Kin’s Mob Memoir Details Scarfo’s Bloody Pa. Reign
PHILADELPHIA (AP) – Mob turncoat Philip Leonetti has been married for nearly 20 years to the mistress of a man he killed.
She doesn’t use the name Leonetti, but then again, neither does he.
The former Philadelphia underboss known as “Crazy Phil” has lived under an assumed name since leaving prison in 1992 and switching sides to help the FBI. In a new memoir, he admits killing 10 people for his uncle, the notoriously ruthless 1980s-era mob boss Nicodemo “Nicky” Scarfo.
“La Cosa Nostra, this thing of ours, became this thing of his, and it was all about his unquenchable thirst for power, for greed, for vengeance, and for ego,” Leonetti writes in “Mafia Prince,” which comes out next week.
Leonetti, 59, remains in hiding but dropped out of the federal witness protection program and has ducked home at times to visit relatives.
“I felt safer taking care of myself,” he said in a phone interview Wednesday arranged through an intermediary.
When he left prison, he had served five years of a 45- year racketeering sentence.
He has spent the years since running a landscaping business in Naples, Fla.; traveling the East Coast on a 44- foot yacht; living in a gated community in Hilton Head, S.C.; and now, working a day job and enjoying drinks with his wife at sunset on the California coast.
Scarfo, meanwhile, has been shuffled through the nation’s toughest prisons to serve his 55-year sentence. He’s now 83 in an Atlanta prison and locked up until at least 2033.
“Philip, rightly or wrongly, kind of blames his uncle for what he did. His uncle was almost like a Svengali. Now, is that self-justification? I don’t know,” said mob expert George Anastasia, a former Philadelphia Inquirer reporter who wrote the book’s forward.
The book arrives as another mob trial unfolds in Philadelphia involving reputed La Cosa Nostra boss Joseph Ligambi, 73, and six others. That case has been dubbed “mob lite” given the lack of bloodshed, in stark contrast to the sensational restaurant hits and murderous rivalries that marked Scarfo’s reign from 1981 to 1991.
The memoir, co-written by Scott Burnstein and Christopher Graziano, offers new insight into Leonetti’s relationship with his mother’s brother.
“ The dynamic of the Leonetti-Scarfo relationship was unique,” Anastasia said. “It was family within a family. Blood ties.”
Leonetti – abandoned by his bookie father – grew up in the Scarfo family’s compound in an Italian, working class section of Atlantic City, N.J. He lived with his mother, grandmother, uncle and cousins. (One of those cousins, Scarfo’s son Mark, remains comatose from a suicide attempt at age 17 in the midst of Scarfo’s 1988 racketeering trial. Another son changed his name, while the third followed his father into the mob.)
Leonetti was just 8 when his uncle tapped him to serve as a front-seat decoy as Scarfo ditched a vehicle used in an icepick killing at a Vineland, N.J., bar.
And despite the boy’s abilities in school and on the basketball court – he was a standout point guard for Holy Spirit High School, where he attended daily Mass – Leonetti turned down other opportunities, and his mother’s pleas, to do his uncle’s bidding.
“I was 23 when I killed Louie DeMarco, and 26 when I killed Vincent Falcone. I got made when I was 27, and I became a caporegime at 28. I did it all for my uncle and La Cosa Nostra,” Leonetti writes.
Falcone, a cement contractor accused of helping with the DeMarco slaying, was killed for deriding Scarfo’s cement company. He left behind a dark-haired mistress named Maria, who married Leonetti in 1993 and has been on the run with him ever since. According to Leonetti, they haven’t discussed
Falcone’s death since the day he went missing.
“I never said anything to her about it, and she never said anything to me about it,” said Leonetti, who was acquitted of Falcone’s death and a second slaying in New Jersey state court.
After Leonetti was nabbed, he spilled mob secrets to the FBI, helping the agency take down New York bosses John Gotti and Vincent “Chin” Gigante. The federal judge who sliced his sentence in 1992 told Leonetti: “I believe you will bring down the mob ultimately.”
He at least put huge cracks in its armor, long protected by the code of silence.
For years, Leonetti expected his uncle to try to kill him. But Anastasia isn’t sure that threat still exists.
“The reason he hasn’t been killed is there’s nobody out there who wants to do Scarfo’s bidding. Nobody’s going to risk their freedom and their future for a guy who’s 83 and never coming home from jail,” Anastasia said.