Combating organized crime in Philadelphia

July 22, 2008 8:39:42 PM PDT
The Philadelphia mob as we know it, aka, la Cosa Nostra, is still present in the Philadelphia Italian community. It never really went away according to authorities. It's just a lot smaller, and that's in large part to the FBI here in Philadelphia who worked for decades trying to dismantle and disrupt the organization. Peter Kowenhoven of the FBI says, "Looking at the LCN in Philadelphia, it's much smaller and doesn't have as much influence as it once did."

Most of the big players of the Philadelphia LCN are either in prison or dead. Angelo Bruno, dubbed "The Docile Don", reigned from 1959 up until he was brutally murdered in March 1980. Phillip Testa, the man who would take over, was murdered in March 1981. "Little Nicky" Scarfo went to jail in 1989 to serve a 51-year sentence. "Homicide John" Stanfa got life in prison back in '94. Ralph Natale who took over got 13 years in 1998 and "Skinny Joey" Merlino got an 11-year prison sentence back in 1999.

The reputed mob boss running the show now is said to be Joseph Ligambi.

"There's always new and younger people willing to come in and fill the void and we're always trying to stay ahead of the curb ball," said Kowenhoven.

Peter Kowenhoven is supervisor of Philadelphia FBI's elite "Squad One" the organized crime unit that's been chasing the mob for decades. Since 2003, the unit has now been combating organized crime worldwide. What they've been learning is that the Philadelphia mob as we knew it has company.

Kowenhoven tells us, "The mob, if you're looking at just a mob, we actually have so many types of mobs now that you have to clarify what type of mob it is."

For example, federal agents recently took down a dangerous car jacking ring from West Africa that was targeting the owners of luxury vehicles. Since 2006, authorities say they hijacked more than 50 cars and shipped them to Liberia. Last November, one of three suspects was shot in a violent confrontation with agents in Southwest Philadelphia after they carjacked a Range Rover in Montgomery Township and then there's the Asian Mob, the Middle Eastern Mob, the Russian and Eurasian Mobs, international crime groups who control a lot of the natural resources like natural gas and timber that we depend on.

"They have leadership elements overseas. And because of the expansion of the FBI in overseas countries, through the Legal Attache Program, we're able to work closely with them as well as with authorities in those countries," said Kowenhoven.

So as you can see, the FBI has a lot more fish to fry when it comes to organized crime operating out of the Philadelphia region. They have a lot more sophisticated techniques and resources available and gathering so much intelligence, it's helping some of their other programs - in particular counter intelligence and counter terrorism.

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