Joseph “Skinny Joey” Merlino, a high-ranking member of the Philadelphia crime family, has been granted bail on Friday by a U.S. federal judge.
Merlino was arrested in Florida on Aug. 4, along with 45 other suspects linked to organized crime, during a multi-state crackdown, Philly Voice reported. Merlino is facing racketeering charges including defrauding insurance companies.
Prosecutors claim that Merlino and other suspects operated a network on the East Coast that was involved in several crimes including trafficking weapons and illegal gambling, AP reported. The group reportedly also bribed medics to write unneeded prescriptions for expensive creams, which were billed to the patient’s insurance company.
Merlino, 54, who claimed to have bid goodbye to the life of crime in 2013 after serving 12 years in jail, told U.S. Magistrate Judge William Matthewson not to “worry” when asked if he would obey the terms of his release.
According to the conditions of his bail, Merlino would wear an electronic ankle bracelet and would live at a property in Boca Raton. The judge also permitted Merlino to work at his namesake restaurant and carry out most of his normal activities like traveling and attending a function at his daughters’ university.
The judge warned Merlino that any violation of the terms of his bail means he would have to pay up his $5 million bail money in full and return to jail, the Sun Sentinel reported.
Merlino’s latest arrest follows a five-year long investigation that included at least one witness and undercover FBI agents. According to Philly Voice, authorities recorded hundreds of hours of the conversations of Merlino and other suspects as part of their investigation. Prosecutors have revealed that among the suspects arrested are members of renowned crime families like the Genovese, Luchese, Bonanno, Gambino, and the Philadelphia Organized Crime Family, according to the Patch.
“Today’s charges against 46 men, including powerful leaders, members and associates of five different La Cosa Nostra families, demonstrate that the mob remains a scourge on the city and around the world,” Preet Bharara, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, said.
The other 45 suspects arrested for being part of the same criminal network as Merlino are set to face trial later this month. According to the Sun Sentinel, each suspect could face up to 20 years in jail if found guilty. Authorities also reserve the right to seize the assets of any suspect found culpable to the charges.
Joseph “Skinny Joey” Merlino is the son of the late Philadelphia mobster Salvatore “Chuckie” Merlino, who was also a member of the Philadelphia crime family and friend of Nicodemo Scarfo.
According to Philly Voice, Skinny Joey rose to prominence in the ’90s as a “celebrity gangster.” Merlino was sentenced to 14 years in prison on racketeering charges in 2001. He was released from prison in 2011 and moved to Florida soon afterward where he set up a restaurant.
Merlino said he wants no part in organized crime anymore during a 2013 interview, where he also said that he has no plans of returning to Philadelphia, according to Big Trial.
“It’s beautiful down here [in Florida],” Skinny Joey said. Great weather. No stress. People come here, they live to be 100.”
Despite his claims, investigators believe Merlino is still the head of the Philadelphia crime family.
Although Merlino has been accused of several murders and attempted murders, he has never been formally charged or found guilty of any of them.
In 2014, Merlino spent four months in jail for violating the terms of his parole after he was spotted meeting Philadelphia mobster John “Johnny Chang” Ciancaglini.
If he is found guilty, Merlino could be sentenced to up to 20 years in jail like the other suspects.
[Photo by H. Rumph Jr./AP Images]