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Loose lips sink organized crime informant: Podcast appearance could land mobster-turned-witness behind bars again

New York Daily News logo New York Daily News 10/29/2020 Larry McShane

Mob informant John Rubeo just didn’t know when to keep his mouth shut.

A irate federal judge, after reading in the Daily News about the Genovese associate’s recent podcast admission to a continued life of crime while a cooperating witness, suggested Rubeo’s loose lips could land him back behind bars.

“I’m not a rube and I’m not going to be manipulated the way the FBI was during the investigation,” promised Manhattan Federal Court Judge Richard Sullivan at a hearing earlier this month. "He says on this podcast, ‘I’m probably going to get in trouble for this.'

“So this was a decision that was made because Rubeo likes attention. And that’s fine. But there’s going to be a price to be paid for that.”

The judge’s comments were initially reported on the GanglandNews.com website, with Sullivan arranging the hearing after reading Rubeo’s unrepentant remarks in The News last month. Rubeo was a key informant against reputed Philadelphia mob boss “Skinny Joey” Merlino, who received a sweetheart 2018 plea deal after his first prosecution ended in a mistrial.

Rubeo, after receiving a 15-month sentence from Sullivan for his cooperation, acknowledged during his 85 minutes of podcast fame that he destroyed evidence and “mangled” the case against Merlino with his half-hearted cooperation.

Joey Merlino standing in front of a building: Joseph “Skinny Joey” Merlino is seen leaving Manhattan Federal Court Feb. 20, 2018. © Provided by New York Daily News Joseph “Skinny Joey” Merlino is seen leaving Manhattan Federal Court Feb. 20, 2018.

Joseph “Skinny Joey” Merlino is seen leaving Manhattan Federal Court Feb. 20, 2018. (Alec Tabak/)

While Merlino was freed this past July, Rubeo’s mouth could return him to a prison cell.

“I can’t believe that this guy, after getting a sentence of time served, given the nonsense that went on during this period of cooperation ... has the poor judgement to do this,” fumed Sullivan. “It was a sprawling conversation about organized crime ... I think if anything, it sort of glorifies it by perpetuating it.”

Rubeo admitted deleting a year’s worth of cell phone interactions with Merlino before surrendering the device to federal agents working on a massive 2016 racketeering case. And he confessed that crime really paid once he flipped to work for the feds.

a man looking at the camera: John Rubeo is pictured in this file photo. © Provided by New York Daily News John Rubeo is pictured in this file photo.

John Rubeo is pictured in this file photo.

“I almost felt like I could be a better criminal because I worked for them, because I knew they weren’t watching me,” confessed Rubeo on the podcast hosted by a pair of ex-organized crime associates.

“I was committing more crimes when I was working for them than when I was on the street, and they were paying me $15,000 a month.”

Sullivan scoffed at claims by prosecutors and Rubeo’s attorney Louis Fasulo that the podcast appearance was intended as a cautionary tale about the mob life for listeners. And the judge noted Rubeo violated the conditions of his release by associating with the two “known felons” who co-host the podcast.

“Imagine my surprise when I read in the Daily News that Mr. Rubeo is appearing on podcasts with other convicted felons to talk about his history in the mob and his history as an informant and a cooperator and everything else,” said Sullivan. “... To spin it now and say, ‘Oh well, my motives were pure because it was designed to tell people not to get involved in the life,’ is also just, I think preposterous."

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