June 11, 2020 – Questions still linger a decade later in the mystery surrounding who bumped off Philadelphia bookie and drug dealer Rocco Maniscalco. And who ordered it. This week is the 10-year anniversary of Maniscalco’s murder.
The investigation remains open and active, per sources in federal law enforcement, one of a half-dozen cold-case gangland slayings potentially tied to Bruno-Scarfo crime family affairs being probed by the FBI dating back to the late 1990s. All of the hits took place during Joseph (Uncle Joe) Ligambi’s tenure as acting boss of the Philly mafia.
The 38-year old Maniscalco was gunned down in the early hours of June 10, 2010 as he returned home to his rowhouse in South Philly from watching Game 6 of the NHL Stanley Cup Finals between the Philadelphia Flyers and the Chicago Blackhawks at the Wolf Street Cafe a block away. Eye-witnesses told police the shooter was a thin white middle-aged man.
Maniscalco was the great nephew of legendary Philly mob rogue Harry (The Hunchback) Riccobene and was reportedly beefing with Bruno-Scarfo crime family leaders at the time of his killing, just like his uncle had done years before in the Scarfo era. He was also in a dispute with a group of non-mafia affiliated drug dealers over an unpaid $60,000 gambling tab.
Pint-sized Harry Riccobene, who fought the maniacal and equally vertically-challenged boss Nicodemo (Little Nicky) Scarfo for power in the Philly mob in the 1980s, died behind bars in 2000 at 90 years old of a sepsis infection. By the time Harry the Hunchback passed, Scarfo was in prison for life and the chic, shoot-from-the-hip Joseph (Skinny Joey) Merlino mob had emerged, winning his own war for power in the Family. The moxie-drenched Merlino crew is still on top today.
Merlino has long deferred to old-school mob politico Uncle Joe Ligmabi, for day-to-day management of the borgata, according to court records. Ligambi, quiet and understated, stabilized the family while the flash-bulb friendly Merlino served a 12-year prison sentence.
Maniscalco allegedly ran drug and gambling businesses from New Era Collision, an auto body shop on 25th and Wharton. Starting in around January 2010, he began getting “leaned on” by Ligambi and Ligambi’s nephew, George (Georgie Boy) Borgesi, for a piece of his rackets in the form of a street tax, according to Mansicalco’s widow and sister and more than one FBI informant.
According an internal FBI memo circulated in 2013, hoodlums representing Ligambi and Borgesi, respectively, paid Maniscalco separate visits at New Era Collision in the spring of 2010 and demanded a cut of his narcotics and bookmaking dealings. Ligambi had been the crime family’s acting boss at that point for more than a decade with Merlino and Borgesi, a boyhood chum and confidant of Skinny Joey’s, both out of town serving prison terms for racketeering.
Uncle Joe Ligambi called shots for the 58-year old Merlino on the streets for 20 years (1999-2019). He retired last summer at his 80th birthday party, per sources. Borgesi, 56, is alleged to have replaced Ligambi as Merlino’s acting boss, having previously served in a consigliere and capo capacity.
Skinny Joey has lived in South Florida since getting out of prison on his racketeering case in 2011. Borgesi got out of the can in 2014 after him and his uncle beat an extortion bust at two trials and returned to South Philly.
In the early 2000s, Maniscalco was on good terms with the local mafia, per FBI records; his New Era Collision headquarters was a hangout for lower-level knockaround guys from the neighborhood and even used for an employment spot when some of Merlino’s men were paroled from prison. One of the parolees who got work at New Era Collision was particularly close to Borgesi. Merlino’s pal Carl Bradley was good friends with Maniscalco and often seen in his office at the auto body shop. Things began changing in late 2009 though and by the winter of 2010, Maniscalco, was wearing a bulletproof vest whenever he left his house.
Ligambi was convicted of a gangland murder in 1989, but had the guilty verdict thrown out on appeal. Borgesi and Merlino are suspects in a collection of mob hits from the 1990s. They both beat murder raps at their 2001 racketeering trial. One witness at Borgesi and Ligambi’s 2013 trial, recounted how Borgesi bragged to him of committing 11 mob murders in a car ride by signaling the No. 11 with his hands.