The New York families first oversaw the city of Providence, Rhode Island, with its heavy Italian population, before the leadership came from Boston. The city became an important underworld power base after the emergence of Raymond L. S. Patriarca. The area, and gang members operating there, were considered by law enforcement officials as part of the Boston organized crime family. In the mid-1950s, when Patriarca took over the family leadership and ran his operations out of Providence, the criminal organization began to be referred to as the New England crime family.|
There is not much information about organized crime in New England. The few books that are available tend to contradict each other on the leadership of the mob during teens, 1920s and 1930s. In Vincent Teresa’s “My Life in the Mafia,” he discusses Frank “Butsey” Morelli, one of five brothers who moved into New England from Brooklyn during World War I. Running his criminal operations from Rhode Island, he also controlled parts of Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New Hampshire. Morelli maintained control of this area from 1917 to 1947 when he was dying of cancer. Teresa reveals that Morelli began to drink heavily and to lose control of both his rackets and his men. One of the things that got Morelli into trouble was his testimony before a grand jury in June 1947. Morelli had been called to testify for harboring Doris Coppola, the wife of New York City mobster “Trigger Mike” Coppola, and her father. The two were on the run to avoid questioning about Coppola’s participation in the November 1946 beating death of Joseph Scottoriggio, a Republican district captain. Joseph Lombardo, who Teresa claims was running the Boston family, put Philip Buccola in charge and allowed Morelli to die peacefully.
Prior to Morelli’s death in the early 1950s, Teresa said Morelli confessed to him that his gang was responsible for the 1920 murders for which Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti were executed. The trial of Sacco and Vanzetti for the double murder of two shoe company employees in South Braintree, Massachusetts drew national attention because the two were self-described anarchists who claimed they were being persecuted by the government. According to Teresa, Morelli told him, “These two suckers took it on the chin for us. That shows you how much justice there really is.”
Raymond Salvatore Loreda Patriarca was born in Worcester, Massachusetts on St. Patrick’s Day in 1908. He was three years old when the family moved to Providence, Rhode Island where he father operated a liquor store. Patriarca’s early life was uneventful until his father died in 1925. Just seventeen, Patriarca was arrested and convicted of breaking prohibition laws in Connecticut. Over the next thirteen years his arrests included failing to stop for a policeman, breaking and entering, white slavery, and masterminding a jail-break in which a prison guard and a trusty were killed. During his lifetime, Patriarca was arrested or indicted 28 times, convicted seven times, imprisoned four times, and served eleven years in prison. More than half of his prison time was for a murder conspiracy charge during the 1960s.
From an early age he possessed the right combination of brawn and brains that would make him successful in his chosen field. Patriarca gained a reputation for fairness, but if crossed he could be the most ruthless of men. He was once described by a Massachusetts state policeman as, “just the toughest guy you ever saw.”
During the prohibition years, Patriarca served his apprenticeship in Providence, first as an associate and later as a member of the New York Mafia. In the late 1920s, he was involved with prostitution and hijacking.
In 1938, Patriarca participated in the robbery of a Brookline, Massachusetts jewelry store. He was convicted of carrying a gun without a permit, possession of burglar’s tools, and armed robbery. He was sentenced from 3 to 5 years in the state prison. Less than three months into the sentence Patriarca was paroled setting off a political corruption storm in the wake of his release. The ensuing investigation lasted three years and in 1941 Daniel H. Coakley, a Massachusetts Governor’s Councilor, was impeached and removed from office.
The leadership of the Boston / New England crime family from the 1930s to the early 1950s is as murky as the water that flows along the Charles River. Vincent Teresa’s book, “My Life in the Mafia,” claims that Joseph Lombardo “replaced” Morelli with Buccola, which obviously indicates that Lombardo outranked Buccola. In the book “The Underboss,” the authors state that Lombardo ran gambling and loansharking as second in command to Buccola. The same authors later state that when Gennaro Angiulo, the focus of their book, wanted to take over Boston’s bookmaking operations in 1951, he went to Lombardo to get permission. The writers can’t even seem to agree on the spelling of Buccola’s last name. It is listed many places as Bruccola. What everyone does agree on is that Buccola was in charge in 1954 when he fled to Sicily leaving control of the family in the hands of Patriarca.
