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John Stanfa (right) talking to Tommy "Horsehead" Scafidi.
December 7, 1940 |
Caccamo, Sicily, Italy
Giovanni "John" Stanfa (born December 7, 1940) is the former boss of the Philadelphia crime family from 1991 to 1995. Convicted of multiple charges in 1995, Stanfa is currently serving five consecutive life sentences.
Early life and mafia member
Born in the Sicilian city of Caccamo, Giovanni Stanfa was the youngest of four children, two others who are said to be involved with the Mafia as well. After the Ciaculli massacre, the married Stanfa emigrated to the United States. He was the uncle of mobster Nicasio Zagone who was shot in the head at a Northeast Philadelphia shopping center and died three days later on January 19, 1994.
Giovanni Stanfa settled his family in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Stanfa became involved with criminal activities in the area, mostly due to his friendship with Gambino crime family boss Carlo Gambino of New York, who had very close ties to the boss of the Philadelphia crime family, Angelo Bruno, who had just gotten a seat in the National Commission. Stanfa was assigned as Bruno's personal driver after becoming a made man in the Philadelphia family during the late 1960s.
Angelo "Gentle Don" Bruno became and remained the most powerful Mafia boss over the area for over two decades, and gained the crime family the powerful reputation it has today. Stanfa's status in the family was influenced by Bruno's success. On March 21, 1980, Bruno was shot and killed by a shotgun blast in the back of the head as he sat in his car. It is speculated that the motive was Bruno's resistance to involving the family in narcotics and drug trafficking. According to US law enforcement, Stanfa as Bruno's driver, sat in front of him but managed to flee the scene.
It has not been proven if Stanfa was involved in the conspiracy hatched by Bruno's consigliere, Anthony "Tony Bananas" Caponigro, who was found three weeks later stuffed in a trunk of a car in New York, reportedly on the orders of the Commission in retaliation for Bruno's murder. After refusing to testify before a grand jury about his involvement in the murder, Stanfa was indicted on perjury charges. He fled the area and went into hiding. On April 21, 1981, Stanfa was apprehended and sentenced to eight years in prison after nearly a year on the run from US law enforcement.
Involvement in the Philly war
With the death of Angelo Bruno and Stanfa in hiding and later imprisoned, a power vacuum was left with the Philadelphia crime family. The self-claimed boss, Philip "Chicken Man" Testa was murdered as well by a nail bomb in front of his home in 1981, and in the end, powerful Atlantic City captain Nicodemo "Little Nicky" Scarfo claimed victory as the new boss of Philadelphia. Scarfo brought a new and notorious regime at the top, as he had allegedly ordered the murders of more than 30 people throughout his reign in the 1980s. He tried to gain more influence in New York with the Five Families through then-current Gambino crime family boss John Gotti but failed. Scarfo was soon indicted on massive charges and sent to prison for the rest of his life in 1989, as his nephew and underboss, Phil Leonetti testified against him. It was around this time that Stanfa got out of prison.
Boss of the Philadelphia crime family
Circa 1991, Stanfa became the new boss of the Philadelphia crime family. He had the backing of the Gambino crime family of New York. Stanfa had Anthony "Tony" Piccolo as consigliere. Both Piccolo and Stanfa reportedly ran the family for the imprisoned Scarfo prior to Stanfa being made boss.
During the reign of Stanfa, the mob family was divided into two quarreling factions, one supporting Stanfa as boss, and the other backing Joseph "Skinny Joey" Merlino. Merlino was mainly supported by a group of young mobsters he knew since childhood while Stanfa, in an unusual tactic recruited for his side several men who were not of Italian heritage, including the Veasey brothers. According to the former executive director of the Pennsylvania Crime Commission, Frederick T. Martens, "Stanfa brought in people, like the Veasey brothers, who had no background in the mob but who were willing to break legs and pull a trigger". One of the Veasey brothers named John Veasey was made and became a hit man and capo in the Stanfa faction.
In 1993, an all-out war broke out between Stanfa and Joseph Merlino, who was eager to control the Philadelphia crime family on his own. The second Philly Mafia war became known as one of the most violent Mob wars of the modern time.
Involvement in the second Philly war
On August 5, 1993, Joseph Merlino was shot and wounded in a drive-by shooting assassination-attempt organized by Stanfa. Merlino survived, but his associate, Michael "Mikey Chang" Ciancaglini, was killed. In retaliation, Stanfa and his son were ambushed while on an expressway. Their driver is credited with saving all three of their lives that day by pushing the van to the side of the road and forcing it off an exit. Stanfa was unharmed, while his son was shot in the face but survived.
Merlino was eventually sent to prison that same year on violation of his parole. In prison, Merlino was backed by reputed Philadelphia mobster Ralph Natale, who had close connections to New York and the Genovese crime family. The Genovese family decided to back Natale in the Second Philly War of the Philadelphia crime family. Stanfa still held control of the family, but he was indicted of multiple crimes along with 23 of his associates.
Trial and life sentences
Stanfa was indicted on labor racketeering, extortion, loansharking, murder and conspiracy to commit murder on March 17, 1994. In November 1995, Stanfa was convicted of all charges and sentenced to five consecutive life sentences. When it became clear that he would not continue to run the Philadelphia family, Stanfa's power declined and the New York and the Gambino crime family cut off connections.
- “You know what I’ll do. I’ll get a knife...I’ll cut out his tongue and we’ll send it to the wife. That’s all... We put it in an envelope. Put a stamp on it... Honest to God.”
- "Federal Bureau of Prisons". Bop.gov. Retrieved 2013-10-30.
- Raab, Selwyn (1995-10-06). "Brother of Mob Turncoat Is Gunned Down - NYTimes.com". Philadelphia (Pa);: New York Times. Retrieved 2013-10-30.
- George Anastasia, The Goodfella Tapes, p. 2.
- Anastasia, George. Blood and Honor: Inside the Bruno Mob, the Mafia's Most Violent Family.
|Philadelphia crime family