Wannabe wiseguy likely to be a key witness in Mob trial
He's filed for bankruptcy. He's pleaded guilty to racketeering. He's scheduled to be a key witness against reputed mob boss Joseph Ligambi and George Borgesi, Ligambi's volatile nephew and fellow mobster.
He's filed for bankruptcy.
He's pleaded guilty to racketeering.
He's scheduled to be a key witness against reputed mob boss Joseph Ligambi and George Borgesi, Ligambi's volatile nephew and fellow mobster.
Yet he continues to live in a house in Ventnor, frequents local restaurants, and is spotted in Atlantic City casinos.
Since his release on bail in June, that's been the life of Louis "Bent Finger Lou" Monacello, a wannabe wiseguy who loved playing the game but is trying not to pay the price.
"I've never seen anything like it," an underworld source said of the situation Monacello appears to have created for himself. In most cases, cooperating witness in organized-crime cases disappear into protective custody.
"Sometimes you can't make somebody do what he doesn't want to do," said a frustrated law enforcement official concerned about Monacello's safety.
Federal authorities have declined to comment. Monacello's lawyer has not responded to numerous calls from The Inquirer.
Last week Monacello's guilty-plea agreement, which was filed under seal in June, was unsealed and turned over to defense attorneys in the Ligambi case.
The now-public document confirms that Monacello, 45, has pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy and conspiracy to commit extortion and plans to testify for the prosecution.
"If Monacello takes the stand, it's over for Borgesi," said one underworld source.
Borgesi, who was sentenced to 14 years in prison after a racketeering conviction in 2001, continued to oversee a sports-betting and loan-sharking business in Delaware County through Monacello, prosecutors allege.
Authorities say Monacello, of South Philadelphia, handled the street action. He took bets, loaned money, collected cash, and forwarded part of the take to Borgesi or Ligambi.
Borgesi, Ligambi, and four other key defendants in the case have been denied bail since their May arrests. Their trial is set for September.
The outspoken and short-tempered Borgesi, 48, has insisted that he has done nothing wrong. He says the government has built its case on misinformation, according to several people who have communicated with him.
"We look forward to vigorously contesting the government's evidence," said Paul J. Hetznecker, Borgesi's court-appointed attorney.
Federal authorities are expected to use secretly recorded conversations made by Frank "Frankie the Fixer" DiGiacomo to support some of the charges. Monacello's cooperation enhances the value of the tapes as evidence and strengthens DiGiacomo's credibility as a witness, say individuals familiar with the case.
DiGiacomo, according to authorities, wore a body wire for the Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office and FBI while working for Monacello as an enforcer and debt collector.
Most of the evidence in the federal indictment that focuses on Borgesi was developed in 2008 in a state investigation dubbed Operation Delco Nostra.
Monacello pleaded guilty to a gambling-conspiracy charge in that case and served a little more than a year under a house-arrest sentence that allowed him to go to work each day for a construction company he owned at the time.
The stakes in the federal case are substantially higher.
Under the terms of his plea agreement, Monacello must "provide all information concerning his knowledge of, and participation in" the Philadelphia crime family.
He faces up to 20 years in jail, and sentencing will not occur until he testifies. Prosecutors have agreed to inform the sentencing judge of the extent of his cooperation, a standard move aimed at winning him less jail time.
Monacello left South Philadelphia, where he lived in a townhouse in the Packer Park neighborhood, after posting bail in the case in June. Ligambi and other members of the crime family live in the same neighborhood.
Monacello moved with his girlfriend and their baby to a home he owns in Ventnor, N.J., that is valued at about $400,000. His bail conditions have been filed under seal.
As the case moves forward, investigators for the defense have begun to gather information aimed at undermining his credibility.
His personal life, including a divorce, and his business dealings, including a Chapter 13 bankruptcy filing, will be used to paint a picture of a wheeler-dealer who defense sources say used his connections to Borgesi to pump up his underworld status.
In 2006, Monacello extensively renovated a bar-restaurant at 10th and Wolf Streets, which he named Gavone's and touted as a mob hangout. But he lost the property, which included condos on the second and third floors, in a $500,000 mortgage foreclosure that was part of his bankruptcy proceeding in federal court in Camden.
Monacello also had an interest in at least two personal-fitness centers. They're gone, too. And so is his construction business.
Today, according to several sources, he works as an independent sales vendor for a national telecommunications firm and has attended company conventions around the country.
"He's a fraud," said another underworld source, wondering if those doing business with Monacello realize who he is.
Interestingly, Monacello finds himself in a position that he predicted while the Delco Nostra investigation was under way.
In a conversation recorded by DiGiacomo in January 2008, Monacello said he expected authorities to pressure him to give up information about Borgesi.
"They'll try and come and box me in and say, 'Look, tell us what you were doing with Georgie and the other guy [Ligambi] . . . or you're going to get 10 years,' " he said.
Showing a street-corner bravado that has since faded, Monacello added, "Then I'll say, 'I was hoping for 20.' "
In fact, he was looking at 20-year sentence when he cut his deal with federal authorities this year, agreeing to tell them what he was doing with Borgesi and Ligambi.