Federal agents arrested over 40 members and associates of the Genovese, Gambino, Lucchese, and Bonanno crime families in New York and the Bruno crime family in Philadelphia this morning in a racketeering bust ranging from New York to Florida. The men are charged with a long list of crimes including extortion, arson, loansharking, illegal gambling, health care and credit card fraud, selling untaxed cigarettes, trafficking firearms, and assault.
The biggest name among the group of wiseguys is Philadelphia boss Joseph “Skinny Joey” Merlino, who was recently banned from setting foot in any Pennsylvania casino. Merlino got out of prison in 2011 after serving over a decade behind bars on racketeering charges. He popped up in Florida where he got into the restaurant business. He claimed to be retired from the Mafia.
Prosecutors disagree. They say 54-year-old Merlino (right) was part of several illegal gambling operations, including one that utilized a company named Costa Rican International Sportsbook in Costa Rica. Furthermore, he is charged with health care fraud in which he, together with various other gangsters, got corrupt doctors to issue unnecessary and excessive prescriptions for expensive compound cream that were then billed to insurers.
Genovese family mobster Pasquale “Patsy” Parrello features prominently in the indictment. Prosecutors allege he was involved in loansharking, illegal gambling, health care and credit card fraud, assault, and involvement in the sale of $3 million worth of contraband cigarettes.
According to the indictment, 72-year-old Parrello (left) and his crew obtained hundreds of cases of contraband cigarettes which did not bear a stamp of evincing payment of applicable taxes, earning that a huge payday on the streets.
According to the indictment, Merlino, Parrello, and the others were part of, what prosecutors call, the “East Coast La Cosa Nostra Enterprise,” a group that consisted of members and associates of the Genovese, Gambino, Lucchese, Bonanno, and Philadelphia crime families. Its members would use coded language to arrange meetings, which were held at rest stops along highways and at restaurants.
The group ran a gambling club in Yonkers, New York, which, “several nights a week […] held poker tournaments, dice tournaments, and took bets on horse races. The owners took a percentage of the proceeds.” To add more revenue, the group installed illegal poker machines.
To protect their illegal operations, the group wasn’t afraid to use violence. When a rival bookmaker set up shop nearby in 2011, they set fire to his car. In the summer of 2011, Parello, who owns a restaurant on Arthur Ave. in the Bronx, ordered several of the defendants to break a nearby panhandler's knees for bothering his customers.
As we’ve come to expect from the new generation of mobsters, at first, they grabbed the wrong guy. But they couldn’t be fooled twice and got the right guy the second time, beating him “with glass jars, sharp objects and steel-tipped boots, causing bodily harm,” according to the indictment.
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