Friday, October 24, 2014

Merlino Ordered Back To Jail For 'Night On The Town'

By George Anastasia
For Bigtrial.net

What a federal prosecutor described as a "night on the town with his mob buddies" has resulted in a four-month prison sentence for former Philadelphia mob boss Joseph "Skinny Joey" Merlino.

U.S. District Court Judge R. Barclay Surrick imposed that sentence this afternoon after hearing more than three hours of testimony and argument in a probation violation hearing for the 52-year-old convicted Mafia leader.

Merlino, now living in Florida, will begin the sentence in 30 days, according to the order issued by Surrick. Once he completes that sentence, Merlino will no longer be on supervised release and will be free to meet and associate with whomever he chooses.

But that may be the least of his problems. According to testimony during the hearing, Merlino has been the focus on an ongoing investigation by an organized crime task force in South Florida. Authorities have apparently had the one-time South Philadelphia celebrity gangster on their radar since his arrival in the Sunshine State three years ago.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Merlino Ordered Back To Philadelphia For Parole Violation Hearing

By George Anastasia


For Bigtrial.net

It looks like an encore is planned for U.S. District Court in the ongoing Skinny Joey Merlino saga.

U.S. District Court Judge R. Barclay Surrick issued a one-page ruling this morning denying a motion by Merlino's lawyer seeking to have his probation violation voided. Instead, Surrick set a hearing on the issues for Friday at 10 a.m.

Merlino, who has been living in Boca Raton for the past three years, drew a media horde when he appeared earlier this month for the first hearing in the case. That proceeding focused on a motion filed by defense attorneys Edwin Jacobs Jr. and Michael Myers who argued that federal authorities had failed to properly notify Merlino of the alleged violations.

Merlino, they said, had not been given a summons to appear in court prior to the expiration of his three-year probation. Prosecutors argued that the practice in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania was to file a notice of a violation rather than issue a summons. Merlino and his lawyer were informed on Sept. 2, five days before Merlino's probationary period ended, that a notice was to be filed and a hearing scheduled. Merlino's lawyer, Edwin Jacobs Jr., asked for a delay in setting a hearing date so that he could check his case load. The formal notice was not filed until Sept. 16.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Scarfo, Pelullo, Maxwells Seek New Trial In FirstPlus Fraud Case

By George Anastasia
For Bigtrial.net

They want a do over.

And if they're granted a new trial, they don't want any mention of the mob.

That's the essence of a 72-page motion filed by lawyers for Salvatore Pelullo and joined by lawyers for Nicodemo Scarfo and brothers John and William Maxwell asking Judge Robert Kugler to overturn their convictions and order a retrial in the FirstPlus financial fraud case.

A hearing on the motion and the government's response is set for Monday. Sentencings, which were originally scheduled for Oct. 21, 22 and 23, have been moved to January for all four defendants.

Monday, October 13, 2014

The Secret Life Of A Corroborating Witness

A Couple of Hustlers: Billy Doe [left] and Leo Hernandez
By Ralph Cipriano
for Bigtrial.net

In court nearly two years ago, Leo Omar Hernandez was the only witness who could corroborate any part of Billy Doe's wildly improbable tale about being repeatedly raped as an altar boy by a couple of priests and a school teacher.

Hernandez was supposedly the "best guy friend" that Billy Doe first confided his story of sex abuse to back when they were high school classmates at the International Christian Academy in Northeast Philadelphia.

Hernandez told the jury that when he and Billy were sophomores at the Christian Academy, they used a Bible verse as a weapon against a male teacher who got "touchy-feely" with them. In court, Hernandez presented himself as a clean-cut, straight-arrow, honorably-discharged Air Force vet living with his girlfriend and newborn son at a house he owned in Mayfair. But none of that turns out to be true.

