Atlantic City's casinos revive mob activity in nearby Philadelphia
Law enforcement officials are elated that after many years Nicodemo Scarfo - the man the Pennsylvania Crime Commission calls the head of Philadelphia's organized crime - has finally been put behind bars.
A federal judge in Camden, N.J., revoked Scarfo's $50,000 bail Aug. 17, and the reputed crime boss has begun serving a two-year term for illegal possession of a handgun.
But a much more complex problem remains: how to stop organized crime from extending its growing influence over drug peddling, loan-sharking, prostitution, and union activities in Atlantic City, located some 60 miles to the east.
While they concede that imprisoning Scarfo may be a step in the right direction, some authorities doubt whether it will have much effect on the gangland violence that has swept Philadelphia during the last 28 months. Fifteen reputed members of the mob have been gunned down. The shootings began in March 1980 when Angelo Bruno, then the alleged organized crime ''don'' of Philadelphia , was gunned down.
Since the arrival of casino gambling in Atlantic City in 1978, law enforcement officials note, Philadelphia and environs can no longer be considered the backwaters of organized crime. With such so-called ''ancillary industries'' to the nearby casinos as loan-sharking and prostitution providing opportunities for huge jackpots, the mob has been drawn to ''Las Vegas East'' area like flies to honey.
As an expert on organized crime with the Philadelphia Police Department explained, ''There's too much money to be made in Atlantic City'' to make it easy to stem the mob's influence there or to quell the related violence in Philadelphia. Mobsters in Atlantic City are already making millions of dollars a year on loan-sharking alone, he added.
Currently, specific increases in alleged organized crime in Atlantic City include:
* The New Jersey attorney general's office maintains that Local 54 of the Hotel, Restaurant, and Bartenders International Union, member of the AFL-CIO, is controlled by the Philadelphia mob, allegedly headed by Nicodemo Scarfo. The New Jersey Casino Control Commission (CCC), the state agency that licenses both casinos and their employees, has been holding hearings on whether the union should be disqualified from representing the casinos' restaurant workers and other employees. A decision is expected by the end of September, when summations from the attorney general's office and Local 54 lawyers will have been heard.
* According to Jeffrey Blitz head of the organized crime division of the Atlantic County prosecutor's office, the city is faced with a rising tide of illegal drugs, notably cocaine. While some scattered drug busts are being made, other authorities contend the ''Philadelphia connection'' has grown so strong that it is being used to distribute a virtually unending stream of drugs in nearby Atlantic City. The problem is compounded, these officials explain, by some casino operators who turn a blind eye on the drug use on their premises because the drugs heighten the excitement of casino gambling and cloud gamblers' judgment.
* Authorities claim that massage parlors that have opened in the city during the last few years are thinly veiled houses of ill repute. Nor is prostitution limited to these parlors. New Jersey State Police sources say they have obtained information that reveals that at least two casino-hotels have regularly furnished ''high rollers'' - gamblers who bet a great deal of money - with prostitutes. If this charge is proven, the hotels could lose their licences.