Gaetano "Tommy Horsehead" Scafidi turned state's evidence against his fellow South Philly mob associates in 2001. Though he's had enough of the witness protection program, he can't go home again.
The last hit Horsehead was involved in was caught on a 1993 government surveillance tape. On the tape, played at the last mob trial, a gang of men in black sweatsuits and ski masks are seen blasting their way through a diner while a woman screams.
Horsehead told the jury the hit was carried out by the Merlino gang, and that Michael "Mikey Chang" Ciancaglini forced him at gunpoint to become part of the hit squad.
The men in ski masks severely wounded Mikey Chang's brother Joey Chang, who was on the opposite side of the mob wars of the '90s.
It could've been worse. "We ran in real close together," Horsehead says. He says he confronted a waitress who was screaming.
"I tell you right now I'm not shooting an innocent civilian," Horsehead says. "That piece of shit George Borgesi was gonna shoot her. I pushed him away. That's my voice on the tape saying, 'Move.'"
(Despite Horsehead's testimony, Merlino, Borgesi and the other mobsters on trial back in 2001 were acquitted of murder charges.)
After the hit on Joey Chang, assassins retaliated with an ambush that killed Mikey Chang and wounded Joey Merlino. Horsehead was summoned to a sit-down with Skinny Joey, Georgie Borgesi, Stevie Mazzone and other Merlino associates who were warring with the old Stanfa crew.
Horsehead says the meeting was held after the funeral of Mikey Chang in a Camac Street catering hall. Horsehead says Merlino told him, "We got to go get those motherfuckers." He wanted Horsehead to kill the people who'd killed Mikey Chang and wounded Skinny Joey.
Horsehead says he was steamed because for months Merlino hadn't been giving him his take of the street tax collections, which Horsehead says amounted to several hundred thousand dollars.
"I want to know where all the money is," Horsehead asked Merlino. He says Joey told him he was putting the money away in case the gang needed lawyers and to cover the sports gambling and numbers action. Horsehead says when he demanded his share of the cash again, Joey told him, "We can't worry about the money now. We got to worry about getting the greaseball," referring to Stanfa.
"I ain't doing shit," he says he told Skinny Joey, "until I get my money." He got up to leave, he says, and as he was going down the steps, Skinny Joey cocked his hand like a pistol, and pointed at Horsehead. "I knew right then and there that Joey was gonna whack me," Horsehead says.
As far as Horsehead is concerned, Skinny Joey is a fraud. "What the fuck, youse made Joey Merlino a fucking movie star," he yells at Schratwieser. "He loved it because Joey wanted to be John Gotti and Nicky Scarfo. Joey used to say we need the media. It generates publicity. But youse made him, you, George Anastasia, Bill Baldini. Joey ain't nothing without youse."
("It takes a lot of balls to say that from a protected location, with your face blacked out on TV," says Christopher Warren, Joey Merlino's lawyer. "And he's calling my client gutless?")
Horsehead remembers nights out on the town at Rock Lobster and other places where people flocked to Skinny Joey. "We went out with lawyers, with hockey players, Lindros," he says. "They all loved to be around Joey. He was a magnet."
But without the media and his bodyguards, "Joey's lost, Joey's a punk," Horsehead fumes. "Joey is a dog. Absolutely. He was paying off Mexican gangs" that controlled the Beaumont, Texas, prison he was in, Horsehead says. "Joey Merlino was wearing newspapers and magazines [under his clothes] because he was afraid of getting stuck in the yard."
After he got chiseled out of his collection money, Horsehead switched sides in the mob war, deserting the Merlino gang for John Stanfa's crew. It was Stanfa, Horsehead says, who "straightened me out," initiating him into the mob during a secret ceremony.
At the mob trial Horsehead told the jury how he'd held his hand over an open flame as he recited the oath of omerta: "I should burn like this part of my hand," he said, if he ever broke the code of silence. "Everything I believed in," he told the jury, "I threw out the window," he said before he began to sob. He had to wipe his eyes and drink some water before he could go on.
His mobster pals laughed at Horsehead during the trial and said he'd faked the tears. No way, Horsehead says.
"Listen," Horsehead says, "it broke my heart that I had to do that to those people." Even though he'd been betrayed by his boyhood pals, he says he knew he was also betraying himself by going against his mobster oath. That's why at the mob trial, "I didn't wear my glasses because I didn't want to see those people's families."
"I'm not proud of what I did," he says. "There's days I still can't look at myself in the mirror and believe what I did." He says it was tough to adjust to the life of a stoolie, dealing with the government, and now, the media.
PW's Summer Guide 2015