A Wiser Guy

The city's current mob boss keeps a much lower profile than his imprisoned predecessor.

By Steve Volk
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 18 | Posted Aug. 18, 2004

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Joseph Anthony Ligambi is the current boss of the Philadelphia mob, but who is he really? In 1988 the New Jersey State Commission of Investigation issued a report titled "Organized Crime Roster--Profiles of Bruno/Scarfo Group" that listed Ligambi as a "soldier" in the Bruno/Scarfo Organized Crime Family. In 1990 the Pennsylvania Crime Commission listed him as an "inductee" of the Pennsylvania La Cosa Nostra family headed by Nicodemo Scarfo.

Clearly, Ligambi is a seasoned organized crime veteran, but it's not like he's a household name. Not like, say, Joey Merlino.

Merlino, the city's former mob boss, reveled in his criminal status right up until he got carted off to jail.

But Ligambi, 65, maintains a profile so low that his name doesn't even register with most Philadelphians.

We decided to ask Lt. Tom Coccia of the Philadelphia Police Department's Organized Crime Unit to share a bit of what he knows about the city's current mob kingpin.

So who is Joe Ligambi anyway?

"From my point of view right now, he's the head of the Philadelphia faction of La Cosa Nostra."

Has Ligambi been flying under the radar all these years, or has law enforcement been marking him for a while?

"He's been known to law enforcement for more than 30 years. He's no spring chicken."

There's been an assumption for a long time that the new mob is run by young, flashy guys like Joey Merlino. Is Ligambi a throwback to the old-school, more low-key mob?

"Yes. He's more traditionally old-school. You have to remember the Philadelphia faction of La Cosa Nostra took major hits from law enforcement. Merlino goes away, and this guy, Ligambi, he's been to jail before. He's been accused of murder before. However, the process works, he paid his dues, he kept his mouth shut and he rode to the top spot. When you talk about a low-key guy, he's it. In his formative years he was involved in crime with Angelo Bruno, and whatever he learned along the way he learned during Bruno's reign. The kind of low-key program he's running now is something he carried over from Bruno."

What kind of activities is the mob involved in now?

"The same old stuff--racketeering, numbers, sports betting, loan sharking. Those are the mainstays that afford them inroads into legitimate businesses."

What about prostitution or drugs?

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Comments 1 - 18 of 18
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1. drazen said... on Jan 29, 2009 at 10:03AM

“You dont know your ass from your elbow. Nothing is done anywhere and I mean nothing without the approval of New York. Look what happened when the whacked bruno, they found anthony caponegro in a trunk in new york with 300 dollars stuffed up his rectum. New york has to approve everything everywhere all the time. Get it straight or dont post nonsense.”

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2. Meanstreets said... on Jun 5, 2009 at 12:45PM

“It's about time - an old school Boss - is surviving in a new school crime climate. This quiet time in the Philadelphia underworld simply means $ $ and more $. No press means - cops are well paid - and so is the South Philadelphia Mafia Corporation. AKA "The Mortgage Compnay"

- comment by Meanstreets

PS. Uncle Joe you should reach out to 91 year old Sonny Franzese!”

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3. DR. L.P. Goldstiener said... on Aug 26, 2009 at 11:54AM

“It is silly to think these thugs are like then men of the old days. They are no more then spoiled kids. With all their breakdancing and hats on sideways.”

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4. south philly son said... on Aug 27, 2009 at 04:09AM

“born and raised in south philly grew up with tommy horse head and his older brother torrie.there is 2 types of mobsters in philly ones who do there time. and ones who rat. now that joeys gone maybe times will change back to when bruno ran the city.a man who was loved by the city he ran.old school bosses are about respect. they keep a low key life unlike joey who was broke and needed a job. he liked to be in the paper and on the tv. i beleave the if he had a chance to be boss mikey chang would have bin a boss of bosses.”

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5. Philly Born & Raised said... on Sep 3, 2009 at 10:56AM

“Uncle Joe has what all these younger guys didn't have...experience. He watched several bosses come and go and he's smart enough to realize that the only one who lasted very long ran things the way they should be run. It'll be interesting to see what happens when Merlino gets out; hopefully it will be peaceful and Merlino will be in a position of authority, but not boss. The city loves you "Uncle Joe!"”

