For months now, the main question for Joey Merlino was, would he accept plea deal, or fight it out against the Federal Government. Of the many defendants in this case, Joey Merlino is the only one left besides Eugene O'Nofrio has obviously moved to separate himself from Merlino, and wants a separate trial.
It's been back and forth from all aspects as far as whether Joey would or wouldn't. At this point Joey Merlino is all in, and from my expertise, the scale is tipped in Joey's favor. The only thing that can unhinge Joey's defense at this point, will be if someone steps up instead of John Rubeo. At this point Rubeo is suspect at best. Perhaps the main issue with the Government's case is Rubeo himself, who apparently has a lot more respect and like for Merlino than the Government
is comfortable with.
The evidence collected, the evidence handed in, is missing in many parts, and one of the problems is, Rubeo either intentionally removed parts of those "recorded conversations," or made sure that certain aspects were removed in an effort to lessen the blow for Merlino. In either case, from what I have been told is that the FBI is putting pressure on other informants to come forward because the evidence they have against Merlino is fleeting at best. They want a slam dunk, and at this point it really looks like Merlino could possibly walk from a 15-20 year sentence. Whereas Rubeo might have been enough initially, it's looking more and more like he's become a liability, and in fact Rubeo is jailed as we speak, and not in some safe-house awaiting trial. That perhaps speaks more about Rubeo than anything.
SO WHAT DOES THIS ALL MEAN?
Simply, the honus is on the Government to present a clear cut case. They just don't have it. Ruebo is going to create a problem for the Government. The other option the Government has is to force or co-hearse another informant to come into play. That seems to be the monster in the closet at this point. The FBI has gone to lengths to try and turn some Merlino associates and it hasn't worked. It truly boils down to two things. Either Rubeo falls flat on his ass and Merlino walks, or the Government finds another snitch who can corroborate facts.
INDICTMENTS GALORE COMING FOR PHILADELPHIA
Whether or not the FBI wants this out, or whether it's fully in operation at this point, it's my belief based on facts and what I've heard that the FBI and the Organized Crime Task Force has been monitoring the Philadelphia mafia for a while now. They are looking into unsolved murders, racketeering and more. From what I have heard, there are a lot of guys on the street taking to the FBI, but are refusing to testify. They are simply supplying information and the FBI is taking note. How long before indictments come down is anyone's guess, but it's an ongoing investigation and I speculated this almost a year ago. It doesn't take rocket science to see why.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
There are a million different scenarios here. We have discussed them at length. I believe at this point we have a few real scenarios playing out in Philly, and with the many different mob genre writers speculating let's get a few things factual here and now. Philadelphia was split into four factions, at least prior to the indictment of Merlino. Merlino, Ligambi, Narducci and Pungitore rounded out the leadership. However now, I believe Merlino has insulted himself a bit, and what is probably more realistic at this point is a three headed leadership. Joey is still de-facto boss, while Ligambi, Narducci and Pungitore operate the day to day operations. Each one has a crew underneath of them.
What is going to be the end all for Philadelphia is this. If Joey gets convicted, I don't think he will hold onto the family for very long. He may delegate much like his predecessors and form an official three headed structure where Ligambi, Narducci and Pungitore rule together, but I don't think there is any way Ligambi will take over by himself. It's just not going to happen. So what you could see is this power vacuum we have talked about.
VACCUM, WHAT VACCUUM?
Not all is as simple as it seems. You have some characters in Philadelphia, and not everyone is exactly happy with the way things are looking. We can get into the petty stuff, but there is no point. We all know the past between Borgesi and Merlino and Marty Angelina, and I don't want to rehash all that. More importantly if Joey goes away, you will have two Scarfo era guys in leadership along with Joe Ligambi, who is a Merlino surrogate. If Pungitore or Narducci see this as an opportunity to take over it won't be difficult. If Borgesi steps up to create issues, you could see a war. It's no secret Borgesi wants to be a leader, but how far is he willing to go? Simply, it could be chaos in Philadelphia if a line is drawn in the sand between the players. You have around 70 guys in Philadelphia all fighting over the same ten rackets. They have been forced to go into legitimate housing rehab jobs to make ends meet. At some point, one guy is going to want it all for himself, and it's going to create some massive friction. Greed breeds discontent, and it's a film coming to a movie near you very soon.
THE BOTTOM LINE, AND MY PROGNOSIS
The bottom line is this, if Joey walks, all will be quiet but not for very long, especially if you realize indictments are coming. If Joey goes away, indictments will still come but there won't be such a great emphasis on behalf of the FBI to move quick on that. They will allow time for this guys to realign and take stock of their surroundings.
What I do believe will happen, and you can mark this down, is that Joey likely will skate from the charges, but probably will be re indicted for something else down the road. The odds are pretty good there. I also believe Philadelphia is in big trouble. Indictments aside could wipe them off the face of the earth if they aren't careful. An indictment on say twenty guys doesn't and won't destroy a family especially when they have a membership of 200. In the case of Philadelphia however you're talking 70 members here, and effectively done, every single one could be arrested. I don't believe that will happen, but don't be surprised when 20 or so do get arrested.
I also think the split between factions could get bigger and lines will be drawn into the sand. I'm not saying there will be shootouts and murders, but it's not too far off when you consider the small amount of rackets and the personalities involved here. Philadelphia has always had problems and they don't seem the learn from the past.