The city's current mob boss keeps a much lower profile than his imprisoned predecessor.
"Are they directly involved in these things? I think what you have to realize is that La Cosa Nostra deals in its name and trades upon its name. And if there's someone within their area that's doing something illegal, they will approach and make a claim to whatever they're doing. They may not be involved directly, but they have knowledge and may be receiving money in tribute or as protection for the use of their name. So if they have a problem with another gang or whoever, they can say they're being protected by the family."
Are other families in other cities involved with Philadelphia? Did they have a hand in the selection of Ligambi to head up the Philadelphia family?
"New York has their own problems. I don't think there's a whole lot of interest from the other families as to who's controlling Philly. Is there a relationship between New York's family and Philadelphia? Yes. How close, I don't know. I think it's a little loose in these days, a little informal."
A lot of stories have been written in the last several years about the demise of the mob. Is it still a healthy going concern?
"We're still a viable city. There's money to be made, and as long as the money's available, I think they'll be around. Obviously we're going to be looking now at the introduction of slot machines."
What about the introduction of slot machines?
"There's gonna be a lot of fail-safes put in place between state, local and federal law enforcement agencies. But there's still a lot of opportunity for people in that industry to make money. Look at the support services, the trash pickup, the unions. I'm not saying that anything is taking place right now, but history tells us those are areas they tried to infiltrate and get their hands into in the past, so those are areas we're gonna be looking at very closely."
A lot of times you hear that particular bars or restaurants are mob fronts. Does it surprise you that many of those places tend to be popular?
"I believe when you talk about the general population, there's a part that's caught in that allure. They do know, sometimes, which places are fronts, and some people might go there for that. But you know, just because Ligambi or his crew eats someplace, that doesn't make it a front. They might just like to eat there."
What would Ligambi say his profession is--on the books? Would he just vague it out and say he's "a businessman"?
"He would have a hard time telling you or anyone else what he does."
This is the first in an occasional series by Steve Volk (svolk@philadelphia weekly.com) profiling Philadelphia wise guys.