Philly Connection to "East Coast" Case? (And What's Compound Cream, Anyway?)

The "massive" federal racketeering conspiracy indictment that broke this past Thursday named 46 mobsters, of which 39 were arrested.

But the Merlino aspect seems to focus on guys who "Skinny Joey" apparently knocked around with in Florida,
Compound lotion kingpin Joey Merlino....

Among the arrested was Joseph "Skinny Joey" Merlino, whom the Feds say still runs the Philadelphia mob family, which was also named in the indictment (though not a single mobster was yanked off the streets of Philly by the Feds during the "East Coast LCN Enterprise" bust, as it's been dubbed.)

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York unveiled the indictment, which depicts a seemingly immense, sprawling collaboration involving four of New York's Five Families: the Gambino, Genovese, Luchese, and Bonannos -- and Philadelphia.

But the Merlino aspect seems to focus on guys who "Skinny Joey" apparently knocked around with in Florida, where he's lived since getting out of prison following 12 years of a 15-year sentence he was handed in 2001 for racketeering crimes. 

These Florida guys include Bradley "Brad" Sirkin, 54, of Boca Raton, Carmine Gallo, 38, of Delray Beach, and Wayne Kreisberg, 39, of Parkland.

There's much that is unclear about this indictment; there is a lack of violence. There's no mention of drug dealing; hard drugs, anyway... The indictment seems almost farcically comical on its face...

One has to wonder if there's more than meets the eye going on here...

According to the indictment, Merlino and two Genovese crime family capos -- Pasquale “Patsy” Parrello and Eugene “Rooster” O’Nofrio -- "supervised and controlled members of the Enterprise engaged in illegal schemes..."

However, that assertion, about who the "bosses" were, doesn't sound that strong -- and is even diluted somewhat -- by the wording of the following allegation: "At various times, members and associates of the Enterprise (including those who are leaders, members, and associates of different LCN families) met, coordinated, and worked together with Parrello, Merlino and O'Nofrio, and each other, as well as other members and associates of their respective LCN Families, to engage in criminal activity."

Merlino also faces charges -- as do others named in the indictment (PDF) (and some not yet named?) regarding a sports gambling business in Costa Rica called the Costa Rican International Sportsbook. He also seems to be tied to additional allegations related to other illegal sports gambling operations in Florida, New Jersey and New York.

Then, we have probably the oddest Cosa Nostra racket ever alleged in any federal indictment since organized crime's founding in this country: Merlino's illegal compound lotion racket. To wit:  

"A scheme targeting providers of health insurance (the “Victim Insurers”), by causing, and causing others to cause, corrupt doctors to issue unnecessary and excessive prescriptions for expensive compound cream (“Prescription Compound Cream”) that were then billed to the Victim Insurers. Had the Victim Insurers known the fraudulent nature of the scheme — that wrongful kickbacks were paid to doctors to write, and to patients to request and receive, unnecessary and excessive prescriptions for the Prescription Compound Cream — the Victim Insurers would not have issued reimbursements for the Prescription Compound Cream."

What the hell is prescription compound cream, anyway? According to, it's made by certain pharmacies -- aka compounding pharmacies -- who actually make the drugs there in the location (like all pharmacists did in the old days). The website reports:

Certain pharmacies, known as compounding pharmacies, can mix different ingredients together to produce a patient-specific product. Popular compounded products include pain creams and ointments that contain a combination of multiple potent medications. Many include drugs that can cause central nervous system depression or cardiac effects that result in slow breathing, a low heart rate or irregular beat, and drowsiness or a loss of consciousness. 

So this isn't your normal skin cream. (Interestingly, though, is the fact that the compound pharmacies, which actually make the stuff, aren't named in the indictment: just the doctors -- "corrupt doctors" -- and the big bad Mafiosi, such as "Brad.")

Still it's not like watching video of "Toto" Catalano lugging suitcases full of cocaine around Queens.

PhillyMag recently interviewed Edwin Jacobs, Merlino’s longtime attorney, who addressed some of this indictment's weirdness.

Noting he was "puzzled" by the indictment, Jacobs went on:

“All I can tell you at this point is, I’ve seen a lot of racketeering indictments, and they’re usually fact- and date-specific. This one is not. It’s also very short on any allegations of violence, which most prosecutors claim is the foundation of organized crime. You read this indictment, and you don’t find so much as a single cinder block.”

There are hints of violence, though. As the PhillyMag story noted, "the feds do allude to a number of violent encounters, including one anecdote about instructions Parrello gave on how to collect a gambling debt that was owed: “You get Buddy [Torres] and let Buddy go there and choke him [Victim-1], choke him. I want Buddy to choke him, choke him, actually choke the motherfucker … and tell him, ‘Listen to me … next time, I’m not gonna stop choking … I’m gonna kill you.”

The article notes that Jacobs said that "the indictment was too broad and general to draw any conclusions about what it could ultimately mean for Merlino’s future. 

“Many times when you read these indictments, it’s sort of a script for the trial. This is not even an outline. It names a lot of people, and a lot of criminal statutes … but there’s not much meat on these bones.”

However there's one interesting cross-reference that is, well, interesting...

There is one name that sort of serves as a link between Joey Merlino and the man widely considered to be the Philly mob's street boss, John "Johnny Chang" Ciancaglini,

Ironically enough, it's this Brad guy who keeps popping up....

As reported back in September of 2014, "Skinny Joey" Merlino returned to Philadelphia and was sent to prison a mere days away from the expiration of his court-ordered supervision.

He had violated the terms of his release in June 2014 when he went out for a night on the town with "Johnny Chang" Ciancaglini, a Mafia captain who had been convicted with Merlino back in 2001, as well as Frank Fiore.

"Johnny Chang"

According to papers filed in a Philadelphia federal court, authorities in Broward County, Fla., had conducted surveillance on a June 18 dinner at which Merlino joined Johnny Chang and others for dinner at an Italian restaurant in Boca Raton.

The "foursome" later departed for drinks at the Havana Nights Cigar Bar & Lounge, which Fiore owns.

The fourth guy out with Merlino that night for dinner was "Brad" Sirkin, a convicted fraudster and money launderer who was arrested with Merlino a few days ago.

Merlino was said to have sworn off the mob before moving to South Florida after his release from federal prison around five years ago.