Federal prosecutors unsealed an indictment Monday charging a cadre of reputed mobsters, including a few top-ranking members of the Philadelphia mafia.
Investigators said the 15 mostly middle-aged and elderly men named in the indictment are connected with La Cosa Nostra, with several becoming soldiers, or “made men,” at a 2015 ceremony inside a house in South Philadelphia.
The group ran drugs, oversaw an illegal sports gambling operation, and extorted local loan sharks and bookies in Philadelphia and South Jersey, particularly in Atlantic City, according to the RICO indictment.
FBI Special Agent Michael Driscoll, who oversees the agency’s Philadelphia office, said the investigation shows that the mafia “remains a criminal presence in our city and beyond.”
The wiseguys were known to socialize at the now-defunct Broadway Theatrical Club in South Philly, as well as an unidentified Italian restaurant in Collingswood and a cafe and lounge in Margate, authorities said.
Among those charged in the case are Steven Mazzone, 56, who investigators say is an underboss, or the local mob’s second-in-command, and Domenic Grande, 41, described as a captain or “capo.”
Attorneys for the men charged in the indictment could not be immediately identified Monday.
Mazzone avoided a murder charge in 2001 but ended up spending about seven years in prison for racketeering and gambling in a case that also involved infamous Philly mobster Joey Merlino, according to court records.
Prosecutors claim Grande told his crew in 2015 to reclaim ground in the Atlantic City area by intimidating independent bookies and loan sharks into handing over a portion of their profits to the mafia.
A year later, his men began working with a South Jersey-based wise guy, Joseph “Joey Electric” Servidio, 60, who, along with fellow mobster Kenneth Arabia, 67, started selling drugs.
On several occasions, they sold cocaine, heroin, fentanyl and methamphetamine to undercover law enforcement agents, according to the indictment.
In 2017, Servidio, Victor “Big Vic” Deluca, 56, and 81-year-old Carl Chianese bought two pounds of fake methamphetamine from a Philadelphia-based distributor and began plotting a never-realized plan to kidnap or murder the dealer to protect the mob’s reputation.
Servidio and Chianese recently pleaded guilty to drug charges in a separate federal case in New Jersey.
Last month, Servidio, of Cape May County, was sentenced to 15 years in prison, while Chianese, who lived in Point Pleasant, received a 10-year term in March.
Members of the Philadelphia mafia also fielded bets, especially on sports. Investigators said Louis “Sheep” Barretta accepted at least 469 wagers over the course of about two weeks surrounding the Super Bowl and March Madness in 2017, collecting nearly $78,000.
Barretta, 56, previously served time after pleading guilty to participating in similar mob-related activities in 2012.
Mobsters issued loans, imposing interest rates as high as 400%, and they threatened clients, prosecutors said.
In July 2017, Joseph Malone, 70, another defendant in the case, instructed an associate to “go over there with a baseball bat and hit” a borrower to collect a debt, according to the indictment.
U.S. Attorney William McSwain, whose office unsealed the indictment, said the Philadelphia mob “isn’t what it used to be,” but that this investigation shows its members are still involved in committing serious crimes.
“We will not rest until the mob is nothing but a bad memory,” McSwain said in a statement.
Other reputed mafia members and associates named in the indictment are Mazzone’s younger brother, Salvatore “Sonny” Mazzone, 55; Daniel Castelli, 67; Anthony Gifoli, 73; John Romeo, 58; Daniel Malatesta, 75; Daniel Bucceroni, 66; and John Michael Payne, 34.
Some of the mobsters’ monikers, especially Gifoli’s alias, “Tony Meatballs,” quickly became a source of comedy on social media, even trending nationwide on Twitter.