John-John Veasey’s Life After the Philly Mob

He was one of the most colorful characters in the history of the Philly mob — a charming killer who tangled with two MAFIA bosses, survived three gunshots to the head, and suffered Through the revenge murder of his own brother. Then he went into the Federal Witness-Protection Program — and built a new life for himself that may have been even crazier than his first one

When Veasey got out, he got a job as a laborer at a concrete company owned by the brother-in-law of local Mob boss John Stanfa. In the summer of 1993, the Sicilian-born Stanfa was in the middle of a Mob war pitting his old-school crew against a bunch of Young Turks from the neighborhood led by Joseph “Skinny Joey” Merlino.

After lifting weights and hauling cement blocks, Veasey was a rock-hard 200-pound slab of muscle. He was pouring concrete when he caught the eye of Frank Martines, a tile setter who was also Stanfa’s underboss. Martines asked Veasey if he knew Joey Merlino.
Sure he knew Merlino. When they were kids, Veasey took Merlino’s go-cart away from him. When they were doing time together in prison, Veasey helped himself to Merlino’s new Nike sneakers. But Martines wasn’t thinking about robbing Skinny Joey.


Martines made a gun with his hand, and asked Veasey if he’d be willing to kill Merlino for $10,000. No problem, Veasey said. And that’s how John Veasey got hired as a Mob hit man.

ON AUGUST 5, 1993,
Veasey and Phil Colletti were on patrol for John Stanfa. They drove a Ford Taurus past a Mob clubhouse at 6th and Catharine. Colletti, behind the wheel, peered through binoculars and spotted Skinny Joey and his closest associate, Michael “Mikey Chang” Ciancaglini, talking on the corner with a few guys.

But when the hit men drove by to get a better look, they noticed that one of the guys on the corner was Billy Veasey, a boyhood friend of Merlino’s. “Phil, we can’t go,” John said. “My brother will see me.”

So the hit men drove around until Billy left. “Let’s go get ’em,” John said.

The Ford Taurus pulled up alongside Merlino and Ciancaglini, who were strolling down the street on a sunny afternoon. Colletti was in the front seat, armed with a .45-caliber semi-automatic, and Veasey was in back, with a 9mm pistol. The two hit men opened fire. Ciancaglini raised an arm to protect himself. A bullet ripped through his bicep and pierced his chest. Merlino was wounded in the buttocks. Veasey saw Ciancaglini fall down and try to get back up. “My job was to kill Michael Ciancaglini,” Veasey explains. “He was the muscle behind Joey. He died like a man.” But not Merlino. “That motherfucking Joey was screaming,” Veasey says.

After Ciancaglini’s death, Merlino went into hiding. Veasey still expected a big payoff. “My mind was set on that $10,000,” he says. But the only money he saw from Stanfa was his regular $300-a-week Mob paycheck, less than the $350 he used to earn mixing concrete.

Veasey’s Mob duties included being an enforcer. He had a novel way of collecting protection money.

“I never once had to use brute force on a shakedown,” Veasey says. Instead, he’d toss a roll of quarters to a bookie or drug dealer. This was back in the days when people still fed quarters into pay phones. “Give me my money or start calling the guys you pay for protection,” Veasey would say. “Because believe me, you need protection right now.”

People paid because of his reputation. John’s most famous act of savagery came when Billy Veasey was doing construction work in a bar and overheard a rival mobster named “Joe Fudge” bragging that he was going to kill John Veasey. Billy called to warn his little brother. “I’ll handle it,” John assured him. He decided to make an example out of Joe Fudge. It didn’t matter to John that Joe Fudge was Frank Martines’s cousin.

Veasey told a mobster pal to bring Joe Fudge over to his house, because he was under house arrest and had to be home when his parole officer called. When Joe Fudge showed up, he found Veasey inside waiting, with a power drill hooked up to a 50-foot cord. “I started slapping him with the drill,” Veasey says, “and asking, ‘Do you want to kill me?’”

Veasey had a paddle tip on his power drill that yanked out big chunks of Joe Fudge’s hair. Veasey also whacked Joe Fudge in the knees with a baseball bat. The phone rang; it was an automated call from the probation department. Veasey took the phone in one hand and used the other to keep drilling Joe Fudge. Meanwhile, the parole officer, whose spiel was pre-recorded, asked Veasey to repeat the names of American states in a precise order to prove it was John Veasey live on the phone, and not some recording. “Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware,” Veasey repeated while he drilled Joe Fudge.