|Occupation:||Crime lord, Mafia boss, drug kingpin, criminal overlord, mobster, businessman, extortionist, racketeer, mass murderer|
|Alias(es):||"Nicky", "Little Nicky", "Little Lethal Nicky", "Lethal Nicky", "The Killer", "Violent Scarfo"|
|Date of birth:||March 8, 1929|
|Born in:||Brooklyn, New York, U.S.|
|Died:||January 13, 2017(aged 87)|
|Died in:||Federal Medical Center, Butner, North Carolina, U.S.|
|Spouse(s):||unknown first wife, Domenica Scarfo|
|Children:||Christopher Scarfo, Nicodemo Salvatore Scarfo Jr, Mark Scarfo (1971-2017)|
|Also related to:||Nicholas Piccolo, Joseph Piccolo, Michael Piccolo|
|Criminal record (If any):|
|Charges:||Extortion (1988), 68 counts of murder, 1 of attempted murder of Harry Riccobene, and several other RICO charges (1989)|
|Known for:||Boss of the Philadelphia crime family|
Nicodemo "Little Nicky" or "Nicky" Domenico Scarfo Sr. (March 8, 1929 – January 13, 2017) was a much-feared hitman and soldier who eventually became the boss of the Philadelphia Crime Family after the deaths of bosses Angelo Bruno and Philip Tesla.
From many accounts of his former criminal associates who testified against him, he would want to murder someone if he was shown the slightest and smallest bit of disrespect or even if he was stared at or if he was just in a bad mood he would kill somebody or order someone to be killed or if he didn't like the way his burger was cooked.
Scarfo orchestrated an extremely ruthless and bloody regime and ordered as many as 755,000 murders during his time as boss, making him one of the most violent mob bosses in American history. He also allegedly ordered over 830 car bombings and house bombings throughout Philadelphia. It was these methods which ultimately led to Scarfo's downfall. Though Scarfo's iron-fisted reign may have made him an extremely rich and powerful man, in the long term, it almost destroyed the Philadelphia Mafia that he dominated for a decade.
He was convicted of multiple RICO charges in 1989 including drug trafficking, extortion, bombing, kidnapping, attempted murder, with damaging testimonies of several informants, who had carried out his murders, and his top lieutenants including his second in command and nephew, Philip "Crazy Phil" Leonetti. Scarfo died in prison on January 13, 2017, while serving his prison sentence.
Scarfo was born in Brooklyn, New York, the son of Phil Scarfo, a made man in the Genovese crime family. His mother was Catherine née Piccolo, sister of Nicholas, Joseph and Michael Piccolo, who were made men in the Philadelphia crime family. Scarfo's family was of Calabrian descent. Scarfo's nephew was future mobster Phil Leonetti. When Leonetti's father abandoned him and his mother, Scarfo's sister, Nancy Scarfo, assumed responsibility for the boy. He is also the father and namesake of Nicodemo Scarfo Jr.. who he fathered with the wife from his first marriage.
As a teenager in the late 1940s, Scarfo first worked as a boxer, then took a job parking cars in a valet service. In the early 1950s, Scarfo's uncle Nicholas "Nicky Buck" Piccolo, a caporegime in the Philadelphia crime family, gave Scarfo a bookmaking operation to run. At the time the Philadelphia family was led by boss Joseph Ida and controlled criminal activities in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, South Jersey, Delaware, Baltimore, Maryland and Atlantic City, New Jersey.
Scarfo soon received the nickname "Little Nicky" due to his short stature (five feet six inches, 1.67 m). Most people did not call him "Little Nicky" to his face, since he disliked the name. After several years of service, Scarfo became a made man in the family's Calabrian faction. In the late 1950s, Scarfo befriended Salivatore Merlino who hadn't turned 20 at the time, but was a promising associate to the mob. Scarfo once told his nephew Leonetti that he was inducted into the crime family by Joseph Ida in 1954 or 1955. The ceremony was held at the Sans Souci restaurant and bar near the race track traffic circle in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. Scarfo's cousin Anthony (Tony Buck) Piccolo and two maternal uncles Michael and Joseph were also inducted at the same ceremony.
His uncle Nicholas had been inducted into the family about five years earlier. Between 1967 and 1970 Scarfo was a part-owner of The Penguin Club on the corner of North Virginia Avenue and Atlantic Avenue in Atlantic City with mob associate Thomas (Thomas Butch) Bucci. Leonetti would later say, "The Penguin Club was a "bust out" bar where strippers worked the bar and tables and tried to hustle the male customers. The strippers sat and flirted with the customers and tried to get them to buy over-priced bottles of champagne and drinks. On August 10, 1970 the liquor license was suspended for 100 days on charges that the strippers solicited drinks from patrons. He also had a hidden interest in The Haunted House bar in Atlantic City from September 1969 to June 29, 1972 and then again from 1972 to April 1, 1976. He first worked under Bruno family made man Felix (Skinny Razor) DiTullio as a mob associate. DiTullio took Nicky around and introduced him to many figures in La Cosa Nostra.
