In today’s episode, the final entry of a two-part series, we continue our biography of New England mob boss Raymond Patriarca, one of the most feared and respected bosses in the history of the American Cosa Nostra.
Hello everybody and welcome back to another episode of The Member’s Only Podcast. I am your host Jacob Stoops, and I’m a long-time history buff and mob aficionado.
Today’s episode is a continuation of our deep dive into Raymond L.S. Patriarca. In Part One, we covered Ray’s early life from his birth in Worcester to his move to Providence around the age of four. We delved into how he grew up, what events led him to the criminal lifestyle, how he became involved in the Mafia, and how he turned into one of its most promising rising stars.
And not only that, we also provide an overarching history on how the Mafia formed in both Providence, Rhode Island as well as Boston, Massachusetts, and how those organizations positioned themselves in the 1920s, 30s, and 40s to dominate crime across New England.
So if you haven’t watched that episode first, I’d urge you to jump on over there and then come back and watch this video.
And by the way, thank you to those New Englanders who corrected my pronunciation as I had said it incorrectly as Wor-chster in Part One. I don’t take offense and am taking this opportunity to correct my mistakes.
Today, we’re going to cover Ray’s 30 years as namesake and boss of the Patriarca Crime Family, and I’m just going to tell you—even though he managed to steer that ship as well as anyone has (or ever will), there were A LOT of murderous twists and turns along the way that we’ll explore with you.
Now before we get into the episode, I’d just like to remind you to please smash that subscribe button and turn on the bell to get notifications when I release a new episode.
To all my new followers, welcome and I looked forward to interacting with you! To my existing followers, you continue to impress me with your astute comments and opinions, and I’d encourage you to keep it up. I really enjoy responding and interacting with you.
Now without further adieu, let’s get into Part Two of the Raymond Patriarca biography!
Ascension to Boss & Moving the Base of Power:
Now lets again set the scene for what was happening in the underworld during the early 1950’s.
In 1951, Senator Estes Kefauver created a Special Committee on Organized Crime and Interstate Commerce and held public hearings across 14 cities beginning in 1951. The committee’s purpose was to expose organized criminal elements to the public at large, and though not much would actually be done about it, over 30 million people tuned in to watch the proceedings, garnering a massive amount of unwanted exposure for the Mafia.
During these hearings, the leadership in Boston feared that the publicity might expose them and their operations and they ordered all bookmaking operations shut down, or to operate without a central layoff bank and without police protection. As a result, local bookmakers lost Lombardo’s protection service, though they gained more freedom to operate. Luckily for the Boston Cosa Nostra contingent, the Kefauver hearings never visited Boston, but this change in policy opened the door for an enterprising Italian hood named Gennaro “Jerry” Angiulo and his brothers to move in on the gambling operations in the city.
They offered small business people such as barbers and store owners the opportunity to get a wholesale discount on bets on individual numbers, and the brothers were able to build a network converting these businesses into points of sale and bookies. This success ultimately attracted the interest of the Mafia, and by the late 1950s, Angiulo was being shaken down regularly by local mobsters in Boston because he was not a “made” member of the family.
Rather than resist, Angiulo solved this problem by taking $50,000 down to Patriarca in Providence and promising him an additional $100,000 a year. These payments led to Angiulo becoming a made member of the family without having to “make his bones” as other members were required which fostered resentment from his counterparts over the years.
It was said that the Patriarca and Angiulo relationship was strictly financial and that Angiulo was never well liked or respected, but as long as he kept the money flowing into Providence, he had the backing and protection of Patriarca. And eventually, Patriarca would elevate Angiulo to important positions within the family, so there must have been some level of trust involved.
Now here’s what I don’t understand about Patriarca, and maybe some of you can enlighten me:
- Isn’t that a clear violation of Cosa Nostra rules? Wasn’t Albert Anastasia seriously frowned upon for selling buttons (and his Underboss Frank Scalise was actually murdered).
- Why would Patriarca want someone who enemies perceived as weak enough to threaten within his organization?
Maybe I’m missing something, but this seems like hypocrisy. Anyhow, back to the ascension of Patriarca.
