The speculation is that yeah, why wouldnt he be running things, especially in this digital age, Mangan said.
According to various media reports, Merlino has talked about getting into the restaurant business. In August, Don Michael Petullo, a former Las Vegas businessman who worked in the casino industry, registered a company, DNS Inc., at Merlinos Boca Raton address. Petullo, who could not be reached for comment, doesnt appear to be in the carpet business.
In February, a confidential FBI memo was leaked by the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks that said Merlino appears to be restoring and developing significant relationships for a potential South Florida crew, and that he was getting involved in gambling/bookmaking activities.
Then in May, a detention memo filed by prosecutors referenced a secretly recorded conversation among New Jersey mobsters discussing Merlinos status in the organization as the man in charge who would decide, after his release from prison, which candidates would be initiated into the mob. Joseph Uncle Joe Ligambi, up until then considered the top boss, is recorded as saying Merlino would make the guys he wants. Ligambi is now in prison.
A former boss of one of Floridas crime families, now retired, said Merlino is inviting trouble by moving to Boca.
I dont know who he thinks he is, but its stupid, very stupid, said the ex-mobster, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. Why Boca? He could go anywhere, Phoenix, even Central Florida. Boca, he said, will only create more police scrutiny of his dealings. Boca is just too hot for someone like him.
The old-timer said the brash and brazen Merlino will not be welcomed by the local La Cosa Nostra.
I guarantee you that there are people out there who wont want him, he said.
New Yorks five organized-crime syndicates the Gambino, Genovese, Bonanno, Colombo and Lucchese families have always considered Florida to be open, with no family claiming exclusive rights to operate.
But many of the older bosses have either gone to jail or are dead. In the old days, the guys didnt want to attract attention, but young turks like Merlino enjoy the limelight, said the old boss.
During the time he was in prison, Merlino reportedly spent a lot of time in the gym, bulking up. Meanwhile, the mob was led by Ligambi, although speculation among law enforcement is that Ligambi was actually a figurehead for Merlino.
Merlino, released in 2011, served time in a Boca Raton halfway house before being freed last year.
If he is running the Philadelphia mob, he is likely doing so through associates still living in Philly and South Jersey, according to the confidential FBI memo. Merlino is prohibited from associating with known felons and is still on federally supervised release.
The word we got is Joey has a benefactor, he has somebody pumping money into him. How else could he get out of prison and move into a $400,000 house and drive a Mercedes?, LaPenta said. Its trouble for South Florida in the sense that because Joey is there, others will follow.