The arrest of Joseph “Skinny Joey” Merlino the alleged boss of the Philadelphia mafia back in August wasn’t as surprising as the surrounding circumstances.
According to the feds, Merlino was a leader in what has been called the “East Coast LCN Enterprise” along with Genovese crime family captains Pasquale “Patsy” Parrello and Eugene “Rooster” O’Nofrio. They were among 46 mafia members and associates of the Genovese, Gambino, Lucchese and Bonanno crime families of the New York mafia and Merlino the lone member of the Philadelphia mob that were charged. Rumors of a federal case being put together against Merlino had been floating around for some time but many believed it would be centered around mob crimes that took place between him and his top associates in Philadelphia.
After some minor resistance from the feds Merlino was set free on $5 million bail. According to Merlino’s high-powered attorney Edwin Jacobs Jr, he was headed back down to Boca Raton to work on reopening “Merlino’s” a posh restaurant and nightspot. Although it seems Merlino’s run of bad luck also includes the restaurant venture as reports from Florida claim the place has been shut down and the property is for sale. Merlino has denied previous reports from earlier this year that the business was in trouble and had possibly been put up for sale. If Merlino had planned to reopen the business things likely changed after he was indicted. But things may not be as bleak as they seem for the flamboyant Cosa Nostra boss as the federal indictment against him may be somewhat flawed.
The 32-page four-count indictment handed down by a New York federal grand jury has been called “broad and general in nature” by Jacobs and is said to lack details. Many are now wondering if this indictment has more bark then bite and if it may have been rushed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New York. According to reports from veteran mob reporter George Anastasia, there were objections from law enforcement agencies in both Philadelphia and Florida who thought they could have waited and possibly built a much stronger case using information from other ongoing investigations into Merlino’s current organized crime activities that included some of his top associates in Philly and South Jersey.
The lack of cooperation between the feds in New York and other federal agencies in Florida and Philadelphia may prove to be beneficial to Merlino. Key information such as secretly recorded conversations of Merlino meetings in Florida, New York, and Jersey made by a cooperating witness wearing a wire were never shared and other law enforcement agencies were not made aware of them until after the indictment was made public according to reports. The indictment includes hundreds of hours of recorded conversation not only from the cooperating witness but also from an undercover FBI agent which seemingly shows what Merlino was currently up to.
His recorded meetings with other ranking members of the Philadelphia mafia led the feds in New York to say in a memo filed after Merlino’s arrest that he was working to rebuild the Philadelphia crime family. There are also references in that memo to criminal activities that Merlino was involved that stretched from Massachusetts to Florida including Philadelphia. Although the indictment lacks any charges stemming from these alleged criminal activities mainly in Philadelphia. Perhaps if more of this information was shared in real time with law enforcement agencies in Philly and Florida the case against Merlino could have turned out to be much larger and more substantial.
Although there is still a chance that there is more to come as the case moves forward including possible superseding indictments. Perhaps more information will be made public helping to fill in more of the blanks and add the extra details needed to strengthen the case against Merlino. If not then Merlino may have caught a break which may lead to a lighter sentence than he otherwise could have faced or maybe even a small chance to beat the case altogether.