In 1952, Buccola allegedly held a party in which the purpose was both to celebrate his retirement and announce the ascension of Raymond L.S. Patriarca to be the official boss of the family. Government reports that the party was held in Johnston, Rhode Island and was attended by more than 80 mafiosi. Buccola himself would retire (or flee) to Sicily in 1954 where he ran a chicken farm, and didn’t actually pass away until 1987 at the ripe old age of 101. That is what you’d call a resounding success in the mob life.
That same year, 1954, the Massachusetts Legislature established a Crime Commission and provided funds which would maintain the Committee for a limited number of months. The Committee madea a number of pointed inquiries into the extent of gambling operations in Massachusetts. The funds available for the Commissions’ work became depleted and a motion was pending to appropriate additional funds in order that the Commission could carry on.
The gambling element was bitterly opposed to the resumption of the Committee inquiries and organized to defeat the continuance of the Committee. In a show of influence, power, and domination of politics in the area, Patriarca, Henry Tameleo and additional members of the Rhode Island and Massachusetts gambling fraternity had a meeting in a Boston hotel in 1955 to formulate plans for the defeat of the Crime Commission appropriation. In the end they were successful at bringing about the death of this Committee which could have seriously hampered all of their business interests.
In 1956, once the dust had settled from Patriarca taking over leadership of the family, he began to make his mark by enacting some changes within the crime family, the biggest being to move the primary base of operations to Providence, Rhode Island in 1956.
Patriarca would name Enrico Tameleo as his Underboss. Now the interesting thing about Tameleo is that he is said to have had dual membership in both the Patriarca family as well as New York’s Bonnano family. To my knowledge (and maybe I’m wrong), Tameleo was one of the few members in the American Cosa Nostra to have dual membership in multiple families. It’s not uncommon for Sicilian mafiosi to be made in America as well, but it’s not commonplace for an American member in two separate families.
Ray Patriarca ran his criminal empire from an unassuming wood-frame, two-story building located at 168 Atwells Avenue in the Federal Hill neighborhood of Providence. This building included his office and housed the National Cigarette Service Company and Coin-O-Matic Distributors, a vending machine and pinball machine business.
Atwell Avenue in that time has been described as a noisy open-air market, that was also an armed camp with “spotters” located everywhere. This helped to ensure tight security and protection within the neighborhood, and it’s said that no stranger could come into Federal Hill without Ray Patriarca knowing about it very quickly.
Similar to other families like Chicago’s “Outfit,” the Patriarca organization was known by its family members as “The Office.”
However, Patriarca didn’t completely do away with the old guard. He was said to have created a mob advisory council made up of the “old Dons,” respected as the men who made the mob decades previously. Informer Vincent “Fat Vinny” Teresa would say of them:
“They got the town [Boston] in the bag, and it’s been in the bag ever since. They were the ones who made the connections with police departments. They’d had connections in the district attorney’s office for thirty or forty years. They made the mob.”
In their twilight years these men were accorded the title of Don and although they no longer did anything except sit around in lounge chairs, Patriarca saw they got their cut from some kind of racket. And when they were needed in a crisis they were called to a meeting, just to get their thinking since they knew the nuances of mob mentality around the country.
So it’s clear that Patriarca was shrewd, cunning, deadly, but also very wise to take the advice of these elders even though he held the top spot.
From his seat on Federal Hill, it is said that every card game, prostitution ring, and illegal business in Providence had to pay a direct kickback to Patriarca or else. It is also said that Providence—and specifically Federal Hill—was much safer during Patriarca’s reign than at other points in history, though this has been hotly debated by local pundits.
In an article published by GoLocalProv, they shared the sentiments of political leaders, law enforcement officials, historians, and Federal Hill community leaders who helped put the recent incidents of violence on Atwells Avenue in a historical context. Here are some excerpts from these published interviews:
“There is a perception that things were less violent on Federal Hill during the Raymond Patriarca era but I disagree since it is only the nature of the violence that has changed,” explained Former Rhode Island Attorney General Arlene Violet, who oversaw a major crackdown on mob activity during her tenure as Rhode Island Attorney General from 1984-1986.
“It is no secret that organized crime was prevalent in Rhode Island, and when Ray Patriarca was the boss he ran all of all New England from his chair outside of ‘The Office’ on Atwells Avenue,” recalled former State Police Superintendent Col. Brendan Doherty who served for 24 years in the Rhode Island State Police Intelligence Unit focusing on organized crime in the 80s and 90s.
