August 9, 1939 |
South Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Joseph Anthony "Uncle Joe" Ligambi (born August 9, 1939) is an American mobster and current boss of the Philadelphia crime family. Ligambi is known among law enforcement circles to have a more "old school" approach, in sharp contrast to the former boss, Joseph Merlino's, flamboyant, high-profile style. Ligambi is credited by the Philadelphia Police Department's Criminal Intelligence Unit to be "quietly bringing stability back to the troubled Philadelphia-South Jersey branch of the American Mafia." Ligambi had a no-show job with Top Job carting run by fellow Philadelphia crime family member, Mauro Goffredo.
The New York Mafia families have been pleased with Ligambi and his approach, as well as his ability to turn the Philadelphia crime family from near extinction to a stable group. He is also the uncle of current Philadelphia crime family consigliere George Borgesi.
Ligambi was born in the South Philadelphia section of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to strict "old world" parents. His father was a cab driver. He attended South Philadelphia High School before dropping out his junior year to join the United States Air Force, where he eventually earned his high school diploma. He stands at 5' 8" and weighs 185 pounds with black-gray hair and brown eyes.
Unlike many other gangsters who started their careers in crime as teenagers or young adults, Ligambi didn't have a criminal record before age 32 when he was arrested for cigarette smuggling. In late 1970s, he started to associate himself with mobsters, namely Salvatore and Joseph Merlino. During that time, Ligambi gained a reputation as an expert in sports handicapping, particularly for football. He would later manage and sponsor a minor league softball team from Gino's Cafe.
Ligambi became a made man in the Philadelphia crime family in 1986, at the age of 47. At the time, the Philadelphia crime family was being run by the powerful, but violent, mobster Nicodemo Scarfo, who seized control after the death of longtime don Angelo Bruno and a series of other deaths, including that of Scarfo's longtime friend Phil Testa, Bruno's underboss. At the time, Ligambi was an associate of the Merlino brothers, two close friends of boss Scarfo.
In 1987 Ligambi was arrested, alongside then boss Nicodemo Scarfo and several others, for the murder of wealthy gambler Frank "Frankie Flowers" D'Alfonso. Ligambi was allegedly inducted as a member of the Philadelphia family for the murder. On April 5, 1989, Ligambi was convicted of the murder. After serving almost 10 years in prison, the conviction was overturned and a new trial was ordered. At the retrial, Ligambi and his fellow defendants were acquitted. Ligambi was the only one to be released since the other defendants were still serving time for racketeering. In 1997, Ligambi returned to South Philadelphia. Upon his return, Ligambi was viewed as one of the few soldiers left from the Scarfo era, an era which saw the Philadelphia family gain enormous power and wealth, despite its violent tendencies.
After the arrest of Joseph Merlino in 1999, Ligambi was chosen to take over as the acting boss of the family. In 2001, Merlino was sentenced to 14 years and was still facing a murder indictment. As a result of Merlino's conviction and mounting legal problems, Ligambi was named the new official boss of the family in 2001. Since taking over he has remained in the shadows, rarely being mentioned in the media, while taking a much less "trigger-happy" approach to running a Mafia family. Ligambi had been able to operate as a free man for 11 years which is seen as an amazing accomplishment for a present time Cosa Nostra boss. He has done so well that the New York families have taken notice, and it is unknown what role Joey Merlino will have once he is off of parole.
On May 23, 2011, Ligambi was arrested on racketeering charges in an FBI sweep. On February 6, 2013, Ligambi was found not guilty on four charges and the jury was undecided on five. Later the same year, he went back on trial for the five charges the jury was undecided on. In January 2014, Ligambi was acquitted on one count of witness intimidation while a jury was deadlocked on two gambling charges and one racketeering charge. Prosecutors dropped the remaining charges and he was released from prison on January 28, 2014.
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