Relationships are tricky, but some rules of dating go unsaid.
Don't wait to tell your new girlfriend that you're a mob informer who spent 12 years in prison for murder and racketeering. And never, ever threaten to smash her head with a hammer.
Roger Vella Jr. failed on both counts. First he lost the girl, then his freedom.
Vella, whose cooperation against the Philadelphia branch of La Cosa Nostra was once hailed as "remarkable" by a prosecutor, was sent back to prison last week after stalking the ex-girlfriend and failing to get permission to travel.
U.S. District Judge Stewart Dalzell revoked his probation and sentenced him to eight months in prison, to be followed by 38 months of supervised release, court records show.
Vella, 41, was once believed to have been a close associate of mob leaders Joseph "Skinny Joey" Merlino and George "Georgie" Borgesi. But after being convicted in the 1995 murder of a South Philadelphia drug dealer, he began cooperating with federal investigators.
In 2004, he pleaded guilty to federal racketeering conspiracy charges that included admitting a minor role in two gangland murders and witness tampering for the mob. Though Vella never testified in open court against any ranking organized crime members, Assistant U.S. Attorney Frank Labor told a judge his cooperation was "remarkable."
In 2008, Dalzell sentenced Vella to 140 months. With time served, he was scheduled to be freed last year.
It's not clear if Vella was relocated or placed in a witness protection program, but it's a safe bet. He's not listed in public inmate records and court filings don't identify where he has been living since his release.
His lawyer, Nicholas J. Nastasi, declined to say.
The budding romance with his accuser began in November, according to a report filed with the court by a federal probation officer. By the end of last year, it said, Vella took his new girl to meet family in New York and New Jersey - without first getting permission from his probation officer.
"It was during that trip that the defendant threatened to smash the complainant's head with a hammer," the report said.
Still, the couple stayed together, at least until April. That's when Vella fessed up about his mob background and prison record, the report said. On April 8, she dumped him.
Over the next three days, Vella called her cell phone 48 times and sent her 108 text messages. "The woman is in fear of her safety," the report said.
Vella was charged with stalking by local police where he lives. The case is still pending, but Nastasi said his client didn't dispute the accusations.
With luck, Vella could be out again by Christmas.