“Back then in the 60s and 70s there was shall we say an “arrangement” between the police and organized crime. And it was an unspoken arrangement. The mafia was expected to keep the lid on it [violence pouring out onto the streets]. To keep violence out of their places of business, restaurants on Federal Hill would pay tribute to Patriarca for ‘protection,’” said Providence City Archivist Paul Campbell, who has been responsible for covering the city’s history.
“Going back to the era of organized crime there were high profile mob hits. You don’t have that today,” explained Doherty.
Campell spoke of one specific episode that stood out. “One of the early mob hits on Federal Hill was at a restaurant at 93 Atwells Avenue. ‘Blind Pig’ Rossi and several other witnesses of the shooting were stricken with total memory loss,” Campbell noted.
Mob “hits” and such specific acts of violence were routine during the time when Raymond Patriarca was boss, according to Violet.
“Owners who didn’t pay off the tab for protection were routinely beaten by mob enforcers in their place of work. A murder/hit of Raymond “Slick” Vecchio occurred in a Federal Hill restaurant in 1982. Kevin Hanrahan, an alleged mob enforcer, was killed on Atwells Avenue in 1992. Another mob associate Willie Marfeo was shot to death on Federal Hill while his brother “ate lead” at a Providence grocery store. This ‘enforcement business’ was seen as fairly routine so residents were used to it and didn’t fear being slain if they didn’t run afoul of the mob.” Violet added.
And maybe the difference is the perception of the public that has changed rather than that actual crime rate. But it’s clear that after Patriarca passed, the perception is that violence got worse in Federal Hill.
To quote the GoLocalProv article one last time:
“Patriarca would never allow drunken brawls, for example, to spill out onto the streets since it was bad business for the many owners who paid protection money to avert such a calamity. Today, there is a fear that violence could spill out onto innocent people by lone perpetrators. At present, the violence is much more randomized,” said Violet.
Rhode Island State Representative John J. Lombardi told GoLocalProv that he cannot recall a time when Federal Hill was so violent. Lombardi grew up on DePasquale Avenue and has represented the Hill for 26 years in the Providence City Council and General Assembly.
“I have been on this earth 62 years and simply cannot recall a time when Federal Hill was so violent. Did people ever get murdered or shot? Of course. Let’s not be naive. But people bludgeoned to death in the middle of the day? Twenty person mobs fighting with police outside of nightclubs? I don’t recall women ever catching beatings in clubs. It is just egregious. I was young once. Growing up on Federal Hill, did we stay out until all hours of the night? Sure. But we always had respect for the police,” added Lombardi.
Patriarca exhibited a high degree of polish with the local police as well as the public. Much like Vito Corleone in the den of his home, Patriarca regularly held court and sorted out both domestic and crime family disputes directly from his Atwell Avenue office.
In “The Underboss: The Rise and Fall of a Mafia Family,” authors Deck Lehr and Gerard O’Neill noted that Patriarca was involved, “in a complex maze of interests, he completely controlled some markets, especially those involving gambling, loansharking, and pornography, and dabbled in others such as truck hijacking and drug traffic, in which free-lancers negotiated a fee to do business.”
On his watch, the family expanded into new rackets including pornography, had “hidden interests” in two Las Vegas casinos (one of which was the Dunes Hotel), and his family even delved into narcotics, though future informer Vincent “Fat Vinny” Teresa would insist that Patriarca explicitly forbade drug dealing in his family.
By then, most families were into drugs but had a “look the other way” policy in which they didn’t directly consent for their soldiers to deal, but had no issue taking the proceeds. And though I could be wrong, my impression is that Patriarca was probably similar in this respect. According to Teresa, Patriarca believed that he paid his men well enough that there was no reason for them to be drug dealing. But money is money, and I’m sure there were some that found ways around that edict, and I’m sure that Patriarca took the money.
Patriarca’s reign as leader of the New England syndicate was rumored to be strict, ruthless, and brutal.
