Reputed Philadelphia mob boss Joseph Merlino, who works as a maitre d’ at a Boca Raton restaurant that bears his name, is to be released from the Palm Beach County jail on Friday on a $5 million bond to await trial in New York on racketeering charges.
The bond deal was hammered out at a two-hour hearing before U.S. Magistrate William Matthewman. Once known as “Skinny Joey,” the flamboyant 54-year-old Boca Raton resident was among 46 men — with nicknames like “Tony the Cripple” and “Nicky the Wig” — who were arrested last week in a multi-state round up involving five organized crime families.
Noting Merlino’s previous 12-year sentence for racketeering and his subsequent return to prison for violating the terms of his probation for associating with known mobsters, Matthewman said he was reluctant to approve his release.
“What I’m concerned about any condition I set is Mr. Merlino going to follow it or will he simply do as he pleases?” Matthewman asked.
West Palm Beach attorney David Roth, who represents Merlino, insisted his client’s “devotion” to his wife and two college-age daughters would keep him in check until he is tried on charges that could send him back to prison for as long as 20 years.
With more than $500,000 in property backing the bond, Matthewman agreed to release Merlino on house arrest. He will be allowed to leave his house on Northeast 4th Street in Boca Raton from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. each day to ready the restaurant for a planned October re-opening. He can also travel to Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York to meet with attorneys.
In response to a special request, he will be allowed to attend parents’ weekend at his daughters’ unidentified college in the Philadelphia area in September.
In this Oct. 10, 2014 file photo, Joey Merlino arrives at the federal court in Philadelphia. The flamboyant alleged head of the Philadelphia mob who has repeatedly beat murder charges in past cases is among nearly four dozen people Thursday, Aug. 4, 2016, with being part of an East Coast crime syndicate.
“No, your honor,” Merlino answered in a thick Philadelphia accent.
In the 30-page New York indictment, Merlino is described as one of the leaders of East Coast LCN Enterprise that included members of the Genovese, Gambino, Lucchese, Bonanno and Philadelphia organized crime families. The enterprise specialized in extortion, arson, illegal gambling, credit card fraud, selling untaxed cigarettes and a health-care fraud scheme that involved forcing doctors to prescribe an expensive skin care cream, prosecutors claim.
While others are accused of violent crimes, including setting cars afire and beating up panhandlers, Roth noted that Merlino is not. “There is absolutely no allegation of any violence whatsoever,” he said.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Aurora Fagan agreed. Merlino’s crimes, according to the indictment, involved health-care fraud and illegal gambling, she said.
Other Palm Beach County men arrested in the round up were Pasquale Capolongo, 67, of West Palm Beach; Carmine Gallo, 38, of Delray Beach; and Frank Trapani, 63, Craig Bagon, 56, and Bradley Sirkin, 54, all of Boca Raton.