The Latest: NY trial opens for reputed Philadelphia mob boss

The latest from the New York fraud trial of a reputed Philadelphia mob boss (all times local):

10:15 a.m.

A federal prosecutor in New York says a reputed Philadelphia mob boss was a "fixer" in a widespread scheme to collect insurance payments by bribing doctors to write bogus prescriptions for a pain cream.

Prosecutor Max Nicholas told jurors Tuesday that Joseph "Skinny Joey" Merlino "called the shots" as he and his cohorts "used the health care system as their personal money tree."

In his opening statements at the fraud trial, defense attorney Edwin Jacobs said his client was framed by cooperating criminals with incentive to lie to save their own skins.

Jacobs says Merlino is "accused of a bunch of crimes he didn't commit."


12:10 a.m.

A reputed Philadelphia mob boss known for beating murder raps and reinventing himself as a restaurateur is facing fraud charges in a federal trial in New York City.

Opening statements in the trial of Joseph "Skinny Joey" Merlino are set for Tuesday in Manhattan.

The 55-year-old Merlino was among nearly four dozen defendants arrested in a 2016 crackdown on an East Coast syndicate that prosecutors say committed crimes including extortion, loan-sharking, casino-style gambling and health care fraud. It operated in New York, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Florida and New Jersey.

Most of the defendants pleaded guilty to lesser charges, with Merlino the only one so far to go to trial. He has pleaded not guilty to charges he conspired to bill insurers for unnecessary and excessive prescriptions for expensive compound creams in exchange for kickbacks.