August 9–16, 2001
The Boys of Summer
Last Thursday night there was a big party in South Philadelphia. Some of the Mummers were there. And Joey Merlino’s mom. And outside of the rowhouse where the party was in full swing stood TV camera crews and Philadelphia organized-crime cops and dozens of neighbors, some in deck chairs, checking out the action.
It was a going-away party for Angelo Lutz. The mothers and wives, brothers and uncles of the men recently convicted of being mobsters but not murderers, were also in attendance.
At the kitchen table, Angelo’s mother, Helen, was surrounded by friends and neighbors. The small house was filled with people, and out back almost a hundred people were squooshed together, drinking, laughing and taking turns hugging Angelo Lutz.
Lutz got his picture taken over and over again that night, sometimes with pretty young women, sometimes with friends. He was enjoying himself, getting as much celebrating in as possible because it may be seven long years before he sees anything but the inside of a prison cell.
For a long time Lutz was separated from the other men he was on trial with by reputation because the media and cops labeled Lutz as mob wannabe or a lowly associate and by bail because Lutz was the only one of Merlino’s crew not in jail during the trial.
But Thursday night Lutz was no longer the outsider. Angelo Lutz was going off to prison to "do his time like a man" as one of his friends told City Paper that night. "Now he’s really just like all of his friends — respected and behind bars."
Lutz himself was never happy that he was going off to prison, but he steadfastly maintained his innocence until the very end.
A brother of one of the men convicted with Merlino had returned from Wildwood, NJ, to say farewell to Lutz. "It’s never easy going to prison. But it’s harder when you have so many friends and family on the outside. And it’s even harder to miss those summers at the shore."
Like all good Philadelphians, Lutz, Merlino and the majority of the men convicted of racketeering loved to go "down the shore" every summer. Some were Margate, Ventnor and Longport vacationers. A few preferred Wildwood. Mob-boss-turned-government-informer Ralph Natale loved Sea Isle City, and a small group loved spending their summers in Ocean City — "America’s Greatest Family Resort" is the sign that greets vacationers crossing the causeway onto the island.
Joe Ligambi loved staying right off the beach alongside the boardwalk near 10th Street in Ocean City. But after the New Jersey State Troopers wired up the condo of his neighbor and mob capo, Tommy DelGiorno, and the whole thing became public after the arrest of Scarfo, it was impossible for Ligambi to rent there anymore.
Of all the men accused of being Philadelphia Mafia over the years, very few of them are still able to tug on their bathing suits and stroll the beaches of South Jersey this summer.
A photo from the mid-1980s shows Nicky Scarfo and his friends on the beach in Fort Lauderdale, FL, where Scarfo owned a home and boat. The Florida real estate was just another perk of being boss of the Philadelphia Cosa Nostra.
Today Scarfo is in prison for life. In the beach photograph, in the front row kneeling, from left to right, the first person is Georgie Borgesi. He sports sunglasses, a baseball cap and a 76ers T-shirt. Today, Borgesi, the alleged consigliere of the Merlino mob, awaits sentencing for racketeering. He is the nephew of Joe Ligambi, who is the third man from the left in bathing suit. Philadelphia police and federal sources claim that Ligambi is now the boss of the Philadelphia crime family.
In the photo next to Ligambi is Frances "Faffy" Iannarella. A Vietnam vet and capo in the Scarfo crime family, Ianarella is serving a 45-year sentence for violating federal RICO statutes.
On the next row up, the first man on the left with sunglasses and another man’s arm hugging him, is Nick "The Crow" Caramandi. He was a soldier in the Scarfo crime family who became a government witness and testified at 11 trials for the feds. He joined the Federal Witness Protection Program, but was booted out and then joined a more informal program "run" by the FBI.
Years after this photo was taken, Caramandi met with a Philadelphia reporter at an undisclosed location in the U.S. "The Crow" told the reporter that he missed South Philadelphia every day, hated living a life where he was always looking over his shoulder and wanted more than anything to turn the clock back and make different decisions that would not have led to this "exile."