TOMS RIVER - Phil Leonetti, a former mob underboss, continued testifying Friday at the trial of five men accused of racketeering and murder in connection with the death of a Toms River man.

While gangster-turned-informant Philip Leonetti has no qualms about testifying against his former mob associates, he appears to draw the line when it comes to ratting on family.

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While Leonetti has admitted to testifying against at least 45 former mob members since turning state's witness in 1989, he has never testified against any family members, the former underboss of the Bruno/Scarfo crime family proudly testified Friday.

This includes his uncle, reputed mob boss Nicodemo "Little Nicky" Scarfo, and his mother - Scarfo's sister who is on parole for having a no-show union job.

It also, apparently, also includes his cousin, Nicodemo Scarfo Jr.

The statements were made Friday during the trial of Martin Taccetta of Florham Park, Michael Ryan of Belleville and Thomas Ricciardi of Toms River, who are all charged in connection with beating alleged mob associate Vincent "Jimmy Sinatra" Craparotta to death in 1984.

Anthony Acceturo and Michael Taccetta, both of Florham Park, are standing trial with the men on racketeering charges.

Prosecutors allege the defendants were trying to extort money from Ocean County businesses and the Toms River man was killed when he refused to help the Lucchese family gain control of a illegal video machine company owned by his nephews.

While federal investigators have alleged the younger Scarfo is following in his father's footsteps, Leonetti steadfastly professed ignorance of any alleged involvement by his cousin in organized criminal activity.

"He did things for his father, brought messages (from jail), but he's a legitimate kid. He didn't do anything," Leonetti said.

The elder Scarfo is currently serving a 55-year term after being convicted of federal racketeering charges.

It was Leonetti's conviction on similar charges - and his subsequent 45-year sentence - that convinced the former underboss to enter the federal witness protection program, Leonetti has said.

Leonetti's testimony came during his last day on the stand in the trial of five reputed Lucchese crime family members charged in connection with the golf-club beating death of an Ocean County businessman.

The subject of Nicodemo Scarfo Jr. was raised as defense attorneys quizzed Leonetti about a January 16, 1989, letter he wrote to his cousin while in prison.

In the letter, the jailed Leonetti advises his cousin to keep drawing a paycheck from Scarf Inc., an Atlantic City-based construction company Leonetti headed.

"I hope you're working. I hope you're getting your pay check. It's important to show how you're making your money," Leonetti wrote.

Throughout his three days of testimony Leonetti has repeatedly told of mobsters' efforts to arrange scams to account for their expensive assets and show some sort of legitimate income.

But Leonetti said this was not the basis of his advice to his cousin. Rather, Leonetti said, he was concerned investigators would get the wrong idea about the younger Scarfo if he did not document his pay with checks.

In the letter Leonetti also asked his cousin to look into the possibility of purchasing the White House Bar in Margate.

Leonetti said in the letter that he'd read the bar was up for sale and had decided paying $1.4 million for the Washington Avenue building would be a good move since the tavern was "in a great spot."

While Leonetti professed on the witness stand that he'd only earned about $300,000 during his 20 years of mob activity, he said obtaining the needed funds would not have been a problem in purchasing the bar.

One mob associate was an expert in real estate deals that required little money down, he said.

Leonetti became a protected witness several months after the letter was written and the purchase was apparently never pursued.

While Leonetti refused to directly implicate his cousin in any criminal activity, his loyalty was called into question when defense attorneys began alleging the witness had made off with $3 million to $4 million that the elder Scarfo allegedly had secreted in his house.

Leonetti denied taking the money, saying his cousin probably moved the cash after learning the former underboss was cooperating with authorities.

The younger Scarfo probably concluded - correctly - that Leonetti would tell the authorities about the money and the special hiding places the elder Scarfo had constructed in his house to store the money, the witness said.

Throughout his three days of testimony, Leonetti continually denied that his mob associates had given him the nickname "Crazy Phil."

Leonetti maintains the nickname was concocted in the late 1970's by a reporter for The Press or an Atlantic City radio personality.

After first hearing of the nickname, Leonetti sent an emissary to both men requesting they stop using the moniker, he said.

However, Leonetti - who has admitted to participating in 10 murders and numerous beatings and shootings - admitted he had acquired a reputation for violence during his criminal career.

"My reputation is La Cosa Nostra: This guy's hooked up with the mob. You'd better watch out," he said.

Leonetti is only one of three former mobsters expected to testify in the trial here.

Former Scarfo family member John Januska and Alphonse D'Arco, a former acting boss of the Lucchese family, are also expected to testify in the trial, which will resume next week.

While 16 jurors were originally selected to hear the case, only 14 remain.

A female juror was dismissed from the case Friday after she failed to show up for court. The woman had been late several times during the trial and other jurors were expressing frustration over delays in the case.

A male juror had been dismissed earlier in the trial after it was learned he'd tried to arrange a date with one defense attorney's female law clerk.



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