After getting out of prison in 1938, Patriarca returned to Providence where his influence and power increased during the 1940s. During this period he is said to have become the driving force behind, and heir apparent to, what would become the New England Crime Family. By the early 1950s, it was “impossible to be a major figure in crime in New England and not have to deal with Patriarca.”
His rise included murder and building political influence. Patriarca’s only rival in Providence was Irishman Carlton O’Brien, a former bootlegger who went into gambling and took control of the race-wire service. Patriarca’s men shot O’Brien to death in 1952. Records from illegal FBI bugs placed in Patriarca’s office from 1962 to 1965 indicate many political payoffs to the governor’s office, legislators and judges in both Rhode Island and Massachusetts, although authorities later said that his political contacts did not yield much. He once tried to use these connections to get Larry Zannino, one of his top lieutenants, paroled from prison but failed.
When the Kefauver hearings began in 1950, the old-time leadership in Boston was in fear that the publicity might expose them and their operations. Lombardo ordered all bookmaking operations shut down, or to operate without a central lay off bank and without police protection. During the Kefauver threat the bookmakers lost Lombardo’s protection service, but gained more freedom to operate. This overreaction to the Kefauver hearings, which never materialized in Boston, opened the door for Gennaro Angiulo to move in on the gambling operations in the city.
By the late 1950s, Angiulo was being shaken down regularly by mob heavies in Boston because he was not a made member of the family. Angiulo solved this problem by taking $50,000 down to Patriarca in Providence and promising him an additional $100,000 a year. These payments led to Angiulo becoming a made member of the family without having to “make his bones” as other members were required. The Patriarca / Angiulo relationship was strictly financial. Angiulo was never well liked or respected, but as long as he kept the money flowing into Providence, he had the backing and protection of Patriarca.
With the retirement of Buccola in 1954, Providence became the center of the New England Family’s operations. From a wood-frame, two-story building in Providence, Patriarca kept his office and ran his crime empire. The building housed the National Cigarette Service Company and Coin-O-Matic Distributors, a vending machine and pinball business, on Atwell Avenue on what is called Federal Hill. Made members of organized crime there were called “members of the Office.” Vincent Teresa described Atwell as a noisy open-air market, that was also an armed camp with “spotters” located everywhere. This set up was very similar to other popular mob-run areas like Mulberry Street in Manhattan’s Little Italy; Arthur Avenue in the Bronx; and Prince Street in Boston.
Patriarca had a “polished way” with the police and the public. From his Atwell Avenue office, he held court and sorted out both domestic and crime family disputes. In “The Underboss,” the authors report that Patriarca was involved, “in a complex maze of interests, he completely controlled some markets, especially those involving gambling, loansharking, and pornography, and dabbled in others such as truck hijacking and drug traffic, in which free-lancers negotiated a fee to do business.” However, according to Teresa, Patriarca had a hard and fast rule on narcotics and there was nothing worse than dealing in drugs as far as the boss was concerned. Teresa stated there was no reason for gang members to be dealing. “No one in the New England mob ever starved, whether they were made guys or working for the organization. Patriarca wasn't like Genovese or old Joe Profaci. He made sure his men got paid well."
Over the years, Patriarca built a relationship with the New York Genovese and Profaci / Colombo Crime Families. The New York families in the past had exercised control over Providence, and Patriarca was considered their man. Patriarca’s underboss, Henry Tameleo, was a member of the Bonanno Crime Family. Part of Patriarca’s dealings with the Genovese Family was over territorial matters with the New England Family. The Connecticut River was considered the dividing line between the New York and New England Families. The Genovese Family exercised control in Hartford, Springfield, and Albany, while the cities of Worcester and Boston, as well as the state of Maine were under New England.
In “The Underboss,” Patriarca was said to be, “a member of the ruling Mafia commission in New York, he also had some national investments, holding hidden interests in two Las Vegas casinos and pieces of deals in Florida and Philadelphia.”
In the wake of the Apalachin summit, the FBI began their pursuit of organized crime in earnest. When Robert Kennedy became Attorney General, he launched an aggressive program to place listening devices in as many mob-meeting places as possible. Agents also worked at developing informants within the ranks of organized crime.
