The uncanny luck of Philadelphia mob boss Joseph (Skinny Joey) Merlino never ceases to amaze. He’s been known to joke with those close to him about the devil on his shoulder looking after him in his career in the underworld. Well, it looks like the devil has struck again.

The case against the suave, cagey and perpetually-blessed from the gangster gods above 54-year old South Florida-via-South Philly mafia leader and a number of his alleged criminal associates in New York could be on the verge of falling apart due to improper conduct by FBI agents and their dealings with the star witness in the case, John (J.R.) Rubeo, according to a report late Sunday night by the New York Post. Rubeo wore a wire on Merlino for over two years. Merlino was one of 46 reputed wiseguys scooped up in a federal racketeering bust last August.

Federal prosecutors alerted defense attorneys and the judge in the case that the U.S. Department of Justice is investigating a pair of FBI agents and their supervisor for failing to properly log meetings and debriefings with Rubeo and failing to preserve others. If proven true, these allegations might tank the entire prosecution and result in the charges all being dropped due to the government’s case relying so heavily on Rubeo’s cooperation and wiretaps he produced.

Upon Merlino being released from prison on another racketeering case in 2011, he was introduced to Rubeo through Genovese crime family captain Patsy Parrello, who has long run his operations out of his restaurant Pasquale’s Rigoletto on Arthur Avenue in the Bronx. Parrello, 73, and Merlino were the two headlining defendants in a case that ensnared reputed lieutenants in four separate New York mob contingents. Rubeo, 41, taped interactions in New York between Parrello and Merlino, with South Philly muscle Michael (Mikey Lance) Lancellotti and Dominic (Baby Dom) Grande in tow, at a Parrello-hosted Genovese Christmas party in 2014.

Facing a stern 10-to-20 year prison bid if convicted in the current case against him (which includes bookmaking and health-care fraud), Merlino has turned dodging life-altering daggers into a near art form dating back decades now. The Skinny One beat murder charges at trial in 2001 and literally averted dozens of attempts on his life from bloodthirsty rivals in the 1990s as he maneuvered his way to the top of the Philadelphia mafia. As of March 2017, Merlino is on house arrest in his ritzy Boca Raton, Florida condo awaiting trial.


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