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He is starting to show his age: A hospitalization for heart blockages earlier this month delayed his trial by two weeks. Sunday, he hasn’t eaten,” said one purported gangster of Merlino in a secretly recorded 2013 conversation — one of hundreds that prosecutors have amassed to play for jurors at trial. Since nearly the day of his 2011 release, a swarm of agents from New York, Florida, and Pennsylvania and wire-wearing ex-mobsters turned informants have trailed his every step to catch anything they might be able to use against him. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit overturned that ruling and set Merlino free.
And although for a time Merlino was peddling his mother’s South Philly recipes at an eponymously named restaurant at which he served as maître d’, he has personally adopted a more beach-friendly diet – one that apparently flummoxed his mob associates. According to a transcript, Merlino’s driver, Brad Sirkin, responded: “But he don’t weigh nothing. They thought they had him in 2014, when a judge in Philadelphia revoked his probation and sent him back to prison for four months for refusing to answer questions about his income and associating with an old mob pal at a Florida cigar bar. The reason for the continued scrutiny, prosecutors assert, is that Merlino – despite his claims to the contrary – is still running the Philadelphia mob, in absentia. he began working in earnest to rebuild the Philadelphia Crime Family,” prosecutors in New York wrote in court papers in December.
But they have cited in court papers a 2013 interview the reputed boss gave to mob writer and former Inquirer reporter George Anastasia as a more accurate representation of what, these days, “Skinny Joey” is about.
“I want no part of that,” Merlino said of the mob at the time.
But this week, reputed Philadelphia mob boss Joseph “Skinny Joey” Merlino, 55, once again will find himself in a federal courtroom — fighting a case that could force him to grow old in prison.
The charges, unveiled by prosecutors in 2016, are all crimes that Merlino has faced and fought before – racketeering, conspiracy, illegal gambling – with one significant exception.
“Merlino played a role that was less ostentatious [because] he was wary of getting caught due to the increased scrutiny he knew he faced.” Merlino may have told his probation officers back then that he was making money working for a marketing and advertising firm, but prosecutors now allege that his checks were backed by laundered funds generated by a 7 million health-care fraud scheme.
He’s survived more than a dozen attempts on his life. He’s won and lost battles with the feds — and tried in recent years to refashion himself as a retired man of leisure and Florida restaurateur.They also did not file full investigative reports after all of their meetings with him.Although prosecutors say the lapse was merely a failure to follow internal protocols, Merlino’s lawyers have signaled in court filings that they intend to argue that any evidence stemming from Rubeo’s cooperation is tainted as a result.Forty-six purported mobsters and associates were swept up in the dragnet as authorities nearly two years ago unsealed their indictment detailing the workings of an entity described as the “East Coast La Cosa Nostra Enterprise.” The document sketches out a loose alliance of mob crews in New York; Philadelphia; Springfield, Mass.; and Boca Raton, Fla., forced to pool their resources and income streams as the glory days of the Mafia faded into the past.Members – who hailed from the Genovese, Gambino, Lucchese, Bonanno, and Philadelphia families – allegedly committed crimes ranging from extortion and arson to credit-card fraud and selling illegal cigarettes.