June 4, 2020 – The Philadelphia mob’s leadership feared veteran button man Raymond (Long John) Martorano was loading up for war and importing “zip” shooters from Sicily when they decided to kill him, according to an interview with Long John’s son on the most-recent episode of the Philly Prime podcast.

Long John Martorano, 75, was ambushed by gunmen on his way to a doctor’s appointment behind the wheel of his Lincoln Town Car on January 17, 2002 in the city’s Washington Square West neighborhood. He died from his injuries on February 5. Nobody has ever been charged in his homicide and the investigation into the murder remains an open and active case in the Philly FBI office.

At the time of his dad’s murder 18 years ago, George (Cowboy) Martorano, was in prison serving a life sentence under a federal drug kingpin statute. Cowboy Martorano, who was the undisputed marijuana mob prince of South Philly in the early 1980s, was granted clemency from outgoing U.S. President Barak Obama in 2015. Today, he runs a successful CBD and hemp-products business based out of the Hip Hemp Café on S. 7th Street.

Both Martoranos were well-known narcotics traffickers in the Philly mob of the 1980s under erratic, bloodthirsty don Nicodemo (Little Nicky) Scarfo. While Cowboy was the handsome, well-spoken wholesale weed connect for most of the city in that era, his pops, Long John was the maestro of meth, helping the city earn a reputation for being the PCP capital of America.

Long John’s roots in the South Philly drug and numbers game dated all the way back to the 1950s. The consummate mob politician, he was the Bruno-Scarfo crime family’s liaison to the city’s African-American, Greek and Irish mob factions, as well as the biker gangs operating in the region, until he was nailed by the feds in a 1982 drug case and then indicted for the murder of a labor-union boss.   

The elder Martorano was paroled from federal prison in November 1999. His subsequent return to the Philadelphia underworld did not go smoothly.

Upon hitting the streets and trying to reestablish his rackets, Long John reportedly clashed with new acting Bruno-Scarfo mob boss Joseph (Uncle Joe) Ligambi. Adding fuel to the flames of discontent was the fact that Martorano was already on bad terms with Ligambi’s consigliere, Joe (The Crutch) Curro, related to a 1981 gangland murder Martorano and his son are alleged to have participated in (no charges were ever filed against either) where a female relative of Curro’s was accidentally caught in the crossfire of a mob hit and killed.

Philly Greek mob boss Stevie Bouras and his girlfriend Jeanette Curro were slain in a hail of bullets inside a local diner having dinner with Long John and his wife on May 27, 1981. Little Nicky Scarfo had just taken power in the weeks before and was staging a consolidation effort, according to federal records detailing the Bouras murder conspiracy. “Joe Crutch” Curro died of cancer in 2004.

It appears the Philly mafia braintrust of the early 2000s, headed by Ligambi and Curro, feared Long John was taking aim at a consolidation effort of his own. Scarfo was long gone, serving life in prison for murder and racketeering, and Martorano lacked the standing in the crime family he had once enjoyed. He bristled at taking orders from Ligambi and Curro, who had been significantly beneath him on the local mob pecking order in his heyday, according to sources familiar with the situation.

Ligambi was named acting boss in the summer of 1999, two years removed from beating a murder rap on retrial and just four months prior to Long John walking free. Long John Martorano had difficulty finding his place in Ligambi’s regime and was blocked from earning in his old stomping grounds, per federal informants, breeding resentment between the pair.

Cowboy Martorano, 70, revealed to Philly Prime podcast creator and mafia expert Dave Schratwieser (Fox29 TV) in their interview, that his father had taken two trips to Sicily in the months before he was slain in the winter of 2002 for the purpose of securing contracts for a construction business he was trying to get off the ground and those trips were misconstrued by the sitting Philly mob hierarchy of the time as preparations for a revolt. Just a decade earlier, Sicilian-born Philly mob boss John Stanfa had gone overseas to recruit muscle in his attempt to quell an insurrection by the crime family’s younger generation and the bosses interpreted Long John’s excursions to the motherland as history repeating itself, Cowboy Martorano pointed out on the podcast.

The 80-year old Uncle Joe Ligambi retired from his acting boss duties last summer and serves in an advisory capacity to Philly mafia brass these days, per sources. The FBI considers the stately, unassuming Ligambi a suspect in ordering at least three gangland murders, including the Long John Martorano hit, and possibly more, in his two-decade reign spent stabilizing a crime family rocked by infighting in the 1980s and 90s.

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