Tag Archives: Former New Jersey Mob Boss Testifies Against Camden Mayor

Former New Jersey mob boss takes witness stand against Camden mayor

Published: Tuesday, November 21, 2000


CAMDEN, N.J. {AP} Mob boss Ralph Natale used code names when he talked on the telephone. Whenever he discussed Mafia business at his apartment, he would crank up the TV or the radio. At his “office” a restaurant at a racetrack he would whisper or take associates for a walk down the hall. “And I was right, because I’m sitting here,” he said earlier this month, eliciting chuckles from a standing-room-only crowd in the federal courtroom where he testified for the government in the corruption trial of Camden Mayor Milton Milan.

The former boss of the Philadelphia-South Jersey mob has become the highest-ranking American Mafia figure ever to turn government witness.

Natale began cooperating with prosecutors in 1999 after being charged with running a methamphetamine ring. Apparently, Natale wasn’t paranoid enough: His telephone had been tapped, his kitchen, TV room and balcony were bugged, and, worst of all, a top associate had worn a wire and recorded hundreds of conversations with Natale and other mob figures.

Milan’s trial is the first in which Natale testified. He is expected to take the stand in a series of trials that could put organized crime figures from Philadelphia to Boston behind bars.

During four days on the stand, Natale, 65, pleasantly explained the workings of the underworld to jurors and a gallery that included mob wives and girlfriends, FBI agents, and attorneys of former associates.

Natale was a mix of braggadocio and charm full of hubris one moment, contrition the next as he detailed his efforts to tuck the mayor of New Jersey’s poorest city into his pocket.

A fit-looking figure with a shaved head, a gray goatee and crisp, tailored suits, Natale sometimes bragged about his prestige and position, and told of how his underlings needed his approval before acting.

In a 1996 conversation recorded by the FBI at his apartment in Pennsauken, a city across the Delaware River from Philadelphia, Natale talked about beating up some guy “cause he answered me in a tone that he wasn’t supposed to be doing.”

Natale told of how friends and associates would keep their distance from him to avoid overhearing any conversations. “When I always talk to anyone, being the boss of the Mafia, they would never stand too close to me,” he said. “They would always stand 5 or 6 feet away.”

Natale detailed for jurors how, through an intermediary, he gave $30,000 to $50,000 to Milan to steer city contracts to mob-backed businesses. The bagman, Daniel Daidone, allegedly gave the money to Milan in $100 bills in white envelopes.

“I wouldn’t insult the man by giving him 20s,” Natale said.

Natale said he wanted Milan to be beholden to him. “I wanted him to feel he had to rely on me and nobody else,” Natale said. “If he had a headache, I would send him an aspirin.”

Under cross-examination by one of Milan’s lawyers, Natale admitted involvement in nearly a dozen murders committed as retaliation, during battles for control or simply to save face.

“Failure to pay homage to you was a death sentence, correct?” asked Carlos A. Martir Jr.

“Correct,” Natale answered.

The defense failed to rattle him. When pressed to remember a date, he said with a shrug and a grin, “If I thought I was going to be up here, I would have marked it down.”

Milan, 38, is accused of taking payoffs from mob figures and others seeking contracts or favorable treatment, and laundering drug mon Prosecutors are still presenting their case.

The mayor has denied the allegations and has said all along that the government “made a deal with the devil.” After Natale took the stand, Milan said: “The devil himself came up to testify.”

Natale pleaded guilty in May to murder, attempted murder, extortion, gambling and drug trafficking. Prosecutors have said he would be spared the death penalty. He could get up to life in prison instead.

He is expected to testify next year against his reputed handpicked successor as mob boss, Joseph “Skinny Joey” Merlino, whose lawyer, Edwin Jacobs Jr., was unimpressed with Natale as a witness.

Jacobs gave the government credit for “cleaning up” Natale, but called his testimony “fiction.”

“It’s theater,” he said. “The government has dressed him up, taught him to enunciate, glossed over his criminal background and his propensity for violence. None of that means he’s telling the truth.”

Natale said it was the looks on his family members’ faces when he went to court on the methamphetmaine charges a few years ago that made him decide to give up his life of crime.

“I found out, truly, what I did to them, and right then and there, I did enough for La Cosa Nostra,” he said. “No more. I said, ‘If there’s any life left for me, I’ll give it to that family. No more La Cosa Nostra.”‘

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