January 30, 2020 — Philadelphia mobster Damion Canalichio was released from prison this week following 13 years in federal lock up for drug dealing, bookmaking and loansharking. Well-liked and trusted, his future in the underworld appears bright.

The 50-year old Bruno-Scarfo crime family lieutenant was busted in his drug case in 2006 and then hit with the racketeering charges while behind bars in 2011. He left his Connecticut prison cell and checked into a Philadelphia halfway house Wednesday night. Sources claim a promotion awaits if he chooses to jump back in the game. His once stocky frame, is now chiseled and muscular.

Canalichio came up in the mafia as a collector during the early years of the action-fueled Joseph (Skinny Joey) Merlino regime. Merlino, 57, has led the Philly mob since the 1990s. Per FBI records and court documents, Canalichio got his start as a driver and bodyguard for Merlino’s underboss and best friend, Steve (Handsome Stevie) Mazzone. He’s alleged to have looked after Mazzone’s interests on the street for most of the 2000s with Mazzone away serving his own prison sentence for racketeering.

Mazzone and Merlino were nailed together in a 2000 RICO case. Canalichio is considered a suspect in the November 2003 gangland murder of Merlino rival John (Johnny Gongs) Casasanto and was “made” — inducted into the mafia — shortly thereafter, according to sources in the federal government. Multiple sources speculate he’ll be offered a capo slot in the crime family hierarchy if he wants to return to active duty.

The slick and slippery Merlino is in a halfway house in Miami after a short prison term for a gambling conviction. Skinny Joey moved to South Florida in 2011 after a dozen years in the can for the RICO pinch he took along with Mazzone and several other loyalists in 2000. The dapper 56-year old Mazzone came out of prison in 2009 and has kept a relatively low profile.

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