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6. BOrn N Philly Raised in New Orleans said... on Oct 29, 2009 at 11:52AM

“All the old skippers are well respected here in New Orleans. GO, Phillies!!”

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7. local union 332 said... on Nov 4, 2009 at 09:07PM

“its funny that all u dirtbags have shit to say and act liek what u talk is fact or sumthing. the only fact is that not one of u simple fucks on here has had a conversation wit uncle joe face to face. u know nothing.so stop talking!”

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8. UncleJoe1 said... on Nov 15, 2009 at 02:25PM

“Local union, have you talked to me face to face? Do you know who I talk to face to face? Good day.”

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9. suburb charlie said... on Dec 30, 2009 at 03:19PM

“This is old school well respected and loved by everyone this is how it should be but remember don't take kindness for weakness”

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10. BIG JOE said... on May 7, 2010 at 06:57PM

“Does anyone know how to get in touch wit Uncle Joe or where to see him?”

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11. Anonymous said... on Sep 3, 2010 at 12:05PM

“Nobody here knows any of these people and the mob is tiny these days. Why is everybody happy for this guy? Do you not realize that he's stealing money from legitimate companies, which then have to raise their prices to compensate? You're all a bunch of Hollywood-educated morons.”

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12. Michaela said... on Sep 10, 2010 at 10:07PM

“You all sound like bubble gum wana bee's and like little boys trying to out do the next. Really you all need to get a life and you all need to grow up!”

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13. philly born n raised said... on Feb 9, 2011 at 08:50PM

“Go Uncle Joe!!?..lol!!”

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14. Jimmy said... on Feb 22, 2011 at 08:12PM

“I personally believe that JL is in the tradition of Don Carlo. He probably doesn't have the years left at age 65 to make the amount of money that Carlo Gambino did, but I believe that he does possess the same leadership abilities.”

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15. Anonymous said... on Mar 26, 2011 at 01:21AM

“Joe Ligambi is a low life. He should have walked away when he got out. He's son is studying to be a producer. He'll probably be making movies about his daddy. The mob is a popularity contest in SP. Its nothing more than gambling degenerates, bookes, and loansharks. All of this types of criminal activities is bottom feeder type of action, the truth is they all end up in jail, broke, or dead. I think the younger genretation keeps the mob "scary" "glamorous" and interesting. I'll admit though unless your a gambler you don't have much too worry about. IMost of them are actually pretty nice guys. The truth is there sad, loneley, and feel worthless and unaccomplished. I admit I shake there hands, and sometimes even spit in their food at my resturant. Mangia hahahaha”

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16. Philly Guy said... on Mar 27, 2011 at 10:24AM

“omig, have you read the latest articles, Nicodemo was trying to convince Micalli that he was a mobster and he could offer him protection. Funny think is 10th and Oregon boys were running that borgato scam, and it was basically a bookie operation. Only thing you have to watch with those gys is they do not fight fair. They roll on you with 20 guys. None of them can fight there way out of a paper bag”

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17. Anonymous said... on Apr 28, 2011 at 11:22PM

“don giuseppe should grow his family to at least 90/100 need crews in delco,bucks, chester,& montgomery counties, should consider a crew in
baltimore, cincinnati, louisville, & nashville also strike up relations with
mr.papallardo in cleveland,there old boss was don angelo's brother-in-law
just make 250k available for each to loan out @ 30% a week,don't beg to
get larger just do it philly=1.5m pop / n.y. = 5/8m 90-100 not unreasonable”

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18. Greg Bucceroni said... on Mar 1, 2013 at 04:50PM

“As a former mob associate with the Gambino crime family's illegal pornography establishments that operated between Philadelphia, New Jersey & New York City between the years 1977-1982 I was associated with a variety of mobsters that included Roy DeMeo, Richie Kuklinski, Robert DiBernardo & Jimmy Burke (Lucchese) that criminally involved themselves with a variety of illegal mob activities including sex trafficking, illegal pornography, drug & gun trafficking, loan sharking, gambling, stolen property, coupon fraud and violence for hire services. Its my opinion that Joe Ligambi for the most part ran what Roy DeMeo use to call a "Clean House" which meant that Ligambi kept a low profile and only ran loan sharking & gamblings operations without involving himself in other traditional mob related vices. Compared to Burke & DeMeo, Ligambi was a "Goodfella".”


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