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Monday, August 22, 2011

Indications are that Louis "Bent Finger Lou" Monacello has cut a deal and may testify against Philly mobster George Borgesi


Jailed mobster George Borgesi had hoped to be awaiting his release to a halfway house about now, wrapping up a 14-year prison sentence stemming from his conviction in 2001.
Instead, Borgesi, 48, sits in the Federal Detention Center in Philadelphia awaiting trial on new racketeering charges along with reputed mob boss Joseph Ligambi, who is his uncle, and several other top associates.
One of those associates, however, may not be at the defense table when the case is presented to a jury next year. All indications are that Louis "Bent Finger Lou" Monacello has cut a deal with federal authorities and is cooperating.
A self-described tough guy who loved to play the role of a gangster, Monacello, according to several sources, is taking on another role familiar to those in the South Philadelphia underworld - government witness.
As a result, those in the defense camp have already started sniping at the 44-year-old fitness buff and Mafia aficionado.
"He was a gypsy, a con man. . . . He ran around Delaware County like he was the don," said a friend of Borgesi's who asked not to be identified.
According to federal authorities, Monacello ran Borgesi's Delaware County sports-betting and loan-sharking operation while the volatile South Philadelphia wiseguy was doing time.
For years he was Borgesi's go-to guy on the streets, investigators say.
But others, including defense attorneys and mob associates who did not want to be quoted by name, offered a different description, painting Monacello as a poseur who was fascinated with organized crime, a street hustler who used Borgesi's name to line his own pockets.
"Louie ran his own show and lied to everybody," said one source who contended that Monacello had overplayed his mob connections in order to protect a loan-sharking business funded with hundreds of thousands of dollars he had taken out as mortgages on properties he owned.
One former partner was forced out of a restaurant business at gunpoint, those sources said, adding that Monacello later stripped the interior of the business, - Gavone's at 10th and Wolf - selling off fixtures and assets before declaring bankruptcy.
"He made a lot of money" loan-sharking, a former associate said. "He used to brag about his connections to Borgesi. He'd hold out his lapel and say when Georgie came home he was going to get his button, you know, he was going to get made" (formally initiated into the mob).
Individuals who know Monacello said his fascination with the underworld and his role in it were boundless. In fact, several recounted the same story of how he had his picture superimposed on a poster of cinematic wiseguys and hung the poster on a wall in his home for all to see.
There, larger than life, were Tony Montana, Don Corleone . . . and Bent Finger Lou.
"He loved it," said an associate.
No one has officially confirmed that Monacello is cooperating, but all indications are that he has cut a deal with the government.
Several documents in his case file, including a plea memo, are now under seal.
Federal authorities have declined to discuss the case. But after originally opposing bail, prosecutors last month did not object to his release.
Borgesi's court-appointed lawyer, Paul J. Hetznecker, declined to comment.
Monacello's lawyer, Robert B. Mozenter, did not respond to several phone calls seeking comment.
Monacello, who has a house around the corner from Ligambi in the upscale Packer Park section of South Philadelphia, was taken to the townhouse early one morning last month and allowed to remove his belongings and other valuables, according to several sources.
He is living in Ventnor, N.J., under a form of limited house arrest, according to several people familiar with the case, and has been spotted working out at a local gym and gambling at an Atlantic City casino.
If he is cooperating, Monacello will be in a position to flesh out the charges against Borgesi and substantially enhance the case against Ligambi, with whom he met to discuss underworld business, according to investigators.
One of those meetings was the focus on a video report by Fox29. The video, shown in several of the television station's news reports, shows an animated and apparently angry Ligambi lecturing Monacello during a meeting in front of Ligambi's home last summer.
To date, no one has provided an audio account of that meeting. But if Monacello takes the witness stand, he will be able to add words to the pictures.
His decision to testify also is expected to bolster the evidence and testimony provided by Frank "Frankie the Fixer" DiGiacomo, who worked for Monacello as a collector/extortionist while cooperating with authorities and wearing a body wire.
Among other things, DiGiacomo taped at least two conversations with Ligambi in which loan-sharking was discussed, according to the indictment.
Monacello's gambling operation was the focus of a 2008 investigation, Operation Delco Nostra, by the Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office. He was sentenced to a one-year work-release program after pleading guilty to a gambling conspiracy charge.
The pending federal case packs a bigger punch. He is looking at a sentence of about five years, but his cooperation could result in substantially less time.
He and DiGiacomo are expected to face grueling cross-examinations. Their credibility and reputations - DiGiacomo is known as a degenerate gambler and con man - will be fair game for defense attorneys trying to undermine the evidence they bring to the table.
The verbal attacks, in fact, have already begun.
"Monacello used everybody," one source in the defense camp said last week. "Now he's using Borgesi again for a get-out-of-jail-free card.


http://www.philly.com/philly/news/pennsylvania/128161573.html?viewAll=y



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