In October of this year a 72-year old man shuffled out of a Boston courthouse dressed in a dark jumper and plain jeans. At first glance the dishevelled looking pensioner wouldn’t exactly strike anyone as a crime boss but this is what the man stand’s accused of being. Anthony “Spucky” Spagnola is alleged by the F.B.I of running the day-to-day operations of the fading Patriarca crime family and of extorting from local video poker machine companies in the area. Spucky is an old school mobster who was made into the crime family in the mid-1980s. He has never been viewed as boss material but the past few decades have been harsh on the once powerful Patriarca’s who have been decimated by arrests, indictments and defections. In this blog I take a look at their past history and what the future may hold for the New England Mafia.
The crime family takes its name from legendary boss Raymond L.S Patriarca, a career criminal with a long arrest sheet. Patriarca had important ties to the five families in New York, especially the Colombo’s, and became the boss of the New England mafia in 1955. Although it is named after him he wasn’t the founder of the criminal organisation, the mafia had a long and shadowy history in New England going back to the early 20th century. The bosses of the crime family had usually hailed from Boston’s North End. Secretive bosses like Philip Buccola and Joseph Lombardo, who united the Boston and Providence factions of the mafia, battled Irish gangs in the city. But with Patriarca’s succession as boss he moved the New England mob’s powerbase to the city of Providence, Rhode Island. Patriarca ruled his criminal empire from his legitimate vending machine business on Atwells Avenue in Federal Hill, a predominantly Italian-American neighbourhood that was noted for being hostile to outsiders and the law. His headquarters on the Hill was known as “The Office”, a nickname that stuck to the entire organisation.
The Providence mob boss was highly respected by fellow mobsters and he had national clout within La Cosa Nostra, investing in casinos with other mafia don’s. Patriarca made himself a huge fortune from a myriad of mob rackets such as gambling, loan-sharking, truck-hijacking, infiltrating labour unions and imposing the “street-tax” on non-mob affiliated criminals such as drug-dealers, illegal bookmakers and burglars. Anyone who refused to kick up tribute payments to Patriarca suffered fatal consequences, he wasn’t one to stomach any insults to his authority. Patriarca also had vast legitimate interests in horse racing, restaurants, nightclubs and bars. F.B.I bugs planted in his headquarters revealed that he had judges and politicians under his control earning him the nickname “The Mayor of Providence”. It was also rumoured he charged the music industry a fee for every song played on radio stations in New England.
The territory that the New England Mafia had under its control was a huge expanse of land which included the states of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Maine, New Hampshire and parts of Connecticut. To appease the Boston faction of the family, Patriarca appointed Henry Tameleo as his underboss. Around the same time a bookmaker and nightclub owner called Jerry Angiulo was being shaken down by Patriarca’s underlings, including ruthless mobster Larry Zannino, for a piece of his action. Angiulo is said to have went directly to Patriarca on Federal Hill and gave him a huge sum of money to be inducted into the crime family so as to protect his gambling interests. Patriarca accepted the offer as he knew Angiulo’s gambling racket was one of the most lucrative on the east coast.
Jerry Angiulo wasn’t highly respected and even amongst fellow mobsters was considered a vile little man, but he was a big earner for the Providence mob boss so he was tolerated. In 1968 Tameleo was indicted and convicted of murder in 1968 after being falsely accused by two mob informants. He would die in prison some years later, Patriarca anointed Jerry Angiulo as his new underboss after Tameleo went to jail. Angiulo enhanced his power by going to war with the city’s Irish gangs and later boasted that he had “buried twenty Irishmen” to take over the rackets in the predominantly Irish city.
By the early 1960s, Patriarca had begun to run into legal difficulties of his own that would dog him for the rest of his career. He was hated by crusading attorney general Bobby Kennedy, brother of JFK, who poured light on the mob boss’s activities. Still running his criminal empire from his “Office” on Atwells avenue, Patriarca continued to rule his family with an iron-fist. Anyone who personally cost him money by making a mistake was liable to get clipped. At the end of the 1960’s he was serving a sentence for ordering the murder of a bookie who refused to cough up a percentage of his racket.