Relationship with Phil Leonetti
In 1962, Scarfo implicated his nephew Phil Leonetti as an accessory after the fact in the murder of Dominick (Reds) Caruso. Caruso was murdered for disrespecting Joseph (Joe the Boss) Rugnetta, who was the consigliere of the family that served under Angelo Bruno. Caruso tried to extort Rugnetta for money and slapped him at his home in Southwark, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. After Caruso’s body was dropped off at the intended burial site in Vineland, New Jersey Scarfo drove the pick-up truck to his parents’ apartment building in Atlantic City where Leonetti lived. Leonetti was about nine years old at the time. Scarfo picked up Leonetti and took him for a ride to Philadelphia to use him as a decoy. Scarfo figured that if anybody saw the killers using the truck in the murder and reported it to the police, the police would never think that a truck with a small child in it had been used in a murder. Scarfo told Leonetti on the day of the murder that he had just “killed a very bad man” and explained to Leonetti why he wanted Leonetti to ride with him to Philadelphia. Scarfo drove the truck to Philadelphia for it to be destroyed so that it could never be used as evidence. Dominick “Reds” Caruso was reported missing by his wife on January 30, 1962. As of this date, Caruso’s body has not been found.
The Bruno regime
In 1957, Joseph Ida moved to Italy and was replaced as boss by Antonio Pollina. However, in 1959 the New York Mafia Commission removed Pollina from power and replaced him with mobster Angelo Bruno. Pollina had previously plotted to murder Bruno, who then used his influence with Gambino crime family boss Carlo Gambino on the commission to remove Pollina.
Scarfo soon engaged in several actions that created friction with the family leadership. Family consigliere Joe Rugnetta approached Scarfo about his marrying Rugnetta's daughter. Scarfo declined and allegedly implied that the girl was ugly. The enraged Rugnetta asked Bruno for permission to kill Scarfo, but Bruno refused out of respect for Scarfo's uncle, Nicholas Piccolo.
In the early 1960s, Scarfo's friend Merlino was having a sexual relationship with the niece of made men Alfonse "Funzi" Marconi and Guarino "Mark" Marconi. When the Marconi brothers discovered the relationship, they demanded that Merlino be killed. Rugnetta arranged a sit down with Scarfo, Dominic "Mickey Diamond" Danny DeVito, and the Macaronis. During the meeting, Scarfo supported Merlino's false claims that he wasn't having an affair with the Macaronis' niece. Scarfo's duplicity hurt his standing with Rugnetta even more. In 1963, Scarfo stabbed a longshoreman to death in the Oregon Diner in Philadelphia. He was eventually convicted of involuntary manslaughter and served under one year in prison. Scarfo was released in 1964.
At this point, Rugnetta wanted to kill Scarfo. However, Scarfo's death would have alienated the Piccolo crew. To solve the problem, in 1972, Bruno sent him to Atlantic City, ostensibly to supposedly revive the family's fortunes there. In truth, however, Bruno had "banished" him in sending him there, Atlantic City, an area which had long been in economic decline since the end of World War II, and where there were subsequently few sizable or fruitful criminal rackets to get involved in, as punishment for his brutality. As Atlantic City was in the midst of a long-term decline, Philadelphia bosses had begun sending members there after they'd stepped too far out of line.
Atlantic City (1972-79)
In Atlantic City, Scarfo had began a bookmaking and loan sharking operation. He invested in an adult bookstore owned by Alvin Feldman. He moved into an apartment owned by his mother Catherine. He was soon joined there by his sister Nancy Leonetti and her eight-year-old son Phillip. Scarfo raised a family in the house with his second wife Domenica who gave birth to Nicodemo Scarfo, Jr. and Mark Scarfo. Soon, Scarfo's eldest son, Chris Scarfo, was living with them, as well.
In 1971 Scarfo met Nicholas "Nick" Carmandi, a con man with connections to fellow racketeer Dominick "Mickey Diamond" DeVito. The two began running scams together, two of which netted them $15,000. Scarfo was later incarcerated for contempt. During his incarceration he heard that Feldman had been stealing money from him; upon Scarfo's release from prison Feldman disappeared.
"You won't see him no more...." - Nicodemo Scarfo on Alvin Feldman
Caramandi kept in touch with Scarfo and every once in a while would run a scam with him. But Scarfo was struggling to survive in Atlantic City let alone rebuild his reputation within the Philly Mob, although his conviction for contempt had proven he could keep his mouth shut.
