Harry Riccobene (July 27, 1909 – June 19, 2000) was a high-ranking member of the Philadelphia Crime Family who became a major figure in the short, but violent, gang war that followed the 1980 death of boss Angelo Bruno.
Early Life and Criminal Career
Born in Enna, Sicily, to Mario Riccobene Sr. and Anna Cimmari. His father, Mario, left Philadelphia to search for a job working in the coal mines in West Virginia and joined him in 1913. His father eventually found work as a stonemason in South Philadelphia. In 1925, Harry's biological mother died of unknown causes and Mario adopted his two nephews, Robert and Mario Jr. after their own mother died during the 1918 flu pandemic. He was born with a slight curvature of the spine that has been suspected of having been caused by lordosis, kyphosis or Pott Disease.
He was 5'1" tall and weighed 136 pounds with brown hair and eyes and had a hunchback from a birth defect that earned him the moniker "Harry the Hunchback." By the 1960s he was separated from his wife Evelyn. He was the stepbrother of Robert, Enrico and Mario Riccobene. He spoke in a high pitched voice and as he grew older he donned a long white beard. One prospective juror for one of his criminal trials described him as looking like "a little Santa Claus." His legitimate businesses included television tube companies in Philadelphia, Yonkers, New York and Richmond, Virginia. His arrest record included carrying a concealed weapon, larceny, and possession of narcotics. At one point, Riccobene spent time in prison on a narcotics conviction.
A longtime underworld figure in Philadelphia, Harry became a made man under Prohibition mob boss Salvatore Sabella in 1927 at the age of 18, being one of the youngest men ever know to be made into the American mafia. Riccobene witnessed the rash of violence that started with the unsanctioned murder of boss Angelo Bruno and his replacement Philip Testa.
Philly mob war
After running the family for one year, Testa was killed by a nail bomb at his home. Nicodemo Scarfo now became family boss. Riccobene led a faction against Scarfo for control of family operations in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Scarfo consigliere Frank Monte informed his crew that he was going to kill Riccobene and take over his loansharking and illegal gambling operations. Monte approached Mario Riccobene, Riccobene's half-brother, and demanded that Mario set up Riccobene to be killed. However, Mario denied Monte by telling Riccobene about the plot. Infuriated, Riccobene ordered Mario and hitmen Joseph Pedulla and Victor DeLuca to instead kill Monte, to "... get them before they get us."
Mario Riccobene, Joe Pedulla and Vic De Luca camped out in a van near Monte's parked Cadillac Deville, waiting for him to come outside. Several hours later, Monte emerged and started getting into his car. Pedulla fired on Monte three times with a sniper rifle, killing him.
After this there were at least two attempts made on Riccobene's life. One was perpetrated by Salvatore "Wayne" Grande as the hunchback was talking in a payphone, Grande approached Riccobene and drew his weapon to open fire, at that moment Riccobene lunged at him and was able to fight of the young scarfo soldier and survived the attempted hit with only minor injuries. The other attempt was made when gunmen followed Riccobene in his car and as he parked to the side of a city street the hitmen pulled up alongside him and opened fire, Riccobene had spotted them and ducked beneath the dashboard and once again avoided being murdered.
Later on, Riccobene hitmen unsuccessfully attempted to murder Salvatore Testa, Phil Testa's son, but this time they were arrested by police. Detectives soon connected the three men to the Monte murder and persuaded them to testify against Harry. Soon after Riccobene's brother Robert "Bobby" Riccobene was murdered by "Faffy" Francis Iannarella in front of Riccobene's mother, after this the hunchback surrendered his territory to scarfo.
Conviction and death
Riccobene was later indicted on charges of first degree murder. During the trial, Riccobene denied any involvement in organized crime and said that he tried to prevent the three men from committing violence amid "unfounded rumors" of death threats made against them by Scarfo. In spite of this, Harry was convicted of murder and sent to prison. In 2000, Harry Riccobene died in Dallas State Correctional Institution from natural causes.
After Riccobene's conviction, Mario told the press that he testified against Harry in hopes of escaping from organized crime and "... to get back at the people who did what they did to my family." Mario entered the witness protection program, but left it in a vain hope to rejoin the Philadelphia crime family. Mario Riccobene was murdered soon after his return to Philadelphia in 1993.