Joseph “Skinny Joey” Merlino’s courtroom claim that he gave up his role as Philly’s leading mob boss didn’t carry much weight with Wednesday’s witness.
John Rubio, an admitted gangster who worked with the Genovese family, testified in Manhattan Federal Court that Merlino was always a major underworld player — despite his attorneys’ claims he’d left the game for good.
Federal authorities say that Merlino, 55, helped orchestrate a criminal enterprise that ran from Springfield, Mass. to South Florida.
The crime boss was arrested in August 2016 in a sweep that nabbed some four dozen alleged mobsters.
Merlino’s lawyers have sought to paint the reputed gangster as a man with a serious gambling problem who was only talking to Rubio about borrowing cash.
After Merlino got out of federal lock up in 2011 — when he did time on different charges — he decamped to South Florida rather than return to Philadelphia, his lawyers said.
There, he wanted to live in peace with his family and four dogs, according to defense attorneys.
But Rubio said in his testimony Wednesday that the former South Philly boss “did a couple money-making schemes together. We became friends.”
The two met in 2013 while Rubio was working as federal informant, he told the court room.
He was charged with recording his converstations with alleged mobsters — and gangland gossip implicated Merlino as big figure.
“He was the boss of the Philadelphia crime family,” some of Rubio’s underworld associates told him, he told the court.
Rubio rose through the ranks of the Genovese family as a crime figure himself.
But his progress stopped in 2011 when he was collared for allegedly dealing coke.
Rubio admitted on the stand that he became a rat for self-serving reasons.
“I didn’t want to go to jail,” he answered, when asked what prompted his decision to act as an informant.
Merlino’s lawyers have criticized the credibility of Rubio and other witnesses, claiming that they’re trying to save themselves at the expense of their client.