Eastern District of Pennsylvania U.S. Attorney William M. McSwain announced today that a superseding indictment was unsealed against 15 defendants associated with the South Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey-based La Cosa Nostra (LCN), sometimes referred to as the “mafia” or the “mob.” The Superseding Indictment introduces new charges of racketeering conspiracy, illegal gambling, loansharking, extortion, and drug trafficking.
The defendants charged in the seven counts are Steven Mazzone, aka “Stevie,” age 56; Domenic Grande, aka “Dom,” aka “Mr. Hopkins,” aka “Mr. Brown,” aka “Dom14,” age 41; Joseph Servidio, aka “Joey Electric,” age 60; Salvatore Mazzone, aka “Sonny,” age 55; Joseph Malone, age 70; Louis Barretta, aka “Louie Sheep,” age 56; Victor DeLuca, aka “Big Vic,” age 56; Kenneth Arabia, aka “Kenny,” age 67; Daniel Castelli, aka “Danny,” aka “Cozzy,” aka “Butch,” aka “Harry,” age 67; Carl Chianese, age 81; Anthony Gifoli, aka “Tony Meatballs,” age 73; John Romeo, age 58; Daniel Malatesta, age 75; Daniel Bucceroni, age 66; and John Michael Payne, age 34.
According to the superseding indictment, the Philadelphia LCN is one of several LCN organized crime families that exist in cities across the U.S.
Structure of La Cosa Nostra (LNC)
The superseding indictment says, defendants constitute an “enterprise,” as defined by Title 18, United States Code, Section 1961(4), who engage in, and activities affect, interstate and foreign commerce.
As described, LCN originated in Sicily and has been active in the United States since the late 19th century. Since 1931, LCN has operated through a system of independent “families” based in various cities and regions of the United States including New York, Boston, and Chicago.
At the top of the chain of command is the “Boss,” who wields absolute power over the family’s operations. He is the decision maker on all matters and has the authority to admit new members, promote and demote subordinates, and issue discipline for violations of LCN rules. Second in command is the Underboss (in this case, defendant Steven Mazzone), who manages day-to-day affairs. Captains (defendant Domenic Grande) come next and oversee “crews” consisting of “soldiers” and “associates.”
Soldiers are members of the family who have been formally brought into LCN through a “making ceremony” where a soldier swears allegiance to LCN over and above all other interests and obligations, including his own family. He swears a vow of secrecy or “Omerta,” agreeing not to divulge LCN business to non-members or even to acknowledge the organization’s existence. He also agrees to commit violence on behalf of LCN if necessary. Rules are that a made member of LCN must be male and 100 percent Italian.
Associates may aspire to full membership, or they may be ineligible to be made because they lack full Italian ancestry. Made members and associates who break Omerta may be targeted for death by other members of the group.
The Philadelphia LCN historically had a substantial presence in southern New Jersey, particularly Atlantic City, and follows the hierarchical structure outlined above. Government agents investigating this case found the defendants had gatherings at the holidays and meetings regularly at designated LCN “hangouts.” Popular places associated with the alleged acts in the Superseding Indictment include a now-defunct Broadway Theatrical Club in South Philadelphia, an Italian restaurant in Collingswood, New Jersey, and a cafe and lounge in Margate, New Jersey.
Charges in the Indictment
The superseding indictment describes how the Philadelphia LCN sought to use its reputation and influence to exercise control over criminal rackets, like bookmaking and loansharking in Philadelphia, Atlantic City, and southern New Jersey dating back to August 2015.
Ten of the defendants allegedly conspired on behalf of Philadelphia LCN through a pattern of racketeering and collection of tens of thousands of dollars of unlawful bookmaking and unlawful debts “owed” with interest rates up to 400 percent. The remaining five defendants are charged with conducting an illegal gambling business, conspiracy to make extortionate extensions of credit, and conspiracy to distribute controlled substances—heroin, cocaine, fentanyl, methamphetamine, and oxycodone pills—in partnership with other members and associates of the Philadelphia LCN. This includes conspiracy to kidnap or murder a drug dealer to protect the reputation of the Philadelphia LCN after the dealer sold members of the group fake drugs.
The superseding indictment alleges on or about Nov. 24, 2015, defendant Domenic Grande instructed soldiers in his crew to work with defendants Kenneth Arabia and Daniel Castelli to reclaim territory in Atlantic City by extorting local bookmakers and loan sharks into giving part of their business and proceeds of their business’s illegal activity to the Philadelphia LCN.
- On or about May 12, 2016, defendant Domenic Grande approved the involvement of a soldier in his crew to work with defendant Joseph Servidio in the distribution of controlled substances, including heroin and oxycodone.
- On or about June 20, 2016, defendant Kenneth Arabia, defendant Daniel Castelli and Person No. 5 discussed the purchase of a quantity of cocaine by another individual for the LCN. Defendant Castelli stated, in substance and in part, that defendant Castelli could get 92 ounces of pure cocaine for $38,000 from defendant Daniel Malatesta.
- On or about July 10, 2017, defendant Joseph Malone instructed an unindicted co-conspirator to “go over there with a baseball bat and hit” an unidentified victim in order to collect an unlawful loansharking debt.
- On or about July 8, 2016, defendant Kenneth Arabia sold 55.7 grams of cocaine to an undercover law enforcement officer. Arabia had conspired to distribute the cocaine with defendant Daniel Castelli, along with others known and unknown to the Grand Jury.
- On October 15, 2015, defendants Steven Mazzone, Domenic Grande, and Salvatore Mazzone participated in a “making ceremony” in a South Philadelphia residence, where several new soldiers were inducted into the Philadelphia LCN.
- On or about July 21, 2017, defendant Joseph Servidio sold 87 pills containing 8 grams of methamphetamine, heroin, and quinine and .47 grams of fentanyl to an undercover law enforcement officer.
U.S. Attorney McSwain said, “Thanks to the dedicated and courageous efforts of federal law enforcement over the past several decades, the Philadelphia mob isn’t what it used to be. But it is still a problem and is still allegedly committing serious federal crimes.”
“We will not rest until the mob is nothing but a bad memory.”
Interesting Election 2020 connection
A related report, though not independently confirmed, involving the Philidelphia LCN emerged last week in the Buffalo Chronicle. Sources who spoke to the Chronicleon the condition of anonymity, allege Boss “Skinny Joey” Merlino, and associates manufactured 300,000 election ballots marked for Biden. The source alleges they were paid a rate of $10 per ballot amounting to $3 million for three days of work. Ballots were then packaged and dropped off outside the Philadelphia Convention Center. The Chronicle suggested, Merlino might be willing to flip on the Democrat Party operatives involved in exchange for expungement of his long criminal record.
Carol King received a first class BA (honors) in History and Politics from Stirling University, along with an exceptional commendation for a study on US public opinion and Foreign Policy. She also completed a year of study at University of London before taking up a Graduate Proctor Fellowship at Princeton University. She further completed a MPhil in American Politics at Dundee University. Aspiring to be a writer/commentator on American politics, she now writes for UncoverDC.