Nicodemo (Little Nicky) Scarfo, the reputed underworld boss of Philadelphia and southern New Jersey, and his top aides were arrested Monday in an operation that authorities said was aimed at dismantling his crime family.
Scarfo, 57, was arrested in a raid at his girlfriend's apartment. His 17 top aides, including his nephew, Philip (Crazy Phil) Leonetti, 33, an alleged mob enforcer, were taken into custody at various locations in New Jersey and Philadelphia.
Scarfo, who state police say has a long history of violence, reputedly heads the Philadelphia-based organized crime family once led by Angelo Bruno, who died in a shotgun attack outside his south Philadelphia home in March, 1980.
Scarfo, 43rd on a recent Fortune magazine list of the nation's richest and most powerful gangsters, ascended to the top of the organization less than a year later, after Bruno's successor, Philip (Chicken Man) Testa, was killed by a nail-filled bomb, authorities said. It was one of at least two dozen unsolved Bruno family killings since Bruno's death.
Scarfo was charged with heading an organized crime enterprise and with two counts of conspiracy. He faces 25 to 50 years in prison and $300,000 in fines if convicted on all counts.
"In this indictment, we are attempting to prosecute and put out of business much of the top leadership of an organized crime family, not just fragments of an illicit enterprise as so often occurs in these prosecutions," First Assistant Atty. Gen. Donald Belsole said.
Scarfo and Leonetti, both handcuffed but grinning, pleaded not guilty at their arraignment. They were ordered held in lieu of $400,000 bail for Scarfo and $300,000 for Leonetti.
As Scarfo's handcuffs were removed in court, he flashed a smile at reporters and said, in a barely audible voice: "I feel like I'm in the movies."
Arraignments for the 16 other defendants were to be held in Philadelphia.