Why Notorious Mob Informant R
 Natale Is Suing the United States Government

By Tara Murtha
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 16 | Posted Aug. 22, 2012

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“If my friend Angelo Bruno was alive, if [Felix] “Skinny Razor” [Di’Tullio] was alive, if [one-time Chicago boss] Tony Accardo was alive, I would be doing life,” says Natale. “I tell you this with love. I get a chill. I would be doing life for the rest of my life. I would never be a witness. That’s how I am.”

“But them punks?” he spits. “No.” 

Before he flipped, Natale was known, as one mafia source once told a reporter, as “a stand-up motherfucker.” It was a reputation earned the tough way: In 1982, a Senate Committee hearing on organized crime subpoenaed Natale to testify. 

“They said if I gave them the right answers, I would be home in two months,” Natale recalls.

In a scene straight out of a mob movie, at the hearing, which aired on C-SPAN at the time, a young, muscular and bronze Natale theatrically refused to answer their questions, all macho bravado in the face of outraged lawmen. “I said, ‘You got the wrong guy.’ And I did 16 years.”

Natale does not admit fear. He insists that doing hard time, for him, was easy—even when his vision got to the point where he couldn’t read anymore. 

Natale recalls that he first noticed a problem with his eyesight more than a decade ago, while at the Federal Correctional Institution at Fairton in New Jersey. As he stood in the yard, he realized he couldn’t focus on a pole that was about 50 feet away: “I [couldn’t] see the whole pole. The pole had stripes on it.” 

Maybe his eyes were just tired, he thought, and needed a rest. But the stripes were still there the next day.

“I wrote a [request] to the medical department,” he says, “that I need to have my eyes checked, I’m seeing stripes.” 

“He was starting to have problems with [his left] eye,” recalls Natale’s son Frank, a 59-year-old high school teacher and athletic director in Philadelphia. “That’s how it started, it was little by little.”

Natale says he continually appealed to the authorities about his deteriorating vision. The family alleges that he was taken a handful of times to scattershot doctors who provided different diagnoses, but he never received a definitive one. 

His attorney says his lawsuit will demonstrate a pattern of purposeful neglect. “The [Department of Justice] treated Natale poorly because of who he was,” Corcoran says. “They didn’t get a definitive diagnosis. And efforts the family made in that regard were thwarted.”

Corcoran is referring to an incident in 2004 when Natale was being temporarily housed in federal prison in Center City while testifying in the Merlino trial. At the time, one of Natale’s daughters-in-law, Kathaleen Natale, was working as a CT scan technologist at Wills Eye Institute, a renowned eye-care center located just a few blocks away.

“[Ralph] was having definite vision issues, and with me working for Wills Eye, I realized how important your sight is and how if things go untreated, what can happen, so I was really anxious to get him taken care of and just to have someone look at him,” says Kathaleen, who now works at a different hospital. “I set up an appointment for my father-in-law to see a neuro-opthamologist.”

Kathaleen made the appointment while Lucy secured permission and arranged to pay marshals’ overtime and ancillary costs for Natale to be escorted to Wills Eye. But the appointment never happened.

“They just never brought him,” says Lucy. And no answers were forthcoming, she says, as to why.

Kathaleen canceled the appointment. “When we had to cancel, I gave [the doctor] the courtesy of telling him why. He said, ‘When you can get him down here, let me know and we’ll squeeze him in.’”

But, the Natale family alleges, no one let Ralph see the specialist despite the convenience and their offer to pay out of pocket for it. They suspect a specific U.S. Attorney who had it in for Natale made the call, but are withholding names until the lawsuit is filed. 

“Here we have a man who, needless to say, has a very colorful history,” says Corcoran. “But … he’s entitled to the bare minimum standards of decency and civility. When they fail to give him basic medical care to identify the problem and then further, interfere with his family’s private attempts to help that problem, they become just as monstrous themselves, if not more so.”

Years after the Wills Eye incident, Natale was sent to see an eye doctor at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. At the Federal Medical Center in Rochester, where he was sent while awaiting the appointment, he says he was put into a strip cell in solitary confinement for a month and a half. He recalls that it was winter, and icy air flowed in through a crack in a broken window.

