Trump and ex-Philly mob boss ‘Skinny Joey’ pose for pics at Florida resort

They’re golf-fellas.

Former President Donald Trump posed for a photo at his South Florida resort with convicted Philadelphia mobster Joseph “Skinny Joey” Merlino, according to a report Monday. ​

Trump, 76, ​is flanked by Merlino and his friend in the photo, which was taken earlier this month at the Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach and obtained by the Philadelphia Inquirer. ​

The trio, wearing golf outfits, flash Trump’s customary thumbs-up sign in the pic. 

Trump is wearing a red “Make America Great Again” hat, while Merlino’s friend has a red “Keep America Great” ball cap. 

The Trump 2024 campaign kept the code of omertà when asked by the newspaper if the former president knew Merlino.​

“President Trump takes countless photos with people,” a Trump spokesperson ​said after the Inquirer shared a copy of the photo. “That does not mean he knows every single person he comes in contact with.”

Former President Donald Trump in Ohio on Nov. 7, 2022. He posed for a photo with convicted Philly mobster :Skinny Joey" Merlino, according to a report.
Former President Donald Trump in Ohio on Nov. 7, 2022. He posed for a photo with convicted Philly mobster “Skinny Joey” Merlino, according to a report.
Bloomberg via Getty Images

The photo with Merlino, who spent time in federal prison on racketeering, illegal gambling and extortion charges, raises questions about the vetting process around the former president. 

Trump sparked criticism in November when he dined at Mar-a-Lago with Kanye West, who had made headlines for anti-Semitic comments, and Nick Fuentes, a white nationalist who arrived at the Florida resort with the embattled rapper. 

The dinner took place one week after Trump announced that he would launch a third White House run in 2024. 

The 45th president said he didn’t know Fuentes and that the Holocaust denier who took part in racist demonstrations in Charlottesville, Va., in 2017 showed up at the resort with West.

Later, Trump said he met with West, who goes by Ye, because the rapper had lost endorsement deals worth billions with Adidas, Vogue, Balenciaga and other major companies for saying he would go “death con 3 on JEWISH PEOPLE.”

Trump called West a “seriously troubled man.”

"Skinny Joey" Merlino leaves federal court in Lower Manhattan on Feb. 20, 2018.
“Skinny Joey” Merlino leaves federal court in Lower Manhattan on Feb. 20, 2018.

The Inquirer pointed out that Trump and Merlino were both up-and-comers in the Philadelphia region in the mid-’90s.

Trump, already a successful real estate developer in the Big Apple, was running casinos in Atlantic City, while Merlino was carrying out a violent campaign to become a mob boss in Philadelphia and Atlantic City. 

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Trial of Mexico’s former top cop accused of helping El Chapo’s cartel begins in NYC

Opening arguments began Monday in the bribery case of Mexico’s former head of federal police — accused of raking in millions in return for aiding “El Chapo” Guzman’s ruthless Sinaloa cartel.

Genaro García Luna, 54, appeared before a jury in Brooklyn federal court, where prosecutors described him as a a trusted and tremendously powerful public servant who betrayed the Mexican public’s trust in exchange for lots of dinero.

“He kept taking dirty money and cocaine kept flowing into the United States,” Assistant US Attorney Philip Pilmar said.

“Because he controlled the country’s entire police force, the defendant thought he was above the law… No one is above the law.” 

Luna led Mexico’s Federal Investigative Agency from 2001 to 2005, and was named the secretary of public security in 2006 — placing him in charge of the Mexican Federal Police.

He held that role until 2012 — during which time, prosecutors allege, he was on the take.

Courtroom sketch showing a man pointing
Prosecutor Philip Pilmar points at Mexico’s former Public Security Minister Genaro Garcia Luna during opening arguments in Garcia Luna’s trial on charges that he accepted millions of dollars to protect the powerful Sinaloa Cartel.

“While he was expected to work for the Mexican people, he had a second job, a dirtier job, a more profitable job,” Pilmar told the court, adding, “It’s hard for me to explain how powerful he really was because we don’t have any officer in the United States who consolidated that amount of power under them.”

Pilmar accused Luna of doing more than simply turning a blind eye to the Cartel’s drug trade.

The prosecutor said that, in exchange for bribes, Luna provided Cartel soldiers with police uniforms and badges — and even sent his own men as mercenaries to take out enemies of the Sinaloan operation.

