May 15, 2020 — Philadelphia mob lawyer Joe Santaguida passed away this week at 81 from Alzheimer’s disease. Santaguida was an esteemed member of the Philly and North Jersey legal community and represented Bruno-Scarfo crime family leaders Joseph (Skinny Joey) Merlino, Joseph (Uncle Joe) Ligambi and Joseph (Joe Mousie) Massimino, among others. Local mob expert and Fox29 television investigative reporter Dave Schratwieser broke the news of Santaguida’s death on his social media accounts Wednesday night.
Santaguida was Merlino’s attorney through his rise to power in the 1990s. Merlino, 58, has headed the Philly mafia since he won a shooting war for control of the crime family 25 years ago. During the war, Santaguida paid Merlino childhood friend and mob soldier Gaetano (Tommy Horsehead) Scafidi a visit behind bars to tell him all was forgiven after Scafidi jumped ship to the rival camp in the dispute over a fear that Merlino was going to kill him. Scafidi entered the Witness Protection Program shortly thereafter.
Joe Ligambi, 80, has been Merlino’s acting boss and consigliere throughout his reign. Mousie Massimino, 70, was Ligambi’s underboss when he was acting boss in the 2000s while Merlino served a prison sentence for racketeering. Ligambi and Massimino were indicted together on federal racketeering charges in 2011. Ligambi beat the case. Massimino, using Santaguida as his trial counsel, was found guilty at his 2013 trial and tried unsuccessfully to appeal on the grounds of Santaguida’s failing mental health.
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