PHILADELPHIA, Aug. 12 -- A white-bearded mobster known in the underworld as 'Santa Claus' is giving federal prosecutors a present in exchange for a reduced sentence on racketeering and murder charges. Thomas Rebbie, 65, pleaded guilty Thursday to helping plot a gangland murder and agreed to testify against reputed Philadelphia mob boss John Stanfa and others.
'I'm helping both the government and myself,' Rebbie told U.S. District Judge Ronald Buckwalter as he entered his guilty plea. Rebbie, Stanfa and 22 alleged mob associates were indicted in March on a wide range of racketeering charges. As part of his plea bargain, Rebbie admitted being part of Stanfa's organized crime operation and said he was involved in plotting three murders, only one of which was carried out. The murder victim, Frank Baldino, was shot to death in September 1993 outside the Melrose Diner in South Philadelphia. Authorities say Baldino was a member of a rival mob faction headed by Joseph 'Skinny Joey' Merlino. Rebbie faces a maximum 40-year prison sentence.