In one incident that would show Patriarca’s ruthlessness, he allegedly ordered an elderly mobster to murder his own son, after Patriarca lost a substantial amount of money on a bad deal. When the father fell to his knees crying that he couldn’t kill his own son and pleading for his boy’s life, Patriarca shelved the man from his family. Supposedly the only reason that Patriarca didn’t have the older man killed was that Patriarca’s underboss Henry Tameleo was able to cool him down and persuaded Patriarca to give the man “a pass.”
In another incident, he’d supposedly put up $22,000 for his men to handle a load of stolen cigarettes. Unfortunately for all, the FBI seized the hijacked shipment of cigarettes that he’d financed. In a real case of “Fuck you, pay me!” Patriarca demanded that the men pay him back the $22,000 that they’d lost. He was there for the profits, but certainly not the losses.
Though he was typically described as fair, he was known to have an infamous temper and nasty streak. It’s alleged that he even put a death contract out on his own brother for failing to notice an electronic surveillance device placed in his office by federal agents.
He would run the family effectively for over 30 years, and though he was constantly pursued he was very skilled at warding off police, and was relatively unhindered by law enforcement despite doing some prison time here and there.
It is said that he forbade other Mafia organizations from operating in New England unless they received his express permission, which was pretty similar to the approach taken by powerful New Orleans boss Carlos Marcello. As the New York families wanted to operate in the New England area, Patriarca agreed to a territorial dividing line of the Connecticut River.
In the 1950’s and 1960’s, Patriarca forged strong relationships with several families within the New York Cosa Nostra and had a seat on the famed Commission.
While he had relationships with all five families, his most significant was with the Genovese crime family. These alliances would allow Patriarca and the New York families to essentially have a stranglehold over the entire Northeastern seaboard including Boston, Providence, and Maine for the Patriarca family, and Hartford, Connecticut, Springfield, Massachusetts, and Albany, New York for the Genovese family.
In 1956, as he was in the midst of remodeling the family, Patriarca was called to Capitol Hill to testify as part of the 1956 Senate Investigation into corruption within the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. He explained to chief counsel Robert F. Kennedy how he began his career in the jukebox business, stating that most of the money came from an inheritance from his mother who had kept $80,000 to $90,000 in cash in a box in the basement of the family home.
In reality, Patriarca had been a leader in the vending machine business for some time.
At one point he sent his goons to pressure business owners to remove competitors’ coin-operated jukeboxes and replace them with his own. According to the FBI, “he had no trouble getting his jukeboxes in because people are afraid to refuse” and did not want to risk the wrath of Patriarca’s leg-breakers being sent to harass themselves or their businesses.
Also around that time, according to the Providence Bulletin (now the Providence Journal), Patriarca’s entry into cigarette vending with his firm the National Cigarette Service in 1956 displaced machines owned by other companies in fifty-five locations in Rhode Island, even though those companies had placement contracts. A judge issued a restraining order and injunction against Patriarca, at the request of a competitor, to prevent him from “bumping” machines from public spaces.
In 1956, Patriarca continued to expand the family’s interests when he entered the cigarette vending business. The FBI reported that he was associating with Louis “The Fox” Taglianetti (a “made” man who would eventually be murdered in 1970). In addition to this, the Patriarca family continued to enjoy proceeds from gambling in Rhode Island, Boston, and elsewhere in Massachusetts. Patriarca also had a piece of a company run by his brother-in-law that manufactured sweaters and was said to have employed mostly “salesmen who are connected with the hoodlum element” who went around town selling the clothing for cheap as stolen “hot merchandise” when they were actually legitimate.
The Tumultuous “Golden Era” & The Rat Parade:
So as you get into the 1960’s, Patriarca is highly respected and still very much in control of his family, and decided to operate on a war-footing with some of Boston’s Irish gangs who were fighting it out with each other at the time.
Although I’m not going to have enough time to cover Patriarca’s relationship with the Irish mob including the infamous Whitey Bulger, it’s clear that they did have extensive interactions.
Allegedly ordered the murder of several members of the McLaughlin Gang during the Irish Mob wars between the Charlestown Mob and the Winter Hill Gang. This occurred when Bernie McLaughlin tried to muscle in on the mob’s loan-sharking rackets in Boston.
Patriarca tolerated no upstarts plying their criminal trade in his area, and he demonstrated his power and thoroughness by working with the Winter Hill gang to murder McLaughlin and the rest of his gang.
