The Last Mouthpiece

The old bosses have been sent to the big house, and Skinny Joey’s most serious (recent) charge is ... drunk driving. For Joe Santaguida, defending “alleged” mobsters isn’t what it used to be

But in the big Scarfo racketeering trial, didn’t the boss pay for everybody’s defense?

"Nahhh,’ Santaguida says, amused by such naiveté. "Some of their families had to go out and mortgage their homes to pay for lawyers. In the Scarfo trial, out of-what, 17 defendants? -more than half of them had court-appointed lawyers. You call that a mob? Let me tell you what I learned from the Scarfo days. In New York, let’s say, you I can be a mob guy and still go out and hijack trucks. Whereas here, a mob guy would think it was beneath him to have to do that. Or pornography-it’s so lucrative! Why ‘ didn’t any of the so-called mobsters here do that? Here, you could find all the guys in the Scarfo mob in the same place every day –  playing cards! In New York, you read about this guy and his crew and that guy with his crew, and this crew is into pornography, and that crew is into stealing cars and stripping them for parts. Or stock fraud. Or whatever. And everybody has his hustle, and they’re all making money. And they’re generating cases, too.

"But how much money could these guys generate playing cards? All in the same place? Here, nobody was actually doing anything. Nobody here got arrested for committing an individual crime. Here, they got arrested for murders, but nobody makes a dime on a murder. Or they had I what they called ‘the elbow.’ The street tax. I Meaning that if knew you were doing I something illegal-say, if you were a number-writer in the Northeast-they’d say to you, ‘Give us $300 a week or else.’ But nobody here ever got arrested for hijacking or robbery. Drugs! Nobody was in the drug business, either. There was one big drug prosecution, but it wasn’t really for selling it was more an extortion case.    

"I don’t know why they didn’t go out and make money. It seemed like weren’t ingenious enough to come up with illegal schemes of their own. They’d rather find a guy who was doing something illegal and take from him. Here, the only thing they did     know was gambling and loan sharking. But they split the pie up so much, there wasn’t enough to go around. In another city, these two guys would do gambling, and all the other guys were doing other things. Here, you had 20 guys doing gambling. "

(And lest you think he’s attempting to play down the mob’s presence in Philadelphia, here’s what a former U.S. Attorney says on the same subject: "Philly’s always been a penny-ante town where the mob’s concerned. They don’t own the unions the way they do in other cities. They used to run the roofers’ union and the hotel workers and bartenders in Jersey, but no longer. They don’t control anything like the Fulton Fish Market, the way the mob in New York did, or the Javits Convention Center. The mob here made the most of street tax, which is the gangster equivalent of bank robbery-a stupid and lowly way to make money.")