Updated news on the Gambino, Genovese, Bonanno, Lucchese and Colombo Organized Crime Families of New York City.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Retrial of Uncle Joe and Georgie Boy likened to The Godfather Part 3

IF YESTERDAY'S premiere was any indication, the retrial of reputed Philadelphia mob boss Joseph "Uncle Joe" Ligambi and his nephew George Borgesi will fall into the same category as "The Godfather: Part III."

Not as good as the last one.

The government is taking another crack at Ligambi, 74, and Borgesi, 50, after a 16-week federal racketeering trial ended in February with a bizarre mixed verdict - not guilty on most charges but deadlocked on others. Three other mobsters were convicted. One was acquitted.

For the next six to eight weeks, prosecutors will likely concentrate on the indictment's main charge of racketeering conspiracy, which could send jurors down a legal rabbit hole.

That's because the feds don't have to prove that Ligambi or Borgesi personally killed anybody or busted any kneecaps, only that they conspired with other people to commit crimes that the government may or may not be able to prove.

"It's the agreement which is the crime," Assistant U.S. Attorney Frank Labor said in his opening argument.

The indictment, the result of a massive 13-year investigation, does not include any homicides, focusing instead on sports betting, loan-sharking, extortion and the operation of video-poker machines. But a racketeering-conspiracy conviction could land Ligambi and Borgesi in prison for a decade or longer.

"This is about how the mob makes money," Labor said, "and they make money through fear and intimidation."

Edwin Jacobs Jr., Ligambi's bombastic lawyer from Atlantic City, told the jury that 55 full-time law-enforcement officials came up empty after conducting 40 searches and recording more than 11,000 conversations with tapped phone lines, body wires and bugged rooms.

Paraphrasing Abraham Lincoln, Jacobs called the indictment "thin as the broth made from the shadow of a starving chicken." He said the government has paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to career criminals - including a murderer, a bank robber and a perjurer - to testify against Ligambi and Borgesi.

"You're going to hear from the most dishonest, unsavory, unreliable group of arch-criminals that have ever been assembled," Jacobs said.

Borgesi's lawyer, Christopher Warren, said his client, a reputed mob capo, has been in prison since 2000 and under constant surveillance, so he could not have conspired to commit crimes in the Philadelphia area.

"They came up with nothing," Warren said, adding, "They have read his letters, listened to his phone calls. They even went so far as to bug the visitation room."

Ligambi, who the feds say took over as acting boss of the mob after Joseph Merlino was jailed in 1999, has been held without bail since his arrest in May 2011.

Somehow, though, he seemed in good spirits yesterday, arriving in court in a maroon long-sleeved polo shirt and telling a relative that he's doing "terrific." He later joked that he'd like to take a trip to Bermuda.

"And never come back," he laughed.



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