Over the next 5-6 years, the Patriarca’s and the Winter Hill gang would massacre the McLaughlin Gang to the point where the group was virtually exterminated down to the last man.
Additionally, things in the early 1960’s began to get a little bit bumpy as the U.S. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy galvanized the federal government to turn up the heat on organized crime with a specific focus on developing informants.
From 1962 to 1965, the FBI succeeded in placing illegal bugs in Patriarca’s office which gave them keen and only previously suspected insights into the family’s day-to-day activities, murderous discussions, as well as their vast ability to corrupt the local government.
One of the conversations recorded and transcribed by the agents concerned an assessment of $5 a week to be levied toward the building of a $25,000 welfare fund to assist ill or troubled members.
In another overheard dialogue, a man identified as (Underboss) Henry Tameleo of Providence was reported to have named an East Boston man as the slayer of a certain Joseph Francione in Revere, Massachusetts.
Yet another of what were called “airtels” told how Samuel Linden, who himself was later murdered, was asked by an unidentified man if he would like to have the killing of a marked victim held up for a while because the main was known to owe Linden $8,000. Linden was reported to have told the caller that he did not care about the money and that he did not want to hear about the killing.
The bugs would also reveal an extensive volume of political payoffs to the governor’s office, legislators and judges in both Rhode Island and Massachusetts, although authorities later claimed (maybe to save face) that Patriarca’s political contacts did not yield much.
Fast-forwarding to 1967, the bugs which were still in place caught Patriarca using the word “family” in tapped telephone conversations to designate Cosa Nostra members. However, a Grand Jury in Boston would call into question the use of these wiretaps in order to determine if they impacted convictions of Patriarca’s soldiers.
In 1963, the government held the McClellan Hearings, which were more commonly known as The Valachi Hearings, in which the testimony of famous mob-rat and former Genovese family soldier Joseph Valachi was televised nationally.
In these hearings, Valachi became the first member of Cosa Nostra to publicly acknowledge the existence of the organization and he provided information about many of the families as well as key figures – including one Raymond Patriarca.
Valachi would state that Patriarca was one of the key figures of a “12-man syndicate” that controlled organized crime in America. The syndicate named by Valachi also included figures such as Carlo Gambino, Joe Bonnano, as well as Sam Giancana. Referring to the Mafia’s control on illegal activity in the entire country as a “12-man syndicate” was a significant misrepresentation by Valachi at the time, although he may have been referring to the group of key men on The Commission and not the actual number of families and members which was far more numerous than anyone could imagine at that point save for maybe Harry Anslinger and the Federal Bureau of Narcotics (FBN).
The Mafia would reportedly put out a $100,000 revenge contract on Valachi’s head, but were never actually able to get to him.
Now in the early 1960’s and even while the Valachi hearings were occurring, there was the Gallo-Profaci civil war going on in New York. Due to the level of respect he had, and likely due to needing someone to bring some levity and a level-headed objective viewpoint, Patriarca was brought in to mediate the dispute in 1964. And while the peace would be broken years later, Patriarca was able to successfully arbitrate the dispute that would end hostilities for the time being.
Also around 1964, you had the Bonnano civil war going on. In bugged conversations released later, Patriarca was caught discussing Bonnano’s fate with another man, Danny Raimondi (who may have been a Bonnano soldier). According to the book The of the Nation: The Structure and Operations of Organized Crime in America:
“An individual believed to be Danny Raimondi’s father contacted Patriarca. Raimondi questioned Patriarca about the fate of Bonanno. Raymond [Patriarca] explained that he was called to New York three weeks ago, during which the fate of Bonnano was discussed. They decided that Bonnano was no longer a boss or Commission member. They also put out the word that nobody is to have any business dealings or associate with members of the Bonnano group.
A week later, Patriarca received another call from New York to attend another meeting. However, prior to the time he left Providence, this meeting was canceled for some unknown reason.
It was Patriarca’s opinion that Bonnano was not killed by any member of the opposing faction. He pointed out that, if the opposing faction wanted him killed, they would have done so at the time they grabbed him on Park Avenue, asis the case in most killings of this type, particularly when there are witnesses, such as the lawyer, around. He pointed out that they were taking a chance in kidnapping Bonanno and killing him later and could not see why it would serve any purpose to kidnap him first. Because of this, he believes that Bonnano is still alive and that he, Bonnano, engineered the alleged kidnapping. He pointed out that he is not sure of this, but it is only his opinion.”