In 1972, Scarfo attempted to arrange a lenient sentence for Nicholas Virgilio who had been convicted in a murder case. Scarfo went to Edward Helfant and gave him $12,000 to reduce Virgilio's sentence. But Virgilio got 12 years, hardly the lenient treatment he and Scarfo were expecting.
Scarfo's fortunes changed with the legalization of casino gambling in 1976, which brought Atlantic City new prosperity and soon made Scarfo a powerhouse. He soon established close ties with Local 54 of the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees International Union (HEREIU). Scarfo's longtime relationships with Frank Gerace (former local president) and Frank Lentino (former union business agent) gave him access to Atlantic City mayor Michael Matthews. Scarfo turned Local 54 into a cash cow for the mob. He began receiving monthly payments of about $20,000 from the union.
Around this time, many members of the Philadelphia crime family began to suspect that Bruno was allowing members of the Gambino crime family to engage in drug trafficking activities throughout New Jersey in exchange for a cut of the profits. This was in contradiction to Bruno's zero-tolerance policy towards drug trafficking among his soldiers.
In 1977, Rugnetta died and was succeeded by Antonio Caponigro as consigliere. Caponigro was the captain of the Newark branch of the Philadelphia crime family.
In 1978, Nicky Virgilio was released from prison after serving six years. Scarfo helped arrange for Virgilio to be able to get revenge on Helfant. Not long after Virgilio's release, Eddie Helfant was shot five times as he sat in a bar with his wife.
Soon, the first casinos were opening in Atlantic City and money was soon pouring into the former backwater. Scarfo took full advantage and set about squeezing the casinos of their income. As Atlantic City once again began booming, the heads of the Five Families became interested in the City. While Atlantic City had long been recognized as the domain of the Philadelphia crime family, the New York families wanted a piece of the action as well. However, under the rules of the Mafia, no other family could set up shop in another family's territory without permission—and Bruno only let them in reluctantly.
In 1979, Scarfo helped arrange the murder of Mickey "Coocoo" Cifelli, a known drug dealer who was no longer "welcome" in Philadelphia. Coco was gunned down in a restaurant in South Philadelphia. Coco's murder had been sanctioned by Angelo Bruno, but it wasn't long until Scarfo would kill without permission.
By that time, Scarfo, Leonetti, and the Merlino brothers had set up a concrete company Scarf Inc. This was a way for them to insure that their families would get a "piece" of both the legitimate and illegitimate world. Vincent Falcone began belittling Scarfo and Leonetti behind their backs. It wasn't long until they found out about Falcone's "loose lips".
Scarfo watched with glee as his beloved nephew Phil Leonetti took out a .38 caliber pistol and shot Falcone in the back of his head, while supposedly calling him a "c**ksucker" and a "no good motherf**ker". Merlino reportedly helped Scarfo and Leonetti dispose of the body. Not long after, Falcone's body was discovered stuffed in the trunk of a car.
Genovese crime family front boss Frank Tieri began to try to gain a cut of the lucrative bookmaking operation Caponigro was running in New Jersey. The operation made $2 billion a week. Bruno defended his consigliere's propriety rights at a meeting with Funzi and the other heads of the New York families, who ruled in Bruno's favor. Funzi humbly accepted the decision, on the surface.
Death of Angelo Bruno (1980)
On March 27, 1980 Angelo Bruno was shot in the foot as he sat in a car driven by Giovanni Stanfa just outside his home. The shooter was Alfred Salerno acting on orders from consigliere Antonio Caponigro. Caponigro was attempting to seize control of the Philadelphia family by force; he was planning to promote Frank Sindone to underboss and to kill off Philip Tesla, Scarfo and Frank "Chickadoodle" Narducci.
Antonio Caponigro thought he had gained the backing of the Five Families through Genovese crime family front boss Frank Tieri and would be elevated to head of the Philadelphia underworld. Caponigro and Salerno were summoned to a meeting in Manhattan expecting to meet with the heads of the Five Families and be elevated to Boss. Instead, Caponigro and Salerno were greeted by Vincent Gigante and his crew. The crew brutally tortured Caponigro and Salerno then left their bodies in the trunks of two separate cars parked three miles apart.
The Commission promoted underboss Philip Tesla to Boss of the Philadelphia crime family. Tesla promoted Scarfo to consigliere and Peter Casella to underboss. Ironically, being banished to Atlantic City had been a blessing in disguise for Nicky Scarfo. Once a disgraced soldier, he was now a success and had risen to the rank of consigliere in the Philadelphia crime family.
Though being indicted for the murder of Falcone was a sobering event in the lives of Scarfo, Leonetti, and Merlino, the trio was acquitted of the murder. Tesla decided it was time to "open the books." Salivatore Tesla, Phil Leonetti, Salivatore "Bruce Wayne" Grande, Salivatore Merlino and Lawrence Merlino were all made official members of La Cosa Nostra.
