He’s on trial for federal racketeering — but a reputed Mafioso’s wife is the one who got blindsided by a mob rat in Manhattan court Wednesday.
Gangland snitch John “Junior’’ Rubeo testified that accused Philadelphia crime boss Joseph “Skinny Joey’’ Merlino had a goumada, prompting gasps from some of the reputed Mafioso’s two dozen beefy supporters sitting in the federal courtroom — and his wife Deborah’s face to freeze in shock.
When the judge called a break a short time later, Deborah Merlino slowly got up and walked out, trailed by her hubby’s retinue with Joey following a short distance behind.
The couple huddled in the hallway, talking in hushed tones while surrounded by their entourage, which then blocked the doors to an elevator car as Joey and Deborah got in.
During the lunch break, Joey approached a Post reporter outside the courthouse and vainly tried to rewrite history, saying: “Don’t put the girl in,” referring to his alleged former mistress.
Rubeo dropped the bombshell claim of Merlino’s affair during his cross-examination.
Rubeo had been testifying about the role of an unidentified pharmaceutical saleswoman in an insurance-fraud scam that Merlino allegedly ran when he unexpectedly blurted out, “Listen, he got caught sleeping with her.”
“He ended the relationship with her. It was his connection. He said, ‘She sends things to my house, my wife is going to find out,’ ” Rubeo added.
Defense lawyer Edwin Jacobs Jr. apparently couldn’t believe his ears and asked Rubeo, “So now you are telling us that Joey slept with this rep?”
“Yes, that’s what he told me,” the former Genovese crime-family associate said.
Deborah Merlino’s scowling at Rubeo quickly turned to a look of shock.
Still, Rubeo’s out-of-the-blue testimony wasn’t the first time Joey and Deborah’s relationship has been rocked by courtroom allegations of infidelity.
In 2003, drug dealer William Rinick — an associate of Joey’s — testified while on trial for murder that he once drove Deborah to Maryland for an abortion following her affair with an unidentified pro football player from New York, which occurred while Joey was in the slammer.
At the time, Joey’s lawyer dismissed Rinick’s claim as made-up retaliation against Deborah for testifying against him. But the prosecutor in the case told The Post that it was believed that Deborah had cheated on her hubby and the trip to the Maryland abortion clinic took place — although Rinick was believed to have been the lover.
In 2001, Rinick was busted in his underwear during a drug raid at Joey and Deborah’s South Philly townhouse, three days after Joey was sentenced to 14 years in prison for racketeering.
Authorities said Rinick was found hiding under a bed, but he testified he was reaching for a prosthetic leg he began using after a motorcycle crash in his teens.
By KEVIN SHEEHAN, BRUCE GOLDING
Source: NY Post