The History of New England’s Mob Bosses

Raymond L.S. Patriarca was boss of the New England Mob from 1950 to 1984.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Editors note: This report first published in 2007 and is periodically updated with new information.

Ray cut the wheel and started down the way he came. He was on the wrong side of the road and he knew it.

Up until now, Ray had been pretty lucky. At 18, he’d had his fair share of brushes with the law. But this time, he knew there was slim chance of escape.

There was, in his mind, a damn good reason he was on the wrong side of the road.

When the Franklin, Mass., cop flipped on his lights, Raymond L.S. Patriarca turned the wheel of his sedan and went the other way. Cops didn’t know anything about the kid. But they would.

Raymond wasn’t sure if he could outrun the suburban cop, but he gunned it anyway. Dirt flew from the back tires and he screwed down the nondescript road. But the cop caught up, and Patriarca was only successful in adding another charge to his first encounter with the law: failure to stop.

The Franklin police officer, without question, whom he’d just given a $20 ticket. In fact, neither did Raymond Patriarca.

As it turns out, that kid driving the wrong way on a suburban street would go on to organize a criminal enterprise that spanned decades.

Raymond L.S. Patriarca, Boss 1950-1984

Raymond L.S. Patriarca was born in the blue-collar city of Worcester, Mass. He found his way south to the Ocean State when he was just a few years old. His father opened a liquor store on Atwells Avenue in Providence. His mother was a nurse.

His first official mark on Rhode Island’s rap sheet was in August of 1938: an arrest at Narragansett Race Track for robbery.

It was a small charge that masked the true power behind his budding enterprise. Patriarca was emerging as the force behind the New England crime family. He would eventually garner support from the families in New York. The result: a massive criminal network in the Northeast.

The date on which Patriarca actually took control of organized crime in New England is a matter of debate. But in July 1955, a very nervous man from Providence was arrested in Boston for robbing a bank of almost $5,000. He told the police that he owed money to the “Patriarca Mob.” He needed $1,500 by Thursday, “or else.”

“Patriarca is the Mayor of Providence,” the man told police.

It was written in the police report of the arrest, and marked the official beginning of the Patriarca Crime Family.

He was known as “The Man.” A lot of wiseguys had less powerful titles: “Baby Shacks,” “The Rifleman,” “Fat Bastard,” “Cadillac,” “Fat Tony.” But Raymond L.S. Patriarca was known affectionately as “The Man.” It was a testament to his power.

“The Man” ran his massive criminal organization out of a less-than-massive Coin-o-Matic vending machine company on Providence’s Federal Hill. The business officially opened in 1956.

Rhode Island State Police Lt. Col. Steve O’Donnell spent his time with the wiseguys. For six years he pretended to be one of them, and he has a clear understanding of how they operate and how they manipulate.

“The bosses back then operated with an iron fist. They had the system,” O’Donnell said. “They were involved in the system a lot more than now.”

That’s a polite, shiny-badge way of saying gangsters owned cops, judges, lawyers – Patriarca knew who to grease and it kept his guys out of jeopardy. But law enforcement is different now.

“The system is a pretty straight-shooting system now,” O’Donnell said. “It’s pretty difficult to corrupt the system.”

Over the years, Patriarca was arrested dozens of times, and spent nearly 12 years behind bars with four separate convictions.

His final arrest came in March 1980, for two murders: the 1968 killing of Robert “Bobby” Candos, a longtime bank robber who was poised to testify against Patriarca, and the 1968 execution of small-time hood Raymond “Baby” Curcio, who made the horrible mistake of breaking into Patriarca’s brother’s house.

Later that day, Patriarca entered Miriam Hospital. Over the next few years, his health rapidly deteriorated. It became part of the defense mounted for him by notorious mob lawyer Jack Cicilline. They even called a Boston cardiologist to say the mere stress from the trial would be a death sentence.

In the end, it wasn’t testimony that killed “The Man.” He died on July 11, 1984, while – to put it delicately – in the presence of a woman who was not his wife.

