When my uncle Nicodemo Scarfo was in La Tuna federal prison in 1983, he placed me in charge of running the day-to-day operations of our crime family in New Jersey from our headquarters just two and a half blocks from the Boardwalk in Atlantic City. Two other men from our family, Salvatore "Chuckie" Merlino and Salvie Testa, were running our street operation in South Philadelphia and even though we were in the throws of a bloody mob war with a 4'10 old-school gangster known as "The Hunchback," things were going pretty good for us, especially in Atlantic City.
On most days I would meet with gangsters from North Jersey and New York, many of whom came to Atlantic City with an envelope that usually contained several thousand dollars in cash as a tribute payment to my uncle and our family resulting from business they were involved in either Atlantic City or Philadelphia.
On more than one occassion I met with gangsters from the Patriarca crime family, an organization based primarily out of the Boston area, but with a heavy presence in and around Providence, Rhode Island.
During one of these meetings, a guy I knew as a mob associate who was affiliated with the Genovese crime family in New York introduced me to another mob associate from Providence. The two of them wanted to buy an old hotel in Atlantic City and re-develop it into a caberet style nightclub and restaurant and wanted the blessing of our family. After several meetings and after getting the green light to proceed from my uncle who was in jail, I arranged to meet with caporegimes from both the Genovese and Patriarca crime families to ensure that everything was done in accordance with the rules of La Cosa Nostra, i.e., that everyone knew where the money was to be sent.
In this case, monthly envelopes would be sent to Vincent "Chin" Gigante, boss of the Genovese, through his underboss Venero "Benny Eggs" Mangano, Raymond Patriarca, boss of the Patriarca's, through his underboss Gennaro "Jerry" Angiulo, and my uncle, Nicky Scarfo, boss of the Philadelphia/Atlantic City mob, through me.
As things progressed with our proposed joint venture, I first heard the name "Jimmy Bulger" from one of the Boston guys during a dinner meeting. Bulger I would learn, was an Irish drug-dealer and low-life punk from South Boston who was paying the Patriarca's tribute money to stay in business. The problem with Bulger was that he wasn't paying enough and was balking at efforts to pay more.
What's worse I would learn, was that Bulger had reportedly murdered a woman, had once been charged with rape, and may have worked as a male prostitute when he was younger.
The kicker was, he was also suspected of being an informant.
"You gotta kill em," I told the Boston guy, "Immediately. You can't do business with someone like him. I'm disgusted just hearing you talk about him."
A few weeks later I sent word to New York that my uncle and our family wanted nothing to do with the proposed venture and that the Patriarca's were forbidden from conducting any business in Atlantic City.
"They are not our kind of people," I told the Genovese guys from New York and that was the end of it.
Fast forward 30 years to 2013 and I am back in New York promoting my book, Mafia Prince: Inside America's Most Violent Crime Family & The Bloody Fall of La Cosa Nostra, and I overhear a conversation between my co-author Christopher Graziano and another gentlemen we were dining with near our hotel in downtown Brooklyn and I hear Chris say, "I can't believe Johnny Depp's gonna play Whitey Bulger, I thought it was going to be Mark Wahlberg."
I entered the conversation late and when I was asked by one of the reporters that we were eating with if I ever came across Whitey Bulger when I was in the mob, I said, "I never met him and never heard of him until a couple years ago when I saw he had gotten arrested. But there was another Bulger from Boston I had heard about, a guy named Jimmy Bulger. He was a low-life Irish drug dealer I had heard about from one of the mob guys in Boston."
I then went on to tell the story repeated above and ended it with, "I can't believe they kept this guy around. I told them they should kill him immediately. Maybe he was a cousin of Whitey's, who knows."
Everyone at the table looked at me in stunned silence and Chris said, "Philip, Whitey Bulger and Jimmy Bulger are the same guy. The guy you just described is Whitey Bulger. Whitey's real name is James Bulger."
I told them, "No way. The guy I'm talking about, Jimmy Bulger, he wasn't a gangster, he was a drug-dealer paying tribute to the Italian's in Boston's North End. It's definitely not the same guy."
After arguing my point for most of the evening, I went back to the hotel and did some research and realized that Chris was right.
The low-life Irish drug dealer that I said should be killed in 1983 was in fact the infamous Whitey Bulger.
Thirty years later I stand by that.
Bulger should have been killed by the Patriarca's, plain and simple.
How they could do business with someone like him is unfathomable. To call him a gangster is a joke.
He was a psychopathic, drug-dealing serial killer, not a gangster.
I'm glad its Johnny Depp playing Bulger in the movie about his life and not Mark Wahlberg. No disrespect to Johnny Depp, but I like Wahlberg and how he carries himself. Seeing him portray a lowlife like Bulger would have been disappointing.
Philip Leonetti is the former underboss of the Philadelphia/Atlantic City mob and the nephew of imprisoned mob boss Nicodemo "Little Nicky Scarfo. He was the youngest underboss in the history of the modern day La Cosa Nostra and in 1989 was the highest ranking mafioso to break omerta and cooperate with the federal government. In 2012 he wrote the book Mafia Prince: Inside America's Most Violent Crime Family and The Bloody Fall of La Cosa Nostra. He lives in seclusion under an assumed name with a $500,000.00 bounty placed on his head from his jailed uncle Nicky Scarfo.