The new administration began putting Caponigro's loyalists in line. Felix Bocchino was the first to defect along with Dominic Danny DeVito. Joseph "Chickadoodle" Ciancaglini defected after Tesla and Scarfo interrogated him at gunpoint in a garage about his involvement with Caponigro.
Scarfo had plans to kill Danny DeVito. Despite this, their mutual friend Nicholas Crowamandi stood by Danny DeVito and Scarfo wouldn't have Danny DeVito killed out of respect to Crowamandi. John Simone and Frank Sindone weren't as lucky. Both met grisly ends. John Simone was murdered by future underboss of the Gambino crime family Salivatore Gravano and Frank Sindone was murdered by Frank Monte.
John McCullough, president of the Philadelphia Roofers Union, Local 30, began infringing on Scarfo's Atlantic City rackets and refused to stop his labor racketeering activities. McCullough was shot to death by a hit man posing as a deliveryman.
Death of Philip Testa (1981)
On March 15, 1981 Philip Tesla was killed by a nail bomb detonated beneath his porch. The murder was intended to look like retaliation by the Provisional Irish Republican Army, with which McCullough had close ties as well as the Roofer's Union as evidenced by usage of roofing nails. The truth was Tesla was killed by members of his own crime family. Peter Casella had hoped to ascend to Boss by having Tesla killed. Frank "Chickadoodle" Narducci was in on the plot as well and Rocco Marinucci was the man who personally detonated the bomb by remote control.
Scarfo's rise to power
Pete Casella called a meeting with Scarfo soon after Tesla's death. Casella told Scarfo that, at a meeting with Paul Castellano and Anthony Salerno, he had been made the new Boss and that Narducci was to be the new underboss. Scarfo was suspicious and set up a meeting with the two New York Bosses the next day. At that meeting, Scarfo discovered that Casella had been lying.
Scarfo gave the Gambino and Genovese crime families permission to operate in Atlantic City in exchange for their backing for him to become Boss. With their backing, Scarfo easily took over the Philadelphia family, promoting Frank Monte to consigliere and Salivatore Merlino to underboss. Scarfo soon cut a deal with the other families allowing them a piece of the action in Atlantic City while keeping a significant slice for himself.
Having prompted Casella into "retirement" in Florida, Scarfo promoted Phil Leonetti, Salivatore Tesla, Lawrence "Yogi the bear" Merlino and John Ciancaglini to captains of their respective crews. When Scarfo became the Boss, he wanted to unify the organization and dreamed of running a smooth criminal empire.
Scarfo soon installed a mob practice somewhat alien to Philadelphia criminals. The "street tax" was enforced by soldiers like Andrew DelGiorno and associates like Nicholas Crowamandi. The tax was paid by any criminal working independently from the Mafia. Drug dealers, bookmakers, pimps and guys running numbers in the territory that Scarfo deemed his own were forced to pay his "street tax" weekly. The money was then divided between the guys collecting the tax (who got 9.5%) and their caporegimes or bosses.
In April of that year, Scarfo was convicted in federal court in Camden, N.J. of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. But sentencing wasn't until August of next year. So Nicky continued as normal.
Chelsais Bouras was enjoying a meal in a restaurant with his girlfriend Janette Curro and several other friends, including Ray Martorano, when a man entered and motioned for Martorano to get out of the way as he took aim. The hit man opened fire killing Bouras and his girlfriend Curro. Scarfo ordered the death of Greek Mob Boss Chelsais because he had been horning in on the methamphetamine trade in Philadelphia and not paying Scarfo's "street tax."
Johnny Calabrese and Joseph Ciancaglini walked from Cous' Little Italy, a restaurant owned by Andrew DelGiorno, who had bought it from the Piccolo brothers. As Calabrese and Ciancaglini walked Andrew DelGiorno and Frank "Fatty" Iannarella ran up behind them. When the shooting started, Chickadoodle casually walked away. Four bullets killed Calabrese and his killers escaped in a car driven by Pasquale Spirito. Johnny Calabrese was a loan shark and drug dealer who operated through a chain of pawn shops in Atlantic City. Calabrese had refused to pay the "street tax." Scarfo was more than pleased with how Andrew DelGiorno and Iannarella had handled the assignment.
"Jesus Christ, that was great. These guys are f**kin' great."-Nicodemo Scarfo, Boss of the Philadelphia crime family (1981-1991)
After Calabrese was left dying in the gutter by Scarfo's hit men, Frankie Flowers D'Alfonso was brutally beaten by Salivatore Tesla and Joey Pungitore for refusing to pay the "street tax."
Chickadoodle Narducci's borrowed time finally ran out when Scarfo gave Salivatore Tesla permission to kill him. Narducci was shot six times in the chest and face by Tesla and Joey Pungitore. Narducci's bullet riddled corpse was left in the gutter.