Patriarca’s wake and funeral attracted a who’s who’s of the underworld – an underworld that he left in disarray for his son to clean up.

Raymond Patriarca, Jr., Boss 1984-1991

There was an immediate struggle for power when Raymond L.S. Patriarca died. Genaro Angiulo of Boston campaigned the New York Mafia’s leaders for the nod. But Angiulo was not in favor with them, and in the end power remained firmly planted in Rhode Island’s capital city. In the hands of “Junior.”

Junior’s rather unfortunate other moniker was “Rubber Lips”: Raymond “Rubber Lips” Patriarca Jr. Those curious about the derivation of the name will only need a glance at a photograph of Junior to understand its origin.

Wiseguys were fairly obvious when it came to nicknames: “Blue Eyes,” “Jimmy the Builder,” “Fat Dom,” “Fat Tony,” “Fat Lennie,” “Fat Tommy” and so on. “Rubber Lips” came from the so-called “Mr. Potato Head mouth” with which the son of “The Man” was blessed.

Junior ran into hard times when his father left him a turbulent gaggle of mobsters. But order resumed, if only for a short time, as Junior Patriarca shuffled the ranks and paid tribute to those who supported him.

But many in law enforcement say Junior was never the true head of the family – that working like a puppet-master behind the scenes was someone with more respect and more knowledge of the family.

South Kingstown Police Chief Vincent Vespia, a former Rhode Island State Police investigator, is a little more direct.

“He couldn’t lead a Brownie Troop,” he said.

It was in 1989 that things got really rough for Junior (or “Rubber Lips,” if you prefer). He held a small but heavily wiretapped swearing-in ceremony to welcome four new members into the Mafia. It was on the first floor of a multi-family complex on Broadway in Medford, Mass., near the famed “Winter Hill” neighborhood.

One of the four was a young, upstart wiseguy named Robert “Bobby” DeLuca. (Yes, DeLuca got a pretty boring nickname.)

Unfortunately for “Rubber Lips,” the ceremony provided a wonderful piece of evidence for the existence of organized crime. He was soon indicted by a federal grand jury, and the induction tape was Exhibit A.

Junior was eventually sentenced to eight years in prison. In the end, his reputation as a “weak boss” spared him more time behind bars, according to federal judge Mark Wolfe.

Patriarca Junior, who turned 65 in 2010, is still shown signs of respect – a kiss on each cheek – when mob visitors go to his Lincoln home, according to law enforcement sources. But he has successfully stayed away from the world of crime and now deals in real estate.

Nicholas “Nicky” Bianco, Boss 1991-1991

There was a strong belief, particularly in the law enforcement community, that Junior Patriarca was only a ceremonial head of the crime family founded by his father and that the man really running the show was Providence’s Nicholas “Nicky” Bianco.

When Junior was indicted in 1991 following the bugged induction ceremony, sheer embarrassment from New York pushed the under-the-radar Bianco into the dark spotlight of Boss.

The New York families knew Bianco very well. Though he lived in Barrington at the time he officially took the reins, Bianco had spent 11 years in New York on orders from the elder Patriarca.

“In New York there were feuding organized crime factions,” Vespia said. “It is believed New York reached out to Raymond to make peace, and he sent Bianco.”

At the time, Bianco wasn’t even a made member of La Cosa Nostra. In order to make him the peacemaker, Vespia said, an impromptu induction ceremony was held in a restaurant in New York, and Bianco was hired.

He switched between two different powerhouse families in the Big Apple, and in doing so made a lot of friends. Unfortunately, after 11 years, he also made a lot of enemies. When it became clear he was no longer safe, he returned to Rhode Island to seek shelter under the wing of Patriarca Sr.

Raised on Atwells Ave., Bianco was not a flamboyant mobster; he was the blue-collar kind of gangster Rhode Island usually produces.

Bianco was picked in the same way all bosses and underbosses are chosen.

“They would have a sit-down, as they refer to it, and pick a boss,” O’Donnell said. “They would then pick an underboss.”

Who’s they?

“Internally, the New England crime family would pick the boss,” he said. “They would select a boss within their ranks and it would be sanctioned out of New York. They would have to agree with it.”

Bianco’s official time in power lasted only a short time. He was convicted of racketeering in 1991, and reported to prison in December of that year. He died in federal custody, of Lou Gherig’s disease, in November 1994.

Frank “Cadillac” Salemme, Boss 1992-1996

At the same “sit-down” where the family chose Bianco, Boston’s Francis “Cadillac Frank” Salemme was named underboss.

It would prove to be a historic appointment. Like a vice president who takes the reins from an ailing, dead, or jailed President, Salemme’s eventual grasp on the crime-saber would shift the head of the New England family out of Providence for the first time since 1955.

There are several articles that dispute whether Bianco was really a boss, possibly because his time was so short. When Bianco was sent to prison gravely ill, it was pretty obvious an immediate shift in power had to happen.

Some bosses survive prison and even operate from their cells, as Patriarca Sr. did. But when Bianco went away, it was clear to New York he wasn’t coming back.

First, though, let’s analyze the classic nickname “Cadillac Frank.” Though much has been written about Salemme and his history, little has been reported on how he got his name.

Longtime Boston Herald columnist and mob expert Howie Carr said he thinks it was because Salemme owned a bunch of garages in the Roxbury section of the city.

Did he specialize in Caddies?

“No, no, I don’t think so,” Carr said. “In fact, I think he was driving a BMW when he was shot.”

Carr was referring to a 1989 shooting in Saugus, Mass., where an unarmed Salemme was nearly executed outside a pancake house. He took one bullet to the chest and another to the leg, but survived.

“That tells you how down the American auto industry is,” Carr added. “A guy named Cadillac is driving a BMW.”

Francis “BMW” Salemme was indicted in 1995 for racketeering and pled guilty four years later. He was sentenced to 11 years behind bars.

Sometime after his indictments were handed down, the power shift back to Providence began to take shape.

Luigi “Baby Shacks” Manocchio, Boss 1996-2009

Right off the bat, let’s try to address the nickname.

In the world of journalism, this has been a fairly active discussion. If you run Luigi Manocchio through a search engine, you will come up with “Baby Shanks” and “Baby Shacks.” And there is a good deal of debate – far more than there should be – on the derivation.

The two most popular theories: he got the “Baby Shanks” moniker from working in a restaurant (presumably a “shank” of meat) and “Baby Shacks” for being rather successful with the ladies (as in “shacking” up). The “Baby” part is a bit of a mystery, though a 1952 Providence Police arrest report lists one of his aliases as “Baby Face.”

One high-level law enforcement source said the confusion on the nickname isn’t the media’s alone.

“Wiseguys call him ‘Louie Shacks’ or ‘Baby Shanks,’ ” the source said, adding that “Shanks” has nothing to do with a cut of meat.

“God no,” the source said. “‘Baby Shanks’ – it’s a small knife.”

There is even some dispute over Manocchio’s first name; while most sources go with Luigi, the R.I. Division of Motor Vehicles lists it as Louis. (The DMV hasn’t taken a position on “Shanks” vs. “Shacks.”) In court filings, the federal government goes with Luigi “Baby Shacks” Manocchio.

Manocchio, an Atwells Ave. resident, took the reins back from Boston sometime after the 1995 indictment of “Cadillac Frank” Salemme. Unlike an official election process, becoming a boss is not an exact science. Manocchio may have been in power earlier but sources say the shift happened within this time frame.

Over the years, Manocchio’s Capo Regime thinned dramatically through arrests and deaths.

In fact, one of those Capos was recently sent back to prison. Longtime Patriarca Capo Anthony “The Saint” St. Laurent, was wiretapped by the FBI in the Spring of 2006. “The Saint” was instructing three of his muscle men to shake down a pizza shop owner who was not paying tribute to some illegal drug sales. In 2011, St. Laurent pledged to plead guilty to extortion and murder for hire charges.

“Listen, if we take down a score,” St. Laurent is quoted in the affidavit. “I’m gonna take some off the top for the old man.”

The “Old Man” would be Manocchio, who turned 83 in June 2010. But unlike the previous Dons, who suffered from serious health problems, Manocchio is a health fanatic. Often seen running from his Federal Hill apartment to a nearby golf course; the elder Boss looked more like he was 50.

His number two was Boston’s Carmen “The Big Cheese” DiNunzio. (He was also dubbed “Fat Bastard,” presumably by very close friends.)

DiNunzio is currently seving six years in prison for trying to bribe his way into a lucrative Big Dig contract.

Manocchio began feeling the heat from a federal investigation in 2008 when two FBI agents paid him a visit at a Federal Hill restaurant. They found an envelope of marked bills on him allegedly linked back to the Cadillac Lounge strip club. He would later be charged with extorting protection payments from the Lounge and other adult entertainment spots in the state.

Around the time of the surprise FBI visit, sources say Manocchio stepped down as the reputed boss of the crime family, and the power shifted back to Boston. But the departure from kingpin didn’t stem the federal investigation; he was arrested in a Fort Lauderdale airport on January 19th, 2011 and charged in the extortion case. He was attempting to hop a flight back to Providence.

He charged again in a superseding indictment in March 2011. More than ayear after his initial arrest, Manocchio agreed to plead guilty to racketeering conspiracy and will be sentenced in May 2012.

Prior to his arrest, Manocchio was always a visible and approachable figure on “The Hill.” Several years ago, a rookie member of an organized crime investigative unit was introduced to Manocchio when a veteran investigator stopped by to say “hi.”

“This guy runs the mob up here,” he said pointing to Manocchio.

“You watch too many goddammed movies,” Manocchio shot back.

Peter Limone, Boss 2009-2009

As the Target 12 Investigators first reported in 2009, law enforcement officials have been monitoring a shift in power in the New England’s LCN, once again bringing the leadership back to Boston.

According to law enforcement sources, Peter Limone became the boss of the Patriarca crime family that year. Previously, after being released from prison after serving 33 years for a murder he didn’t commit, Limone was identified as the family’s “consigliere,” or advisor.

Sources say Limone then took over as underboss of the family when Carmen “The Big Cheese” Dinunzio was indicted by a Massachusetts statewide grand jury on extortion and illegal gambling charges.

Like Dinunzio, Limone is facing legal problems. He was arrested in 2009 on state gambling charges.

That arrest may have prompted an early exit for Limone as boss, teeing up a familiar name to take the reins.

           Anthony DiNunzio, Boss 2010 – 2011

He is the brother to the “Big Cheese,” and shortly after Limone’s arrest, Anthony DiNunzio took over as boss, according to law enforcement sources.

In a 2012 court filing by the Rhode Island U.S. Attorney’s office, a recorded conversation between reputed capo regime Edward “Eddy” Lato and a made member of the mob who was wearing a wire for the FBI, referred to tribute payments going to a boss named “Anthony” in Boston.

Lato: “He passes it all out … he told me. I said, what?”
Witness: “Who?”
Lato: “You give all this away. He gives all that money away.”
Witness: “Anthony?”
Lato: “What a spaccone. The other guy, his guy, ah, Mark, ah, and the other big kid, what’s his name? The other one that got pinched with Mark.”
Witness: “Oh, Darren. [sic]”
Lato: “Darren [sic]. What the [expletive], what do you keep for yourself… you got to keep this money for yourself, are you nuts?”
Witness: “So what’s the sense…”
Lato: “So we’re bringing you money and you’re giving it away like [expletive] candy.”
Witness: “And we’re taking the shot.”

“Their conversation then delved into their frustration over the fact that they send their tribute to the current Boss ‘Anthony’ and he then passes [it] out among other NELCN figures including Mark Rosetti and Darin Bufalino,” prosecutors wrote in the court filing. “Lato then explained to the Made Member that his frustration is exacerbated by the fact that he believes that he is taking all the risk of being observed by law enforcement.”

Tim White ( ) is the Target 12 investigative reporter for WPRI 12 and Fox Providence. Follow him on Twitter: @white_tim

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