The upcoming racketeering trial of alleged Philadelphia mafia boss Joseph (Skinny Joey) Merlino and Genovese crime family capo Eugene (Rooster) Onofrio got a little more interesting with the feds set to add another mafia rat into the fold.
According to a new report from Ganglandnews, the feds plan to have former Bonanno crime family capo Peter (Pug) Lovaglio take the stand and testify against both mobsters. Lovaglio will team up with mob snitch John (J.R.) Rubeo who taped multiple conversations with various gangster associated with the East Coast La Cosa Nostra Enterprise case. According to court documents, Lovaglio began cooperating with the feds about a year ago and had dealt with both defendants before he began cooperating. He is not implicated in any crimes against the defendants but will testify as to their standing in the so-called East Coast LCN Enterprise and interactions he had with them before he was busted.
The feds busted over 40 alleged Cosa Nostra mobsters and associates last year that was supposedly part of this East coast group they claim has been operating since 2010. They claimed that Joey Merlino, Eugene Onofrio, and fellow Genovese family capo Pasquale (Patsy) Parrello were the leaders of this organized crime enterprise. Problems with the case including an internal FBI probe into the handling of Rubeo and evidence he collected caused the feds to drop the main charge of racketeering against many of the defendants in exchange for taking favorable plea deals. Every one of the defendants has agreed to deals except for Joey and Rooster who decided to take the feds and their troubled case to trial. Both defendants are charged with racketeering conspiracy in the original indictment and then with separate crimes in a revised six-count indictment. Merlino was charged with health care fraud and illegal gambling while Onofrio was charged with loansharking, illegal gambling, and bootlegging cigarettes.
Lovaglio was hit with assault charges from an incident two years ago after smashing a cocktail glass into the eye of a Sushi bar owner in Staten Island. He was convicted and is currently doing an eight-year stretch behind bars although may be looking to ease that sentence with his recent cooperation. It seems like he has been supplying the feds with information on plenty of other mobsters beyond Merlino and Onofrio so this may not be the last time we see him take the witness stand. Prosecutors said “Lovaglio provided information in a detailed and clear manner on a wide range of topics” and that “has allowed this Office to initiate several significant investigations and to obtain material information on existing investigative targets” and “made consensual recordings of, and proactively interacted with and gathered information from, individuals whom this Office believes to be violent.” So other New York mafia members and associates may be a bit on edge as to what other information he may be supplying the feds with that they could use in upcoming cases.
In a case that has been filled with plenty of twists and turns one of the more interesting developments is the feds deciding not to use an undercover agent that served as Onofrio’s driver for two years. He was brought into the fold by Rubeo and was able to record several conversations that included both Onofrio and Merlino and was not part of the FBI probe. Both Lovaglio and Rubeo come with plenty of baggage which prosecutors have filed motions to try and avoid having to disclose at trial. It seems like Lovaglio may be used to simply identify Merlino and Onofrio as mafia leaders more so than incriminating them in actual crimes. This case is expected to begin in January and will probably last several weeks with both Joey and Rooster facing extended prison sentences if convicted. More information on the upcoming trail from previous articles can be found here and here.