A former mafia boss who ruled South Philadelphia during the bloody 1980s died in prison over the weekend, authorities said Monday.
Nicodemo “Little Nicky” Scarfo, 87, died at a federal medical center in North Carolina on Jan. 13 of various health conditions, after serving nearly 20 years in prison.
Scarfo was serving a 55-year sentence for racketeering and murder after being convicted in 1988 along with 16 fellow defendants, reported George Anastasia, a Philly mafia historian, at BigTrial.net.
Various accounts of his life and alleged exploits say Scarfo ruled South Philly from Atlantic City during a particularly bloody period in local mob history.
Scarfo allegedly rose to prominence after a violent shakeup of mob leadership in the early 1980s. Mob boss Angelo Bruno was shot to death in his car in 1980, and his successor, Philip “Chicken Man” Testa, was blown up by a mail bomb a year later. That set the stage for Scarfo to take over.
While he was in power, an estimated 25 other Mafiosi were executed, “most on orders of the diminutive, five-foot-three mob boss,” Anastasia wrote.
Scarfo’s concrete pouring company in Atlantic City boomed with the casino business. CNN reported that investigations in the 1980s claimed that Donald Trump had his Atlantic City casino, as well as some of his New York condos, partly constructed by Scarfo’s company.
But the feds eventually caught up with Scarfo, who allegedly was heavily involved with the narcotics trade. Under pressure, many of his associates chose to cooperate with federal prosecutors. Those included Scarfo’s nephew, Philip Leonetti, who has since been released into the federal witness protection program, according to Anastasia, and wrote “Mafia Prince,” an account of his life in La Cosa Nostra.
Scarfo’s son, Nicodemo Jr., was himself sentenced to 30 years in prison in 2015 on federal charges of extorting a Texas-based financial services company.