The US Department of Justice unsealed an indictment against several alleged members and associates of the Philadelphia branch of La Cosa Nostra (LCN), accusing them of racketeering, loan sharking, extortion and drug trafficking.
Among the 15 defendants are Anthony Gifoli, 81, known by the pseudonym of “Tony Meatballs”, as well as Underboss Steven Mazzone and Caporegime Domenic Grande.
La Cosa Nostra, which means “this thing of ours” in Sicilian, is the American branch of the Sicilian Mafia. It arrived on American shores in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and quickly spread across the country.
“The Philadelphia LCN is one of many LCN organized crime families based in various cities across the United States,” the DOJ said. “The purpose of the LCN in Philadelphia and elsewhere is to make money by committing various crimes, including illegal gambling, loan sharking, drug trafficking, and extortion.”
However, what sets La Cosa Nostra apart from other gangs is its adherence to certain strict traditions and hierarchies.
“Like the other LCN families, the Philadelphia LCN is operated through a defined hierarchical structure, comprising a boss, a deputy (Steven Mazzone) and captains (Grande), who oversee ‘crews’ made up of” soldiers “and” associates, “” the statement said.
“Soldiers are family members who have been officially initiated through a ritual called a ‘making ceremony’, in which they pledge their allegiance above all to LCN, take a vow of secrecy on the organization (Code of Silence or “Omerta”), and agree to commit violence on behalf of LCN if necessary.
La Cosa Nostra soldiers must be of full Italian descent, according to the DOJ statement.
The Philadelphia branch has led a variety of criminal racketeering ranging from book-taking to loan sharking in Pennsylvania and southern New Jersey, being particularly active in the neighboring Atlantic City area.
“During a period beginning in August 2015, ten of the defendants allegedly conspired to conduct and participate in the affairs of the Philadelphia LCN both through racketeering and illegal debt collection,” the DOJ said. .
“The other five defendants are charged with committing various other offenses, including operating an illegal gambling business, conspiring to make exorbitant credit extensions and conspiring to distribute controlled substances, in particular. partnership with other members and associates of the Philadelphia LCN, ”he added.
Like much of the rest of La Cosa Nostra in the United States, including New York’s Famous Five Families, the Philadelphia Mafia was recognized as one of the main Mafia families at the Havana Conference of 1951, which established the so-called “Commission” which oversaw the Italian-American Mafia and ended the internal wars between families that had defined the groups in the first half of the 20th century.
The Philadelphia Mafia made headlines recently due to a fake charge, that the group had tried to falsify votes in Pennsylvania in order to ensure the victory of President-elect Joe Biden in the US election on November 3. However, while Donald Trump still disputes Biden’s victory in the state, the allegation of Mafia involvement was even dismissed by President Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, who called it “fired. by the hair “.
Before being mayor of New York, Giuliani made a name for himself as an attorney working on the 1965 Mafia Commission trial, which sued the heads of New York’s five families and marked the beginning of the decline. of the power of La Cosa Nostra in America.
However, while the Sicilian-American mafia has declined in recent decades, returning to Italy, the Cosa Nostra is still one of the most powerful forces in the country, alongside the ‘Ndrangheta and the Camora. Organized crime is believed to represent more than 7% of the country’s GDP.
On the very day of the publication of the previous indictment, 80 members of the Sicilian Cosa Nostra clan were arrested by Italian authorities in raids on 12 illegal drug markets run by the group’s Nizza clan in the Sicilian town of Catania. 101 other people were investigated, according to the Italian news agency AANE.