BREAKING THE MOB by Frank & John Guinther Friel


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A tough cop's matter-of-fact account of how law-enforcement agencies stopped fighting among themselves and collaborated long enough to put a consequential Mafia family, plus many of its rivals, out of business. A streetwise detective, Friel was (as a lieutenant) in charge of homicide investigations for the Philadelphia Police from 1982-86, then helmed the city's mob squad until 1989. During this period, Friel and his fellow officers spent much of their time trying to nab Nicodemo Scarfo. The diminutive but deadly don headed an evil empire that controlled the rackets in an area extending from Philadelphia to Atlantic City's legal casinos in New Jersey. Scarfo's reign was notable for the corruption of public and union officials as well as unusually savage rub-outs. The feisty cape and more than a dozen of his henchmen were finally convicted on scores of felony murder and RICO charges in a series of trials that began in 1988. Scarfo is now serving hard time, with no possibility of release, in a federal penitentiary. In recounting how he helped put Scarfo and his Cosa Nostra hoodlums behind bars, Friel leaves little doubt that cooperation is the key to success in battling the underworld. By sharing intelligence and working together (instead of waging their accustomed turf wars), he points out, the Philadelphia Police and FBI (with assistance from other organizations, including New Jersey's state troopers) were able to cultivate informers and develop the evidence that brought kingpin criminals to book. The author also took great personal satisfaction in bucking the justice system to free a man sentenced to death for two killings of which he was innocent. Friel--writing with Guinther (The Malpractitioners, 1978, etc.)--devotes what may strike outlanders as excessive attention to the genealogy of the local crime families whose patriarchs and members he pursued for the better part of a decade. This quibble apart, the absorbing story here strips gangsters of their false glamour--and affords fascinating glimpses into the workaday world of a major metropolitan police force.

Pub Date: June 28th, 1990
Publisher: McGraw-Hill