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.
Horsehead has a son. "The hardest part of jail is when your family leaves the visiting room," he says. After his jail term was up, it was off to the witness protection program.
"When I walked out of jail, I didn't have my name. All I had was a cosmetics bag," he says. "They gave me $2,000. Two marshals picked me up. They flew me to the middle of the United States, and they gave me an 800 number." The government made promises, he says, but when he needed help, they dropped him like yesterday's news.
"I ruined my name, my family's suffering. My name, Gaetano Scafidi Jr.," he says, he can't even use it, "'cause I signed a deal with the devil."
Assistant U.S. attorney David Fritchey says he's sorry to hear about Horsehead's troubles. "I'm sorry that his road has been as bumpy as it has been, and I wish it was otherwise. I always thought [Horsehead] had the capacity to succeed and go straight, even though I knew and he knew and everybody associated with this case knew it wouldn't be without its challenges."
The real problem, Fritchey says, is that mobsters like Horsehead have a distorted view of life. "Mobsters come to believe they have a scholarship to life," Fritchey says. "They go through life and everybody defers to them, people fawn over them, people comp them, people can't give them enough, and [mob members] come to expect that life is a never-ending series of freebies," he says. "They take whatever they want, and when it comes to a halt, it's a real shock to live like a real American."
Horsehead knows what Fritchey is talking about. Free on the streets of fly-over country, Horsehead says he felt like he was "in the twilight zone." Besides the wide-open spaces, the city boy also had a hard time adapting to new technology.
When he went to jail, "there were beepers," Horsehead says. "When I came out there was cell phones. I didn't know how to use the cell phone."
There were other shocks. "I walked into a Wal-Mart store in Alabama," he says, "and after 10 minutes, I ran out of there. I was so overwhelmed. My brain couldn't process what I was witnessing."
But life out of jail wasn't all bad. With his new trim body and preserved looks, Horsehead discovered he was a big hit with the ladies-even women half his age. "When I was in Iowa, I had girls all over me," he says. He was living in places where they don't have too many Italians. The girls always asked him, "What are you doing here?"
He knows he can't go back home to South Philly. "I'm not a sucker," he says. "I'm not gonna go back. I'm not gonna give those guys a free ticket to clip me walking out of my mother's house. I wouldn't give them guys the satisfaction of killing me."
Besides, he says, from what he's heard, his old South Philly neighborhood has gone to the dogs. On the streets of his old neighborhood, he says, and right around the corner from his mother's house, there are "hookers, junkies selling drugs, meth labs, ecstasy labs."
For a traditional-values guy like Horsehead, it's hard to take. He laments, "There's no respect for the mob in that city anymore."
Ralph Cipriano (firstname.lastname@example.org) wrote about his past dealings with Brian Tierney, new CEO of the Inquirer and Daily News, in last week's issue.