January 10, 2020 — The feds are coming after reputed low-level New York mob figure Pete Tuccio with a vengeance. Could the reason be his cozy relationship with Philadelphia mafia don Joseph (Skinny Joey) Merlino, Public Enemy No. 1 for east coast mob busters since the 1990s? Conventional wisdom would say yes.
Tuccio saw even more charges levied against him over the Christmas holidays, as U.S. prosecutors in New York added loan sharking and additional arson and extortion counts to his federal racketeering case, per Jerry Capeci’s most recent Gangland News column. Capeci is the leading mob journalist in America and has penned his weekly New York mafia rundown for the past three decades.
The 27-year old Tuccio blasted on to the scene in a major way starting in 2017 when he began ferrying Skinny Joey Merlino around the Big Apple while Merlino faced his own set of racketeering charges out of New York. Tuccio, who is linked to both New York’s Gambino and Lucchese crime families, also accompanied Merlino on trips to Philly and North Jersey where he congregated with a number of Bruno-Scarfo crime family members and top associates. He is the nephew of Lucchese captain Joseph (Joe Café) DeSena and in the 2010s allegedly worked for respected Gambino crew chief Ignazio (Uncle Iggy) Alonga.
Merlino, 57, pleaded guilty to an illegal gambling count in his case and did 18 months in prison, getting released back in the fall to a Florida halfway house. Following a 12-year stint behind bars for a 2001 racketeering conviction, Merlino moved to Boca Raton and has allegedly run his Philly mob empire from afar, making visits, but keeping order on a daily basis through a series of intermediaries and front bosses.
Tuccio will go to trial later year and faces a mandatory minimum of 15 years in prison if found guilty — he’s free on bond awaiting his time in front of a jury. Per his indictment, Tuccio is accused of collecting $5,000 worth of street tax from a Queens pizza parlor owner being shaken down by Uncle Iggy Alonga, torching the victim’s car in the process as an intimidation tactic. The superseding December 2019 indictment threw in a second extortion via arson count and allegations of giving out juice loans.
Alonga, a confidant of legendary Gambino boss John Gotti, died of natural causes in 2017. Tuccio’s uncle, Joe Café DeSena, began his mob career with the Gambinos before ascending up the latter in the Lucchese clan. DeSena, 69, headquarters out of Caffe Napoli in Little Italy.
Merlino has ties to the Lucchese’s New Jersey wing, known as the Perna crew and got caught up with the Genovese crime family and its Bronx capo Patsy Parrello in the 2016 “East Coast LCN” case. Tuccio has connections to Joseph (Little Joe) Perna, a friend of Merlino’s and a soldier in the Lucchese’s New Jersey faction under his dad, skipper Ralph Perna.
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