THE AMERICAN MAFIA - Crime Bosses of Philadelphia

Mafiosi and Black Hand extortionists existed in the Philadelphia area from the turn of the 20th Century, possibly earlier. However, the earliest recorded Mafia boss of the city was Salvatore Sabella.

"Philly Mob"

1919 - Salvatore Sabella (July 7, 1891, to 1962). Sabella was trained in the Brooklyn crime family of Salvatore D'Aquila to establish a pro-D'Aquila family in Philadelphia. Sabella built his organization with help from the D'Aquila and Magaddino families in Brooklyn.

John Avena

1931 - John Avena (? to 1936). Sabella stepped down from his underworld administrative duties at the conclusion of the Castellammarese War. (During the war, he and some of his men moved to New York to fight as street soldiers.) He selected John Avena to succeed him.

1936 - Joseph Dovi (Feb. 11, 1889, to Oct. 22, 1946). John Avena was killed at the corner of Washington and Passyunk Avenues in 1936. His death appeared to be the result of a feud between the recognized Philly mob and a faction headed by the Lanzetti brothers. Joseph Dovi, known as "Joe Bruno" became boss.

1946 - Joe Ida (? to ?). The death by natural causes of Joe Bruno allowed Ida to take the helm of the Philadelphia family.

1957 - Antonio Pollina (? to ?)

Angelo Bruno

1959 - Angelo Annaloro (c.1911 to March 12, 1980). Known as "Angelo Bruno." His reign was said to be one of conciliation and compromise. He attempted to smooth over the deep factional differences in the Philly Mob and succeeded for a time.

1971 - In his twelfth year, Bruno became the longest-serving boss of the Philadelphia Mafia.

1976 - Atlantic City is opened to gambling. While increasing the racket possibilities for the nearby Philadelphia mafiosi, casinos also made the region more attractive to outsiders.


1980 - Philip Testa (April 21, 1924 to March 15, 1981). Angelo Bruno was shot to death on March 12, 1980. His assassination was allegedly ordered by New York crime bosses coveting access to Bruno's private fiefdom in Atlantic City. Bruno's consigliere Anthony Caponigro was also thought to have cooperated on the hit. Testa reigned over Philadelphia for one year with Peter Casella allegedly serving as underboss. During his reign, the Testa-Riccobene war erupted. The rebellious splinter group was led by Harry Riccobene.


1981 - Nicodemo Scarfo (April 8, 1929, to ?). A bomb exploded at Testa's home on March 15, 1981, eliminating the Philadelphia crime boss. Underboss Peter Casella looked to be responsible. Nicodemo "Nicky" Scarfo, based in Atlantic City, was able to seize control of the family by bringing charges against Casella to the national commission.

1988 - Scarfo is found guilty of murder and extortion. He is given a long prison sentence.

Copyright 2011, Thomas P. Hunt, P.O. Box 1350, New Milford, CT 06776-1350
All Rights Reserved

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