In 1970, Patriarca along with several associates were convicted of conspiring to murder the same bookie’s brother and another man. One of Patriarca’s top hit-men, a Portuguese mad-man by the name of Joe Barboza, testified against him at the trial. Barboza had already testified at another trial falsely implicating several Patriarca wise guys in a murder, including former underboss Henry Tameloe. Raymond Patriarca received a ten year sentence but retained control of the crime family. He issued orders from behind bars to key subordinates such as Nicky Bianco who was a former associate of New York’s Colombo family and a rising star within the New England mob.
While in prison Patriarca met a young up-and-coming mobster called William “Wild Guy” Grasso, who had been convicted of extortion in his hometown of New Haven in Connecticut. The pair shared a cell together and struck up a firm friendship with each other. Perhaps in the volatile and violent Grasso, Patriarca saw a bit of himself in the younger man. Grasso became key to Patriarca’s plans for expansion and the future of the crime family as a whole.
The New England mafia Don was released from prison in 1975, the next nine years would be the twilight of his reign beset by health problems and law-enforcement scrutiny. He had lost a bit of respect in the eyes of the New York families because of his high-profile run in’s with the law. The year after his release, Patriarca ordered the death of informant Joe Barboza who had went into hiding in the San Francisco area. Barboza was gunned down with a carbine rifle by future consigliere J.R Russo outside a friend’s apartment. This murder was one among many of informants during Patriarca’s bloody career, anyone even suspected of being a rat quickly disappeared never to be seen again.
The lucrative gambling and loansharking empire headed by Jerry Angiulo and his brothers in Boston’s North End had also entered the crosshairs of the F.B.I whose top priority by the late 1970s was to bring down La Cosa Nostra families across the country. Angiulo ruled like a feudal lord from his headquarters in Prince Street, the North End was a close-knit community which insulated Angiulo from law-enforcement efforts to monitor his activities. Boston Irish mob bosses Whitey Bulger and Steve Flemmi had begun working with the Angiulo brothers in their criminal enterprises. But the Angiulo’s didn’t know that Bulger and Flemmi were working as top-echelon informants for the F.B.I and were deeply enmeshed with corrupt agent John Connolly, an old pal of Whitey’s from the same South Boston neighbourhood as him. Bulger and Flemmi detailed the lay-out of Angiulo’s headquarters in Prince Street and after many months of pain-staking work by the F.B.I the place was finally bugged. They also bugged the nearby social club and gambling spot of mob captain Larry Zannino, Angiulo’s chief enforcer.
The F.B.I had hit the jackpot by tapping into Angiulo’s Prince Street office. As the Boston underboss held court with his brothers, son and top underlings he was soon unwittingly revealing everything about his criminal operations to the listening agents. His ferocious enforcer Larry Zannino was also caught on wiretaps bragging about murders and beatings he had dished out during his long career in the mob. In September 1983, Angiulo was arrested at his favourite North End restaurant. He stood trial along with his brothers and son in late 1985. Wisecracking throughout the trial Jerry must have known that his own voice on the F.B.I tapes had sealed his fate. He was convicted in early 1986, had many of his assets seized and was sentenced to forty-five years in prison. The Angiulo’s long reign in the North End was over but it wasn’t the end of the mafia in Boston.
The ailing health of Raymond Patriarca and the downfall of the Angiulo brothers would see a big shake-up in the crime family in the years to come. Patriarca had been battling heart disease and diabetes for many years. He had also recently been arrested and indicted for ordering a murder. On July 11 1984, Patriarca suffered a massive heart attack at his girlfriend’s house and was pronounced dead at the hospital. He had left clear succession plans for the crime family which was that his son Raymond Patriarca Junior would take-over as boss, with Patriarca’s old prison buddy Bill “Wild Guy” Grasso serving as the iron hand behind junior’s throne.
The succession of Patriarca Jr caused a ripple of discontent within the crime family as he was seen as ineffective, lacking in intelligence and street-smarts and certainly not the man to lead them into the future. But Junior’s ascension as boss was also backed by the Commission in New York. From prison Jerry Angiulo attempted to launch a coup and have himself appointed as boss but his hopes were dashed when his former enforcer Larry Zannino also backed junior as the new boss. Angiulo was demoted to soldier for his insubordination and Zannino promoted to consigliere, although he was soon heading to prison too.
