Dennis Virelli Facing More Federal Charges Of Drug-trafficking

Posted: September 18, 1999

Federal authorities yesterday continued tightening the vise on mob associate Dennis Virelli, announcing an indictment that charges him with directing a ring of secret drug labs that made $1 million worth of methamphetamine in Pennsylvania and South Jersey.

Virelli, 52, a former South Jersey contractor already serving a 10-year federal sentence for his conviction last year in a drug-racketeering case, was indicted Wednesday with nine alleged accomplices, including his son Michael, 32. Michael Virelli is a federal prisoner awaiting sentencing in New Jersey on a counterfeiting and drug-trafficking conviction.

Dennis Virelli's longtime attorney, Craig R. Mitnick, could not be reached for comment.

In an interview earlier this year, Mitnick said he expected Dennis Virelli to be indicted by the grand jury in Philadelphia and that his client would never cooperate in the ongoing prosecutions of the region's reputed organized crime bosses, Ralph Natale and Joseph "Skinny Joey" Merlino.

Dennis Virelli's cooperation has long been sought by prosecutors because of the depth of his information and knowledge earned through his long-standing and lucrative methamphetamine operation and his long association not only with Natale and Merlino but with outlaw motorcycle gangs in Pennsylvania and South Jersey.

Dennis Virelli is serving a 10-year no-parole prison term for his conviction involving the South Philadelphia methamphetamine ring led by the late Louis Turra.

Last October, New Jersey authorities turned up the heat on Dennis Virelli, indicting him and 13 others on charges of heading a multimillion-dollar drug ring that distributed methamphetamine, cocaine, marijuana and Valium in South Jersey and Southeastern Pennsylvania.

Now he is facing new federal charges that could put him in prison for the rest of his life.

Although the new federal indictment involves drug trafficking in the two states between 1994 and May 1997, Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert K. Gordon said the charges were separate from the pending New Jersey prosecution.

Specifically, the new indictment alleges that Dennis Virelli directed the production of the illegal stimulant, also known as speed, at six secret labs: one in South Philadelphia; two in Pottstown in Montgomery County; and three in South Jersey, in Pitman, Blackwood and Monroe Township.

Some defendants, however, are common to one or more of the Virelli prosecutions.

Brian Elliott, 31, a construction contractor from Erial in Camden County, who the new indictment alleges established the three South Jersey meth labs, was charged in New Jersey last year as Dennis Virelli's partner in that $15 million-a-year operation.

Phillip Andrews, 42, charged in the new indictment with helping manufacture methamphetamine for Dennis Virelli in Pottstown, pleaded guilty to methamphetamine charges in a case related to the Turra-Virelli case and was sentenced last year to a 10-year no-parole prison term.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric Bentley said one of the 10 defendants still was being sought by authorities: John E. Britt, 61, of the 2000 block of East Birch Street in Kensington.

Bentley said five other defendants were ordered held in federal custody pending formal bail hearings Wednesday before a federal magistrate judge. One defendant was released on bail.

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