Making his first appearance in a Philadelphia courtroom in nearly a decade, jailed mob leader George Borgesi pleaded not guilty to racketeering charges Wednesday during a brief hearing in U.S. Magistrate Court.
Borgesi, in a green prison jump suit, nodded and smiled at nearly a dozen relatives and friends, including at least two underworld associates, who showed up for the pro forma hearing.
The onetime crime family consigliere is serving a 14-year sentence for a racketeering conviction in 2001. He waived the right to a bail hearing and, with court-appointed attorney Paul J. Hetznecker at his side, pleaded not guilty to the racketeering, conspiracy, and loan-sharking charges in an indictment unsealed last month.
Authorities allege that Borgesi oversaw a mob-connected loan-sharking operation in Delaware County from his federal prison cell in North Carolina.
They charge that Louis "Bent Finger Lou" Monacello, a top Borgesi associate, ran the street operation for him. Monacello made trips to visit Borgesi at the prison and, according to federal prosecutors, funneled part of the profits from the operation to Borgesi's wife.
Monacello, 44, is one of 12 other defendants in the racketeering case. The lead defendant is alleged mob boss Joseph "Uncle Joe" Ligambi, 71, Borgesi's uncle.
Borgesi was the last defendant to be arraigned. On Friday, Damion Canalichio, 41, pleaded not guilty. He is completing a federal prison sentence after a drug-dealing conviction and, like Borgesi, was not eligible for bail.
Borgesi, Canalichio, Ligambi, Monacello, and three other defendants are being held without bail pending a trial that is at least a year away.
Six other defendants, including reputed mob capo Anthony Staino, 53, were released and placed under various forms of house arrest and other restrictions.
The racketeering indictment focuses on the economics of the mob, with the charges revolving around sports betting, illegal video poker machines, loans-harking, and extortion.
Unlike earlier racketeering cases, there are no murder, attempted-murder, or assault charges. Prosecutors allege that Ligambi used threats of violence and the violent reputation of the crime family to muscle his way into the video poker machine business and to extort and intimidate gamblers and bookmakers.
Testimony from cooperating witnesses and secretly recorded conversations from body wires and phone taps are expected to make up the bulk of the evidence.
Borgesi, reputed mob boss Joseph "Skinny Joey" Merlino, and five others were convicted of similar racketeering charges after a four-month trial that ended in July 2001.
The jury rejected several murder and attempted-murder counts that were part of the case, but convicted the defendants of gambling, loan-sharking, extortion, and the receipt of stolen property.
Merlino, 48, is in a halfway house in Florida, completing a 14-year sentence. The other defendants in that case have completed their sentences.
Borgesi would have been eligible for a halfway house early next year, but his latest indictment makes that unlikely.
Contact staff writer George Anastasia at 856-779-3846 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow the Inquirer at www.Twitter.com/PhillyInquirer and www.Facebook.com/PhillyInquirer