The shaky hold that the younger Patriarca had over the New England Mafia was cemented and solidified by the cruel and volatile Connecticut mobster Bill “Wild Guy” Grasso who was appointed as his underboss. After his release from prison in the early 1970s, Grasso had the blessing from Patriarca Sr to expand his rackets in Connecticut and New England. Grasso was soon murdering anyone who stood in the way, including New York gangsters who were muscling in on his turf. One of these mobsters who was affiliated with the Gambino crime family was killed by a car-bomb on the orders of Grasso. Clearly The Wild Guy was clearly not someone to be messed around.
Expanding out of from his hometown of New Haven, Grasso took over the rackets in Hartford, Connecticut, and many other towns on the east coast. He is said to have made millions from his bookmaking and loansharking operations across his territory. The Wild Guy also attempted to muscle in on Springfield which had long been a territory of the Genovese crime family. But Grasso also had his own important ties to New York gangsters and he protected powerful Colombo mobster Alphonse “Allie Boy” Persico who was on the lam. Persico was eventually tracked down to a Hartford apartment in 1987.
The F.B.I were desperate to nail Bill Grasso and lock him up for good. But the Wild Guy displayed real savvy and cunning in anti-surveillance techniques. Law-enforcement found him to be a slippery adversary who was impossible to keep a track off. To those who knew him, Grasso was an unpredictable and homicidal psychopath who instilled fear in all who he encountered. His own men were terrified of him and his changeable mood swings. Law-enforcement may not have been able to bring down Grasso but rivals within the crime family increasingly worried that Grasso was going to wipe them from the face of the earth.
The rival factions within the Patriarca crime family, from Hartford and East Boston, had become seriously disgruntled at the tyrannical Wild Guy’s unrivalled power within the mob. Boston based mobster Joseph R. Russo, the killer of mob informant Joe Barboza, was a rising star in the organisation and served as Patriarca Jr’s consigliere. Russo was vehemently opposed to the Connecticut mobster’s rule. On June 16, 1989, Grasso was lured into a van by the Hartford crew and shot in the neck by Gaetano Milano. His body was thrown from the van and dumped by the side of the Connecticut River ending his vicious sway over the New England Mafia.
Wild Guy Grasso may have been adept at avoiding law-enforcement but his ruthlessness and brutality had made him a marked man within the crime family. Gaetano Milano was inducted into the mafia soon after the hit but he was later convicted of the Grasso murder and sentenced to 33 years in prison. On the same day as the hit on Grasso, his right-hand man and proxy in Boston, “Cadillac Frank” Salemme was badly wounded after being lured to a meeting by Russo loyalists. Salemme had been recently released from prison and was also closely aligned to Irish mob bosses Whitey Bulger and Steve Flemmi. Russo worried that with Cadillac Frank’s closeness to Grasso and the conniving Irish mob that he may attempt to muscle in on his own rackets. Providence based mobster Nicky Bianco, who had acted as Patriarca Senior’s liaison with the New York families, now took over as underboss running the crime family’s Providence operations while J.R Russo oversaw the Boston area. Bianco was a low-key mobster who was highly respected in the criminal underworld with crucial ties to the New York families.
With all the internal dissension that had rocked the crime family in the summer of 1989, Raymond Patriarca Jr now attempted to broker a reconciliation between the squabbling factions. The Gambino boss John Gotti was also said to have ordered the rival factions to settle their differences. Junior invited twenty of his top men to a meeting in a small house in Medford, near Boston, where a mafia initiation ceremony would be held to induct four new members into the crime family. Posing as a peacemaker Junior opened the meeting by saying “We’re all here to bring in some new members into our family and more than that, to start maybe a new beginning…Put all that’s got started behind us … and bygones are bygones and a good future for all of us.” The four new crime family members inducted that day were Carmen Tortora, Vincent Federico (whose sister’s house the ceremony was held in), Robert “Bobby” DeLuca and Richard Floramo.
