Salvatore ‘Chuckie’ Merlino was born in Atlantic City, NJ, on June 29, 1939. He was officially initiated into the Philadelphia crime family in 1980 by Phil ‘Chicken Man’ Testa, along with his brother Lawrence ‘Yogi’ Merlino. Following the death of the then boss Testa, Nicodemo ‘Little Nicky’ Scarfo took over as head of the family in the early 1980s, and quickly promoted long-time friend Chuckie to underboss. They’d apparently been friends since their teenage years. Merlino even served as acting boss for a time while Scarfo was serving time for a weapons violation.
At one point, Chuckie’s daughter, Maria, was engaged to a rising star in the Philly Mob, Salvatore ‘Salvie’ Testa. Salvie was the son of former boss Phil Testa – and his popularity within the family was beginning to take the spotlight away from Nicky Scarfo. It’s often said that Scarfo was enraged by this, and was just waiting for a reason to get rid of Salvie. His chance came when Salvie broke off the wedding to Maria, prompting Chuckie Merlino to seek permission from Scarfo to assassinate Salvie. On September 14, 1984, Salvie was found shot to death at the side of a road in New Jersey. He was just 28 years old.
As time went by, Merlino developed a drinking problem and became an alcoholic. This often led to unpredictable behavior. In 1986, he reportedly got into an argument with members of the Pagan’s Motorcycle Club – and then ran over one of them. The Pagans retaliated by shooting up his listed home address. However, the house actually belonged to Merlino’s mother, though, thankfully, she was unharmed. Following this, a paranoid Scarfo demoted Merlino to soldier and promoted ‘Crazy’ Philip Leonetti (Scarfo’s nephew) to underboss. Lawrence also found himself demoted – for no other reason than the fact he was Chuckie’s brother.
A short time after this, Merlino was one of 17 alleged mobsters – which included his brother Lawrence – indicted for racketeering. He was found guilty of RICO, RICO conspiracy, taking part in an illegal gambling business and two counts of drug distribution. On May 10, 1989, Merlino was sentenced to 45 years in federal prison.
Lawrence Merlino became a cooperating witness. He died whilst in the witness protection program in 2001.
Chuckie Merlino was serving his time at the Federal Correctional Institute, Fort Worth, Texas, which is a low security facility. His projected release date was August 3, 2016. However, he died on October 22, 2012, at the age of 73. He had served almost a quarter of a century behind bars. He had reportedly been sick for a while, and died of natural causes.
Salvatore ‘Chuckie’ Merlino is the father of reputed Philadelphia mobster and ‘former boss’ Joseph ‘Skinny Joey’ Merlino.
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