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Comments 1 - 16 of 16
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1. Mamabear1210 said... on Aug 22, 2012 at 02:23PM

“Excellent journalism.”

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2. Eric said... on Aug 22, 2012 at 03:31PM

“As far as mob journalism goes this is a boring article. Couldn't you have gotten a better writer? It should have just been a Q&A since there's not much writing. I guess this is what you get from a free rag like Philly Weakly.”

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3. ter and jon said... on Aug 22, 2012 at 06:09PM

“Several of us read the article and found it informative and interesting
Mr Eric must want more shoot `um up, drag out, sorted details and the inside dope (excuse the pun). Ralphie boy has to hold back some secrets. That`s why R N is writing a book. He might even hold out for movie rights . So, Mr E --pay up when the book comes out and get the inside info you want on hoods, mob, bad guys who lived, played and
did the deeds back in the day.
Meanwhile-----to the author....'Thanks for a good read ' and some sound observations.”

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4. Anonymous said... on Aug 22, 2012 at 06:49PM

“great story, great writing it really makes you kinda feel for the man, respect him, maybe not like his past actions but, understand who he is today”

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5. Gwen said... on Aug 22, 2012 at 08:27PM

“Fascinating piece, I wish we had more in depth stories like this shared!”

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6. Anonymous said... on Aug 23, 2012 at 05:12PM

“Maybe if this case goes to trial it will bring to light other neglect of the prison authorities toward prisoners. Truthfully, there is no sympathy for this man when the reality is of all terrible actions and results of those terrible actions to other families that he is responsible for .”

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7. Anonymous said... on Aug 24, 2012 at 04:59PM

“Thank god? Dont you mean God? Goos story though even if he was a puppet id still like to see his book get published, wouldnt have to worry about money at all then”

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8. Anonymous said... on Aug 24, 2012 at 05:01PM

“He is the only guy i know of that went to jail not even made and came out as the boss. Why that is not included i dont know.....”

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9. Anonymous said... on Aug 26, 2012 at 09:11AM

“Enjoyed the article. Natale should be appreciative to his wife, sounds like an amazing woman. Raise five successful children while her loser husband is doing life on the installment plan....good for her. He never should have gotten the sweet deal he got, he should have died behind bars. Only a corrupted, warped justice department gives a deal to the likes of Ralph Natale.”

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10. Anonymous said... on Aug 27, 2012 at 12:49PM

“Doubt he has a case. Natale and his wife claim the Feds "did nothing" about his condition, then go on to list a number of times he visited doctors while imprisoned. As for being denied a visit to Wills Eye, consider the circumstances. To allow a family member to arrange an appointment for an imprisoned former mob boss to visit a doctor in the city that Natale was once running... come on. Who in their right mind would approve that? Too many possibilities for shenanigans there.
Now, he's been on the outside for a year, and still doesn't have a diagnosis. Good luck with proving neglect on the part of the Feds, Ralph. It ain't gonna happen. You're an old man and you're falling apart. Happens to everyone. He should be thanking his lucky stars that he made it this far, and didn't spend the last years of his life in a cell, as he should have.”

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11. Anonymous said... on Aug 27, 2012 at 01:43PM

“This was a fantastic piece. Really interesting to see Natale's life put into this perspective. Great job”

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12. PhilCane said... on Aug 28, 2012 at 05:25PM

“Good Story. However, there is one thing I'd like to bring to your attention. Joey Merlino didn't secede Ralph Natale, he succeeded him. The South attempted to secede from the Union. Barack Obama succeeded George W. Bush as president of the United States.”

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13. Neal A. said... on Sep 8, 2012 at 12:32AM

“Silly girl, shotguns don't have bullets. No editors, or fact checkers?”

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14. Anonymous said... on Sep 13, 2012 at 03:53PM

“Interesting. By th way, where's he living now?”

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15. Anonymous said... on Oct 25, 2012 at 09:21PM

“Great story I'm happy he's out living life on the outside he's got his wife with him too you lucky son of gun God Bless you both!

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16. Sam said... on Jan 16, 2014 at 04:45PM

“I really liked this story! I hope to hear a follow up on it soon. Keep us posted please! http://www.albemarleeye.com/precision-optical/”


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