Sicilian-born Mafioso John Stanfa came to the United States in the 1970s and was placed by New York’s Gambino crime family in the Philadelphia mob under don Angelo Bruno. Stanfa was acting as Bruno’s driver on the night he was assassinated in March 1980. The Gambinos installed Stanfa as boss of the Bruno-Scarfo crime family in 1990, hoping to calm the waters in a syndicate reeling from the bloody Nicodemo (Little Nicky) Scarfo era and the ripple effects still being felt from the Bruno slaying in South Philly a decade later.

Instead, the opposite happened. Stanfa couldn’t connect with the family’s younger members and pretty quickly had an insurgence on his hands, fighting a war with upstart gangster Joseph (Skinny Joey) Merlino, the son of jailed Scarfo underboss Salvatore (Chuckie) Merlino. Skinny Joey was being backed by Stanfa’s old rival from the Bruno days, Ralph Natale, who he met in prison and secured support from the Genovese, Colombo and Lucchese crime families out of New York, in a move to unseat Stanfa by force. The power play worked and when Stanfa was busted for murder and racketeering in early 1994, Merlino and Natale had control of the Philly mob.

The Stanfa Era Murder Timeline (1990-1994)

May 24, 1990 – Scarfo era gangster Louis (Louie Irish) DeLuca is gunned down outside his bar after butting heads with the Skinny Joey Merlino crew.

January 29, 1992 – Old school Philly mobster Felix (Little Felix) Bocchino, Stanfa’s No. 2 man, is shot to death as he got behind the wheel of his late-model Buick parked down the block from his South Philly residence, the first casualty in the Stanfa-Merlino war.

May 29, 1992 – Cop turned wiseguy James (Jimmy Brooms) DiAddorio is slain while talking on the phone at his South Philly athletic club for refusing to get in line behind Merlino and his crew.

November 29, 1992 – Drug-addled waiter Francesco DiGiacomo is shot to death and dumped on the side of the road for not repaying a debt to the Stanfa crew.

January 7, 1993 – Mob debt collector and bodybuilding champion Rod Colombo is killed for skimming profits from pick-up assignments.

January 28, 1993 – The recently released from prison Mario Riccobene, a mob soldier from a rebel Philly mafia faction in the 1980s led by his brother (“Harry the Hunchback”), is killed for trying to push his way back into the picture despite his reputation as a snitch. Mario Riccobene was only out of prison because he had been a government witness.

August 5, 1993 – Renegade mob soldier Michael (Mikey Chang) Ciancaglini is gunned down crossing the street outside the Merlino faction clubhouse in South Philly. Skinny Joey, Mikey Chang’s best friend, was wounded in the attack.

September 17, 1993 – Local mob figure Frank (Frankie Bronze) Baldino, loyal to the Merlino faction of the raging South Philly mafia war, is shot to death behind the wheel of his car in the parking lot of the Melrose Diner.

January 19, 1994 – Nicasio Zagone, Stanfa’s nephew, is killed in what is a suspected case of mistaken identity.

*Credit to “Chin Gigante” of the RD Forum for his help.

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