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Sunday, November 18, 2012

Mafia Prince: The story of Philip Leonetti’s mob hit of Vincent Falcone as ordered and watched by Nicky Scarfo

 Vincent Falcone
Vincent Falcone in the trunk of Philip Leonetti's car.
Reprinted from “Mafia Prince: Inside America’s Most Violent Mafia Family and the Bloody Fall of La Cosa Nostra” by Philip Leonetti and Scott Burnstein. Available from Running Press, an imprint of The Perseus Books Group. Copyright © 2012.
Reprinted from “Mafia Prince: Inside America’s Most Violent Mafia Family and the Bloody Fall of La Cosa Nostra” by Philip Leonetti and Scott Burnstein. Available from Running Press, an imprint of The Perseus Books Group. Copyright © 2012.

“Mafia Prince: Inside America’s Most Violent Mafia Family and the Bloody Fall of La Cosa Nostra,” is the book that came together after gangster and stone cold killer Philip Leonetti emerged from hiding to tell his story to Scott Burnstein and Christopher Graziano. Once the underboss to and the nephew of possibly the most vicious psychopath the mob has ever produced, the Philadelphia boss Nicky (Little Nicky) Scarfo, “Crazy Phil” turned and testified, sending dozens of mobsters to jail. Now, years after leaving the federal witness protection program with a $500,000 bounty still on his head, he recalls a critical killing in 1978 from their salad days in Atlantic City, when the two murdered a mob associate that had offended Scarfo.
To Nicky Scarfo, killing the Big Shot, Vincent Falcone, had become personal and Scarfo set out to lull Falcone into a comfort zone and kill him when he least expected it.
Now around this time a position opens up in the concrete union and my uncle puts the word out that he wants Vince Falcone to get it. This was a big deal and something that Vince had always wanted. So my uncle sets the trap and Vince goes for it. My uncle is acting like everything is fine, and now Vince starts coming around Georgia Avenue again. We are playing along like nothing ever happened. Me, Chuckie, Lawrence, the Blade — and Vince is doing the same because he really wants to be the boss of the concrete union. Now at this time Alfredo isn’t around anymore, and Vince is hanging with a kid from South Philadelphia named Joe Salerno, who was a plumber.
Joe Salerno had borrowed $10,000 from me and my uncle and was paying us two and half points (or $250 per week) in interest on top of the $10,000 he owed us. It was a standard juice loan and at the time we were doing a lot of loan sharking. Every week I’d go out and pick up envelopes or guys would come to the office. Everybody paid because they knew our reputation. These types of loans were our bread and butter.
With the holidays approaching and the promise of a new job waiting for him in the New Year, Vincent Falcone thought he had a lot to look forward to.
He thought wrong.
My uncle organized a little party at a house in Margate nine days before Christmas. He was already there waiting for us to arrive. Lawrence had a Thunderbird at the time and he was driving. I was sitting in the passenger’s seat, and Vincent Falcone and Joe Salerno were in the back seat. It took us about ten minutes to drive from the office on Georgia Avenue to the house in Margate, which was right on the beach. Now my uncle is in the living room of the apartment on the second floor, and to get up there you had to climb a set of wooden steps that were adjacent to the outside of the house. The house was a two story duplex. It was cold and windy and starting to get dark and you could hear the wind coming off of the ocean. Looking back on it, it was kind of eerie. I was wearing a black leather jacket and it was zipped all the way up and I had a .32 revolver tucked into my waistband. Lawrence and Joe Salerno were ahead of us and talking as they went up the steps. Joe Salerno had no idea what was going to happen, but Lawrence did. Now Vince is a few feet in front of me and I am behind him as we are going up the steps but he’s kind of hesitating, like he’s uncertain of what's going on.
 Philip Leonetti

He said, “Where’s everybody at? I thought Chuckie was coming down.” I put my hand on his back and said, “He’ll be here; let’s go inside and have some drinks,” and kind of ushered him up the steps. His antenna was definitely up but I had positioned myself behind him so that if he decided not to go up the steps or if he tried to get away somehow, I would have blasted him right there.
When the four men reached the top of the steps, they walked into the apartment, where Little Nicky Scarfo was seated on a couch watching a football game waiting for them.
Little Nicky didn’t just want Vincent Falcone to be killed; he wanted to be present when it took place.
This wasn’t business; it was personal.
While most powerful mob leaders would seek to insulate themselves from the murders they order, Scarfo wanted to bask in them and personally savor the experience in any way he could.
The Falcone killing also provided Scarfo with the opportunity to commit a murder alongside his nephew, to literally bind the two men together in what was becoming Scarfo’s never ending bloodlust.
To Little Nicky, the entire universe seemed to revolve around three things: the mob, murder, and family, specifically in that order. The killing of Vincent Falcone, in the manner he foresaw, gave him the chance to combine all three of these at the same time in one giant orgy of death, lineage, and La Cosa Nostra.
Nicky “Little Nicky” Scarfo in a 1988 file photo.

