FBI searching in Providence for body of Mass. mob murder victim

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Federal investigators are digging for the remains of a Boston businessman who prosecutors have said was murdered in a gangland slaying 23 years ago, the Target 12 Investigators have learned.

Steven DiSarro, then 43, of Westwood, Mass., was murdered in 1993 but his body has never been recovered.

Multiple sources tell Target 12 that agents from the FBI are digging for DiSarro’s remains behind an old factory off Branch Avenue in Providence.

Target 12 has learned investigators discovered something from the dig site Wednesday afternoon, which forensic experts are now going to examine for a possible link to the case. It’s unclear if the Office of the Medical Examiner removed the object or not.

The FBI is expected back on site on Thursday.

Earlier on Wednesday, a spokesperson for the Rhode Island Medical Examiner’s office confirmed they had been contacted by the FBI to inform them of the dig. One of the medical examiner’s trucks arrived on scene at about 6:15 p.m.

No one has ever been charged for DiSarro’s murder, though former New England mob boss Francis “Cadillac Frank” Salemme was indicted by the U.S. Attorney’ Office in Boston on two counts of obstruction of justice in 2004 for making false statements about what he knew about the murder.

Steven J. Disarro sits at a hearing on condo conversion at 313 Summit Ave., Brighton, at City Hall in Boston on April 7, 1981. (Joe Runci/Globe Staff)
Steven J. Disarro sits at a hearing on condo conversion at 313 Summit Ave., Brighton, at City Hall in Boston on April 7, 1981. (Joe Runci/Globe Staff)

A spokesperson for the FBI’s Boston office would not comment on the story. She also declined to comment on if any remains were found or why the medical examiner responded to the scene.

 

FBI spokesperson Kristen Setera confirmed Tuesday that investigators are working in the area of Branch Avenue and Woodward Road. She would not comment on what investigators are looking for, but did say there was no threat to public safety. She said members of the FBI’s Evidence Response Team were conducting the search.

DiSarro managed South Boston nightclub The Channel at the time of his death. According to a 2004 press release issued by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Boston, when Salemme was indicted, prosecutors said DiSarro disappeared after the nightclub became the focus of a criminal probe by the FBI.

“The indictment alleges that Salemme and his son [Frank Salemme] had a hidden interest in The Channel, and that on or about May 10, 1993, the defendant Francis P. Salemme was present at the scene of Stephen DiSarro’s murder,” the 2004 press release said. “Salemme also assisted in burying DiSarro’s body to prevent its discovery.”

Federal investigators have searched locations in the past for DiSarro’s body.

Salemme reached a plea deal with prosecutors in 2008 and pleaded guilty to the obstruction of justice charges, but never admitted a role in the homicide. He was sentenced to five years, but had already been in custody for roughly four when he was sentenced, so he had one year left to serve.

Reached by phone, Salemme’s attorney Steven Boozang declined to comment. Now 82, the retired mob boss is in the Federal Witness Protection Program.

The property where the dig is happening, at 725 Branch Ave. in Providence, is owned by William Ricci, 69, who has agreed to plead guilty in a federal drug case.

Ricci was accused of growing marijuana in an old mill building that stands in front of where the dig is happening.

In court filings the Rhode Island U.S. Attorney’s Office has identified Ricci as a mob associate with ties to former La Cosa Nostra capo regime Robert “Bobby” DeLuca.

Ricci’s case has not been connected to the search for DiSarro. A spokesperson at the Rhode Island U.S. Attorney’s office declined to comment.

Investigators remained on the dig site Wednesday afternoon. A backhoe could be seen digging into the ground.

Two dogs from the Rhode Island State Police K-9 unit arrived shortly after noon.

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

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