Joey Merlino

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Joseph Merlino
Born (1962-03-16) March 16, 1962 (age 55)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Status Alive
Nationality American
Known for Head of the Philadelphia crime family
Spouse(s) Deborah Merlino
Parent(s) Rita Merlino (mother)
Salvatore "Chuckie" Merlino (father)

Joseph Salvatore "Skinny Joey" Merlino (born March 16, 1962) is an American mobster believed to be the boss of the Philadelphia crime family.[1] He rose to power in the mid-nineties after he allegedly fought a war for control of the criminal organization. He led the crime family in gambling, loan sharking and extortion.[2] In comparison to other traditional mob bosses who shunned the limelight, Merlino interacted regularly with the media and the public.[3] He is the son of deceased Scarfo crime family Underboss Chuckie Merlino.

In 2001, he was convicted of several RICO charges including racketeering, illegal gambling and extortion. Merlino was sentenced to 14 years in prison and was released on parole in 2011.[4] Since being released from prison, the FBI and organized crime reporters believe he continues to run the Philadelphia/South Jersey Mafia. Merlino himself completely disagrees, claiming he retired from a life of crime. As of 2015, Merlino splits his time between south Florida and Philadelphia.[5][6][7][8]

Family mob ties[edit]

Joseph Salvatore Merlino is the son of Italian-American parents Salvatore "Chuckie" Merlino (1939-2012) and Rita (born 1942). Joey was raised in South Philadelphia and Ventnor City, New Jersey.[9] He is also the nephew of deceased former Philadelphia crime family mobster Lawrence "Yogi" Merlino.

He had been friends with future made man in the Philadelphia crime family Michael "Mikey Chang" Ciancaglini and his brother Joseph "Joey Chang" Ciancaglini, Jr. since attending St. Thomas Aquinas grade school in Philadelphia's Point Breeze neighborhood. Merlino's father owned and operated the 9M Bar in Southwark that Nicky Scarfo used as his criminal headquarters during his attempt to become the new boss of the Philadelphia crime family.

Criminal activity[edit]

In August 1982, Merlino and Salvatore Scafidi, son of bookmaker Gaetano Scafidi Sr., beat and stabbed two male patrons at the Lido Restaurant in Atlantic City. In 1984 Merlino was found guilty on two counts of aggravated assault and one count of possession of a weapon for unlawful purpose.[10] In August 1984 he was banned by the New Jersey Casino Control Commission from New Jersey casinos.[11] His father Salvatore would also be banned by exactly the same commission as his son for his criminal activities on May 23, 1984. Nicky Scarfo demoted his father Salvatore from his position as underboss to soldier because of his father's alcoholism.

Joseph Merlino has been described as a particularly vicious person, obsessed with his own public image, and another version of New York's John Gotti. "Joey was a party guy," said mob associate Ron Previte, a police officer-turned gangster-turned government witness. "He liked to go out. He liked to gamble. He liked the high life." He invited TV crews to his annual Christmas party for the homeless, and was a fixture at the city's nightclubs, restaurants, and sporting events.[12][13] Along with his longtime buddies and futures mobsters, he was known to beat up people, rob people, and start fights in clubs.[13]

On October 31, 1989, it is alleged that Merlino attempted to murder the son of Nicky Scarfo, Nicky, Jr., in an Italian restaurant in Bella Vista. The younger Scarfo was shot eight times with a MAC-10, but was not hit in any vital organs and eventually recovered. No one was ever charged with the attempted murder, but the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and local law enforcement believe Merlino carried out the shooting to settle a score between the Scarfos and Merlinos and to show that the Scarfos had no more power in Philadelphia. Merlino denied any involvement and claimed he was home that night under house arrest.

In August 1989, Merlino was charged with robbing an armored car of $350,000. He was convicted a few months later, but none of the money was ever recovered. According to mobster Ralph Natale, he and Merlino began plotting to take over the Philadelphia crime family while they were cellmates in a federal penitentiary in 1990. Natale named Michael Cianglini, Steven Mazzone, George Borgesi and Martin Angelina as Merlino associates and co-conspirators in the plan.[14][15] He was released from prison in April 1992.

Merlino often enlisted the help of the Warlocks gang for some time.[16]

Mob wars[edit]

When John Stanfa emerged as the new leader of the Philadelphia family, the young group of monsters openly rebelled against him. In an attempt to quell further violence, Stanfa officially inducted Merlino and his best friend Michael Ciancaglini into the crime family. Stanfa hoped he would be able to keep tabs on the Merlino crew and make it easier to deal with them if necessary. While this act of diplomacy temporarly ended the violence, by the end of 1992 and all out war broke out between Stanfa and Merlino. On August 5, 1993, Merlino survived a drive-by shooting assassination attempt by Stanfa's men, taking four bullets in the leg and buttocks, while Ciancaglini was shot in the chest and died. On August 31, 1993, in retaliation, Merlino's men performed a drive by shooting on Stanfa and his son while they were driving on the Schuylkill Expressway. Stanfa escaped uninjured and his son survived being shot in the jaw.

