A longtime mob informant will get another chance, after an appeals court granted his motion for a new trial.
Volkan “The Turk” Mergen wore a wire for more than a decade as an associate of the Gambino and Bonanno crime families. And while his cooperation might have earned him some good will from the feds, they were a little upset with him after he allegedly lied to FBI agents about an arson attack in which he participated.
In 2006, Mergen and several associates headed from Staten Island into New Jersey to pick up gas to be used later in an arson attack. Mergen had let his FBI handlers know the attack might be coming but, the FBI later said, failed to warn them on the day it was to be actually carried out. As preparations were underway, Mergen allegedly found the time to ring up “several” of his girlfriends, according to court records, but not the agents who oversaw him.
Mergen hadn’t been authorized to participate in the crime, and the FBI said Mergan had deliberately failed to notify his handlers so he wouldn’t lose his position as a paid informant; he likely would have been exposed as a snitch if the arson had been interrupted. Mergen said the FBI themselves botched the operation, and turned on him as a scapegoat. Mergen also alleged that his handlers told him, in a conversation he secretly recorded, that he’d done nothing wrong by participating in the attack, evidence that was later barred at trial.
When Mergen subsequently lied to his FBI handlers about a separate crime — the theft of three fake luxury watches worth about $75 — the feds decided they’d had enough. They revoked the special protections he’d been offered, and charged him with drug distribution, an aborted robbery and other offenses that occurred before he became an informant. They also hit him with crimes related to the Travel Act — which bars interstate travel in furtherance of a crime — stemming from his Jersey gasoline errand.
The appeals court now says a lower court screwed up when it allowed Mergen to be charged with the drug dealing and other crimes, since the statute of limitations had already expired. The court also said Mergen’s surreptitiously recorded phone call with his FBI handler should have been admissible. Mergen, who remains in jail, will now have one more shot to avoid the charges.
Read the judge’s decision on the following page.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on August 26, 2014