But what should have been a momentous day for Patriarca in his so-far beleaguered reign as boss would prove to be his lowest point and an embarrassment for him and the family as a whole. Because what the assembled mobsters did not know was that the F.B.I had planted bugs inside the house and were listening in on the making ceremony. It was the first time law-enforcement had successfully bugged such a secret and important meeting between mobsters. What was even more embarrassing for Junior was that he had actually been driven to the meeting by an informant working for the government!
The fallout of the bugged Mafia ceremony led to the RICO indictment of Junior and twenty other men, including underboss Nicky Bianco and consigliere Joseph Russo along with five captains, on charges ranging from extortion and gambling to murder. Law-enforcement now looked to land a killer blow on the criminal organisation. The embarrassment caused by the bugging of the mafia ceremony triggered Junior being demoted and Bianco is suspected of taking over as boss, appointing Cadillac Frank Salemme as his underboss. Patriarca Jr was supposedly close to being killed by his exasperated underlings tired of his bumbling reign. Apparently he begged for his life and agreed to step down.
Nicky Bianco’s time in power didn’t last long as he was sentenced to 11 years in prison in December 1991. He would never walk out of jail a free man again because he died in a prison hospital in 1996 after a long battle with Lou Gehrig’s disease. This was a major loss for the crime family as Bianco seemed to have what it took to be a successful crime boss. Junior Patriarca was sentenced to eight years after pleading guilty to the charges and was released in 1998. It is doubtful if he still plays an active role in crime family affairs today. Consigliere Joseph Russo was also sentenced to a long term in prison and died in jail in 1998. A whole host of captains and soldiers also received stiff penalties in the subsequent trials that resulted from the Medford bugging ceremony.
The devastated crime family was now taken over by ambitious Boston wise guy Cadillac Frank Salemme. He had originally been part of a tough crew of killers that included unhinged murderer Joe Barboza and he had been in and out of prison since the 1960s. Cadillac Frank was respected in the New England underworld as a top killer and had waited a long time to take the reins of power. However he had to tread carefully with rival wise guys and the F.B.I painting a big target on his back. Cadillac Frank’s alliance with powerful Irish boss Whitey Bulger brought him a ton of money during his reign but it was a poisonous association to enter into as he would soon find out. The new boss hadn’t forgotten how he had been hit in 1989 and he was now suspected of ordering at least six murders of mob rivals to solidify his hold on power. A battle for control erupted between Salemme’s faction and rival mobsters in Boston. Meanwhile in Providence, Salemme appointed an old-school racketeer, Luigi “Baby Shacks” Manocchio as his underboss.
Born in 1927, Baby Shacks had a long criminal career dating back to the reign of Patriarca Senior. Manocchio was a discreet and enigmatic racketeer to the point that there is some confusion over his true nickname (either “Shacks” because of his talent for bedding young women or “Shanks” because of his talent with a knife). He had once went on the lam for a decade after being involved in a double murder back in the 1960s. With the arrest and imprisonment of many of Providence’s top mobsters, Luigi moved to take over the rackets on Federal Hill. Largely unknown to law-enforcement and the public he had seemed to appear from nowhere after the high-profile busts had left a vacuum at the top of the mafia in Rhode Island.
Cadillac Frank’s short reign as boss was brought to an abrupt end when he was hoodwinked by an F.B.I sting operation. He had attempted to extort a film crew in Rhode Island that was in fact fronted by agents. Indicted on various racketeering charges in January 1995, Cadillac Frank attempted to run the crime family from prison by promoting his brother Jackie to acting boss. Whitey Bulger and his accomplice Steve Flemmi were also charged in the same indictment, Bulger would end up spending an incredible 18 years on the run before his capture in a Santa Monica apartment.
A war for supremacy broke out between Salemme’s faction and a rival group of mobsters led by imprisoned gangster Robert Carroza, a step-brother of jailed consigliere Joseph Russo. The internal strife was ended up by the F.B.I when 15 members of the anti-Salemme faction were indicted in 1997. Luigi “Baby Shacks” Manocchio now took over the reins of the crime family, or at least what was left of it. Later on Frank Salemme was persuaded to become a government witness after discovering that his two allies Whitey Bulger and Steve Flemmi were F.B.I informants. He testified against corrupt F.B.I agent John Connolly who had been accepting payoffs from Bulger, tipping him off about informants and had basically gave the Irish mob boss a license to kill. Salemme was later indicted in the early 2000s for lying under oath about a 1993 murder that he blamed on previous boss Nicky Bianco but he is now a free man living out the rest of his days in the witness protection programme.
Just like his more illustrious Patriarca predecessors, Luigi “Baby Shacks” Manocchio set up shop on Federal Hill overseeing his territory from his legitimate Laundromat front business on Atwells Avenue, just down the road from Patriarca’s old “office”. He also maintained a silent interest in several neighbourhood restaurants, including Camille’s an old Prohibition-era hangout for wise guys. Manocchio appointed as his underboss another timeworn hand known as “Sonny Boy” Rizzo, an old-school racketeer from Boston who had been born way back in 1913! With many of the top men behind bars Manocchio had to rely on a small group of criminal associates, including rising stars Matthew Guglielmetti, Boston based Carmen “the Cheeseman” DiNunzio and Mark Rossetti, who was secretly working as an informant for the F.B.I. The beleaguered crime family was forced to scrabble around earning their money from less lucrative rackets while attempting to avoid the constant scrutiny from law-enforcement.
The new boss sought to make his presence felt from shaking down local strip bars and pornography stores for a percentage of their take. Baby Shacks also headed a stolen goods ring that made the family millions of dollars. But in comparison to the gloried past the mob was now feeding off scraps. Unfortunately for Manocchi he had become the boss of the Patriarca’s at the completely wrong time. In previous years, especially during the rule of Patriarca senior, the Mafia had wielded enormous influence in local politics and Providence had been one of the most corrupt cities in America. But Providence in recent years had seen a huge project of rejuvenation and the rooting out of bad apples in the political and economic scene. The mafia was dangerously exposed to police and F.B.I investigations now that it no longer had the protection of corrupt politicians and businessmen.
Early on his tenure as boss, Manocchio was indicted for profiting from the larceny ring that was netting millions every year. Prosecutor’s proved that the Providence boss had directly profited from this criminal racket and Baby Shack’s was forced plead guilty to reduced charges and avoided heavy jail time. It was a smart move on his part as he was sentenced to only three years’ probation. He may have been operating in difficult times but Luigi Manocchio was a shrewd racketeer who operated in no-fuss manner insulating himself from the daily pitfalls of being a mob boss.
After his 1996 trial and the subsequent probation order, Manocchio managed to avoid arrest and indictment for the majority of his twelve year reign. By the early 2000s he sought to restore the crime family’s fortunes by regaining the mob’s foothold in traditional spheres of influence such as the construction industry. One of his top captains, Matthew Guglielmetti, the son of a Patriarca mobster of the same name, was an important official for a labourer’s union local in Providence. Manocchio used his captain’s position to gain lucrative contracts, no-show jobs and payoffs in the local construction industry.
Back in Boston’s North End, two brothers were making a name for themselves on the old stomping ground of Jerry Angiulo. Anthony and Carmen DiNunzio operated a social club on Endicott Street, not far from the Angiulo’s old headquarters on Prince Street. Carmen, the older brother known as “the cheeseman”, is a heavyset man who owned a cheese shop down the road from the social club on Endicott Street. Anthony was made into the crime family in the late 1990s and was very active in shaking down strip clubs and adult porn stores in Massachussett’s and Rhode Island. They had important ties to the Gambino crime family and to other La Cosa Nostra families across the country. Carmen’s star was also on the rise and the brothers status as big players in the New England mafia was sealed when the Cheeseman was appointed as Baby Shacks new underboss in the early 2000s.