“Patriarca further pointed out that, when Bonnano did not appear before the Commission when requested on eight or nine different occasions, he was given one additional chance. Instead of Bonnano himself appearing, his son appeared, but they told him that they did not want to talk to the son, but the father. Raymond explained that about one-half of Bonnano’s group have turned themselves in to the Commission. He pointed out that even Bonnano’s relation by marriage who was on the Commission voted to throw Bonnano out of Cosa Nostra. The Commission member was described as being from Detroit.”
“Raymond [Patriarca] pointed out that he wanted no fighting from this group and stated that Bonnano was the cause of his own downfall, because he was so greedy.”
And in hindsight, Patriarca’s statements regarding Bonnano would prove to be pretty spot on.
Also in the early 1960’s, you see Patriarca flex some political muscle as he would swing elections for Governor and Attorney General of the state of Massachusetts. According to reports, through intermediaries Patriarca had offered $100,000 to former Lieutenant Governor Francis X. Bellotti for his campaigns for Governor in 1964 and Attorney General in 1966. However, when Bellotti turned down these offers, “the mob spread the word that he had taken mob money, and these rumors were a major factor in his defeat in both campaigns.” So if he couldn’t put someone in he could control, he had enough power to tank their campaign.
From a personal standpoint, it was in 1965 that Ray’s first wife Helen passed away (with whom he had Raymond Jr. in 1945). He would remarry a former nightclub hostess, Rita O’Toole, and the couple would remain together until Patriarca’s death.
In 1966, things for Patriarca continued to get more dicey as law enforcement finally succeeded in turning a mobster with ties to the Patriarca family for the first time. That man was Joseph “The Animal” Barboza.
Joe “The Animal” Barboza was a Patriarca family hitman who claimed to have committed 26 murders, and according to many reports and later evidence he was a real piece of work. Barboza first became known to the Pariarca family while doing time in MCI-Walpole in Massachusetts.
After his parole in 1958, he began running in organized crime circles within East Boston doing small-time burglaries to make ends meet. His crew of burglars and thieves eventually came under the protection of the Patriarca crime family and was supervised by none other than Stephen “The Rifleman” Flemmi of Whitey Bulger fame. In the 1960’s Barboza began taking on contract killings and had earned a reputation as one of Boston’s most prolific contract killers and sidewalk soldiers.
Due to his Portuguese heritage and dark complexion, Barboza could never be “made,” and his Italian associates often referred to him using derogatory and racist comments which I won’t repeat. In 1964, Barboza officially changed his surname to “Baron,” which shows up in FBI reports.
By 1966, Barboza was in a very tenuous position within the Boston underworld. By this point, he’d aligned himself to the Winter Hill gang due to the leader of that gang aligning with the Flemmi brothers whom he trusted. However, Barboza was also being pushed by an FBI agent named Paul Rico, whom he also had built a relationship with, to become an informant.
Barboza was not a man to care about or abide by the rules of Cosa Nostra, and due to this fact he openly made threats against family-protected establishments and important figures including “made men” such as Gennaro Angiulo, who was not yet “made” at the time but was an associate of the Patriarca family. It is at this point where attempts on his life begin, and it was reported that someone took a shot at him while he was standing outside his home.
In October of 1966, Barboza and two associates were arrested on weapons charges in Boston. His accomplices were released on bail, but Barboza had his bail set at $100,000 which he simply couldn’t afford. On top of that, nobody from the Patriarca crime family came down to post his bail and he had heard rumors that it was the Mafia family who tipped off the cops.
To compound the citation, his accomplices were murdered just 5 weeks later by members of the Patriarca family. After a family associate tipped the cops on who was responsible for the murder, he too was murdered.
It’s at this point that the FBI put on a full-court press to turn Barboza, who late in December of 1966 was convicted on weapons charges and sentenced to serve 5 more years at MCI-Walpole. It is alleged that the government told Barboza that his wife and children would not be protected unless he agreed to testify. It is also alleged that they made other promises including plastic surgery as well as setting him up with his own restaurant (though they ultimately failed to make good on those promises).
