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Sunday, January 5, 2014

Franke the Fixer describes collecting loan sharking debts


As a government witness in Joseph Ligambi's first trial in 2012, Francis "Frankie the Fixer" DiGiacomo underwhelmed, declaring the reputed Philadelphia mob boss and his associates "great people" and characterizing another star government cooperator as a "sneaky" liar.

But as he returned to the witness stand Thursday - this time as a witness for the defense - DiGiacomo didn't do his former mob colleagues many favors, either.

"That was my boss, right there," he said pointing to Ligambi across the courtroom.

DiGiacomo's testimony Thursday came on the final day of evidence in the racketeering retrial of Ligambi and his nephew George Borgesi.

Prosecutors will have one last shot Monday to convince jurors that the two oversaw a loan-sharking and illegal gambling racket before the panel is expected to begin deliberations next week.

While DiGiacomo's testimony may have sewn confusion for the previous jury, which deadlocked on the most serious charges against the two mob leaders last year, on Thursday he left little doubt who he believed he was working for.

"We were doing it for George, and had to take all orders from Joe," he said.

DiGiacomo, a 49-year-old plumber by trade, a mob debt-collector by talent, said he worked as a member of Borgesi's crew for years, collecting payments from loan-sharking debtors using threats and sometimes actual acts of violence.

That is until his own debts threatened his position within the mob.

Fearing for his life, he turned to federal agents for help in 2007 and began recording his dealings with Borgesi's No. 2 - Louis "Bent Finger Lou" Monacello. He is now in the federal witness protection program.

"I didn't have no more options," he said Thursday. "No more choices."

In dozens of tapes played for jurors during the past two months, DiGiacomo and Monacello hashed out the day-to-day frustrations of managing the sports bookmaking and loan-sharking operations. Monacello said he took over for Borgesi, after Borgesi was sentenced on a 2000 federal racketeering charge.

Borgesi contends he had no involvement in or knowledge of the crimes Monacello was committing in his name. His lawyer, Christopher Warren, came to court Thursday hoping for a repeat of DiGiacomo's defense-friendly testimony in 2012.

But despite repeated questioning about whether Monacello might simply been throwing their former boss' name around, DiGiacomo stuck to his story.

He submitted payments to Monacello, who gave them to a third man to pass on to Borgesi's wife, in cash-stuffed envelopes, he said.

Who did that money ultimately benefit? Assistant U.S. Attorney John S. Han asked.

"Georgie," DiGiacomo said.

Under cross-examination, DiGiacomo also said he had spoken directly with Ligambi about the loan-sharking business.

Still, the plumber conceded he had no direct communication with the imprisoned Borgesi and dealt primarily with Monacello.

In more than a year since the last trial, Monacello did not appear to have risen much in DiGiacomo's estimation.

DiGiacomo's cooperation helped send Monacello to prison on state racketeering charges in 2008 and led to his indictment a year later, along with Ligambi and Borgesi in the current federal case.

Again, the plumber described his former associate as "greedy" and "very sneaky."

As for everyone else, they may be the "great people" DiGiacomo described last time around, but, as his testimony came to a close Thursday, he reiterated he always knew the mob's pecking order.

"I knew Joe was the boss," he said. "And I knew what Georgie was."

http://www.philly.com/philly/news/breaking/20140103_In_federal_court___quot_Frankie_the_Fixer_quot__describes_collecting_loan-sharking_debts_for_the_mob.html#2pJfGCeQRROFEiZ5.99


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