After a life filled with Mafia hits and prison stints, onetime mob enforcer turned restaurateur Philip Narducci told a federal judge Tuesday he had finally traded in his crime family for a real one.
Sure, the occasion that had brought him to federal court was his sentencing in a loan-sharking case from just last year. And, yes, it featured claims of extortionate loans, Mafia-style threats and an explosive encounter in which Narducci was said to have shoved his victim’s head into a car windshield.
But as he stood before U.S. District Judge Timothy J. Savage, Narducci — better known these days for the Washington Avenue gastropub Chick’s, which he co-owns with his wife — vowed that his priorities have changed.
“I just want to get back to my family and get back to work,” he said. “All my past is in my past.”
Savage was inclined to agree. Saying he believed Narducci would never risk returning to prison, the judge signed off on a plea deal to send him away for just one more year in exchange for his guilty plea to federal loan-sharking charges.
Narducci, 57, already has served roughly four months of that, after asking to be taken into custody during a court hearing in May. With early release for good behavior, he could be released as soon as next spring.
His defense attorney Brian J. McMonagle pointed to the packed courtroom gallery filled with relatives and Chick’s employees as proof that Narducci has made a concerted effort to change his life. In addition to his business interest at the gastropub, the judge cited Narducci’s volunteer work with Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and Children’s Fresh Air Home, a beach retreat for urban kids, in North Wildwood.
His sentencing Tuesday ended his latest bizarre case — one that brought the city’s long history of old-school Mafia prosecutions into sharp collision with a defense strategy centered on more modern anxieties surrounding immigration and terrorism.
A former member of Nicodemo “Little Nicky” Scarfo’s crew, Narducci has spent more than half of his life in prison and has been accused by investigators of involvement in at least three notorious gangland slayings, including the 1985 hit on Frank “Frankie Flowers” D’Alfonso.
A jury convicted him of that that murder in 1989, but the verdict was overturned on appeal and a second trial ended in acquittal. After his release from prison on racketeering charges in 2012, Narducci had gone straight.
In January, though, federal agents arrested again, alleging that he and a codefendant repeatedly threatened a South Philadelphia barber who owed him hundreds of thousands of dollars. Many of the pair’s efforts to collect were caught on an FBI wire.
But while prosecutors leaned on Narducci’s past to paint his new crimes as a return to the mob life, McMonagle revealed in court this spring that his client’s primary accuser had a complicated past of his own.
That man — a Lebanese national and frequent federal informant — was found by a judge to have lied about his association with a political party with ties to the Iran-backed terror group Hezbollah.
Narducci maintains the man conned him and played on his sympathies by asking for money for an organ transplant for his mother, which he later frittered away through gambling.
Government lawyers accused Narducci’s defense of trying to enflame a jury pool with reckless character assassination before a trial could even begin. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Ortiz said Tuesday that the barber has received several threats since and still believes his life to be in danger.
Prosecutors have declined to discuss whether the one-year deal they cut with Narducci was motivated by concerns over the witness’ credibility in front of a jury.
“I believe the ... sentence is fair and appropriate,” Ortiz said Tuesday.
McMonagle, meanwhile, pointed to the packed courtroom gallery filled with relatives and Chick’s employees as proof that Narducci has made a concerted effort to change his life. In addition to his business interest at the gastropub, the judge cited Narducci’s volunteer work with Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and Children’s Fresh Air Home, a beach retreat for urban kids, in North Wildwood.
Before this case, McMonagle said, “he was getting to that corner that he never quite turned in life.”
Ultimately, Savage decided to give him another chance to turn it.
In addition to his prison term, the judge ordered Narducci to pay a $10,000 fine and to forfeit nearly $38,000 — the amount of the initial extortionate loan. His codefendant, James’ Gallo, faced sentencing later Tuesday.
“This (case) may have saved you — this may have pushed you along that road to turning the corner,” Savage told Narducci, as U.S. Marshals prepared to handcuff him and take him back to prison.
As they led him away, Narducci blew his wife a kiss, waved goodbye to supporters in the gallery and said: “I’ll see youse guys soon.”