One of the criminals they eventually turned was New England Family associate Joseph Barboza. Nicknamed “The Animal,” Barboza was born to Portuguese parents in 1932 in New Bedford, Massachusetts. He became a cold-blooded killer who claimed to have murdered 26 men. Barboza would become known as the Joe Valachi of the New England Family. In trouble since the age of twelve, he was in and out of reformatories and prisons before hooking up with the mob in 1958. By 1966, Barboza had worn out his welcome with organized crime. In October, he was arrested in Boston’s infamous “Combat Zone” on a concealed weapons charge and bond was set at $100,000. Barboza grew concerned when his bail wasn’t furnished by either Patriarca or Angiulo. Five weeks later, Barboza was still languishing in jail as two friends tried to scrape together money to get him released. Arthur “Tash” Bratsos and Thomas J. DePrisco, Jr. had collected $59,000. In November they visited the “Nite Lite Café,” managed by “Ralphie Chang” Lamattina, to do a little fund raising. Both men were shot to death and dumped in South Boston to make it look like a rival Irish gang murdered them. Not only were Barboza’s two pals dead, but the $59,000 was missing too.
The FBI began diligent efforts to turn Barboza. In December, Joe Amico, another friend of Barboza’s was murdered. The following month, after a ten-day trial, Barboza was sentenced to a five-year term at Walpole on the weapons charges. In June 1967, Barboza started talking. On June 20, Patriarca and Tameleo were indicted for conspiracy to kill for the 1966 murder of Providence bookmaker Willie Marfeo. On August 9, Angiulo was accused of participating in the murder of Rocco DiSeglio. Finally in October, Tameleo and Peter Limone, an Angiulo bodyguard, were charged with the March 1965 murder of Edward “Teddy” Deegan.
In the first trial, Angiulo was found not guilty after a jury deliberated for less than two hours. None of the jurors had found Barboza believable. The second trial, however, had a different outcome. Patriarca was found guilty of conspiracy to kill Willie Marfeo who was murdered by four shotgun blasts in a telephone booth at a Federal Hill restaurant. While the trials were going on, the mob tried to get at Barboza by planting a bomb in the car of his attorney, John Fitzgerald. The blast resulted in Fitzgerald losing his right leg below the knee. The FBI kept Barboza on the move to prevent the mob from finding him. One of the hiding places was an officer’s quarters located at Fort Knox. In May 1968, the Deegan trial began. After fifty days of testimony and deliberations, the jury returned a guilty verdict.
Barboza had done an impressive job. Of the three trials he testified at, two ended in guilty verdicts resulting in four gang members on death row, two in prison for life, and Patriarca on his way to the Atlanta Federal Penitentiary. For his testimony, Barboza was given a one-year prison term, including time served. He was paroled in March 1969 and told to leave Massachusetts forever. In 1971, he pleaded guilty to a second-degree murder charge in California and sentenced to five years at Folsom Prison. Less than three months after his release he was murdered in San Francisco by Joseph “J. R.” Russo on February 11, 1976.
In March 1969, Raymond Patriarca began his prison term. While serving time, he received a ten-year sentence from Rhode Island for conspiring to kill Willie Marfeo’s brother, Rudolph, and Anthony Melei. Both were shot gunned to death on April 20, 1968 in Providence. Patriarca completed his federal sentence in April 1973 and was transferred to a Rhode Island prison where he remained until paroled on January 9, 1975. During the six years Patriarca was behind bars he continued to run his crime family from prison.
Charges continued to plague Patriarca for the rest of his life. In 1978, Vincent Teresa testified that he was present in 1960 when the CIA gave the mob a $4 million dollar contract to murder Cuban leader Fidel Castro. Teresa stated that Patriarca helped select Maurice (Pro) Werner, a Brookline, Massachusetts convict to kill Castro, but the plot was never carried out. In December 1983, Patriarca was charged with ordering the 1965 murder of Raymond “ “Baby” Curcio. The murder was in response to Curcio and Teresa burglarizing the home of Patriarca’s brother Joseph. Finally on March 13, 1984, Patriarca was arrested, while in the hospital, for ordering the 1968 murder of bank robber Robert Candos. Patriarca believed Candos was going to testify against him.