Billy Doe is currently suing the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and his alleged abusers in a civil suit in Philadelphia Common Pleas Court. Meanwhile, his former "best guy friend" Leo Omar Hernandez has filed a medical malpractice case filed in Common Pleas Court against a Philadelphia osteopath, a male doctor that Hernandez claims got him hooked on drugs and then had an abusive sexual relationship with him.

Records gathered for that medical malpractice case show that while Leo Omar Hernandez claims he's a victim, he also admits he's a former drug addict, steroid abuser, and a dancer in gay male strip clubs.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Merlino Packs Them In At Federal Hearing

By George Anastasia
For Bigtrial.net

Joey Merlino can still draw a crowd.

The one-time South Philadelphia celebrity mobster had a nearly packed courtroom for his probation violation hearing this morning. Friends, family members, law enforcement officials and more than a dozen members of the media showed up for a 90-minute proceeding that revolved around mundane technical issues and that offered all the drama of a first-year law school seminar.

The proceeding before U.S. District Court Judge R. Barclay Surrick ended without any resolution. But Merlino, 52, attracted a swarm of television cameramen and newspaper photographers as he exited the building at Sixth and Market Streets.

"The Mummers Parade," Merlino said cryptically as reporters shouted questions at him and a small entourage that made its way toward Seventh Street and a parking garage. Merlino was scheduled to return to Florida later today.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Joey's Back In Philadelphia, But For How Long?

By George Anastasia
For Bigtrial.net

Joey Merlino's back in town.

But the one-time South Philadelphia celebrity mob boss hopes he's just passing through.

Merlino has a date at 10 a.m. tomorrow before U.S. District Court Judge R. Barclay Surrick who will ultimately decide the short term future of the 52-year-old mobster.

Merlino has to respond to a summons alleging he violated the terms of his supervised release by meeting with three convicted felons, including Philadelphia mob capo John Ciancaglini, in Florida on June 18.

Merlino's attorneys have called the meeting a "chance encounter" that was "much less nefarious that the government wants this court to believe."

Federal prosecutors have termed the defense argument "laughable."

Surrick will ultimately decide who gets the last laugh.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Galati Convicted In Murder-For-Hire Case

By George Anastasia
For Bigtrial.net

Wannabe wiseguy Ron Galati was convicted of murder-for-hire and conspiracy charges today in a case that offered a look into a bizarre and twisted South Philadelphia family dynamic.

A federal jury deliberated for about five hours over two days before returning guilty verdicts on all four charges Galati faced. No date has been set for sentencing, but the 64-year-old auto body shop owner is looking at 20 years or more at the top end of federal sentencing guidelines.

With a prior conviction for insurance fraud and with two other cases pending in Common Pleas Court in Philadelphia, Galati could very well spend the rest of his life in prison.

"We're not surprised, but we're disappointed," said Anthony Voci Jr., Galati's defense attorney. Voci said Galati took the verdict well. But members of his family were "devastated," according to Galati's twin sister Renee.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Jury Gets Murder-For-Hire Case

By George Anastasia
For Bigtrial.net

It was murder-for hire, both the prosecution and defense agreed.

The question was who did the hiring?

That's the issue a federal jury began wrestling with this afternoon in the trial of South Philadelphia auto body shop owner Ron Galati who is charged with hiring three hitmen to kill his estranged daughter's boyfriend.

After hearing closing arguments from the prosecution and defense, the jury of 10 women and two men deliberated for about a hour before recessing at 4:30 p.m. They will return tomorrow at 9:30 to continue.

The prosecution contends that Galati, 64, a wannabe mobster, ordered the shooting of Andrew Tuono last November. Galati's lawyer, Anthony Voci Jr., has presented an alternative, contending that Tiffany Galati, the defendant's 31-year-old daughter, was behind the hit.

"We agree," Voci said in one of the highlights of his impassioned, 90-minute closing, that Tuono was shot on Nov. 30 of last year as he and Tiffany Galati walked out of their home on Carson Avenue in Atlantic City.

 

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