Now that Bravo is milking additional episodes out of "The Real Housewives of New Jersey," the cable network's hit series about a quintet of Garden State lovelies, The Smoking Gun decided to join the examination of the tawdry history of the show's true star.
Archived federal court records provide a detailed account of the criminal, drug, prostitution, and informant history of Danielle Staub, the 46-year-old lightning rod from the reality TV program. Staub, once known as Beverly Ann Merrill, was arrested by FBI agents in June 1986 for her role in a kidnapping plot that grew out of a cocaine deal gone bad. According to documents filed in U.S. District Court in Miami, Merrill and Daniel Aguilar, who distributed narcotics for a Colombian drug family, sought to extort a $25,000 ransom from a man whose son they were holding. The captive, Carmen Centolella, was blamed by Merrill and Aguilar for the botched drug deal, which cost them a kilo of cocaine worth about $24,000, according to the below criminal complaint.
Merrill and Aguilar were arrested after federal agents traced ransom calls they placed to Centolella's father. Merrill was busted in a Miami apartment in which agents discovered six kilos of cocaine and about $16,000 in cash. In a subsequent indictment, Merrill was charged with eight felonies, including extortion, cocaine possession, and narcotics conspiracy. Prosecutors allege that Merrill placed the first call to Centolella's father and "threatened injury or death" to his son "unless a sum of money was paid."
Facing the possibility of decades in prison, Merrill quickly opted to flip. In August 1986, she copped to a single felony count and signed a plea agreement pledging to "provide full and complete cooperation" with federal prosecutors and FBI agents. Merrill's plea, the agreement noted, exposed her to a maximum of 20 years in prison. Merrill's decision to snitch out her cohorts resulted in threats allegedly directed at her by Aguilar and his family, prosecutors contended in one motion. Merrill, who at the time used the alias "Angela Minelli," received one phone call warning, "Angela, your life is at an end, honey," and another from a male caller noting, "I saw you walking your dog--I wouldn't take that kind of risk."
The government motion further described Merrill's role in the botched cocaine deal, noting that she "took one of the kilos from Aguilar to Centolella's apartment for testing." There, she was accosted by four armed men who robbed her of the cocaine. According to an FBI report, when Aguilar was interviewed by agents following his arrest, he stated that "Angela" was the "common link" that put him together with Centolella, the prospective cocaine buyer. Centolella, he said, knew that "Angela had sources that could provide a kilo of cocaine." He later described "Angela" as a friend whose last name he did not know. "She also uses cocaine," he told agents.
During a court hearing, FBI Agent Robert Favie testified that Merrill met Aguilar while she was working for an escort service (Aguilar was a customer). Asked by Aguilar's attorney if he had checked into Merrill's background as a prostitute, Favie replied, "I know that she has told me that she has worked for an escort service, yes." In November 1986, Merrill was sentenced to five years probation for her extortion conviction (by comparison, Aguilar got 15 years after pleading out to extortion and cocaine possession counts). She was also ordered to participate in a drug treatment program and submit to weekly urinalysis tests during the first six months of her supervision.
Two years after Merrill's sentencing, a substance abuse counselor (who worked in conjunction with Merrill's probation officer) recommended that, "considering the severity of Beverly's drug history and her former drug life style," that her "mandate for drug aftercare be continued." Court files do not indicate how Judge Eugene Spellman, who sentenced Merrill, ruled on this request.
In a recent interview with People magazine, Staub claimed records from her criminal case were "sealed" and that she was only charged as an "accessory."
Thanks to The Smoking Gun
Best of the Month!
- Chicago Mob Infamous Locations Map
- The Chicago Syndicate AKA "The Outfit"
- One Family's Rise, A Century of Power
- THE OUTFIT'S GREATEST HITS
- Mafia Links of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons
- Top Ten Signs a Mafia Boss is Nuts
- Profile: Harry Aleman
- Firm with reputed mob ties flourishes
- Abraham Kiswani, Owner of World Security Bureau, Indicted on Tax Evasion Charges
- Chicago Alderman Ed Burke Charged with Extortion by Federal Prosecutors #Corruption