ABC PRIMETIME (1996 Interview): Philip Leonetti – former hitman, who became the underboss of the Philadelphia (PA) mafia family under his mentor, uncle + former boss, Nicodemo “Little Nicky” Scarfo
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PROFILE: Phil Leonetti
Philip Michael Leonetti
March 27, 1953
|Other names||“Crazy Phil”|
|Relatives||Nicodemo Scarfo (uncle)|
|Allegiance||Philadelphia crime family|
|Criminal penalty||45 years imprisonment; served five years after testimony|
Philip Michael “Crazy Phil” Leonetti (born March 27, 1953) is an American former mobster who became the underboss of the Philadelphia crime family under his mentor, uncle and former boss, Nicodemo “Little Nicky” Scarfo, before becoming a government informant in 1989 while facing a sentence of 45 years for racketeering. At that time, he was the highest-ranking member of the American Mafia to break his blood oath and turn informant. As part of his cooperation, he served just five years in prison, and later authored a book about the mob.
Leonetti was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to Pasquale Leonetti and Annunziata Scarfo. Having been abandoned by his father at an early age, he was brought up by his mother. He moved to Ducktown, the Little Italy of Atlantic City, New Jersey shortly after, where he was protected and supervised by his uncle and other Scarfo members. He appeared to be the opposite of his uncle, a quiet and laid back personality. Leonetti has alleged that at 8 years old, he was used as a decoy by Scarfo to dispose of a dead body, explaining to the young Leonetti that he brutally stabbed a man in a New Jersey bar with an ice pick for disrespecting him. He attended Holy Spirit High School, where he played on the school’s basketball team.
In 1979, Nicky Scarfo ordered Leonetti to murder Vincent Falcone, a criminal associate who had been underestimating Scarfo’s power within the crime family; he shot him twice. This would not be his last murder for Scarfo. A year later, he would be initiated as a made man. By the early 1980s, Leonetti was already a millionaire and controlled a lucrative trade of racketeering, illegal gambling, loan sharking, extortion and skimming from the Atlantic City casinos. A war within the family was also brewing as short reigned boss Philip Testa was killed by a nail bomb at his home in 1981, and so Scarfo began the war as he secured the top position for himself and eventually promoting Leonetti as his underboss in 1986.
In 1989, Leonetti received 45 years in prison for racketeering charges, while Scarfo was given 55 years. Shortly after, he agreed to testify against Scarfo and the family, also admitting to participating in 10 murders; this allowed for his release after only five years, subsequently going into hiding.
Shortly after Leonetti was released from prison, he married the former girlfriend of Vincent Falcone, whom he had murdered in 1979. In 2013, he published a book about his criminal life, Mafia Prince: Inside America’s Most Violent Crime Family and The Bloody Fall of La Cosa Nostra, which details accounts of the Five Families, the American Mafia Commission and other crime families across the United States.
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