Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Skinny Joey Merlino Family Ruling Slammed by New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement

The New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement fired a verbal blast at a Casino Control Commission hearing examiner Monday, contending that the agency had "distorted" facts and ignored evidence in recommending that relatives of a jailed mob boss be granted a casino service-industry license.

The recommendation was "replete with distortions of testimony and proven facts and/or selective omission of critical facts and testimony," attorneys for the DGE wrote in a blistering 24-page list of exceptions to findings of William T. Sommeling.

Sommeling, who sits on the five-member Casino Control Commission, was appointed hearing examiner in the case.

Last month, he ruled that Joseph N. Merlino, his mother, Phyllis, and the Pleasantville construction company they own, Bayshore Rebar, were entitled to casino service-industry licenses.

Merlino is the cousin of jailed mob boss Joseph S. "Skinny Joey" Merlino. Phyllis Merlino is the jailed mobster's aunt. They and their company had twice before been denied licenses because of suspected mob ties.

Sommeling, who heard 14 days of testimony in a hearing that stretched over two months, found that the Merlinos and their company had severed ties to any organized-crime figures, including family members.

He blasted the DGE for its conduct during the hearing process, charging that it presented evidence that was "unreliable, uncorroborated and, in some instances, demonstrably false."

The pointed comments in Sommeling's findings and the DGE response are a marked departure from the usual tone of filings in licensing cases.

The full five-member commission is expected to hold a hearing next month to vote on Sommeling's recommendation. The commission can accept, modify, or reject it.

In a response that was at times dripping with sarcasm, the DGE urged the commission to again deny the Merlinos and their company the right to do casino-related construction work.

Sommeling's decision "manages to render meaningless" the standards and precedents established over the years by the commission to keep mob influences out of the casino industry, the DGE argued.

The DGE's response was presented in a document prepared by state Deputy Attorney General Alice Way and Assistant Attorney General Anthony J. Zarrillo Jr., prosecutors in the Merlino hearing.

The Merlinos' attorney, John Donnelly, has five days to respond.

In their filing, the DGE lawyers claimed that Sommeling came into the hearing with a preconceived notion of the case and that the DGE "lost . . . before its opening statement."

They chided Sommeling for showing favoritism, contending that "diplomacy has been afforded to the applicants, while derision has been saved for the Division."

The commissioner misunderstood or failed to adequately analyze scores of phone records that showed contact between the Merlinos and organized-crime figures, the DGE argued.

They included calls from Joseph S. Merlino and mobster Martin Angelina while the men were in federal prison in Philadelphia in 2000 and 2001 on racketeering charges.

The DGE cited more than a dozen calls from the inmates to the unlisted telephone of Joseph N. Merlino.

It also argued that Sommeling ignored the significance of calls to and from numbers listed in the names of the wives of mob figures, including the wife of reputed Philadelphia mob boss Joseph Ligambi.

Sommeling's ruling, the DGE argued, "contravenes the long established law enforcement intelligence technique that recognizes organized crime affiliates use their wives, mothers and girlfriends to circumvent detection of their criminal activities."

Finally, the DGE argued that Sommeling erred when he dismissed allegations that Anthony Giraldi, a longtime friend of Joseph N. Merlino's, was a mob associate.

Giraldi, a South Philadelphia plumber, was described by the DGE as a bookmaker and associate of the local crime family. Among other things, it cited social gatherings he had attended, such as weddings and funerals, where mob figures were present.

The Merlinos, who testified in their own defense, said they were never part of organized crime. But in order to satisfy the concerns of gaming regulators, they said, they made a decision about 10 years ago to sever all ties with the Merlino side of their family.

Thanks to George Anastasia

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