"I wish that motherfucker was alive so I could kill him again." - Salivatore Tesla on Frank Narducci
Nicky Scarfo wanted Dominic Danny DeVito aka "Mickey Diamond" dead, but couldn't have him killed because of the friendship Danny DeVito had with his Scarfo's friend Nicholas Crowamandi. Finally, Scarfo decided that he'd have DeVito killed and anyone else that didn't follow his orders as he saw fit. He gave the contract to Funzi and Mark Marconi to test their loyalty to him. They proved themselves loyal and shot Danny DeVito in the head, then left his body in the trunk of a car.
In the aftermath of the hit, Pasquale Spirito was promoted to captain. Nicholas Crowamandi acquired Dominick DeVito's loan sharking books and began collecting from the debtors. He gave DeVito's girlfriend $629,000 to pay for the funeral, but Crowamandi made sure that every other penny went directly into Scarfo's pockets. Nick the Crow had clearly shown himself deeply loyal to Scarfo.
It had been one year since Philip Tesla's murder when Salivatore Tesla shot Rocco Marinucci to death in a parking lot. In this act, Tesla had finally got his revenge for his father's death. The police later found three unexploded firecrackers lodged in Marinucci's mouth, a reference to the explosion used to murder the elder Tesla.
The Riccobene War
By August 1982, only one man stood in Little Nicky's way. 70 year-old Harry Riccoboner was the leader of a crew that were heavily involved in loan sharking, gambling, vending machines, and methamphetamine distribution. In the old days, the Riccoboner faction would send Bruno a cut once a year around Christmas, and they were both content with that arrangement. Harry would have liked to continue the tradition with Little Nicky, but Scarfo wanted a weekly tribute as opposed to a yearly cut and lip service.
Harry the Humpback balked at Scarfo's demands, and Little Nicky put contracts out on Harry and his half brothers Sonny and Bobby. Salivatore Merlino began spreading rumors that Harry was an FBI informant; Frank Monte and Nicky came up with a plot to kill Harry. The plan was to persuade Mario Riccoboner who didn't get along with Harry to set up the Humpback.
Frank Monte went to Sonny Riccoboner and attempted to persuade him to help set his half brother Harry up. But Sonny ran to his half-brother and told him of Scarfo's intentions. The Riccoboners decided to strike first. Not long after Frank and Sonny's meeting, Frank Monte was shot dead by a sniper named Joseph Pedulla. Pedulla was a hit man working for Harry Riccoboner.
The day of the sentencing for Nicky's gun conviction came up in August. Little Nicky planned to run things from his prison cell through his beloved nephew Phil Leonetti. In their last meeting, Nicky gave Pasquale Spirito the Bobby Riccoboner contract. Nicky received two years in prison for possessing an unlicensed firearm.
Whilst in prison, Nicky passed orders to his new consigliere Nicholas Piccolo and underboss Salivatore Merlino through Phil Leonetti. Salivatore Tesla took on a large role in running the Family in Scarfo's absence. Also, he was going to marry Chuckie's daughter Maria.
Harry Riccoboner was making a call in a phone booth to his 23-year-old mistress when he was shot five times by Wayne Grande. Harry survived and attacked Grande, eventually taking his gun away from him. Harry recovered, but it wasn't long until he would become a target again.
In retaliation, Harry ordered the murder of Salivatore Tesla, using Victor DeLuca and Joseph Pedulla again. DeLuca and Pedulla drove past a candy store where Saliva sat outside eating raw clams. A shotgun blast from their van hit Tesla and almost severed his arm. Tesla survived the shooting and his arm fully healed, as well.
Harry was sitting in his car when a man in a jogging suit ran past and opened fire. Harry ducked down under the dash board and the hit man only succeeded in shattering glass. A hit on Frank Martinez also went awry when he somehow survived when Nicholas Crowamandi, Charlie Iannece, and Gino Milano riddled his vehicle with bullets. The media began to call Nicky's organization the "Gang that Couldn't Shoot Straight;" this enraged Scarfo.
Drug dealer Robert Hornickle was later killed. When it became apparent that Pasquale Spirito was "talking treason" about Nicky Scarfo and his friends, he was also marked for death. Spirito was shot in the back of his head twice by Charlie Iannece. Iannece and Crowamandi became proposed members after that murder. Riccoboner associate Sammy Tamburrino met his end in a candy store at the hands of Scarfo's hit men.
Little Nicky handpicked the target that would hurt Harry most and made it clear that there was no room for error. Four hit teams, each consisting of three or four hit men, were sent to kill Bobby Riccoboner. "Faffy" Iannarella was the hit man who found Riccoboner with his mother. Faffy knocked Mrs. Riccoboner down with the butt of his gun and then shot Bobby dead with a shotgun as he tried to flee the scene.