When we walked in, Vince kind of froze and I continued to usher him inside and to break the little bit of tension that was in the room, I said, “Come on, Vince, let’s make some drinks.” My uncle, who was still in the living room watching TV, said, “Hey, Vince, bring me a Cutty and some water.”
Now, at the time, Lawrence was in the dining room area talking with Joe Salerno, kind of distracting him. That was all happening within seconds of us walking into the apartment. So we grabbed the bottle of scotch for my uncle and put it on the kitchen table, and then I said, “Vince, get some ice.” When Vince started to walk away towards the refrigerator to get the ice, I reached into my jacket and took the gun from my waistband and I walked right behind him and blasted him right behind his right ear. As soon as I shoot him, his body propelled forward and then he crashed into the refrigerator and crumbled to the floor.
All the sudden, Joe Salerno starts going nuts. He says to my uncle, “Nick, I didn’t do nothing,” and then to me, “Philip, I didn’t do nothing.” He’s like hyperventilating. My uncle watched the whole thing, he was watching as I shot him. Now he gets up from the couch and comes in and tries to calm Joe Salerno down. He says, “I know you didn’t do nothing, Joe. Relax, everything is gonna be okay.”
Now Lawrence was standing two feet away from me when I hit him and somehow his eyebrow caught on fire — it got singed from the flame of the gun. So my uncle is trying to calm down Joe Salerno, Vince is on the ground bleeding and Lawrence starts complaining about his eyebrow being on fire. So I say, “J---- C----- Lawrence, you knew I was gonna shoot him. Why the f--- were you standing so close to him?”
With all of this going on my uncle manages to calm down Joe Salerno.
My uncle comes over to where Vince is lying and kneels down next to him and says, “He’s still breathing, give him another one right here,” and he moves Vince’s jacket a bit and points to his heart. So Vince is lying there and there is a pool of blood forming underneath of him and he is like gurgling, trying to breath and I stood over him and raised the gun and shot him one more time in the chest. The impact of the second shot caused his body to jerk and then that was it, he was dead.
At this point my uncle was ecstatic. He jumped to his feet and said, “The big shot is dead, look at him,” and he kind of mocked him by gesturing to the body and called him a “piece of s--- c---sucker.” He was actually cursing at the corpse. Now I have the gun in my hand and I turn to Joe Salerno, who is standing right there and I look him dead in the eye and I said, “He was a no good mother------. I wish I could bring him to life so I could him kill again.” I was prepared to kill Joe Salerno, too. I didn’t give a f---; I woulda shot him right there on the spot without any hesitation, but he stopped carrying on.
Scarfo then resumed his role as coach and articulated precisely what would happen next; he didn’t miss a beat.
He said to Lawrence, “You drive Philip back to the office and bring back Vince’s car. Me and Joe will stay here and clean up.” Now Lawrence drives me back to Georgia Avenue and I take all of my clothes off, put them in a bag, and I get right into the shower. I’m scrubbing under my nails, the whole bit. Now I’m dressed and I go downstairs to the office and Chuckie and the Blade were there. We were all waiting for my uncle to get back.
Joe Salerno would later testify that while he and Scarfo cleaned the apartment, Scarfo told him, “You’re one of us now,” and patted him on the back before doling out more instructions.
“Tie him up like a cowboy with his hands and feet tied up behind him.”
Scarfo, right, and Leonetti, left, sit in court in Atlantic City, on Nov. 3, 1986.

WHEN Lawrence Merlino arrived back at the home about 30 minutes later, he discovered that Falcone’s body had been wrapped up in a blanket and tied up exactly as Scarfo had instructed.
He also discovered something else.
Lawrence told me when he got there that my uncle was fall-down drunk and he couldn’t even stand up.
According to Salerno, while he followed Scarfo’s instructions on tying up the body and cleaning the kitchen, Little Nicky sat at the kitchen table and drank the entire bottle of scotch that had been used as a ruse to trap Falcone, and was belittling the dead man and waxing philosophical about what the future held, not only for the Scarfo gang, but for the entire Philadelphia mob.


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