The first one to feel the heat from law-enforcement under Manocchio’s regime was powerful captain Matthew Guglielmetti. As noted before he was an important union official and was also heavily involved in traditional mafia rackets. Guglielmetti was approached by an F.B.I agent in 2003 who offered him the chance to buy into a concrete company. This company was awarded public contracts and the mobster was also using it as a front to launder drug money from cocaine trafficking. The Providence wise guy was arrested by the F.B.I and in spring 2005 he accepted a plea deal admitting that he conspired to distribute 5 kilos of cocaine. Sentenced to eleven years in jail Guglielmetti has just been released from prison. The F.B.I were once again ratcheting up the pressure on the New England Mob.
By the late 2000’s the boss Luigi Manocchio was beginning to feel the pressure from the F.B.I. Under constant surveillance and obviously concerned about arrest and indictment he is said to have stepped down in 2009. He apparently turned the family over to another aging mobster called Peter Limone. Limone had been falsely imprisoned for three decades after being accused by mob informant Joe Barboza of being involved in the murder of an Irish gangster. Limone and three others all went to prison, only Limone and a co-accused came back out alive. He was awarded $26 million dollars as compensation and released from prison in 2003. However although he was now a multi-millionaire Limone remained active in crime family affairs. He served as Manocchio’s consigliere throughout the 2000s and was now bumped to the top spot by the retiring boss. Some believe though that Limone was basically serving as front boss for more powerful mobsters operating behind the scenes, more than likely it was the DiNunzio brothers who were pulling his strings.
The biggest crackdown on the Patriarca crime family in recent history would be caused by the extortion ring that the family were imposing on strip clubs and porn stores in Rhode Island. Places like the Cadillac Lounge were forced to make payments of thousands of dollars every month. In January 2011, Manocchio and many of his Providence based crew were picked up in a nationwide anti-mafia crackdown that saw over a 100 members of La Cosa Nostra arrested. Mob captain Bobby De Luca (who was made at the infamous 1989 bugged induction ceremony) were soon telling the F.B.I everything they knew. Another captain, Mark Rossetti, had also been feeding information to the F.B.I for years. De Luca had even worn a wire at meetings with Manocchio. Baby Shacks was sentenced to five and half years in 2012 and will be 90 years old when is eligible for release.
The day-to-day operations of the family were now reputedly ran by Anthony DiNunzio. His brother Carmen was already serving a six year sentence for attempting to bribe a state official to gain a lucrative highway contract and also for extortion and illegal gambling. However the younger DiNunzio’s time on the streets were limited too. He was arrested in April 2012 at his Gemini social club in Boston’s North End with his captain Eddie Lato. Picked up on racketeering and extortion charges related to the strip club shakedowns he had also been caught receiving $5,000 from his captain Eddie Lato. DiNunzio was also picked up on a wire bragging to a Gambino crime family member about what he would do to his mob enemies and also that if he went to jail he would still be “the boss”. Pleading guilty to the charges, Anthony Di Nunzio was sentenced to six years in November 2012.
The recent crackdown’s on the Patriarca crime family make the future of the crime family more uncertain than ever before. Many experts are predicting that they will fade away in the next few years. The last six bosses of the family have been indicted and convicted and sent to prison. It’s beg the question, who in their right mind would want the job? However the mafia does seem to have an unbelievable talent for regenerating itself. Many would have predicted that after the trials and tribulations of the 1980s and 90s that the crime family was likely to be extinct by the early 2000s. But the F.B.I are still prosecuting mobsters who are attempting to keep the mob active. But there cannot be more than twenty active mobsters on the streets right now, perhaps it’s an even smaller number than that.
The family has been infused with fresh blood with the recent release of 65-year old powerful captain Matthew Guglielmetti (rumoured to be in ill health), also 73 year old Albert “Chippy” Scivola who was convicted of shaking down strip clubs, and former boss Luigi Manocchio. It is also uncertain what role the DiNunzio’s will play when they are released or if they are still issuing orders from behind bars. The next few years will be a crucial time for the Patriarca’s but with the constant scrutiny from law-enforcement it looks increasingly likely that the mobsters of New England have become a seriously endangered species. The empire that Raymond Patriarca Senior built on Federal Hill may finally be drawing its dying breath.
By Steven Trotter
I operate a newspage on Facebook called Global Mafia News. All of the material for this blog was collated from newspaper articles and books. If i’ve printed anything false please let me know