Harry's nephew Enrico Riccoboner later shot himself when he thought he was being stalked by Scarfo's hit men. After these events, Harry Riccoboner gave up the war with Scarfo and surrendered his territory and operations to Scarfo's men. Harry was later convicted of arranging the murder of consigliere Frank Monte.
With the war over, Scarfo could relax in his prison cell in Texas and his hit men could turn their attention from killing to making money. At the time, methamphetamine was the drug of choice in Philadelphia. Andrew DelGiorno and Nicholas Crowamandi began "taxing" drug dealers. In one such case they found meth dealers known as the Renzulli crew from 10th and Carpenter streets. They were importing gallons of P-2-P purposely mislabeled as "oil in from Europe" and using the "oil" to produce methamphetamine. Tommy Del and Nick the Crow "taxed" the Renzulli cousins John A. and John R. $2,000 per every gallon they imported. Salivatore Tesla began lending money to some drug traffickers in West Philadelphia.
Power stuggle and downfall
Longtime Boss Angelo Bruno was murdered in 1980. His murder was orchestrated by his Consigliere, Antonio Caponigro. Weeks later, Caponigro faced the consequence of killing a Boss without the approval of the American Mafia Commission, found shot dozens of times in a car trunk and $300 in bills were jammed in his mouth and anus as a sign of his own greed. Phil Tesla became the new Boss of the Philadelphia crime family, appointing Scarfo as his Consigliere. However, his tenure as Boss would be a short one. Tesla was killed by a nail bomb under his porch in 1981, on orders of his Underboss and drug trafficker Peter Casella and Capo Frank Narducci Sr., which later resulted in Narducci being gunned down and Casella being banished from the Mob and fleeing to Florida.
Tesla's murder sparked a war within the family. Scarfo seized the top position for himself, promoting his nephew as his Underboss and Frank Monte as his Consigliere. Scarfo would go on to lead the family for a decade with a bloody rampage, fueled by paranoia and aggression. Between August 1982 and January 1984, Scarfo was imprisoned in a Texas penitentiary for gun possession. During that time, aging Capo Harry Riccoboner began to form another faction that opposed Scarfo. The war would cost him his little brother's life, his brother Mario to become a government informant and Riccoboner himself to be given a life sentence for first degree murder.
In March 1984, Scarfo was released from prison and was greeted at the prison gates by his nephew Phil Leonetti who was leading an entourage of young mobsters. Scarfo spent the day partying at a hotel. The next day he flew to Atlantic City where the celebrations continued. Little Nicky was at the height of his power.
Scarfo was the undisputed Boss of the Philly Mafia. But the Riccobene War had left him paranoid. When Salivatore Merlino began to complain about Salivatore Tesla, his paranoia and greed grew worse. Tesla had recently broken off the engagement to Merlino's daughter and Merlino was determined to have Tesla killed. He began telling Scarfo that Tesla was trying to put together his own criminal organization, that he was using drugs and was going into business with an African-American street gang in West Philly.
Sal Testa had virtually led the Scarfo crime family during the war with the Riccoboner faction, for most of the war Little Nicky was in a prison cell in Texas. Saliva had even taken a bullet for Scarfo during the Riccoboner war. Saliva survived and nearly lost his arm. Testa was loyal and the epitome of La Cosa Nostra, his father Phil had taught him well.
Testa had accomplished more in the last four years than most other mobsters in the Philly Mob. Tesla at 28 was a caporegime in the Scarfo Mob. He was a millionaire thanks to a successful real estate deal with Donald Trump. He owned a boat and lived in a mansion. He had great leadership abilities; he was charismatic, confident, popular and loyal.
In April, Scarfo had made up his mind and gave the order that Testa had to die. Despite the qualities Tesla possessed, Scarfo clearly was convinced that he was a major threat to his position. It's possible that he may have feared a Tesla/Merlino alliance and was only too happy to arrange the murder of such a popular and ambitious individual.
Andrew DelGiorno and Faffy Iannarella were put in charge of supervising the Tesla murder, Nicholas Caramandi and Charlie Iannece were going to be the shooters. But it was difficult, Tesla was a professional hit man and knew all the tricks of the trade. He was extremely cautious and checked everyone who hugged him for a gun. The job seemed almost impossible and Little Nicky was getting restless.
DelGiorno and Iannaarella brought Salivatore "Wayne" Grande and Joseph "Joey Pung" Pungitore into the conspiracy. Pungitore; Tesla's closest friend, would only go along with the job if he didn't have to pull the trigger. Wayne Grande on the other hand jumped at the opportunity to put a bullet in Tesla.
