||Philadelphia| John Stanfa
Birth: December 7, 1940 - Caccamo, Sicily
John Stanfa was the boss of the Scarfo family from 1991 until 1994. During the early 1990's he and Joseph Merlino fought for power within the Philadelphia family.
Involvement in the Bruno assassination
Giovanni "John" Stanfa was born in the region of Palermo, Sicily, in 1940. It is believed he was involved with the Sicilian Mafia in Caccamo and Ciaculli before comming to America. Together with his wife he immegrated to the US during the mid 1960's and settled in Philadelphia, where he started to work as a contracter. During those years he joined the Bruno family and became associated with the Gambino Family. In the late 1970's Stanfa became the personal driver of boss Angelo Bruno and was his chauffeur the night of his murder in 1980. Stanfa himself survived the attack with only minor injuries to his arm. Although it is not certain if he had anything to do with the murder, he did became a suspect. In 1981 he was sentenced to 8 years for perjury during the murdertrial of Bruno.
During the years Stanfa was locked away Nicodemo "Little Nicky" Scarfo led the family. Those years were bloody ones. Several men within the family were murdered and a war had appeared on the streets between the Scarfo faction and a faction led by capo Harry "the lump" Riccobene. By the time Stanfa was released from prison both Scarfo and Riccobene were out of the picture and sat behind bars. Also Scarfo underboss Philip Leonetti was jailed and consigliere Nicholas Piccolo had died of old age. The Philadelphia family was crippled and was in need of new leadership.
Out of prison, in on leadership
After Scarfo was jailed Anthony Piccolo became the acting boss for a couple of years, but backed by the Gambino Family and the Commission Stanfa was favoured to become the new official boss. In addition Anthony Piccolo was reassigned as Stanfa's consigliere. However, Stanfa was actually not that well liked within the family. For instance, he started to demand street taxes from his crews and demanded large cuts of their profits, causing discontent inside the family. Next to that Stanfa was old school, living by the old codes of the Mafia while younger crews were more Americanized and saw Stanfa as an outsider.
Stanfa - Merlino war
In January 1992 cash collector Felix Bocchino was shot dead in South Philadelphia. This was the first major mob murder since 1985. The murder was committed in order of Joseph Merlino, the son of former underboss Salvatore Merlino. Now the FBI was holding it's breath for yet another Philadelphia mob war. Merlino led a crew of youngsters referred to as the "Young Turks", who were all relatives of Philadelphia mobsters. They were unhappy with how Stanfa ran things and wanted to get rid of him. But Stanfa was not going to let that happen. In order to revenge the murder of Bocchino he ordered a hit on Michael Ciancaglini, a member of the Merlino crew and brother of his newly made underboss Joseph Ciancaglini Jr. Michael however survived the murder attempt.
In September the year before Stanfa had suprisingly inducted Merlino, Ciancaglini and Biagio Adornetto as new made members of the Scarfo family. Probably with the saying to "keep your friends close, but your enemies closer" he took them under his wing. He chose Joseph Ciancaglini Jr. as his underboss as a sign he wanted to bring the old and new ideas closer. But nonetheless Merlino's arrogance towards his boss kept on growing. For instance, when losing betts he refused to pay the bookmakers, insulting Stanfa. Then, in March 1992 Merlino's thugs shot Joseph Ciancaglini Jr. in a social club. Amongst the gunmen was his own brother Michael. Although Ciancaglini survived the attack he was badly wounded and descided to resign from the organization.
In August 1993 Stanfa finally got to Merlino when gunmen shot Merlino and Michael Ciancaglini on the street. Ciancaglini was killed but Merlino survived. Later that month Stanfa and his son were driving to work when suddenly a white van drove next to them while in traffick. When the side doors of the van openend hitmen started fireing at Stanfa and his son. Both survived the attack but his 23y old son was hit in the jaw. Soon after the botched hit 2 men of the Merlino faction were murdered in retaliation and in November that year Merlino was arrested for violation of his parole. Stanfa's victory however would be short lived.
Arrest and conviction
In March 1994 Stanfa and 23 others were arrested for 31 charges of racketeering, including murder and kidnapping. The arrests were made after a 30 month investigation. During his term as boss Stanfa had held many meetings at a doctors office and lawyers office, believing those locations were safe from FBI surveillance, but he was wrong. The doctor was later acquitted but the lawyer, Salvatore Avena, was charged with obstruction of justice. Also Stanfa's bodyguard John Pervite turned against him and became a federal witness.
In October 1995 mob associate Billy Vaesey was shot and killed when driving to work. He was killed hours before his younger brother William was going to testify against Stanfa and 7 other defendants. The Vaesey brothers were associates of the family, but Billy was more of a bystander. In November 1995 Stanfa was eventually sentenced to 5 times life in prison. He is currently serving his sentence in Pennsylvania. Merlino and capo Ralph Natale eventually named themselves as the new leaders of the Scarfo family.
(Source: "F.B.I. Arrests Reputed Leader of Philadelphia Mob and 23 Others" NYtimes March 18, 1994; "Driver for a Slain Crime Chieftain Gets Eight-Year Term for Perjury" NYtimes April 22, 1981; "Philadelphia Braces for Increase in Mob Violence" NYtimes September 5, 1993; "Blood and Honor: Inside the Bruno Mob" By George Anastasia)
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