The following is a script from "Hit Man" which aired on March 17, 2013. Byron Pitts is the correspondent. Clem Taylor, producer.
In the early '90s, John Veasey was a man with an unusual occupation: He killed people. Veasey was a hit man in the Philadelphia Mafia and found himself smack in the middle of the bloodiest mob war in the city's history.
As is often the case with hit men, Veasey's career was a short one. When he learned his own crew might want to kill him, he became a government witness: a rat. His testimony helped send two dozen wise guys to prison, some for the rest of their lives. And the Philly mob would never be the same.
Today, the one-time killer is a free man, living under an assumed name somewhere in America. We have agreed not to divulge exactly where. He's married, has a good job and says he's found God.
But back in his old South Philadelphia neighborhood, not everyone believes John Veasey's story of redemption. They say he's still the same low-life thug he was 20 years ago when the mob made him an offer he couldn't refuse.
Byron Pitts: In 1993, you were an ex-con, a laborer. And a guy walks up to you and offers you $10,000 to do what?
John Veasey: Kill a guy.
Byron Pitts: Were you interested?
John Veasey: I just said, "Yeah, where's the gun?"
Byron Pitts: That casual?
John Veasey: Yeah. He says, "Take some time to think about it." Just said, "Take some time to get me the gun. And let's get it done."
That's how it was for John: one bad choice after another. He grew up in the mostly Italian neighborhood of South Philadelphia, home to the city's underworld. He was the youngest of five. His mother sold crystal meth out of her family's bakery. By his mid-teens, John was a junkie and the father of two. By his late 20s, he'd been arrested more than 60 times. He says he never aspired to join the mob. But the promise of a big payday got his attention.
John Veasey: I mean, you got $10,000 and you never have no money.
Byron Pitts: They're offering you money to take somebody's life.
John Veasey: But my question to that is real simple. How many poor people are being offered 10,000 to kill somebody?
Byron Pitts: But that's not an economic issue. That's a moral issue.
John Veasey: No, it's moral if you have morals.
Byron Pitts: You had no morals?
John Veasey: Correct, none.
In the early '90s, the Philadelphia mob was at war. Blood and body bags routine. On one side was a group of older, Sicilian-born wise guys led by John Stanfa. On the other: younger American mobsters headed by Joey Merlino. For 30 years, George Anastasia covered the mob for the Philadelphia Inquirer. He says a young, streetwise thug like Veasey was the kind of muscle John Stanfa needed.
George Anastasia: Stanfa was getting an enforcer. Stanfa was getting a guy who wasn't afraid to go out there and bust heads. He was getting a guy who would go out and collect money, who would go out and intimidate people, and who would go out and kill people if he was ordered to do so.