By the late 1990s, Merlino dodged more than two dozen attempts on his life.[17] In November 1993, Merlino was arrested by the FBI, charged with violation of parole, and sent back to prison.

Mob leader[edit]

Stanfa was arrested for Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) violations in March 1994 and was convicted and sentenced to life in 1995. Merlino ended up on top and named Ralph Natale as the new boss while positioning himself as took as his underboss. Ralph Natale arrest and agreement to become an FBI informant resulted in Merlino becoming boss of the Philadelphia crime family in 1998. During Natale's reign, Merlino was the real power in the family, allowing Natale to become boss to direct law enforcement attention away from himself.[18]

In 1995, Louis Turra, a reputed drug lord and leader of the South Philadelphia Italian American drug gang the 10th and Oregon crew (also known as the 10th and O gang), was severely beaten by Merlino’s men for failing to pay a Mafia street tax on his illegal earnings.[citation needed] Angered by the beating, Turra sought vengeance. His father Anthony Turra allegedly hosted a meeting at his house during which Anthony, Louis and his gang discussed killing Merlino. In January 1998, Louis Turra apparently hanged himself in a New York City jail while awaiting trial.

In March 1998, Anthony Turra, on trial on charges of plotting to kill Merlino, was shot to death outside his home by a gunman in a black ski mask. He was shot twice as he left for the federal courthouse, where a jury was deliberating in the racketeering and drug case against him and four other men. "We consider this an organized crime assassination, a mob hit," Police Inspector Jerrold Kane said.[19]

Merlino was friends with now incarcerated him Steve "Gorilla" Mondevergine, boss of the Pagans MC motorcycle gang. Merlino sometimes used the Pagans to help settle underworld disputes.[20]

Racketeering conviction[edit]

On June 28, 1999, Merlino was indicted on drug trafficking charges. The charges were later expanded to include racketeering and orchestrating five murders. On July 20, 2001 Merlino, while being acquitted on all murder and drug trafficking charges, was convicted of racketeering, gambling, extortion and receiving stolen property. On December 3, 2001 he received a 14-year sentence.[21] Commenting on his conviction, "Ain't bad," Merlino said. "Better than the death penalty."[22] In March 2004, while still imprisoned, a federal jury acquitted Merlino of August 2001 charges that he had taken part in the 1996 murder of Joseph Sodano, a reputed North Jersey capo.[23]

He was released from the Federal Correctional Institution in Terre Haute, Indiana on March 15, 2011.[24][25][26] He was transferred to a halfway house in Florida and was off of supervised release in 2015.[27][28] Just before his parole restictions expired, Merlino was handed four months in a Miami prison for meeting with John and other known organized crime figures in Florida, a violation of his parole.[29][30][31][32]

Current status[edit]

In September 2012 the Miami Herald reported that Merlino currently lives in Boca Raton, Florida.[33] In a 2013 interview with George Anastasia, Joey Merlino denied any current involvement in the Philadelphia Mafia and has stated that his life as a criminal is over. He was quoted in the interview stating that there are "Too many rats" and, "I want no part of that".[34][35]

On August 4, 2016, Merlino was one of 46 people arrested up and down the east coast in a RICO indictment. Merlino was arrested at his home in Florida and put on trial in New York City. Merlino was charged with one count of racketeering, one count of fraud and two counts of illegal bookmaking. Merlino was accused of entering into illegal gambling arrangements with New York organized crime figures in the Genovese crime family.[36] Merlino was also accused of taking part in a massive medical fraud scheme in Florida that prescribed patients with unnecessary (and ineffective) medical products and billing patients' insurance companies. On August 12, Merlino was released on a $5 million bond.[37]

Forty-four of the 46 charged in the broad indictment accepted favorable plea bargains and pleaded guilty to reduced charges. Merlino refused any plea offer and went to trial on January 30, 2018.[38][39][40] The trial concluded after two weeks of testimony. On February 20, Judge Richard J. Sullivan declared a mistrial after the jury was unable to reach a verdict on any of the four counts against Merlino.[41]


