Donald Trump Snapped with Philly Mob Boss Joey Merlino at Florida Golf Course
Posted on: January 23, 2023, 07:23h.
Last updated on: January 26, 2023, 04:23h.
The image obtained by The Philadelphia Inquirer shows Trump, Merlino, and an unidentified individual flashing thumbs-ups for the camera at the Trump International Golf Club West Palm Beach.
While there’s no indication that Trump knew who Merlino was, or that he was doing anything other than obliging a request for a photograph, it’s bad optics for the former president, who harbors ambitions of returning to the White House in 2024.
“President Trump takes countless photos with people. That does not mean he knows every single person he comes in contact with,” a Trump spokesperson told the Inquirer.
Nevertheless, Trump has been careless about the company he keeps. In November, a week after he announced his new bid for the presidency, it emerged that he had dined at Mar-a-Lago with white supremacist Nick Fuentes. Also present was Ye, the rapper formerly known as Kanye West, who would announce his admiration for Adolf Hitler on social media and identify as a Nazi just weeks later.
Trump loyalists are concerned the former president isn’t listening to the advice of those within his campaign tasked with vetting and approving the people he meets.
Reputed Philadelphia Mob chieftains should be high on the list, especially since some of the land on which Trump built his first Atlantic City casino was linked to that very organized crime syndicate.
Trump paid $1.1 million for about a 5,000-square-foot plot that became part of the Trump Plaza parking lot. Sellers were Salvy Testa and Frank Narducci Jr, both hitmen for then-Philly boss Nicky Scarfo.
Merlino was banned from all Atlantic City casinos in 1984 for his Mob connections, the year the Trump Plaza opened. He is also prohibited from entering any casinos in Pennsylvania.
Trump doesn’t deny that he has “on occasion” consorted with members of the Mafia. The Mob controlled most of the construction unions in New York and owned many construction companies in the 1980s when Trump was developing in Manhattan.
“They happen to be very nice people,” he told David Letterman in 2013. “You just don’t want to owe them money.”
For his part, Merlino has declared himself to be a diehard Trump supporter. Maybe he identifies with the former president. Both were in the East Coast gambling business, albeit one in the illicit variety, before rising to the very pinnacle of power in their chosen career paths. Meanwhile, both have an averred dislike of cooperating witnesses.
Merlino claims he’s no longer the powerful Mafia boss of the 1990s who survived 25 assassination attempts and controlled the Philly crime families’ gambling, loan sharking, and extortion rackets.
After serving 12 years for racketeering, he relocated to Florida upon his release in 2011 and opened a restaurant, which has since closed. In 2016, he was again indicted on RICO charges and was eventually convicted for illegal gambling, serving two years. He now claims to be in the carpet-fitting business.
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