Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Providence Mob

New England Crime Family

Providence skyline (AP)
Providence skyline (AP)

Providence, became part of the New England crime family. The New York City crime families first oversaw the city of Providence, before the leadership came from Boston. While leadership of the family has come from various cities over the years, the seat of power over what was once called the Boston Mafia settled in the city of Providence during the reign of Raymond L. S. Patriarca, who took control during the mid-1950s. In the years following his emergence as a power in the Northeast the city became an important underworld power base and the family became known as the New England crime family. It was not until the 1990s that leadership of the family would return to Boston.

Raymond L.S. Patriarca Snr.
Raymond L.S. Patriarca Snr.

Not much has been written about the early years of the Mafia in New England. The city of Boston with its Irish heritage and criminals may have been the reason for the lack of Italian underworld activity there. The few books that are available tend to contradict each other on the leadership of the mob during the 1910s, 1920s and 1930s. In Vincent Teresa's My Life in the Mafia, he discussed Frank "Butsey" Morelli, one of five brothers who moved to New England from Brooklyn during World War I. Running his criminal operations from Rhode Island he controlled parts of Massachusetts, Connecticut and New Hampshire. Morelli maintained control of this area from 1917 until 1947 when he was dying of cancer. Teresa reveals that Morelli began to drink heavily and 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 was questioned about his role in 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, placed Philip Buccola in charge and allowed Morelli to die peacefully.

Michael & Doris Coppola
Michael & Doris Coppola

Prior to Morelli's death in the early 1950s, Teresa said he 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 pair were self-described anarchists who claimed they were being persecuted by the government. According to Teresa, Morelli said, "These two suckers took it on the chin for us. That shows you how much justice there really is."

The leadership of the Boston / New England crime family from the 1930s to the early 1950s is as murky as the Charles River. As mentioned, Vincent Teresa claimed that Joseph Lombardo "replaced" Morelli with Buccola, which obviously indicates that Lombardo outranked Buccola. In their book The Underboss, authors Gerard O'Neil and Dick Lehr state that Lombardo ran gambling and loan sharking as second-in-command to Buccola. The same authors 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 seem to agree on the spelling of Buccola's last name. It is listed many places as Bruccola. What everyone does agree upon is that Buccola fled to Sicily in 1954 leaving control of the family in the hands of Patriarca.

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