Raymond Patriarca died on July 11, 1984 after suffering a heart attack at the home of a girlfriend. He was 76 years old.
On September 19, 1983, FBI agents arrested Jerry Angiulo, three of his brothers and two other associates in a Boston Restaurant. In the wake of Patriarca’s death in 1984, Angiulo, although still in jail awaiting trail, was hoping to succeed to the top spot. But it was not to be. Disliked in Providence, Angiulo was demoted to a mere soldier when top lieutenant, Larry Zannino, threw his support behind the late mob boss’s son, Raymond J. “Junior” Patriarca. One Providence police official stated. “If that job had gone to Jerry Angiulo, we would have bodies all over the place.”
According to the Boston newspapers, the national commission had to approve Junior’s ascendancy, which they did in early 1985. Patriarca quickly rewarded Zannino for his backing by appointing him consigliere. In early May 1985, Zannino was ordered jailed by a United States Magistrate. Over the next two years Zannino feigned health problems to keep from going to trial. When he was finally ordered to appear in 1987, he was found guilty. Sentenced to 30 years in prison, he died there on March 6, 1996.
In August 1985, another of the old-timers passed away. Henry Tameleo died in prison of respiratory failure. He had served 17 years of a life sentence for his role in the Deegan murder. At the time, Tameleo was looking forward to a December parole date. He died the oldest inmate in the Massachusetts prison system at age 84.
On February 26, 1986, Gennaro Angiulo, two of his brothers and an associate were convicted on the 1983 racketeering charges. Angiulo, who had been in prison since the indictment, was sentenced to 45 years in prison and fined $120,000.
With Angiulo in prison, the role of underboss went to Francesco “Paul” Intiso. A contemporary and friend of the elder Patriarca, Intiso served as a kind of caretaker until his death in 1985. His role as underboss, according to authorities, was filled by William P. “The Wild Man” Grasso of New Haven, Connecticut. Grasso had a close working relationship with the crime families of New York. Some crime authorities believe the underboss position went to 70 year-old Charles Quintino of Revere, Massachusetts because Junior needed someone closer to home to oversee the Boston operations. One of the capos in the new regime was Joseph “J. R.” Russo, the assassin of Joe Barboza. Russo had assumed control of the East Boston – Revere area.
The leadership abilities of Junior Patriarca were in question by law enforcement experts. Some experts believed that Grasso, with his New York City connections, was the real power in New England. If he was, his reign was short lived. On June 16, 1989, the 62 year-old Grasso was found along the banks of the Connecticut River with a bullet in the back of his head.
In the aftermath of the Grasso murder, Nicholas “Nicky” Bianco of Providence was considered by the FBI the “unofficial” head of the Providence operations with Junior serving as a titular head. Also continuing to rise in 1989 was J. R. Russo. The same day Grasso was found dead, Frances P. “Cadillac Frank” Salemme was shot and seriously wounded in Saugus, Massachusetts. Russo’s step brother Robert “Bobby Russo” Carrozza was suspected in the shooting.
On March 26, 1990, Junior Patriarca and 20 reputed family members were indicted on charges that included racketeering, gambling, extortion, drug trafficking and murder. The RICO indictment named Bianco as the underboss of the family, and J. R. Russo as the consigliere. In addition, five capos or lieutenants were also charged; Biagio DiGiacomo, Vincent M. “The Animal” Ferrara, Matthew L. Gugleilmetti, Dennis D. “Champagne” Lepore and the aforementioned Carrozza. The 21 arrests included family members in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island. The charges were described as the “most sweeping attack ever launched on a single organized crime family,” and capped a five-year investigation.
The indictment contained charges against 17 family members who were present at a Mafia induction ceremony held for four men in Medford, Massachusetts on October 29, 1989. It was the first time members of law enforcement were able to tape a family initiation ceremony which crime family members had denied for years ever took place. The taping of the ceremony would create much embarrassment for the New England Family and would be used at other trials for years to prove the existence of a secret criminal society.
