Crow’s Feat

In Blood and Honor, Nick "The Crow" Caramandi lets us watch while the Philadelphia mob rubs itself out.

On Thursday, Pat takes me into Cravings luncheonette, another place we used to hang at, around 12:30, 1 o’clock. He’s got me in the booth for three fuckin’ hours – see, he had bad vibes, he knew there was something wrong, he knew he was in trouble. For three hours he was looking in my eyes and telling me, ‘Look, you know you’re my best friend….’ So I says, ‘Are you crazy, Pat? I don’t want to hear this shit. You know you’re my best friend.’
A few days later, The Crow and another of Spirito’s coworkers lured him into a car, blew his brains out, and ran into the night.
By then The Crow’s new authority had stripped him of whatever finesse he once had to muster. He no longer needed to trick civilians out of their money; now he could simply demand it from fellow criminals in the form of a "street tax," the tribute to be paid to the organization by every operator it could find — every bookie, drug dealer, crooked union official, loan shark and thief of exactly the sort Caramandi himself once was. Almost all paid, but grudgingly; the tax collectors had to know just how bitterly insulted their preys felt at becoming extortion victims themselves. The Crow estimates that he brought in between $5 million and $7 million (tax-free) from 1982 to 1986.
His reward for the money and the Spirito murder was his initiation as a "made" member of the mob, in a ceremony held at an upwardly mobile house in the suburbs. His account of the elaborate ritual reminds one yet again of the degree to which the Mafia borrows from the Catholic Church: The dining-room ordination even involved a bit of muddled transubstantiation, in the form of a burning piece of paper symbolizing "the saints" and some mumbling in Latin (well, Italian) by Cardinal Scarfo himself.
But even Cararnandi couldn’t count on completely respectful treatment: When Scarfo won early release from prison by securing a job as a roving salesman of custom-made shirts, it fell to The Crow to actually do all the work. And for a home-cooked dinner Scarfo organized, Cararnandi was ordered to roll 300 meatballs — by hand.
Ultimately, that culture of universal contempt is what led to the Philadelphia mob’s downfall. Without such rudeness, there’s no way a clever type like Caramandi would have been the key player in the mob’s fatally disrespectful move up-town: the plot to extort $1 million from developer Willard Rouse.
The deal was that Rouse would have to pay the money if he wanted City Councilman Leland Beloff to approve legislation necessary for the developer’s $700 million Penn’s Landing project. Caramandi was the go-between — he explained the terms to a Rouse employee, then reported to Beloff and an aide, Robert Rego, on that meeting: