The Providence Mob
In the wake of the infamous Apalachin summit in November 1957, the FBI began its pursuit of organized crime in earnest. When John F. Kennedy was elected president in 1960 he named younger brother Bobby attorney general. Directing the FBI to step up pursuit of organized crime, Kennedy launched an aggressive program to place listening devices in as many "mob-meeting" places as possible. Agents also worked on 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 in 1932 to Portuguese parents in New Bedford, Massachusetts. A cold-blooded killer, who claimed to have murdered 26 men, Barboza would become the Joe Valachi of the New England Family.
In trouble since the age of 12, he was in and out of reformatories and prisons before hooking up with the Mafia in 1958. By 1966 Barboza had worn out his welcome with the New England family. In October he was arrested in Boston's notorious "Combat Zone" on a concealed weapons charge and bond was set at $100,000. Barboza grew concerned when Patriarca and Angiulo didn't furnish his bail. 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 murder in the 1966 killing of Providence bookmaker Willie Marfeo. On August 9, Gennaro Angiulo was accused of participating in the murder of Rocco DiSeglio. Finally in October, six men were charged with the March 1965 murder of Edward "Teddy" Deegan.
In the first trial Barboza testified at 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 in a Federal Hill restaurant. 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 in Fort Knox, Kentucky.
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.
In May 1968, the Deegan trial began. After 50 days of testimony and deliberations, the jury returned a guilty verdict. Found guilty and sentenced to death were Peter J. Limone, Louis Greco, Henry Tameleo and Ronald Cassesso. Sentenced to life were Joseph Salvati and Wilfred Roy French.
Barboza had done an impressive job. Of the three trials at which he testified 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 was 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.
Fast forward to the late 1990s. The Boston FBI office is in shambles due to the revelations that the two leaders of the Winter Hill Gang, James "Whitey" Bulger and Stephen "the Rifleman" Flemmi, have been in cahoots with rogue FBI Agent John Connolly. The two mobsters, who will be indicted for a score of murders, acted as "Top Echelon" informants feeding information to the FBI about the gang's enemies the New England crime family, in general, and Genarro Angiulo, in particular to their "handler" Connolly. In exchange, criminals who tried to cut a deal with the government by forwarding damaging information about the Winter Hill duo were being gunned down by gang members.
In addition to Connolly, there were alleged questionable acts carried out by agents H. Paul Rico and Dennis Condon. Winter Hill hitman John Martorano became a government witness in 1999. In his plea agreement he told a DEA agent that Barboza had admitted to framing the men convicted of killing Teddy Deegan because the Mafia "screwed me and now I'm going to screw as many of them as possible." Martorano also confessed that Vincent J. "Jimmie the Bear" Flemmi, the brother of Stephen, had admitted murdering Deegan. Vincent Flemmi and his brother were both acting as informants to the FBI. Instead of giving up "Jimmie the Bear" the FBI let five innocent men (French was part of the actual crime) go to prison for a crime they didn't commit.
Louis Greco, Henry Tameleo and Ronald Cassesso all died in prison. Joseph Salvati and Peter Limone were released in 1997 and 2001, respectively, after spending 30 years in prison. Lawyers representing the families of Greco, Tameleo, Salvati and Limone currently have lawsuits totaling in excess of one billion dollars filed against the government.
In the fall of 2001 a U.S. House investigating committee began looking into the indiscretions of the Boston FBI office. Their efforts were interrupted by the September 11 terrorist attacks. Former FBI agent Dennis Condon had hoped the attacks would quash the investigation. When he was notified by a committee source that the hearings would reconvene, he responded, "Don't you have anything better to do?"