The Italian Job: New Motive For Unsolved Philly Mob Murder Emerges From Podcast Interview

June 4, 2020 – The Philadelphia mob’s leadership feared Raymond (Long John) Martorano was loading up for war and importing “zip” shooters from Sicily when they decided to kill him, according to an interview with Long John’s son on the most-recent episode of the Philly Prime podcast.

Long John Martorano, 75, was ambushed by gunmen on his way to a doctor’s appointment behind the wheel of his Lincoln Town Car on January 17, 2002 in the city’s Washington Square West neighborhood. He died from his injuries on February 5. Nobody has ever been charged in his homicide and the investigation into the murder remains an open and active case in the Philly FBI office.

At the time of his dad’s murder 18 years ago, George (Cowboy) Martorano, was in prison serving a life sentence under a federal drug kingpin statute. Cowboy Martorano, who was the undisputed marijuana mob prince of South Philly in the early 1980s, was granted clemency from outgoing U.S. President Barak Obama in 2015. Today, he runs a successful CBD and hemp-products business based out of the Hip Hemp Café on S. 7th Street.

Both Martoranos were known narcotics traffickers in the Philly mob of the 1980s under don Nicodemo (Little Nicky) Scarfo. While Cowboy was the wholesale weed connect for most of the city in that era, Long John was the maestro of meth, helping the city earn a reputation for being the PCP capital of America.

Long John’s roots in the South Philly drug and numbers game dated back to the 1950s. The consummate mob politician, he was the Bruno-Scarfo crime family’s liaison to the city’s African-American, Greek and Irish mob factions, as well as the biker gangs operating in the region, until he was jailed in his own drug case and then indicted for the murder of a labor-union boss.   

The elder Martorano was paroled from federal prison in November 1999 and his subsequent return to the Philadelphia underworld did not go smoothly. Upon hitting the streets and trying to reestablish his rackets, Long John reportedly clashed with new acting Bruno-Scarfo mob boss Joseph (Uncle Joe) Ligambi.

Cowboy Martorano, 70, revealed to Philly Prime podcaster Dave Schratwieser of Fox29 in their interview, that his father had taken two trips to Sicily in the months before he was slain in the winter of 2002 to secure contracts for a construction business he was trying to get off the ground and those trips were misconstrued by the sitting Philly mob hierarchy as preparations for a revolt. Just a decade earlier, Sicilian-born Philly mob boss John Stanfa had gone overseas to bring in muscle in an attempt to quell an insurrection by the crime family’s younger generation and the bosses interpreted the trips as history repeating itself, Cowboy Martorano pointed out on the podcast.

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