Reputed Philadelphia mafia boss Joseph “Skinny Joey” Merlino continues to get his ducks in a row in preparation for his upcoming battle with the feds.
Merlino was hit with multiple charges including racketeering conspiracy after he was busted along with several other alleged mobsters and associates the feds claimed were part of an East Coast LCN Enterprise. According to a recent report, Skinny Joey has hired noted mafia lawyer John Meringolo to represent him in the upcoming racketeering trial. Meringolo has previously represented New York Mafia members including former boss John “Junior” Gotti and acting capo Greg DePalma. They 55-year-old Merlino has said all along he planned to take on the feds to trial after passing up a reportedly sweet plea deal which would have put him behind bars for less than two years.
Merlino and his new high-powered attorney seem to be betting on the possibility that an internal probe into potential misdeeds by two FBI agents and supervising agent in the case have compromised the majority of the evidence against him. Prosecutors warned that these agents may have had inappropriate interactions and mishandled evidence collected John Rubio a cooperating witness. Rubio went to work for Merlino after getting permission from his former boss Genovese captain Pasquale “Patsy” Parrello and during that time collected most of the evidence against him according to court documents. The defense may also be betting that the government doesn’t want to expose to many dirty details of what may have happened with this evidence and the mishandling of their informant.
Merlino could have pleaded guilty to lesser crimes like illegal sports betting and health care fraud had he taken the plea offer but according to sources, he is worried about the potential ramifications had he done so. Even though it would have ensured a reduced sentence Joey was worried that the feds could haven then recharged him in both New Jersey and Flordia where they claim some of the illegal sports betting took place according to a source in the NY Post report. This could prove to be a very interesting trial depending on how much of the evidence against Merlino makes its way to the courtroom. The feds also noted that during the investigation Merlino was allegedly working in earnest to rebuild the Philly mafia family although no other Philly mobsters were charged in the case. Joey Merlino could face up to 20 years behind bars if he is found guilty.