Tuesday, May 5, 2020

A Look Back At The South Philly Mob: My Washington Times 'On Crime' Column On George Anastasia's History Of Philadelphia Organized Crime

The Washington Times published my On Crime column about veteran organized crime reporter and author George Anastasia (seen in the below photo) and his books on the South Philly-South Jersey mob.

In a previous column, I wrote about Frank Sheeran, the late Philadelphia criminal who was portrayed by Robert De Niro in Martin Scorsese’s Netflix film, “The Irishman.” Although I don’t subscribe to Sheeran’s claim that he murdered Jimmy Hoffa and his other boasts, I liked the film.

I especially liked the film as it featured organized crime figures from South Philadelphia, where I grew up. Readers have contacted me and asked how to learn more about the South Philly-South Jersey Cosa Nostra crime family. I responded by suggesting that they read George Anastasia’s true crime books, “Blood and Honor,” “The Goodfella Tapes” and “The Last Gangster.”

Jimmy Breslin said George Anastasia’s “Blood and Honor: The Scarfo Mob, the Mafia’s Most Violent Family” was the best gangster book ever written. Mr. Anastasia, a former Philadelphia Inquirer reporter, covered the rise and fall of the Nicodemo “Nicky” Scarfo Philadelphia Cosa Nostra crime family in the 1980s.

With Mr. Anastasia’s knowledge from years of covering the mob and his interviews with Nick Caramandi, a Scarfo mob soldier turned government witness, “Blood and Honor” offers the backstory of the murder of South Philly-South Jersey mob boss Angelo Bruno (portrayed by Harvey Keitel in “The Irishman”) and the eventual rise of Scarfo. The book details the schemes, the internecine mob war and the many murders ordered by Scarfo.       

I interviewed Philip “Crazy Phil” Leonetti, Scarfo’s nephew and underboss who became a government witness. He described his uncle as smart, devious, calculating and psychopathic. He said his uncle enjoyed committing murders.

“He couldn’t handle the job. He talked about everybody else going power-crazy, but he went power-crazy,” Leonetti told me. “He wanted to kill everybody.”

Another fine book on the South Philly mob by George Anastasia is “The Goodfella Tapes: The True Story of How the FBI Recorded a  Mob War and Brought Down a Mafia Don.”

The book covers how the FBI secretly recorded John Stanfa, the mob boss who took over after Scarfo went to prison. Stanfa, a Sicilian-born criminal, was engaged in an internecine mob war from 1993 to 1995. As Mr. Anastasia explains, one side was old world Sicilian and the other side was born and bred South Philadelphians, the sons and nephews of the previous mob leadership.

“Goodfellas don’t sue goodfellas,” one mob philosopher advised a mob associate and potential litigant as the FBI listened in. “Goodfellas kill goodfellas.” The book offers a good number of other insightful comments as well.

You can read the rest of the column below or via the below link: 

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