In early February 1991, the Boston Globe reported that due to the embarrassment caused by the tapes, Bianco replaced Junior Patriarca as head of the New England Family. Bianco was described as low-key, secretive, private, and “anything but flashy.” At the time a former Rhode Island State Police investigator stated that Junior Patriarca, “Didn’t have the brains or the power to lead the family. He couldn’t lead a Brownie troop.” The paper also reported that the recently wounded Salemme of Sharon, Massachusetts had become underboss.
Bianco, who grew up on Atwell Avenue, was originally with the Colombo Crime Family in New York before serving the elder Patriarca for three decades. Described as a “strong player in the New England underworld for decades,” Bianco waited patiently to become boss. He helped run the family in the early 1970s during the critical period the elder Patriarca was serving time. Bianco moved up the ranks quietly, never attracting attention. His low-key image caused some members of the Boston mob to complain that they didn’t know what he looked like.
Law enforcement figures stated that because of his insulated lifestyle and practices they were never able to record him on tape. During the 1960s, Bianco was the liaison between the New England Family and the Colombo Family. Bianco lived in Barrington, Rhode Island, a wealthy town southeast of Providence. His children attended private schools and one son went on to law school. In 1984, Bianco was acquitted of murder conspiracy charges in the death of Anthony Mirabella. A year later, similar charges against him in the murder of Richard Callei were dismissed.
When the RICO trials finally got underway, John F. “Sonny” Castagna, an associate of the Patriarca Family, revealed that Patriarca Junior would be killed by Boston mobsters if he did not step down. Castagna, testifying in May 1991, said the story was relayed to him by J. R. Russo, “Raymond Junior had tears in his eyes and he was begging for his life.” The testimony took place during the Hartford trial which included defendant Gaetano Milano, who Castagna, now in the Federal Witness Protection Program with his son Jack Johns, claimed murdered William Grasso.
The Hartford trial came to an end on August 8, 1991 with eight members of the Patriarca Family convicted of violating the RICO act. Bianco and Americo Petrillo were both convicted on two counts of racketeering. Milano was found guilty of murdering Grasso. Frank Colantoni, Jr., and brothers Frank and Louis Pugliano were found guilty of conspiracy, in the Grasso murder. The other two defendants, found guilty of racketeering, were Salvatore “Butch” D’Aquila, Jr., and Louis Faillia.
On November 25, Bianco was sentenced to 11 years and 5 months in prison and fined $125,000. He was ordered to report on December 30. Three years later on November 14, 1994 Bianco, at the age of 62, died in a federal prison in Springfield, Missouri. He had been suffering from Lou Gehrig’s disease.
On December 3, 1991 Raymond J. Patriarca pleaded guilty to racketeering and other charges in Boston, disassociating himself form several co-defendants charged with more serious crimes. Prosecutors tried in vain to have a long sentence imposed on Junior Patriarca. Part of the pre-sentencing testimony came from a former Philadelphia mobster, Scarfo Family underboss Philip Leonetti, who was now working with the government.
In June 1992, Patriarca was sentenced to eight years and one month. His legal woes continued over the next few years. The United States Court of Appeals ruled that a federal judge erred in his sentencing of Junior. The court claimed the judge did not consider if Patriarca was responsible for crimes committed by his crime family members. As a result of the ruling, an additional 23 months were tacked on to his sentence in December 1995.
The Boston RICO trial was set to get underway with jury selection on January 6, 1992. Sixteen days later, all of the defendants entered guilty pleas on the condition that they were allowed to deny they were members of the Mafia, La Cosa Nostra or the Patriarca crime family. The men were fined and sentenced on April 29. J. R. Russo fined $758,000 and sentenced to 16 years. Vincent Ferrara, fined $1,116,000 and sentenced to 22 years. Robert “Bobby Russo” Carrozza fined $878,000 and sentenced to 19 years. Dennis Lepore fined $767,000 and sentenced to 14 years. Finally, Carmen Tortora was fined $2,000 and sentenced to 13 years. The pleas also protected Ferrara, Russo and Carrozza from prosecution in the murder of Grasso and the attempted murder of Frank Salemme. Ferrara was also protected from prosecution in the 1985 slaying of Vincent James Limoli. J. R. Russo, whose indictment included the 1976 murder of Joe Barboza, told the court, “I understand there is enough evidence to prove me guilty (of the Barboza murder), but I am not admitting to guilt.” On June 1, 1998 Russo died in the same Missouri prison as Nicholas Bianco.
