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Introduction:

One of our readers brought this story to our attention.  Allegedly, former Philadelphia mob boss, Joey Merlino, above, hung out with hip-hop stars, one of his girlfriends was black and he did business with Philadelphia's "Junior Black Mafia," and "The Warlocks," street gang.

PHILLY'S 'BLACK FRIENDLY' MOB BOSS:

Joseph S. Merlino, aka Skinny Joey (b. March 16, 1962), is an American alleged mafioso, alleged member of the U.S. Cosa Nostra, and alleged head of the Philadelphia Crime Family which controls organized crime as far as Southern New Jersey. He is the son of former Nicky Scarfo underboss/soldier Salvatore "Chuckie" Merlino. He is also the nephew of deceased former Capo Lawrence Merlino.

While Merlino was the alleged boss of the Philadelphia crime family, it engaged primarily in extortion, bookmaking, drug trafficking, and loan sharking.

Merlino has been described as a particularly vicious mobster, obsessed with his own public image, and another version of New York's John Gotti, after whom he patterned himself. He is flashy, stylish, flamboyant, and "in your face." “Joey was a party guy,” said "Big Ron" Previte, cop-turned gangster-turned government witness. “He liked to go out. He liked to gamble. He liked the high life.” He invited TV crews to his annual Christmas party for the homeless, and was a fixture at the city's nightclubs, restaurants, and sporting events.With longtime buddies Michael Ciancaglini and Georgie Borgesi, he was known to beat up girls, rob people, and start fights in clubs.

Under Angelo Bruno the Philadelphia family was among the most powerful in the U.S. Bruno's murder in 1980 signaled the beginning of a violent era that continued until the mid-1990s. First Philip Testa (murdered in 1981) and then Nicky Scarfo followed. Scarfo was one of the most violent mob bosses in U.S. history, but was sentenced in 1988 to 55 years in prison.
Merlino's ascent to head of the family, and subsequent imprisonment.

In August 1983 Merlino was accused of beating and stabbing a man in an Atlantic City, New Jersey casino. In 1984 Merlino was found guilty on of two counts of aggravated assault and one count of possession of a weapon for unlawful purpose. In August 1984 he was barred by the New Jersey Casino Control Commission from New Jersey casinos.

On October 31, 1989 it is alleged that Merlino attempted to murder the son of Nicky Scarfo, Nicky, Jr., in a South Philadelphia Italian restaurant, Dante and Luigi's, wounding him several times in the chest, neck, and arm. Although police never charged anyone with the attempted murder, police and FBI believe Merlino was behind the shooting to avenge an earlier plot by Scarfo Sr. on Merlino's father. Another motive for the attempted hit was to send a clear message that neither Scarfo nor his son were any longer in charge of South Philadelphia. Fearing another Mafia war, Scarfo Sr. moved his son out of town and inducted him into the Lucchese crime family of New York for protection.

In August 1989 Merlino was charged with robbing an armored car of $350,000. Convicted a few months later, he was released from prison in April 1992. Merlino and his associates started meeting with members of the Philadelphia-based Junior Black Mafia, commonly known as the JBM, which is comprised of young, violent African-American males who specialize in the distribution of cocaine. He also enlisted the help of the Warlocks gang for some time.

When John Stanfa emerged as the new leader of the Philadelphia family, an all-out war broke out between Stanfa and the so-called "Young Turks" led by Merlino. On August 5, 1993, Merlino survived a drive-by shooting assassination attempt by Stanfa, only taking a bullet in the buttocks, as Michael "Mikey Chang" Ciancaglini was killed. On August 31, 1993, in retaliation, Stanfa’s son was shot in the face.

During the all-out 1993 mob war, Merlino dodged more than two dozen attempts on his life. In November 1993, Merlino was arrested by the FBI, charged with violation of parole, and sent back to prison.

Stanfa was convicted to several life sentences for RICO violations in March 1994, and Ralph Natale (who was subsequently jailed in June 1998) and Merlino took over upon getting out of jail in November 1994. It became clear later that Merlino was really the power, and heading what was a "kill happy" mob.

In 1995 Merlino survived additional assassination attempts. Louis Turra, a reputed Philadelphia drug lord, was severely beaten by Merlino’s soldiers in 1995 for failing to pay a Mafia street tax on his illegal earnings. Angered by the beating, he sought vengeance. His father Anthony Turra was accused of hosting a meeting at his house where his son and his gang discussed killing Merlino, and of suggesting methods they might use to kill him. The younger Turra was found hanged in a prison in New York City in January 1998, an apparent suicide, while awaiting trial.

In March 1998, Anthony Turra, on trial on charges of plotting to kill Merlino, was shot to death outside his home by a gunman in a black ski mask. He was shot twice, once in the eye, as he left for the federal courthouse, where a jury was deliberating in the racketeering and drug case against him and four other men. “We consider this an organized crime assassination, a mob hit,” Police Inspector Jerrold Kane said.

In the late 1990s Merlino allied himself with Steve "Gorilla" Montevergine, boss of the Pagans motorcycle gang. In June 1999, Merlino was indicted on charges he conspired with the Boston mob to purchase and distribute cocaine. He was sentenced to 14 years in prison on December 3, 2001, on racketeering charges, including extortion and illegal gambling. He was acquitted of murder charges. He is scheduled for release in 2011. "Ain't bad," Merlino said. "Better than the death penalty."

In March 2004 a federal jury acquitted him of August 2001 charges that he had taken part in the 1996 murder of Joseph Sodano, a North Jersey capo.