducci and Joseph (Joey Pung) Pungitore allegedly head current factions in the syndicate as well according to Schratwieser, Anastasia and GR. Pungitore and Narducci come from deep Philadelphia mob pedigrees and both did two-decade prison bids for gangland activity in the 1980s. Narducci doesn’t get along with Merlino or Johnny Chang, per sources, but does “see eye-to-eye” with Mazzone and Ligambi.

Schratwieser and Anastasia distinguish between Merlino and Ligambi factions, placing Borgesi in his uncle’s wing of the Family not as a separate faction head. GR’s sources put Ligambi and Merlino in the same group and Borgesi leading his own faction of the Borgata with his own non-Merlino loyalists standing behind him.

Narducci is alleged to have close ties to Philly’s infamous independent 10th-&-Oregon Gang (aka the ’10th-&-O’ crew). One GR source says the syndicate’s recent induction class included members of both Borgesi’s and Narducci’s factions as a conciliatory gesture offered by Merlino to calm increasingly-rising tensions. It’s not clear if Merlino, Ligambi or both conducted the making ceremony.

Merlino and Ligambi each have support and sanctioning from New York’s Five Families, according to a law enforcement source. Photos of Merlino partying with at least one influential member of the Lucchese crime family have surfaced on social media in the last six months.

Monday’s FoxPhilly29 report discussed the Philadelphia mafia’s possible investment in the local real estate business and reconstruction boom, displaying exclusive footage of Borgesi and his brother holding a meeting at a South Philly real estate company. The report tags Pungitore as playing a role in area real estate ventures, too.

Imprisoned Philly mob soldier Anthony (Tony Nics) Nicodemo, Joey Merlino’s protégé,one-time driver and bodyguard, doing 25 years after pleading guilty to taking part in a murder conspiracy (Dec ’13 slaying of FBI informant Gino DiPietro), was involved in “flipping houses” per one source, prior to his arrest in the minutes after DiPietro was shot dead getting into his car on a Philadelphia street corner mere blocks away from where Ligambi and Borgesi were standing trial at the federal courthouse one afternoon just over two years ago. Ligambi and Borgesi are not suspects in the DiPietro hit, according to a source inside east coast law enforcement.

Watch FoxPhilly29’s report from Monday here


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