As Philly Trial Begins, Merlino Slams 'J. Shore' at LAX


Bet New England, Skinny Joe replied when asked.

TMZ.com today posted video of Joe Merlino, who the camera caught strolling through LAX, where he had just landed and was heading toward the car with friend and driver Johnny Fratto.

The celeb-stalker site described "Skinny Joey," who got out of prison last year following a 14-year stint, as the "ex-Philadelphia Mafia boss," but as we noted in a recent post, Merlino is believed by the Feds to still retain the crown, though he no longer resides in Philly, based on an informant's wiretap recordings of a dinner meeting between some Philly mobsters, including acting boss Joseph "Uncle Joe" Ligambi, and Gambino family members.

The 50-year-old wiseguy at first is as cold as ice toward the cameraman, but when the crew started lobbing softball questions about sports and reality TV, Joey visibly melted under the spotlight and answered questions, though turning his face away.

"Jersey Shore" cast members are a "disgrace to the Italians," said Merlino. Would any of them make it into a crime family? "No, they got no talent," he added.

NBC 10 Philadelphia reported that Merlino moved to glitzy Boca Raton a year after serving his sentence for extortion and illegal gambling.

"It's unclear what he's doing in South Florida or whether his wife and children are with him," the article added.

The Miami Herald reported that Merlino has said he's now in the carpet-installing business. The paper described the mobster, who dodged something like a dozen assassination attempts, like this: "Bare-chested, ripped and clad in nothing but grey skivvies, he looks more like a former Calvin Klein underwear model than one of the most ruthless mobsters of his time." His $400,000 Boca Raton townhouse, the paper noted, is replete with an iron-railed balcony.

TMZ, as would be expected, had to find a Hollywood headline, lighting up Joey by asking what he thought the cast members of MTV's ratings-topper reality show "Jersey Shore" did for the Italians, to which Skinny Joey replied by calling them a "disgrace to the Italians." Would any of them make it into a family? "No, they got no talent," the Philly boss replied.

"It's unclear why Joey is in L.A. -- but as Johnny drove off with Merlino riding shotgun, he picked an interesting song choice to bump in his car. Elton John's Philadelphia Freedom," TMZ noted.

Hollywood is in L.A. -- and that is where they make a lot of films, and a lot of those films that they make have mobsters in them. Readers of this blog are aware of the army of mob films that have been in development over the past couple of years, the most hyped probably being Junior Gotti's biopic about his Teflon father, the status of which is anybody's guess.

While Joey prepares for some fun in the sun, a federal court in Philadelphia today marked day one of a trial slamming alleged Philly acting boss Joseph Ligambi and six others with a federal racketeering indictment.

While Joey prepares for some fun in the sun, a federal court in Philadelphia today marked day one of the trial of alleged acting boss Joseph Ligambi and six other supposed members of the family.

Federal prosecutor Frank Labor today told the jury that Ligambi ran the Philly mob for over a decade after  Merlino went to prison, and that he "ran the illegal operations — gambling, loansharking, video poker machines, and more — through the use of violence and threats of violence," reports CBS/Philly.

Ligambi attorney Edwin Jacobs derided the government’s case, saying it took more than a decade to create. The media-event legal proceeding also will include all the usual mob-on-trial accoutrements: recordings, surveillance, undercover agents and cooperating witnesses.

"Jacobs says there was no violence — not even much tough talk" in the evidence, however.

CBS/Philly quoted him as further saying: “If there was any sport bookmaking... money lending... video poker violations... it had nothing to do with any big Mafia, La Cosa Nostra, racketeering conspiracy.” A breath of fresh air: at least these attorneys are on planet earth and are not going to pull out "the-mob-exists-but-they-are-goodfellas-so-who-really-cares route. 

“They should have just charged a couple of guys," Jacobs added, "with doing this and that, and we would all be out of here in a week.”

But more likely it will be months before this one reaches the verdict stage -- presuming it doesn't end in a mistrial.

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