Philadelphia Mob Boss Gets 14 Year-Term

From Associated Press

In another blow to Philadelphia’s already crippled Mafia family, former boss Joseph “Skinny Joey” Merlino was sentenced to 14 years in prison Monday for racketeering.

Merlino’s lawyer said that with good behavior and time already served, his client could be out in about nine years.

“Ain’t bad,” Merlino, 39, told family members sitting in the gallery. “Nine’s better than the death penalty.”


Going back more than two decades, every Philadelphia mob boss since Angelo Bruno has either been murdered or sent to prison, prosecutors said.

“Other people have assumed leadership positions,” federal prosecutor David E. Fritchey said. “But with each one of these prosecutions, they suffer blows of attrition. We’re down to the fourth string.”

A jury acquitted Merlino of the most serious charges against him last July, but he and six co-defendants were convicted of racketeering offenses including extortion and illegal gambling.

U.S. District Judge Herbert Hutton also ordered Merlino to repay almost $338,000 and fined him $25,000. Prosecutors had asked for 24 years, well above the federal sentencing guidelines of 11 to 14 years.

Merlino and the six others were found guilty after a trial that featured testimony from several top mob informants, including former mob boss Ralph Natale. Natale testified that he set loose Merlino and the others to commit murder and mayhem in Philadelphia and New Jersey.

But his story did not always jibe with the accounts of three other mobsters, and the jury acquitted Merlino of three murders, two attempted murders and murder conspiracy.


Merlino succeeded Natale as boss of the Philadelphia-South Jersey mob after Natale was jailed in 1998.