- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 25, 2004

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — An organized-crime trial starting this week may turn on the testimony of an aging former gangster whose life of crime began before he learned how to walk.

Pete “the Crumb” Caprio, 74, is a key prosecution witness against reputed Philadelphia-South Jersey crime boss Joseph “Skinny Joey” Merlino, 42, who faces murder and other charges stemming from the killing of a mob captain eight years ago.

Mr. Caprio testified in an earlier trial that Mr. Merlino assigned him to have Joseph Sodano killed and that he then gave the job to an associate, Philip Casale Jr. Mr. Caprio didn’t know that Mr. Casale had been taping their conversations for federal authorities.

The victim reportedly had angered Mr. Merlino by failing to give in to demands for a bigger cut of his enterprises in northern New Jersey.

“He said, ‘Bang him out,’” Mr. Caprio testified. “In other words, kill him.”

Mr. Caprio is testifying in hopes of receiving a reduced sentence for his role in the murder.

His life of crime began when he was a baby; his father hid payoffs in his stroller and rolled him around Newark.

Jury selection in federal court is scheduled for tomorrow, and Mr. Merlino’s trial is expected to last about two months.

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