- The Washington Times - Monday, January 23, 2023

Philadelphia ex-mob boss Joseph “Skinny Joey” Merlino said former President Donald Trump didn’t know who he was when he posed for a photograph with him earlier this month at Trump International Golf Course in Florida.

“The guy had no idea who I was,” Merlino said in a brief phone interview with The Philadelphia Inquirer on Monday. “I’m a golfer. There were 100 people in line waiting to take pictures. He takes pictures with everybody. He’s the nicest guy in the world.”

He called Mr. Trump “the greatest president we’ve ever had.”

Mr. Trump posed for the photo with Merlino at the club in West Palm Beach. The two and an unidentified third man flashed Mr. Trump’s customary “thumbs-up” hand signs while wearing golfing attire.

The Inquirer obtained a copy of the photo, which created a stir on social media on Monday.

A Trump spokesman told The Washington Times, “President Trump takes countless photos with people. That does not mean he knows every single person he comes into contact with.”

Merlino was a leader of an organized crime operation active in Philadelphia and Atlantic City. He was convicted in 2001 in a racketeering case and served about 10 years in federal prison.

More recently, Merlino received a two-year sentence in October 2018 on a guilty plea to a gambling-related charge.

Mr. Trump has been criticized for meeting late last year with white nationalist Nick Fuentes and rapper Kanye West at his Mar-a-Lago club in Florida. He later said he didn’t know who Mr. Fuentes was. 

• Dave Boyer can be reached at dboyer@washingtontimes.com.

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