PHILADELPHIANS REMEMBER JOHN Veasey as the star witness of the 1995 racketeering trial of Mob boss John Stanfa. Veasey’s stand against the Mob came at a steep price. He was shot three times in the head and once in the chest by his fellow mobsters, but miraculously survived. Then, on the day Veasey was scheduled to testify against Stanfa, the Mob murdered his brother Billy, who had talked him into surrendering to the feds. Veasey resolutely took the stand just days later and fried Stanfa. Jurors were mesmerized by his testimony. He was so raw, like a guy on a street corner telling a story.
The judge sentenced Stanfa to five consecutive life terms, and seven Stanfa associates were also sent away for long prison stretches. By then, jurors were so taken with John Veasey that they bought transcripts of the trial as keepsakes.
Veasey was sentenced to 10 years for two murders he’d admitted to committing. When he got out, Veasey had a new identity in the federal witness-protection program. But he didn’t know a soul when he got off a plane in fly-over country.
This is when John Veasey’s already dramatic life took an even more dramatic left turn. It was so utterly unlikely, it’s as outrageous as his first incarnation as a mobster. A barely literate high-school dropout, Veasey started over again at the bottom, cleaning hotel toilets for $9 an hour. But he memorized new words, and read everything from the Bible to Machiavelli. Then he answered an ad for a car salesman and discovered he was a natural. That’s when he became the Closer.
The onetime hit man from South Philly—trim, dark-haired, muscular, with tattoos of both God and the Devil on his chest—was so good as a car salesman that in the last couple of years he was pulling down $20,000 a month. “There’s my dealership coming up right here,” he says one day a few months ago, showing me around his adopted hometown, the name of which he asked me not to divulge. “I ran this whole place. I hired that kid right there. My office was right upstairs.” He rose to general manager of the dealership and general sales manager in charge of four car lots. He bought four houses, and drove Porsches and Lamborghinis. He flew around the country in private planes to speak at sales conventions, to teach others how to sell cars the way the Closer did.
Of course, this being the life of John Veasey, this latest chapter has its own bizarre twist. That interrogator who Veasey says flashed a gold FBI badge at him last May? He wasn’t actually in the FBI—he was an ex-agent who was head of security at another dealership that Veasey had recently moved to. He became suspicious about Veasey’s true identity, so he did some digging to figure out who the Closer really was. Veasey was fired from the dealership. (The interrogator claims he didn’t misrepresent himself as a current FBI guy, though he’s now under federal investigation for the outing of a government witness.)
Today, John Veasey has gone back into hiding. He is at large somewhere in America, wanted by the feds, who’d like him to stop running his mouth, and by the Philly Mob, who’d like to see him dead. The story of how everything happened—how a poor kid from South Philly became a violent Mob hit man; how that hit man became a government witness; how that government witness became a gifted car salesman—well, it can sound like something Hollywood made up. But John-John Veasey swears every word of it is true.