THE PLUMBER: The True Story of How One Good Man Helped Destroy the Entire Philadelphia Mafia by Joseph & Stephen J. Rivele Salerno

THE PLUMBER: The True Story of How One Good Man Helped Destroy the Entire Philadelphia Mafia

By
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

A matter-of-fact account of how a working stiff came to put a genuine crimp in organized crime's operations in and around Philadelphia. Salerno, a journeyman plumber who lived in an Atlantic City suburb, fell in with mobsters during the late 1970's. Separated from his wife, he was befriended by Nicodemo Scarfo, a Mafioso exiled from Philadelphia whose underworld clout took a fortuitous turn when gambling was legalized in the moribund New Jersey resort. For Salerno, however, the price of keeping company with fellow Italian-Americans like the diminutive but violent Scarfo proved dear. On the night of December 16, 1979, he became an unwitting and unwilling participant in a brutal gangland murder. Picked up for questioning, Salerno quickly agreed to testify against the killers from the problematic safety of the Witness Protection Program. Unfortunately, Scarfo and his accomplices beat the rap, so Salerno (who had moved to the top of La Cosa Nostra's hit list) had to stay on the run. With precious little help from US marshals, he laid low in a series of backwaters for nearly ten years, emerging only to give evidence before grand juries and Congressional committees. In the fall of 1988, a federal strike force finally nailed Scarfo and 15 associates (who had gained control of the rackets in Philadelphia and environs) on over 200 felony charges. A decidedly reluctant hero, Salerno played a significant if not pivotal role in their conviction, but he's still in hiding and, with a new identity, unable to contact either former friends or his family. A cautionary tale that leaves little doubt that informing on professional hoodlums, for whatever reason, is a dirty, dangerous, and often demeaning business. The consistently interesting text has a wealth of illustrations, including mug shots and some gruesome news photos of wiseguys who met bloodstained ends.

Pub Date: Feb. 15th, 1989
Publisher: Knightsbridge (9655 Yoakum Dr., Beverly Hills, CA 90210)