Joey Merlino the alleged boss of the Philadelphia mafia sat in a courtroom in New York on Thursday while prosecutors attempted to use his own words against him.
During his second day of testimony, J.R. Rubeo spent most of his time guiding the jury through about two dozen audio and video tapes he secretly recorded. Prosecutors are using this key evidence in the case to document Skinny Joey’s role in a multi-million dollar healthcare scam and gambling activities. These charges stem from his alleged role as a leader in what the feds have labeled as the East Coast LCN Enterprise. They claim Merlino along with alleged Genovese crime family capos Pasquale “Patsy” Parrello and Eugene “Rooster” O’Nofrio were on control of the Cosa Nostra based organization that operated up and down the East Coast.
“J.R. Rubeo and Joseph Merlino”
One of the secret recordings captured Merlino telling O’Nofrio and Rubeo “Listen, it’s easy to kill somebody. It’s simple get in the car and shoot you in the f—ing head and you’re dead.” But the defense is expected to counter and play a statement made by Merlino following those comments in which he said “It’s better when you save a friend. I would never put nobody in harm’s way. And we’re all friends here.” The comments are from a conversation the trio was having at a sit-down in a restaurant back in February of 2014. They also talked about family and whether or not a certain mobster was protected while having drinks.
On a separate recording, O’Nofrio confronted Rubeo about a missed interest payment by his brother-in-law on a $30 grand mafia loan. O’Nofrio tells Rubeo “What do I got to do with him? Do you have to take his eyes out? … I don’t want you to get upset because he’s your brother-in-law. I don’t know what the f— he thinks he is. Who does he think he’s f—ing with? Straighten it out. I want my six ($600) Monday.” Prosecutors then introduced photos of O’Nofrio and Merlino together outside of a restaurant during a Christmas party in the Bronx in 2014. They didn’t know it at the time but it was the FBI that was hosting the event for the 20 or so reputed mobsters. The feds forked over $25 grand to fund the event and Rubeo testified that the attendees were “basically all the organized crime figures I was associated with.” Prosecutors played another recorded conversation where Merlino can be heard telling a bookmaker “you gotta give me something every month.” Merlino is heard saying “We’re Gangsters” in another of the conversations.
Rubeo also explained to the jury how he, Merlino, and others split $600 per prescription in the compound pain cream scheme they ran. He said “It was a scam. They weren’t in pain, they came cause we paid them” according to a report by investigative reporter Dave Schratwieser. In a conversation between the two Merlino can be heard saying he is dead broke and “I wanna get paid.” But Merlino’s lawyers claim that he had no idea the compound pain cream operation he was involved in was illegal. Joey’s defense attorney Edwin Jacobs is sure to attack Rubeo’s credibility during cross-examination along with addressing certain missteps by both Rubeo and the feds while he was working as an informant.
Dave was able to catch up to Merlino heading into the courtroom on Thursday. When asked about Rubeo and his testimony Merlino said he couldn’t say anything but Joey still sounded upbeat when asked what he thought about the case saying “We got a good shot.” He even had a last word on the upcoming Superbowl saying “The game on Sunday. Eagles. Win outright.” The Joey Merlino trial continues on Friday!