In June of 1967, when Barboza heard from his friend Steve Flemmi that the Patriarca family had planned to murder him, he finally turned and began supplying testimony against various family members including Ray Patriarca. Barboza had the distinction of becoming one of the first FBI informants to ever be entered into the Witness Protection program.
Barboza would go on to testify in open court against Ray Patriarca and other members of the organization. As a result, on June 20, 1967 both Patriarca and long-time Underboss Henry Tameleo were indicted for conspiracy to murder in the 1966 killing of Providence bookmaker Willie Marfeo. Willie Marfeo had been murdered by four shotgun blasts at a Federal Hill grocery store. According to reports, “the gunman, a short, stocky man wearing a straw hat, ordered Marfeo into a telephone booth, shot him four times and walked out.”
Patriarca would ultimately be convicted in 1968, sentenced to just 5 years and a $10,000 fine (for conspiracy to murder nonetheless), and even had the execution of his sentence stayed pending appeal which means he was still able to walk free.
After the Supreme Court shot down his bid for a new trial, Patriarca began serving his time at the Atlanta Federal Penitentiary in March of 1969, at which point he designated Gennaro “Jerry” Angiulo of the Boston-faction to serve as Acting Boss and would also appoint him as Underboss. In reality, he would continue to run his family from the can.
In a separate case, Barboza would also tie the Underboss Henry Tameleo as well as five confederates to the 1965 murder of small-time hood Edward “Teddy” Deegan in exchange for a lighter sentence for himself. This trial would end up having long-term ramifications for each of the defendants though it wouldn’t touch Patriarca himself.
During the trial, the Patriarca family would offer Barboza as much as $50,000 to stop talking or to recant his testimony to which Barboza declined. An FBI document at the time suggests that Barboza himself was actually seeking as much as “$250,000 from the defense on the promise of helping out” while another document says the number requested by Barboza was as much as $500,000. This just indicates the amount of shady dealings going on in this case with Barboza, his handlers in the FBI, and the Patriarca family.
From the evidence I was able to find, Barboza was clearly playing both sides against the middle. In one FBI memo dated August 28, 1970 it says:
“Joseph “Barboza” Baron broke down sobbing under cross-examination but finished testimony after short recess.”
“Baron [Barboza] told them that the performance that he put on in court on August 27th last at the Habeas Corpus proceeding was just an act: that he was really still on the side of government and that he wanted the organization to think that he was with them. He said that he was only indicating that he would recant because the organization is paying him money.”
While the trials were going on, the Patriarca familly tried to get at Barboza by planting a bomb in the car of his attorney, John Fitzgerald. The subsequent blast resulted in Fitzgerald losing his right leg below the knee. Due to this incident, the FBI had to keep Barboza on the move to prevent the mob from finding him, even going so far as to hide him within officer’s quarters located at Fort Knox.
Barboza’s testimony, which was later described as not believable despite the fact that it helped to convict several people, earned him his release from prison in 1969 at which time he was shepherded into Witness Protection under an assumed name and relocated to California.
Four of the men in the Deegan murder case would receive the death sentence and two would receive life imprisonment (though all would eventually be commuted to life in prison).
As it turned out based on information that came out years later, Barboza completely fabricated most of the information with the complicity of the FBI and simply used his status as an informant to settle old scores so to speak.
Now here’s what is really messed up. According to FBI logs, Barboza and his friend, Vincent Flemmi, came to Patriarca and asked for his permission to kill Deegan “as they were having a problem with him,” and “Patriarca would ultimately furnish this O.K.” Three days later Deegan would turn up dead in an alley, shot six times.
Now this is a case of serious FBI corruption as they clearly knew what was going on. A government reform committee would later reveal the bureau’s knowledge that Vincent Flemmi and Barboza were directly involved in killing Teddy Deegan. In fact, an FBI memorandum just a week after the killing described the crime, even going so far as to include who fired the first shot.
But unfortunately for the defendants, most of these men served time for crimes they were completely innocent of. And while a few of the convicted men’s sentences would later be commuted, some would die in prison including Underboss Henry Tameleo (who served 17+ years).