“The defendant took some steps not to get caught,” Pilmar said. “He kept up appearances and made some arrests. He let us underlings do the dirty work.

Luna at a podium
Genaro Garcia Luna served as Mexico’s top cop from 2006 to 2012.

“The defendant was a person who was supposed to be in charge of fighting the Sinaloa cartel,” Pilmar said. “Actually, he was their most valued asset.” 

Luna has maintained his innocence, and pleaded not guilty to charges of international cocaine trafficking conspiracy and making false statements.

The allegations against Luna first surfaced during the trial of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman in Brooklyn federal court in 2018, when a key witness described personally dropping off cases containing between $3 million and $5 million.

At the time, Luna vehemently denied the accusations.

“I never had any contact nor received people linked to criminal activity,” he said in a publicly released letter in November 2018.

“I have systematically been defamed as long as I have attacked the interests of organized crime, and they have never produced a single piece of evidence to back up these calumnies,” he claimed.

Sinaloa Cartel boss Joaquin 'El Chapo' Guzman
Former Sinaloa Cartel boss Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman was in power during Luna’s stint as head of Federal Police.

And another cartel heavy — convicted hitman Edgar “la Barbie” Valdez-Villareal — is expected to testify at trial that he, too, personally delivered money to Luna.

An attorney for Luna contended Monday that the prosecution’s key witnesses are all career criminals with an axe to grind against the former cop.

“He waged an all out war against organized crime,” defense attorney Cesar de Castro said of Luna.

“The government’s witnesses are casualties [of that war],” he said. “What better revenge than to bury the man who waged war against the cartels?

“All you have is the worst criminals in the world with overwhelming motives to lie,” he added.

Luna “was a public servant in Mexico for more than 20 years,” de Castro said, noting that he’d rid the ranks of thousands of Federal Police officers suspected of corruption. “He spent his entire career systematically fighting all kinds of criminal organizations.”  

“Don’t let the cartels play you,” he said to the jury. “They are career criminals and professional criminals.” 

This article was originally posted here

Mexican President AMLO says he’ll ‘review’ drug kingpin El Chapo’s request to return home

Mexico’s president said he will consider the desperate plea made by convicted drug kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman to be returned to the country over complaints about the “cruel and unfair” conditions at his high-security US prison.

“We will review it,” President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said Wednesday, before adding: “You always have to keep the door open when it comes to human rights.”

Once one of the most feared and vicious narcotraffickers from Central America, Guzman is now left making his case to be brought home over claims he is experiencing “psychological torment” in his super-max American prison.

The Mexican Embassy in Washington confirmed it received a request from Guzman’s attorney, José Refugio Rodríguez.

The request detailed the infamous drug peddler’s complaints about US prison, including issues with the quality of medical care, food and lack of sunlight. The email from Rodríguez was turned over to Mexico’s Foreign Relations Department.

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador
Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said Wednesday that his government will review El Chapo’s request to return home to carry out his sentence.
AFP via Getty Images

Guzman, 64, was extradited to the US in 2017 and has since been locked up at a super-max federal prison in Colorado. He was given a life sentence in 2019.

His attorney painted a picture of the horrrible living conditions his client has suffered through the past few years — including dismal health care, zero sunlight and disgusting food.

“He doesn’t see the sun, the food is of very bad quality, there is no health care,” Rodríguez told reporters.

el chapo
The notorious kingpin has complained about the quality of food, health care and lack of sunlight in his Colorado prison.
Bloomberg via Getty Images
Colorado prison
El Chapo is currently being held at a maximum security prison in Colorado.
AFP via Getty Images

“He had a problem with his molars and instead of treating them, they took them out so he wouldn’t fuss,” Rodríguez added. “He is hurting in a trial that was not in accordance with due process.”

His attorney said he considers Guzman’s request to be transferred home “an SOS” for help.

The Sinaloa cartel founder had his bid to overturn his federal conviction shot down last year. Since then, his legacy has been taken over by his 32-year-old son Ovidio Guzman-Lopez.

His jailed son, nicknamed “El Raton,” or “The Mouse” was moved to a maximum-security prison in Mexico after his arrest triggered an outbreak of gang violence.

The US and Mexico have a prison transfer agreement that, under certain circumstances, allows convicted inmates in one country to carry out their sentences in their home country. However, given Guzman’s extensive crimes and life sentence, it is uncertain whether the agreement could apply in his case.

With Post wires

This article was originally posted here