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Mob boss Nicodemo "Little Nicky" Scarfo controlled Philadelphia's organized crime for many years, even from prison.
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He was killed by a bomb planted under the front porch of his Philadelphia home in March 1981. After Testa's death, Scarfo took control of the Philadelphia mob. He started serving his two-year prison sentence in 1982, but he did not let being incarcerated slow him down. Scarfo continued to run the organization from his cell. He ordered several members of the Riccobene family to be taken out.
Released in 1984, Nicodemo Scarfo continued his violent management style. He was believed to have called for the murder of former friend and mob associate Salvatore Testa, whom he saw as a rival. The son of Philip "Chicken Man" Testa, Salvatore was shot to death that September.
An admirer of infamous gangster Al Capone and Mexican revolutionary Emiliano Zapata, Scarfo enjoyed the fame and notoriety as head of criminal enterprise. His organization brought in an estimated $5 million to $7 million between 1982 and 1986, according to George Anastasia's Blood and Honor: Inside the Scarfo Mob: the Mafia's Most Violent Family (2004). He made his money through loan-sharking, shakedowns, bookmaking and other scams.
Scarfo's empire began to unravel in 1987. He was arrested on January 8, 1987, on extortion and conspiracy charges for the attempted $1 million shakedown of a Philadelphia waterfront developer. A longtime mob associate Nicholas "Nicky Crow" Caramundi became an FBI informant after learning his life was in danger. Caramundi testified against the Philadelphia mob in several high-profile cases, including several involving Scarfo.
Scarfo was later convicted in the extortion case and sentenced to 14 years in prison. According to The New York Times, U.S. prosecutor Edward Dennis Jr. described Scarfo as "a shrewd, clever and dangerous man who rules his dangerous army with an iron fist." Tried two more times that year, he was acquitted in the Salvatore Testa murder trial and in a federal drug conspiracy case.
In 1988, however, Scarfo faced even bigger legal challenges. He and sixteen associates were tried on federal RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations) charges. The jury concluded that he was guilty on 32 counts, including eight murders, four attempted murders, 15 extortion-related charges and one illegal sports bookmaking charge. During the trial, he experienced a personal tragedy when his youngest son Mark attempted suicide. The 17-year-old hung himself in the offices of Scarf, Inc.
Already in prison on his earlier extortion conviction, Scarfo received another 55 years prison sentence for the RICO convictions in 1989. His stiffest punishment, however, came from the trial for the murder of fellow mobster Frank "Frankie Flowers" D'Alfonso that same year. Scarfo and seven other defendants were convicted of first-degree murder in April of 1989 and given life sentences. These sentences were later appealed and a new trial was granted. Scarfo and the rest of the defendants were acquitted at their 1997 re-trial.
At present, Scarfo is serving his prison sentences at the United States Penitentiary in Atlanta, Georgia. The Federal Bureau of Prisons Web site lists January 5th, 2033, as a possible release date, which is a veritable life sentence for the elderly mobster.
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Bootleggers, smugglers, drug dealers, hit men—all these occupations are the provenance of mobsters, who operate in ethnic, family and business networks. Mobsters' real life crimes, and Hollywood's fascination with them, has earned them a special place in the American imagination. From Al Capone's Chicago crime ring to Bugsy Siegel's Las Vegas racket, these mobsters have made their names notorious from coast to coast.
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