Reputed mob manager orchestrated insurance fraud

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NEW YORK (AP) — A reputed Philadelphia mob boss who reinvented himself as a restaurateur relapsed into a existence of criminal offense by orchestrating a health and fitness care fraud that made a fortune for an East Coastline crime syndicate, a prosecutor mentioned Tuesday in opening arguments at his federal trial.

Joseph “Skinny Joey” Merlino was a challenging-conversing “fixer” in a common scheme to collect coverage payments by bribing medical professionals to publish bogus prescriptions for a pain product, Assistant U.S. Lawyer Max Nicolas advised Manhattan jurors.

Merlino “termed the shots and he constantly termed them in favor of taking and keeping dollars,” Nicholas stated.

The prosecutors claimed Merlino also sought to obtain gambling money owed for the syndicate, incorporating that the jury would listen to recordings of him fretting more than whether or not any “rats” and “stool pigeons” were being lurking.

In his opening statements, protection legal professional Edwin Jacobs mentioned Merlino was framed by cooperating criminals with incentive to lie to save their individual skins.

“Joey is accused of a bunch of crimes he didn’t dedicate,” Jacobs stated.

Merlino, sporting a knit hoodie, gold chain and dim loafers, listened as Jacobs described how, soon after a stint in prison, his consumer moved to Florida to “reside a ordinary and new existence” with his household and four pet canines. But he couldn’t shake a gambling challenge that built him susceptible to manipulation by wire-putting on mob turncoat named John Rubeo, who gave him tens of countless numbers of pounds to feed his practice.

“Joey’s weak spot is gambling,” the law firm mentioned. “He bets usually and beyond his means.”

Merlino, 55, was among the practically 4 dozen defendants arrested in a 2016 crackdown on the syndicate that prosecutors say committed crimes which include extortion, loan-sharking, casino-type gambling, sporting activities gambling, credit score card fraud and wellness treatment fraud. It operated in New York, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Florida and New Jersey.

Most of the defendants pleaded responsible to lesser prices, with Merlino the only 1 so far to go to trial on conspiracy charges. He is free on $5 million bond.

The govt strategies to have a few cooperators as witnesses, which includes Rubeo, an affiliate with the New York-primarily based Genovese criminal offense family. One more witness is a govt agent who served a 5-day suspension right after staying accused of mishandling cooperators and investigative experiences in the case, a subject the choose dominated the protection could go over in cross-assessment.

Merlino the moment managed the remnants of a Philadelphia-south Jersey arranged criminal offense loved ones that was decimated by a bloody civil war in the 1980s and 1990s. Federal authorities say he was routinely focused by murder plots right after rivals put a $500,000 murder contract on his head.

He grew to become a main suspect in a unsuccessful strike on a further mob determine on Halloween 1989, but was by no means charged. He also served time for a $350,000 armored truck heist that similar 12 months.

In 2001, a jury acquitted Merlino and 6 co-defendants of a few counts of murder and two counts of tried murder that could have set him in prison for lifestyle. He was convicted of lesser racketeering fees and served 12 several years in prison in advance of being released in 2011.

Merlino claimed that he retired from the mob for great by running an upscale Italian restaurant in Boca Raton. The considering that-shut restaurant was termed Merlino’s.

In a 2013 interview, he mentioned that life in the Mafia was not truly worth the worry of staying double-crossed.

“Too numerous rats,” he claimed. “I want no element of that.”

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Reputed mob manager orchestrated insurance policy fraud