In a First, Skinny Joey's Attorneys and Fed's Reach Plea Agreement

Joseph (Skinny Joey) Merlino, the alleged Boca Raton-based boss of the Philadelphia Cosa Nostra, has inked a plea deal weeks after his racketeering trial ended with a hung jury.

Joseph (Skinny Joey) Merlino, alleged Philadelphia Cosa Nostra boss
Merlino has made refusing plea deals a badge of honor.



In a filing this week, the judge who presided over the case said the government and lawyers for Merlino had reached a plea deal, the Associated Press reported. The terms of the agreement were not disclosed.





Merlino’s hearing on the plea is scheduled for April 27.

This case would be the first time Merlino has plead guilty to a crime.

Merlino has made going to trial and refusing plea deals a badge of honor.

Merlino, 55, moved to Boca Raton when he was released from federal prison in 2011 after serving most of a 14-year sentence for racketeering, extortion and illegal gambling.

He's insisted he'd retired from any illegal activity he may have been involved in. He opened a Boca restaurant that bore his name and hung around there chatting up patrons. He was the maitre d' because his criminal record banned him from obtaining a liquor license. The restaurant, Merlino’s, was located on Southeast First Avenue for a few years, but closed. A group of investors owned it, Merlino has said.

It closed around the time Merlino did a short stint in jail on a parole violation.

Then in 2016, he was arrested on health care fraud and gambling charges. The case ended in a mistrial in February.

Prosecutors alleged that instead of retiring, Merlino was part of a gambling and health insurance racket run by four of the New York crime families.

The Fed's arrested 46 in August of 2016. a The indictments were depicted as a major strike against the so-called East Coast La Cosa Nostra Enterprise.  The reputed mobsters were accused of running an organized crime confederation that involved the Genovese, Gambino, Lucchese, Bonanno and Philadelphia major crime families. Rackets centered on gambling, tax-free cigarettes, and collecting illegal debts.

 Merlino was the only one who went to trial. On Feb. 20, after three days of deliberations, the jury wrote the judge a note stating they were at an impasse.

The case ended in a mistrial and Merlino told reporters: "Thank God for the jury."

The case has problems. Two FBI agents involved in the probe failed to maintain a cooperating witness’s text messages, didn't maintain adequate notes about some debriefings, and did not file investigative reports, court records show.

Both agents were disciplined and suspended for several days after an internal investigation.

The conduct of the main informant, who wore a wire for the Fed's, has also been problematic.

Merlino has beat three murder raps, and has been convicted in federal court twice: in 2001 for racketeering and in 1990 for theft. He also has prior New Jersey court convictions for violating the casino control act and assault in 1998 and 1984, respectively.

Due to the problems with the investigation, which actually inserted an undercover FBI agent into the inner circle of a powerful Genovese capo, prosecutors sweetened many plea agreements. One of the harshest punishments was seven years in federal prison.

But several defendants were sentenced to just the one day they served when they were arrested, followed by probation or house arrest.


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