Law enforcement officials say Merola (whose name was legally changed from Knapik) has been an important figure in the Gambino Crime Family and has worked closely with an ally in the Lucchese Crime Family on racketeering ventures.
Investigators have linked Merola to corruption in Springfield-based Local 825 of the International Union of Operating Engineers and Newark-based Local 1153 of Laborers' International Union of North America (LIUNA). Two union officials were also arested this week.
Through their influence with Local 825, Merola and his Lucchese Family ally allegedly arranged for a $20,000 bribe from a construction company. Prosecutors have charged Martin Taccetta with membership in the Lucchese clan and with engaging in racketeering with Merola. Taccetta is the brother of imprisoned Lucchese bigshot Michael Taccetta. (Martin and Michael Tacchetta shown at right.) Martin's recent racketeering conviction was overturned, and he is awaiting retrial.
Merola is also accused of supervising gambling rings in northern New Jersey and New York State. Those were allegedly run by Merola underlings Ralph Cicalese and Kyle Ragusa. Cicalese is a former investigator of the Essex County Prosecutor's Office.
Before his name change, Knapik was reportedly jailed for almost four years in the 1990s for theft by deception and for distributing a controlled substance.