August 29, 2019 – This week’s Gangland News column sheds new light on the young buck recently let into Philadelphia mafia chief Joseph (Skinny Joey) Merlino’s inner circle. According to the Dean of American crime writing, Jerry Capeci, baby-faced New York wiseguy Pete Tuccio, who acted as Merlino’s driver and bodyguard while he faced a federal racketeering case out of the Big Apple the last few years, is the nephew of Lucchese crime family captain Joseph (Joe Café) DeSena, considered a sleeper powerhouse in the NYC underworld.

Tuccio also has ties to the Gambino cime family. The slick, charismatic Skinny Joey has led the Philly mob in some form or another for the past two and a half decades. Capeci launched his Gangland News column in the 1990s focusing on mafia activity out of New York’s Five Families.

Merlino, 57, pleaded guilty to an illegal gambling count following a trial that ended in a hung jury in February 2018. He is finishing up his prison sentence down in Florida and is expected to be released to a halfway house in October.

The 26-year old Tuccio faces a federal extortion trial next year. He’s looking at a mandatory minimum of 15 years in prison if convicted. Prosecutors allege Tuccio and others collected $5,000 of back street tax from a Queens, New York pizza parlor owner being shaken down by Gambino capo Ignazio (Uncle Iggy) Alogna.

Tuccio and his co-defendant Jonny Gurino are charged with stalking the extortion victim and torching his car in 2015. A third co-defendant in the case, Gino Gaberielli, has reportedly cut a deal to testify against them at their January 2019 trial.

Alogna was a close friend of legendary Gambino boss John (The Dapper Don) Gotti, who dominated national news headlines in the 1980s and early 1990s and relished the spotlight. Gotti. They are both deceased. Gotti died behind bars in 2002. Alogna passed away from natural causes two years ago.

Skinny Joey Merlino was busted in the East Coast LCN Enterprise case from the late summer of 2016. He had been living Florida and running his borgata in Pennsylvania from afar using a series of intermediaries to relay orders.

Out of nowhere, Tuccio began accompanying Merlino to his New York court appearances and popping up in photos with Merlino in social media posts. Mob watchers immediately began wondering who he was and how he fit into Merlino’s world.

Tuccio’s uncle, Joe Café DeSena began his mob career with the Gambinos before ascending through the ranks in the Lucchese clan. DeSena, 68, headquarters out of Caffe Napoli in Little Italy. His rap sheet includes pinches for loansharking and bank robbery.

Merlino is linked to the Lucchese’s New Jersey wing, known as the Perna crew. Per his 2016 indictment, Skinny Joey was doing business with the Genovese crime family through Bronx based capo Patsy Parrello. FBI agents snapped photos of Merlino attending Parrello’s Christmas party in 2015.

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