  1. ^ Brown, Julie K. (2012-10-02). "Boca Return: Is Joey Merlino back in charge?". The Miami Herald. Retrieved 2013-02-16. 
  2. ^ Anastasia, George (August 4, 2016). "Joey Merlino arrested in major mob bust". PhillyVoice. Retrieved February 5, 2017. 
  3. ^] [
  4. ^ "'Skinny Joey' Merlino released from prison". Laura McCrystal. Retrieved 12 March 2016. 
  5. ^ "Merlino's Restaurant". Merlino's. -----. Retrieved 12 March 2016. 
  6. ^ "Philly Mobster Merlino Now a Florida Maitre D'". Thomas Fitzgerald. NBC News Philadelphia. November 23, 2014. Retrieved 12 March 2016. 
  7. ^ "Merlino's back story as big as its food". South John Tanasychuk. Retrieved 12 March 2016. 
  8. ^ "EXCLUSIVE — Retired Mob Boss "Skinny" Joey Merlino to Open Restaurant in Boca Raton!". Jose Lambiet's Gossip Extra. Jose Lambiet. Retrieved 12 March 2016. 
  9. ^ McGarvey, Brendan. "Sins of the Fathers". Archived from the original on 2016-01-22. Retrieved 2016-01-22. 
  10. ^ Archived from the original on January 14, 2006. Retrieved March 21, 2007.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  11. ^ "The Region; Casino Agency Bars 4 More Men". The New York Times. August 9, 1984. Retrieved May 7, 2010. 
  12. ^ "Former 'Capo': 'I Was Underpaid'". CBS News. Retrieved 2016-01-22. 
  13. ^ a b "Straight From the Horsehead's Mouth | Cover Story | News and Opinion | Philly Weekly". 2013-12-31. Archived from the original on 2012-09-13. Retrieved 2016-01-22. 
  14. ^ Caparella, Kitty. "Recalling A Bloody Hit." Philadelphia Daily News. April 24, 2001.
  15. ^ Anastasia, George. "Mob Boss Natale Tells of 'Descent Into Hell'." Philadelphia Inquirer. March 31, 2001.
  16. ^ "The Mafia in New Jersey - La Cosa Nostra - State of New Jersey Commission of Investigation 1989 Report - The Bruno/Scarfo Family". Retrieved 2016-01-22. 
  17. ^ Archived from the original on September 29, 2007. Retrieved June 26, 2007.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  18. ^ Barry, Jim. "Who's the Boss?". Archived from the original on October 1, 2015. Retrieved January 9, 2013. 
  19. ^ "Charged With Planning Mob Hit, Reputed Gangster Slain On Street". Chicago Tribune. March 19, 1998. 
  20. ^ "Former Pagans leader Mondevergine arrested on attempted-murder charge". June 2, 2011. Retrieved January 9, 2013. 
  21. ^ "7 Reputed Mafia Figures Are Acquitted of Murder". The New York Times. July 21, 2001. Retrieved May 7, 2010. 
  22. ^ "Mid-Atlantic: Pennsylvania: Mobster Gets 14 Years". The New York Times. December 4, 2001. Retrieved May 7, 2010. 
  23. ^ [1] Archived April 17, 2016, at the Wayback Machine.
  24. ^ "Inmate Locator". Federal Bureau of Prisons. Retrieved December 5, 2009. 
  25. ^ [2][dead link]
  26. ^   by VERNON ODOM (March 15, 2011). "Joey Merlino leaves prison; heads to Florida". Retrieved January 9, 2013. 
  27. ^ ""Skinny Joey" Merlino's Out of the Joint". NBC. NBC News Philadelphia. March 15, 2011. Retrieved 12 March 2016. 
  28. ^ "Ex-Philly mob leader "Skinny Joey Merlino now in Florida halfway house". Press of Atlantic City. PAC. Retrieved 12 March 2016. 
  29. ^ "Joey Merlino, Ex-Mob Boss, Gets 4 Months For Meeting Friend". Huffington Post. Maryclaire Dale. Retrieved 12 March 2016. 
  30. ^ "'Skinny Joey' Merlino Reports to Federal Prison After Parole Violation". NBC. NBC News Philadelphia. January 5, 2015. Retrieved 12 March 2016. 
  31. ^ "REPUTED EX-MOB BOSS JOEY MERLINO FREE AFTER 4 MONTHS IN PRISON". ABC. ABC 6 Action News. April 24, 2015. Retrieved 12 March 2016. 
  32. ^ "Merlino serves all but 10 days of vacated 4-month prison sentence". Bob McGovern. Retrieved 12 March 2016. 
  33. ^ Brown, Julie K. (2012-09-29). "Joseph Merlino: The mobster next door". Miami Herald. Retrieved 2016-01-22. 
  34. ^ "Skinny Joey Talks About Nicky Skins And Life Without The Mob | Big Trial | Philadelphia Trial Blog". Big Trial. 2013-04-12. Retrieved 2016-01-22. 
  35. ^
  36. ^ "Joey Merlino arrested in major mob bust". PhillyVoice. Retrieved 2016-10-05. 
  37. ^ "Reputed Philly crime boss Joey Merlino gets $5 million bond". Retrieved 2016-10-05. 
  38. ^
  39. ^
  40. ^
  41. ^

External links[edit]