In July 1993, Robert DeLuca and Anthony Michael “The Saint” St. Laurent, Sr. along with 24 others were indicted for running a bookmaking operation out of the Foxy Lady strip club in Providence. DeLuca pleaded guilty and was sentenced to five years, while St. Laurent received ten months for his role. On September 23, 1993, St. Laurent would gain notoriety by being entered into the infamous Nevada “Black Book,” a listing of people who are not allowed to set foot in any casino in the state of Nevada.
Antonino “Nino” Cucinotta, a former chauffeur for the elder Patriarca, murdered Ronnie Coppola and Peter Scarpellino as the two men played cards in a Cranston, Rhode Island Social Club on April 1, 1994. Cucinotta, who allegedly killed the two because they “showed him no respect,” pleaded guilty to two counts of second degree murder in May 1995, and agreed to become a government witness and testify against the Patriarca Family.
On February 1, 1996, Gerard Ouimette was sentenced to life in prison after he was found guilty of trying to extort $125,000 from a Cranston, Rhode Island restaurant owner, along with Robert DeLuca. Ouimette, a mob muscleman who had spent half his life in prison, became the first criminal in Rhode Island to be sentenced under the new “three-strikes-and-you’re-out” law. DeLuca was sentenced to ten and a half years.
When the dust settled from all of the trials and turmoil in New England, the power base of the crime family shifted back to Boston for the first time since the mid-1950s. In Providence, the new leadership was believed to have fallen upon Luigi Giovanni “Baby Shacks” Manocchio. A health fanatic in his early seventies, Manocchio is described as a “shrewd, opportunistic old-school leader who excels at keeping a low profile.” Manocchio, who became the boss in Providence after the imprisonment of other leaders, is considered “tough and capable, and is well respected among the New York Crime Families.” In 1983, Manocchio had a conviction overturned for his role in the 1968 murders of Ralph Marfeo and Anthony Melei. In July 1996, he was indicted with 43 others in a burglary ring sweep. Prosecutors say the sweep ended a wave of break-ins of a mob-sanctioned gang that had netted $10 million dollars in stolen goods. From this stolen merchandise Manocchio had given a refrigerator and a dishwasher to his 96 year-old mother. Manocchio’s trial is expected to begin in March 1999.
On December 11, 1998, Raymond “Junior” Patriarca was released from a Milan, Michigan prison. Heading back to his home in Lincoln, Rhode Island, he hopes to return to work as a property developer. Patriarca can be sent back to prison for parole violation if he is caught associating with crime family members. It remains to be seen what effort he will make, if any, to return to his previous activities. Law enforcement will be watching too. Among the core of people left with links to the old leadership are Matthew Guglielmetti, William “Blackjack” Del Santo, Eddie Lato, Rocco Argenti, Blaise Marfeo, and Ray Lyons.
Disclosures made during the trial of current New England Family crime boss Frank Salemme seem to have vindicated Patriarca of the belief that his ineptitude allowed the bugging of the induction ceremony in 1989. Family member Angelo Mercurio, who drove Patriarca to the ceremony, was revealed to be a FBI informant. Under federal law, warrants for electronic surveillance are only available if there are no other means of obtaining information. Defense experts say that law enforcement officials lied to the judge, failing to disclose that an informant, Mercurio, would be attending the ceremony.
On March 25, 1999 a four year FBI investigation ended in the indictments of fourteen mobsters including Anthony St. Laurent, his son Anthony St. Laurent Jr., and Edward C. Lato. Authorities said Lato, a close associate of Manocchio, and Rocco “Rocky” Folco, Jr., ran an alleged loansharking and racketeering operation. Prosecutors reported that the lucrative operation during one seven-month period had $260,000 on the street with interest rates ranging from 50 to as high as 260%. If convicted, Lato could be put away for life under the 1994 federal anticrime law, three-strikes-and-you’re-out provision.
By Mario Machi, Allan May and Charlie Molino