August 8, 2020 – South Philly’s biggest bookmaker of the late 1990s, Daniel (Danny D) D’Ambrosia, a high-level mafia associate in the Natale era of the Bruno-Scarfo crime family, is back in trouble with the law.
Not so long ago, he was in trouble with the mob and, according to sources, his father paid a large sum of money to save his life.
The 56-year old D’Ambrosia was indicted this summer on five counts of wire fraud, bankruptcy fraud and tax evasion. His alleged criminal activity is tied to his ownership interests in two Pennsylvania businesses, Danco Painting and Jardel Construction. He pleaded not guilty earlier this month and is out on bond awaiting trial.
Award-winning television investigative reporter Dave Schratwieser broke the news of Danny D’s bust on his Philly Mob Sit Down blog and social media accounts. D’Ambrosio’s bond was set at $20,000.
D’Ambrosia was nailed in a 2000 racketeering bust that took down the sitting administration of the Philadelphia mafia. In the months before his arrest in the case, Danny D was part of a plot to murder then Philly mob acting boss Joseph (Uncle Joe) Ligambi, per court testimony and FBI records. In 2002, he pleaded guilty to bookmaking charges and served a little less than three years in a federal correctional facility.
Per Ligambi himself in bugged conversations, D’Ambrosia’s father approached Uncle Joe worried that Danny D was going to be killed in retribution. Money was extorted from the D’Ambrosias to prevent that from happening, according to sources familiar with the “life-or-death” shakedown.
In past years, because of his prolific earning as a bookie, Danny D had the upper echelons of the crime family doing favors for him, instead of the other way around.
Although D’Ambrosia wasn’t a “made man,” he rose to become the right-hand man to don Ralph Natale, who led the mafia in Philadelphia from 1994 until he turned government in the fall of 1999. D’Ambrosia ran his massive boomaking operation out of his Talk of The Town cheesesteak joint. Danny D was with Natale when Natale was taken into custody by FBI agents in June 1998 outside his Pennsauken, New Jersey luxury condo for violating his parole.
With Natale off the street, current Bruno-Scarfo boss Joseph (Skinny Joey) Merlino seized control of the mob and hasn’t let go since. Merlino had met Natale in prison and they teamed to defeat Sicilian Godfather John Stanfa in a brazen mob war fought in the early 1990s. The old-school Natale gave young buck Skinny Joey credibility and Merlino and his tight-knit crew of childhood pals provided Natale muscle.
But the alliance frayed and Merlino pushed Natale out of the way and cut him off financially upon Natale being nailed for associating with known felons in the summer of ’98. Stewing behind bars and facing a drug case, Natale angled to get even with Merlino.
First, he joined Team USA and agreed to testify against Merlino. Simultaneously, according to sources, he helped D’Ambrosio and North Jersey capo Peter (Pete the Crumb) Caprio, plan a palace coup that would have removed a jailed Merlino from power and killed three of his closest allies, including Uncle Joe Ligambi, his then acting skipper.
Caprio was nailed and flipped before it could happen and spilled the details on the plotted insurrection. Getting backing from the Genovese and Gambino crime families in New York and allegedly with urging from Natale behind bars in the midst of aiding the FBI in building a case against the entire Merlino camp, Caprio intended on arranging a meeting with Ligambi, Merlino’s underboss Steven (Handsome Stevie) Mazzone and Merlino’s consigliere, George (Georgie Boy) Borgesi in Trenton, New Jersey and having them slain and buried in a nearby landfill.
D’Ambrosia was relaying messages from Natale to Caprio throughout the fall of 1999 and winter of 2000 regarding the plot and was promised to be named Caprio’s underboss if they were successful in wrangling control of the Bruno-Scarfo clan. Caprio told investigators in his spring 2000 debriefing that Merlino’s buddy Marty Angelina would have been given the consigliere post and used to reel in the remaining Merlino guys back into the fold under new leadership.
Whether Angelina was involved in the plot is unknown. Angelina eventually rose to underboss for a brief time in the late 2000s under Ligambi, representing Merlino’s interests on the street while Skinny Joey finished his prison sentence.
The Merlino crew was all convicted of racketeering and did federal prison time. Merlino, 58, relocated to South Florida after getting released. These days, Ligambi, 81, is retired and Borgesi, Uncle Joe’s nephew, is Merlino’s acting boss.
Prior to heading off to prison to serve his time in 2003, D’Ambrosia went into damage control mode, per sources, worried about his personal safety. According to sources and FBI records, Danny D met with Ligambi on more than one occasion to explain himself when news of Danny D taking Natale’s calls from prison and liaisoning with Pete the Crumb, making the case that he was just placating an aggrieved Natale so that Natale wouldn’t give him up to the feds.
Ligambi was overheard discussing Danny D’s father approaching him to bargain for his son’s life at a 2010 meeting with Gambino crime family members at a posh Italian eatery in Kenilworth, New Jersey that was recorded by a Gambino turncoat.
“He comes over to my house three or four years ago, he said the FBI says you’re going to kill my kid. He’s telling me this on my front steps, I said ‘what the fuck are you talking about…don’t ever come around my house again.’ These are the kind of nuts I’m dealing with.”
According to sources familiar with the situation, he did come back though. D’Ambrosia sent somewhere between $100,000 and 250,000 in multiple installments to Ligambi to keep a murder contract from being placed on his son’s head for his previous indiscretions, per these sources. On at least one occasion, Danny D’s dad delivered an installment to Ligambi at his house himself, two sources claim. The money, according to the sources, was divvied up between Ligambi, Merlino, Mazzone and Borgesi.
Last summer, Borgesi, 56, reportedly replaced Ligambi as acting boss of the Philly mob at Ligambi’s 80th birthday party. Merlino just got out of a short prison term for a gambling conviction. One of Borgesi’s men, Anthony (Tony Mortgage) Ambrosia, copped a plea to wire fraud, money laundering and identity theft for stealing $210,000 last week.
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