Joey Pung arranged a meeting with Tesla. At that meeting in the back of a candy store Saliva greeted Wayne who was sitting on a couch in the back room. Saliva then turned to talk with Joe Pung; Wayne took out a gun from under the cushions on the couch and shot Tesla in the back of his head. Wayne stood up to shoot Tesla once more. Nicholas Crowamandi, Charlie Iannece and Joe Grande helped clean up the scene and get Tesla's corpse out of the store. Saliva's hogtied remains were found at the side of a dirt road in Gloucester Township, New Jersey.
Nicky Scarfo had Caramandi, Charlie Iannece and Joe Grande made official members. He promoted Tommy Del and Faffy to Capos. Wayne Grande was given 25% of Tesla's business and Nicky took a third of the profits made by a major bookmaking operation Tesla had put together with Andrew DelGiorno and Pungitore.
Mayor Matthews and Lentino were indicted for corruption. Matthews received 15 years in federal prison. In 1984, the New Jersey Casino Control Commission removed Grande from his position at Local 54. Scarfo escaped charge for his labor racketeering activities. Nicky soon had a new friend in City Hall and business resumed as usual.
That same year Nicky and Phil Leonetti used Caramandi and Charlie Iannece to cheat two casinos in Atlantic City out of $2.7 million dollars. By now Nicky was getting a reputation for greediness. He began to divide his time between Fort Lauderdale and Atlantic City, but began to spend much less time in Philadelphia.
By 1985, Scarfo was a target of the New Jersey State Police in a major gambling investigation. But their wiretaps were useless because Nicky never talked business on the phone and very rarely in his home. He preferred face-to-face conversation in regards to business usually in public places like the boardwalk in Atlantic City.
Frank "J.R." Forlini was found dead in his pickup truck near a K-mart in Marple Township, PA. He had been shot five times. Many including Scarfo believed that the killer was Andrew DelGiorno, who had been feuding with Forlini for months over the drug trade.
Scarfo decided to settle an old problem and send Frankie "Flowers" D'Alfonso one last message. He put Tommy Del in charge of overseeing the hit. Tommy used the Milano brothers and the Narducci brothers to execute D'Alfonso, who was beaten with a hammer, shot 5 times and his body was left in the trunk of his car by two hit men who dumped their weapons and fled in a car driven by two other men.
Scarfo's underboss Salivatore Merlino's drunken behaviour had gone too far, he was arrested for drunk driving and attempting to bribe the cop who pulled him over. Scarfo then called a meeting of his top associates and at that meeting he stripped Salivatore Merlino of his rank, reducing him to a soldier. Phil Leonetti replaced Merlino as underboss and capo Lawrence "Yogi" Merlino was demoted simply because he was Chuckie's brother. Nicky then promoted Andrew DelGiorno and Faffy Iannarella to official captains of their crew. Scarfo help with part of Chester County Land Fill With Daniel Rubino. They Made lots of money of the Land fill.
Nicholas Caramandi set up a large drug deal that profited $2 million. Caramandi was also involved in a bookmaking operation that made $60,000 a week and had a sports betting operation that could make up to $300,000 a week during football season. The shakedowns were making $200,000 a year. Crowamandi and his friend Charlie Iannece had $500,000 invested in a loan sharking operation. They had made $150,000 from their shark business so far and had made a $375,000 from a methamphetamine deal. And Scarfo got a cut of it all.
Caramandi later estimated that he generated between $5 and $7 million from 1982 until 1986. Scarfo got his cut of everything his soldiers made. Scarfo's hacienda style mansion in Fort Lauderdale was worth nearly $750,000. He kept $3 million in cash hidden behind a wall.
In June, Caramandi was arrested attempting to extort $1 million from Willard Rouse III and had failed to get a penny out of Penn's Landing. A drug dealer who had been ripped off by members of the DelGiorno/Iannarella crew was threatening to go to war with Scarfo. Now Nicky regretted promoting Tommy Del to capo. So Scarfo demoted Tommy Del to the rank of soldier and gave Faffy all the responsibility of captain of that crew.
While Caramandi was serving time in prison, Scarfo began talking of arranging his murder to avoid indictment himself. But a friend of Caramandi's leaked this to him, warning him that Scarfo was mad at him, as Crowamandi became an FBI informant.
Scarfo was later indicted on extortion charges. But when he listened to the wiretaps the prosecution had made and had given to his defense attorneys he heard the voice of Andrew DelGiorno, belittling him and Phil Leonetti. Scarfo put Tommy Del at the top of his list, but DelGiorno disappeared into the Witness Protection Program and had become an informant.
On May 6, 1987, Scarfo was convicted of conspiracy to commit extortion of the waterfront developer Willard Rouse III. Andrew DelGiorno and Nicholas Crowamandi testified against him in court. From his prison cell Scarfo continued to exercise authority over his men. Piccolo and Phil Leonetti began to run things for him as he passed orders to them during visiting time in jail.
