Much of the case against alleged Philadelphia mafia boss Joeseph “Skinny Joey” Merlino revolves around star witness JR Rubeo and secret tapes he made while working as an informant.
Rubeo a Genovese crime family associate decided to change sides and work for the feds after being arrested on drug charges. He wore a wire for approx five years and was able to secretly record conversations with Merlino and alleged Genovese family capos Eugene “Rooster” Onofrio and Pasquale “Patsy” Parrello who the feds claim were leaders of the East Coast LCN Enterprise. Rubeo took the stand last week and fingered Merlino as the boss of the Philly mafia and walked the jury through tapes played by prosecutors of the conversations he had with Merlino and Onofrio as reported here.
“John (JR) Rubeo”
Yesterday marked the start of cross-examination of Rubeo and Merlino’s defense attorney Ed Jacobs had plenty of angles in trying to discredit the witnesses testimony. Rubeo is a known drug abuser and had issues with domestic violence against his wife while he was cooperating and Jacobs addressed both issues to which Rubeo allegedly admitted to. The defense claims that during his time as a cooperating witness Rubeo was on various illegal drugs including Xanax and Oxycontin. Rubeo also reportedly admitted to resetting a cell phone in an effort to eliminate evidence and to committing several crimes while serving as a fed snitch both violations of the terms of his agreement as a cooperator which is believed to have triggered an internal investigation by the feds.
The investigation was launched after the indictment was unsealed looking into potential misdeeds by Rubeo and his federal handlers. According to reports, there were possible violations regarding the monitoring and handling of both Rubeo and the evidence he was collecting which led to two FBI agents being suspended and plea offers for other defendants as discussed here previously. It was approx a year ago when Rubeo had his bail revoked and was taken off the streets and into custody after the feds reportedly learned he had erased some of his recordings that were part of the investigation and that he had been in contact with members of the media. The defense is expected to be able to address these internal problems the feds had in an effort to tie everything together which could further damage Rubeo’s work as a witness and his testimony.
If Jacobs can successfully damage Rubeo’s credibility weakening his testimony in the eye’s of the Jury and also bring in to question as to whether or not the feds conducted this investigation properly it could swing the odds back in the favor of Joey Merlino. But there are still potential problems ahead for Joey especially if a paper trail exists that can be linked to him tied to the health care fraud part of the case. A conviction on these medical fraud charges means 10-20 years behind bars for the flamboyant mobster. The ongoing Joey Merlino trial is expected to last a few more weeks. So far this mafia case continues to be quite the roller coaster ride.