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Who Takes Control Of The Philly Mob?

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PHILADELPHIA -

For jailed mob boss Joe Ligambi and his nephew, mob captain George Borgesi, it's make or break time. Their re-trial on racketeering conspiracy charges started this week and the result could throw control of the local mob up for grabs.

"In theory, you could have three different people vying for control, or are they gonna reach some kind of alliance and understanding. It's all about making money, gambling, loan sharking , we'll have to see," said former Inquirer crime reporter George Anastasia.

Ligambi and Borgesi are being re-tired in federal court after a jury last winter acquitted them on some charges but failed to reach a verdict on others. For the 74-year-old Ligambi, a conviction could end his decade long reign as head of the mob.

"Ligambi established himself as a low-key boss who understood the way things were supposed to work," said Anastasia.

Borgesi has been in prison for the past 14 years after a racketeering conviction as part of the Joey Merlino mob faction in 2001. He was about to be released from prison when the FBI locked him up on these latest charges.

"George has been in prison for many , many years," said his attorney Christopher Warren. "He's very anxious to get back to his family and we just hope we can get 12 fair and independent minded people to hear this case."

Mob experts, like Anastasia, who covered Ligambi's first trial and now the re-trial, said whichever way this trial goes, guilty or not guilty, it will be decision-making time for the local wiseguys.

"Then it's a question of who's in charge. Ligambi was the acting boss or the boss, Joey's in Florida, the guys from the Scarfo organization, does everybody fall in line. I tend to doubt that's gonna happen," he said.

If Ligambi and Borgesi are convicted, law enforcement and mob sources say acting mob boss Steven Mazzone could take the reins now that former mob boss Joey Merlino has moved to Florida and out of the spotlight in the sunshine state. If they're found not guilty, the whole mob dynamic changes.

"If everybody wants a piece of the pie, the pie gets smaller and smaller in terms of what the share is. That creates a problem, and that's what the dynamic is," Anastasia explained.

"Based upon what I've seen, there's not too much left," Warren said. "Is there anything to divvy up at this point? Not that I'm aware of. ... We really don't think it exists anymore."

But if Ligambi and Borgesi go down, Mazzone and his crew may have to compete for control of the South Philly mob with the so called "old heads" from the Nicky Scarfo mob regime. Several of them are now out of prison after 25 years behind bars from their late-1980s convictions with Scarfo. His blood-thirsty reign left bodies in the streets for almost a decade.

"The violence is always there because of their past history," Anastasia said. "The question is does anybody want to confront them? You've got a bunch of guys who did their time, have a sense that they're entitled to this, know how the game works, and they have status and cred in the streets. If they want it. They're entitled to it."

Experts say Merlino's old crew and the returning wiseguys from the Scarfo faction simply won't mesh. That could result in mob violence if they can't strike an agreement on who takes over as mob boss.

Many point to convicted racketeer Phillip Narducci as the heir apparent for the Scarfo crew. Anastasia says Narducci has a reputation as a no-nonsense kind of guy.

"He's the one, personality-wise, likely to stand up and say, 'Wait a minute, who are you? Here's who I am,'" Anastasia said. "If you wanna watch somebody, he's the one to watch."

Just who becomes the mob boss will most likely be decided right after this new trial ends. Given the history of the mob here, the battle to wrestle control of the wiseguys could end in bloodshed.

"I think it was Maria Merlino on a phone tap that said, 'What are they fighting over, jail time or coffins?' That's what it comes down to. We've seen that again and again with these guys, " Anastasia added.

The trial is expected to take six to eight weeks. Mob sources here and in New York say the godfathers of the five New York crime families will ultimately decide who takes control of the Philly mob.

To watch video of Schratwieser and Anastasia talking more about the mob's future in Philadelphia, click here.

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