Philadelphia Mafia Attorney, Joe Santaguida, Dead at 81

Joe Santaguida, Long-term Philadelphia mafia attorney has died at the age of 81 from Alzheimer’s.

Santaguida represented many mafia members and bosses including Bruno-Scarfo, Joseph “Skinny Joey” Merlino, Joseph “Uncle Joe” Ligambi, and Joseph “Joe Mousie” Massimino, to name a few.

Joe Santaguida at his law offices (left) and walking into an Atlantic City Municipal court with "Skinny Joey" Merlino in 1998

Joe Santaguida at his law offices (left) and walking into an Atlantic City Municipal court with “Skinny Joey” Merlino in 1998

News of Santaguida’s death broke on social media Wednesday night by Fox29 television reporter and local mob expert, Dave Schratwieser.

The secrets that Santaguida took to the grave must be numerous. He was the attorney for Merlino throughout his rise to power in the 1990s including during a gang war shootout some 25 years ago when Merlino, 58, won control of the family.

"Skinny Joey" Merlino walking into Philadelphia Federal Court, 2014

“Skinny Joey” Merlino walking into Philadelphia Federal Court, 2014

It was at this time, Santaguida visited mob soldier Gaetano “Tommy Horsehead” Scafidi, Merlino’s childhood friend, behind bars. He was sent to tell Scafidi that Merlino had forgiven him for jumping ship to a rival family over fears Merlino wanted him dead. Scafidi didn’t believe Santaguida’s message of reconciliation and entered the Witness Protection Program soon thereafter.

“Uncle Joe” Ligambi, 80, was Merlino’s higher profile acting boss and consigliere for the past 25 years. Mousie Massimino, 70, was Ligambi’s underboss in the 2000s while Merlino served time behind bars for racketeering. They ran a distribution company for video-poker machines.

Joseph "Uncle Joe" Ligambi was Merlino’s acting boss and consigliere for the past 25 years

Joseph “Uncle Joe” Ligambi was Merlino’s acting boss and consigliere for the past 25 years

In 2011, Massimino and Ligambi were indicted on federal racketeering charges. Ligambi managed to beat the charges but Massimino wasn’t so lucky. Using Santaguida as his attorney, Massimino was found guilty in 2013 and even tried to appeal his conviction citing Santaguida’s questionable and aging mental health.

Massimino is currently in a federal prison in North Carolina and is scheduled for release in 2024.

One obituary for Santaguida appears here and reads:

JOSEPH, ESQ.; May 13, 2020. Beloved husband of the late Marianne (nee Dolo). Devoted father of Rocco (Karen) Santaguida and the late Anthony Santaguida. Loving grandfather of Joseph and Ava. Brother of Kathryn Rotondaro and the late Louis Santaguida. Son of the late Rocco and Teresa (nee Iannone) Santaguida. A socially distant viewing will be held Monday, May 18, 2020, beginning at 8:30 A.M. at the Church of St. Monica, 17th and Ritner Sts., followed by his Funeral Mass at 10 A.M. Mausoleum entombment will be held privately at Calvary Cemetery, Cherry Hill, NJ. In lieu of flowers, family requests contributions be made in Joe’s memory to the American Parkinson Disease Association, www.apdaparkinson.org.

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