Philadelphia mob boss Joseph (Skinny Joey) Merlino got an early release from his four-month stay behind bars on a parole violation, sprung from federal prison last week, 12 days prior than his scheduled out-date due to not being properly informed of his infraction, and will reunite with his old-school buddies from South Philly in his new-school environment in South Florida this week, according to multiple sources. Further meetings with one-time associates and lieutenants of his will continue the rest of the spring and into the summer, per these sources, some to take place back in his old Pennsylvania stomping grounds.
The suave and magnetic Merlino, 53, is now off any form of government supervision for the first time since 1999 – he can associate with anyone he wants. That will translate, per sources, to “progress report” type meetings with a number of mob higher-ups and trusted henchmen.
Merlino served 12 years on a racketeering conviction and upon his release in 2011, relocated to Boca Raton, Florida, where he has opened up a restaurant (called “Merlino’s” and financed by private investors) and claims to be retired from his life in the mafia.
The FBI holds a different opinion of Merlino’s status, commencing yet another in a long line of confirmed criminal investigations into his activities and “violating” him for a June 2014 dinner with his alleged then-underboss, now-acting underboss John (Johnny Chang) Ciancaglini held at a Boca Raton cigar bar and nightclub.
Ciancaglini, who stepped aside from his official underboss duties to accept an “acting” role in favor of his dad, octogenarian Joseph (Chickie) Ciancaglini – released back in the fall from a 32-year stint in prison – is said to be one of a drove of Philadelphia wiseguys slated to descend on South Florida this coming week to celebrate Merlino’s freedom and parole lifting, with a multi-day party that will be capped by taking in the much-anticipated Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao prize fight on pay-per view broadcast at Skinny Joey’s restaurant Saturday evening.
Members of Merlino’s 1990s inner circle, spearheaded by Johnny Chang, his street boss Steven (Handsome Stevie) Mazzone and capo Michael (Mikey Lance) Lancelotti, will be in attendance, sources report. Today all middle-aged, two decades ago when they were in their early 30s, Merlino and his tight-knit crew of childhood pals and gangland loyalists fought and won a bloody shooting war for power in the Philadelphia mob. They earned countless newspaper headlines and a legion of captivated readers by their live-fast-die-young bravado and behavior, which included gun fights in the streets and on the local highways, massive partying and preening and an affinity for the lusty media.
One person from that notorious clique that won’t be there to reunite with their skipper will be Merlino’s one-time consigliere George (Georgie Boy) Borgesi, currently still on parole from the same racketeering conviction Merlino and several others endured in a highly-publicized 2001 trial. Borgesi, a thorn in the sides of more than one Philly mobster these days, per sources, being boorish and unrelenting in pressing syndicate administrators to regain his former standing in the crime family, is on “paper” until mid-summer. Sources say, Borgesi is eager to meet with Merlino and a sit-down is already scheduled to occur back in Pennsylvania when Borgesi is freed from parole restrictions in July.
A sitdown with faction leader Phil Narducci could be in the works as well, per sources, to appease Narducci, a man known not to like Skinny Joey and some claim sits on a ruling panel with Mazzone and the younger Ciancaglini.
Merlino, suspected in ordering or personally carrying out numerous gangland murders and/or attempted murders dating as far back as the 1980s, was back at work this weekend as a greeter at his restaurant being his usual social self and posing with patrons for photos.
Mending fences in Michigan
The bikers and the mob in the Motor City are getting along better in recent months.
Tensions between the Detroit mafia and the Highwaymen motorcycle gang have simmered down lately, however, some in the local mob are still at odds with the Highwaymen’s main rivals, the Outlaws, per exclusive Gangster Report sources.
The Highwaymen and the Outlaws are the two biggest motorcycle gangs in Michigan and have always worked together with the area’s Italian mob on variety of rackets with limited bumps in the road.
The spring 2012 demotion of eastside capo Frank (Frankie the Bomb) Bommarito, 85, the mob’s longtime liaison with the bikers and the alleged 2013 shakedown of a Highwaymen attorney for 50 large by an underling of new Detroit mafia don Jack (Jackie the Kid) Giacalone, sent relations between the two gangland groups in freefall.
A sitdown between Giacalone and his street boss Peter (Specs) Tocco and Highwaymen leadership in the winter squashed a beef that had escalated to exchanged-trashings of social clubs and Giacalone’s rejection from a Highwaymen strip club, per sources inside both the biker and mob camps.
Giacalone, 65, apparently remains on shaky terms with the Outlaws. According to police and underworld sources, the Outlaws either quit paying a tribute all together or lessened the amount forked over and folded up shop on a series of mutual rackets with the Italians, in the wake of Bommarito being deposed and pulled from his post.
Bommarito was the best friend and right-hand man of Giacalone’s dad, the legendary Vito (Billy Jack) Giacalone, the syndicate’s underboss. Almost immediately after the elder Giacalone passed away of old age in February 2012, Bommarito was temporarily shelved and eventually reassigned to soldier status, where he resides in a primarily independent capacity today.
The last time the mob and the Outlaws squabbled was in the early 1990s when Jackie Giacalone feuded with then-Outlaws president Harry (Taco) Bowman over gambling and extortion territory and got his uncle, Anthony (Tony Jack) Giacalone, the Detroit mafia’s then-street boss, to slap a murder contract on Bowman’s head. Before it could be carried out, though, Bommarito interjected, easing tensions and arranging a peace treaty.
A local mob figure in Michigan that doesn’t have any issues with the Outlaws is Joe (the Hood) D’Anna. Boosted to a capo slot by Jackie the Kid last year (reportedly to try and quench his influence-hungry ways), D’Anna is said to be “wheeling and dealing” with the Outlaws right now to try to take advantage of Giacalone’s dispute with them.
D’Anna faces 20 years in prison a federal extortion trial set to begin soon. He nearly beat a rival restaurant owner to death with a baseball bat in 2011 after the man refused to shutter his business, which sat across the street from D’Anna’s eatery and headquarters, Tira Mi Su (now Pomodoro).