METRO Mob boss pleads guilty to illegal gambling to avoid retrial

Mob boss pleads guilty to illegal gambling to avoid retrial

Reputed wiseguy Joey “Skinny Joey” Merlino got the OK to remove his ankle bracelet Friday after he pleaded guilty to a single count of illegal gambling that will allow him to avoid retrial — and everybody was happy but the judge.

Merlino, the reputed head of the Philadelphia mob, had his initial case dismissed in January after a Manhattan federal jury was unable to reach a verdicton allegations that he engaged in illegal gambling, loansharking, health care fraud and racketeering.

Rather than retry him, the feds agreed to let him cop to the least serious count in his indictment.

Illegal gambling carries a maximum of two years in the slammer. Racketeering, by contrast, carries a maximum 20 years in prison.

Merlino declined to comment on the slap-on-the-wrist deal Friday — but the judge who oversaw his January mistrial wasn’t exactly thrilled with it.

“We asked the jury to deliberate for days after sitting through a trial that lasted weeks in a case that was prepared for a year,” a peeved Judge Richard Sullivan told prosecutors, who arranged Merlino’s guilty plea.

“Sheldon Silver is going on next week. They should have called that one off, too?” the judge snarked, referring to the corruption retrial of the ex-state political powerhouse, which starts Monday.

The government is recommending that Merlino get 10 to 16 months behind bars under the deal. But in the end, Merlino’s sentence is at the discretion of the judge — who seemed to indicate he may force him to do the full two years.

Prosecutor Max Nicholas said the government believed that the deal was “an appropriate result” of the mistrial.

Merlino, 56, will be sentenced Sept. 13.

On his way out of court, Merlino, who lives in Boca Raton, Fla., gave a shout-out to recently freed rapper Meek Mill.

Merlino is friendly with Meek, who just got out of the clink after being held for a probation violation.

“I’m glad he’s home with his family where he belongs,” Merlino said, adding that he’s been texting with the rapper.

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