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Thursday, May 26, 2011

Video Poker Machines Are Like Philly Mob's ATM





Earlier this week, prosecutors announced a 50-count federal indictment against 13 alleged members of the Philadelphia mob.
The reputed wiseguys are charged with a slew of crimes, from gambling and extortion to threats.
Authorities contend that mob boss Joseph Ligambi was running an illegal video poker machine business.
We wanted to know more about that business, so we asked Fox 29's Dave Schratwieser to get to the bottom of it.
When it comes to the illegal business that fuels the local mob, federal and state investigators said to look no farther than the intersection of 13th Street and Moyamensing Avenue – you might call it the hot corner.
That's where the FBI and state investigators took away machines from three neighboring locations.
"That's what makes it go," said former federal prosecutor Barry Gross, who helped put behind bars four mob bosses who were all into video poker machines.
According to investigators, Ligambi, underboss Anthony Staino Jr. and other wiseguys had 86 video poker machines in more than 20 locations, usually two at a time, churning out money for the mob like an ATM.
"It would always come down to money – money and power," Gross said.
The power was in machines located all over South Philadelphia and on into Manayunk.
The mob's operating instructions are simple: "You have this machine, people are putting money in it, the payouts are low, the payouts are manipulated as to whatever number you want, whatever percentage. So, if you have a machine there, it's just a moneymaker. You don't have to do anything. People put money in, and you take the money home at the end of the day."
Where do the machines come from? Two years ago, investigators for the state attorney general's office and state police seized more than three dozen machines from a tiny garage on Mountain Street in the heart of South Philadelphia. The owner is now cooperating with authorities.
It's obvious the mob and the machines are a match made in heaven. The problem is the feds know that, too.
"You would hope that people finally get smart and stay away from this," Gross said.
Ligambi and Staino allegedly succeeded in taking over the company after three other mob bosses – John Stanfa, Ralph Natale, Joey Merlino and now Ligambi – tried and failed.
Merlino and Natale, according to Natale, even shot the late owner of the company, who survived that attempt.
Natale also testified on the witness stand that the company was so valuable it made $20,000 a week. He said it made more money than selling drugs, Schratwieser reported.

http://www.myfoxphilly.com/dpp/news/local_news/Video_Poker_Machines_And_The_Philadelphia_Mob_052511


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