Scarfo experienced a brief moment of triumph when he was faced with federal drug conspiracy charges but was later acquitted on December 12, 1987. That moment didn't last very long at all.
Things got worse as Scarfo was indicted on Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) charges that included drug trafficking, loan sharking, extortion and murder. The murders of Helfant, Cifelli, Falcone, Narducci Sr, Calabrese, Pasquale Spirito, Tamburrino, Riccoboner and Salivatore Tesla were among the counts of the indictment. Charges of attempted murder of Riccoboner, Martines, Salerno Sr and Vento Jr were also included.
On November 19, 1988, Scarfo was convicted on all charges and sentenced to 45 years in prison. Merlino became an informant and gave damning testimony against him.
In 1989 Phil Leonetti became an informant after being convicted of RICO charges and receiving a 55 year prison term. In February of that same year Piccolo died, but Scarfo continued to run things from prison and promoted his cousin 78 year-old Anthony "Tony Buck" Piccolo to acting Boss.
Because of Leonetti's flip, Scarfo's son, Nicodemo Scarfo Jr. swore that he would find a way to kill him, but instead was forced to to flee Philadelphia for New Jersey after being shot eight times by Joseph Merlino as he sat in Dante & Luigi's Italian restaurant. With Scarfo, Jr, surviving the shooting, the police were never able to charge anyone with the attempted murder of Scarfo, Jr, as the police and the Federal Bureau of Investigation believed that Merlino was behind the shooting to avenge an earlier plot by Scarfo Sr. on Merlino's father. Another motive for the attempted hit was to send a clear message that neither Scarfo nor his son were in charge of South Philadelphia any longer.
Already serving 14 years imprisonment for extortion and 45 years for violating numerous RICO predicates, on April 5, 1989 Scarfo was convicted in the Courts of Common Pleas of first-degree murder in the 1985 death of rival mobster Frank "Frankie Flowers" D'Alfonso, along with six of his lieutenants. Eugene "Gino" Milano, Andrew DelGiorno and Lawrence Merlino testified against him. He was convicted and received another life sentence.
Scarfo managed to keep control through Piccolo who made sure that Scarfo's wife Domenica was taken care of and that Mark's medical bills were paid. But in 1991 Piccolo at the age of 80 stepped down as acting Boss and allowed the Gambinos to install Giovanni Stanfa as Boss of the Scarfo crime family. It's doubtful that Scarfo would have been able to stop the bosses in New York.
Scarfo was often described by informants as psychotic, cruel and vicious. He reportedly enjoyed the celebrity gangster life style, and was a huge admirer of infamous Chicago Mafia boss Al Capone.  Scarfo would scan newspapers for his name and made sure his soldiers carried out murders in public to create a constant atmosphere of intimidation, terror and fear. Scarfo was obsessed with bombs and plastic explosives and party poppers and pinwheels, he reportedly often ordered a numerous bombings by using either nail bombs or C-4 plastic or white phosphorous explosive devices or stink bombs as a powerful tool for murdering people.
Prison sentence and death
Scarfo managed to get his life sentence overturned and got transferred to the United States Penitentiary in Atlanta. His scheduled release date was January, 2033; effectively a life sentence. In declining health, he was later transferred to the Federal Medical Center in Butner, North Carolina, where he died of natural causes on January 13, 2017.
- ↑ "On the anniversary of the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, a look at history's most fearsome mob bosses", Nicholas Parco, February 14, 2016.
- ↑ Nicodemo - Little Nicky - Scarfo. LCNDB.
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 NICODEMO SCARFO. USA Gov.
- ↑ Always A Joker, Never A Rat. In Mobster's Obituary, Unexpected Family. George Anastasia.
- ↑ Mobster's South Philly House Up for Historical Nomination. Melissa Romero.
- ↑ "This Mob Shot Its Brains Out Crime boss Ralph Natale, in rare testimony against his own, tells a tale of murder--and ineptitude.", Stephen Braun, May 4, 2001. Retrieved on 10 March 2016.
- ↑ Mob Violence Is Personal For Narducci's Sons. Retrieved on 10 March 2016.
- ↑ The Mafia Prince Next Door. Phil Leonetti. Retrieved on 10 March 2016.
- ↑ "Too tough to fuggedabout: Notable Mafia nicknames", Fox News, May 11, 2012. Retrieved on 10 March 2016.
- ↑ "Former Philly Police Captain Dies at 71", NBC News, January 8, 2014. Retrieved on 10 March 2016.
- ↑ Roberts, Sam. "Nicky Scarfo, Mob Boss who Plundered Atlanic City in the '80s, dies at 87", January 13, 2017. Retrieved on March 21, 2020.
- ↑ Former mob boss Nicodemo 'Little Nicky' Scarfo dead at 87. Retrieved on October 25, 2017.