Merlino, known as "Skinny Joey," is living in a cookie-cutter development still partly under construction off Interstate 95. It's unclear what he's doing in South Florida or whether his wife and children are with him.
The Miami Herald reports Merlino said he's now in the carpet-installing business.
A telephone listing for Merlino could not be found. He declined comment to the Miami Herald.
Merlino was allegedly the acting boss of the Philadelphia-South Jersey mob when he was arrested in June 1999 on drug charges.
He was also tried and acquitted of ordering the 1996 killing of a northern New Jersey mob associate, Joseph Sodano, who was found in his minivan on a Newark street, shot twice in the head.
"The word we got is Joey has a benefactor, he has somebody pumping money into him. How else could he get out of prison and move into a $400,000 house and drive a Mercedes," said Stephen LaPenta, a retired Philadelphia police lieutenant who worked undercover as a mob informant. "It's trouble for South Florida in the sense that because Joey is there, others will follow."
LaPenta described Merlino as a heavy drinker, gambler and womanizer.