One-time Philadelphia mafia captain Vincent (Al Pajamas) Pagano died of natural causes this week after spending the last quarter century of his life behind bars. The 89-year old had been locked up since 1994. He was found guilty at a 1995 federal racketeering trial alongside Bruno-Scarfo crime family boss John Stanfa.

Al Pajamas was a bit player in the Philly underworld for most of his criminal career until Stanfa rose to power in the 1990s. Under Stanfa, he was tapped for a capo’s post and became one of the don’s top advisors during a time when Stanfa engaged in a bloody struggle for control of the crime family with current Philly mob boss Joseph (Skinny Joey) Merlino, then an upstart gangster just in his early 30s

In January 1994, Pagano was involved in one of the area’s most infamous botched murder attempts when he and Stanfa’s underboss Frank (Spanish Frank) Martines failed to complete a hit on syndicate enforcer John (John-John) Veasey in a small apartment above a mob-connected butcher’s shop in South Philly. Veasey, who weeks earlier had signed a cooperation agreement with the FBI, was shot three times in the head and stabbed once in the chest by Martines, but managed to escape alive by fighting his way out of the apartment. As Veasey fled, Pagano screamed at him, ”You better not tell the cops or we’ll kill your entire family.”

The following year, Veasey was the star witness at the trial that put Pagano, Martines and Stanfa away for life. On Veasey’s first day of scheduled testimony, his brother Billy was slain gangland style by the Merlino faction in retaliation for John-John’s slaying of Merlino’s best friend and right-hand man, Michael (Mikey Chang) Ciangaglini in August 1993 at the height of the mob war. The flashbulb friendly Merlino was wounded in the attack on a South Philly street corner, however survived to ascend to the throne upon the Sicilian-born Stanfa’s incarceration.

Pagano came up in Philly mob circles in a crew run by Frank (The Barracuda) Sindone where he was a bookie and numbers writer. He was close to local mob heavies Raymond (Long John) Martorano and Harry (The Hunchback) Riccobene and took pinches for drugs and horse race fixing. According to underworld lore, Pagano gave himself the nickname “Al Pajamas” (in reference to the bedroom garb) as a nod to his self-proclaimed reputation for putting people to sleep.

Sindone was executed in 1980 after being part of a failed palace coup which also involved Stanfa. Due to his ties to the Sicilian mafia and the Gambino crime family out of New York, Stanfa was spared reprisals. With Sindone dead, Pagano made himself scarce on the streets during the rest of 1980s, doing time for narcotics and relocating to Florida. Stanfa’s rise to the throne with backing from the Gambinos brought Pagano out of the shadows and back into the picture.

On his return, Pagano boldly stated, “All of Philadelphia knows Pajamas is back.” His run in the Stanfa pecking order was short lived though and he’d spend most of his remaining days as a guest of the government. If they hadn’t been indicted together in March 1994, Pagano was reportedly in line for a promotion to consigliere.

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