In the early 2000’s, well after the fact, federal wrongful conviction lawsuits would be filed by the men’s families and $100MM in damages were paid to the men’s families.
Unfortunately for the government, Barboza proved to be a complete disaster in Witness Protection as he actually murdered a local hood named Clay Wilson. Barboza would again be arrested and would go back on trial in 1971. Despite the fact that the case and evidence against Joe “The Animal” was said to be overwhelming, and due to some interference and corruption on the part of the FBI, Barboza would receive a plea bargain and a light 5-year sentence (rather than the death penalty that he likely should have recieved). He would go away to serve his time at Folsom prison in California.
Marteen Miller, the public defender of Barboza, and Edwin Cameron, the Sonoma County DA who assisted in making the state’s case, later said the following which in actuality shows the corruption on the government’s part:
Cameron: “”The FBI at the time was considered pretty sacrosanct,” he said. “They had damaged our case to the point that we didn’t think the jury would give us a first degree murder verdict,” because “having the FBI there and the color of their authority painting him as honest and truthful.”
Miller recalled the FBI agents and Harrington explaining their motivation for coming to the aid of Barboza, whose previous testimony had helped convict several topflight mobsters in New England — including Raymond Patriarca, head of the New England crime empire.
Miller: “They were worried that if Barboza were given death (for the Wilson murder) that he’d recant his previous testimony (against Patriarca and others),” he said. “So they would help him in anyway they could.”
So Barboza drew a light sentence (for his 26th murder nonetheless) and got out in 1975 under a new assumed identity. Unfortunately for Joe “The Animal” Barboza, his luck would run out. In 1976, members of the Patriarca crime family found out where he was located, and he was shotgunned to death in San Francisco while walking from his apartment to his car. The hitman was alleged to have been J.R. Russo, who would eventually rise to the position of Consigliere.
Can we just take a moment to appreciate Russo, as he quite honestly looked like he was the basis for Jack Nicholson’s Joker character in Batman. Ilario Zannino, who himself would rise to the position of Consigliere within the family was overheard on a hidden bug saying that Russo, “was a genius with a carbine.”
Barboza’s attorney at the time of his death would be quoted as saying, “With all due respect to my former client, I don’t think society has suffered a great loss” which should indicate what a giant scumbag he truly was.
Anyhow, let’s duck back out of the Barboza rabbithole and get back to our main subject Ray Patriarca. As of 1970, Patriarca wasn’t quite out of the weeds just yet.
At this point in time, Patriarca was still serving time at the Atlanta Federal Penitentiary for the murder of Willie Marfeo, with Gennaro Angiulo serving as Acting Boss of the family.
Then in March 1970, Patriarca and several of his associates were arrested and went on trial again for murder and conspiracy to commit murder—this time the murder contract was allegedly handed out to kill Willie Marfeo’s brother Rudolph “Rudy” Marfeo along with his bodyguard, Anthony Melei. Both were shot-gunned to death on April 20, 1968 in Providence, Rhode Island.
The chief witness in the trial was thief and former hitman John “Red” Kelley, who afterwards went into the federal Witness Protection program. This is the same John “Red” Kelley who also testified against Gambino Boss Carlo Gambino in 1970 regarding the latter’s role in the $3-Million Heist at Chase Manhattan Bank. Kelly claimed to have been imported from Boston to supervise the job. So this guy was going after the big fish.
Kelley would finger his good friend (and former professional baseball player) Maurice Lerner as the shooter and Patriarca as the one who’d ultimately handed out the contract to kill Marfeo and Melei.
According to his testimony, Patriarca lieutenant, Luigi Manocchio, had recruited Lerner for his “controlled violence” and Lerner had in turn brought in Kelley for his meticulous attention to escape plans. He would describe how they repeatedly scouted the daily movements of their intended victims, the wayward bookie, Rudy Marfeo, and his bodyguard, Anthony Melei. How Manocchio later shook hands after a job well executed and conveyed the message that “George” — code for Patriarca — was pleased.
Eventually, FBI agents would arrest Lerner early one morning at his Brookline apartment, finding a pump-action shotgun and a fully loaded pearl-handled .45-caliber pistol.
The hearings and trial for the Marfeo-Melei killings included the usual mob theatrics. One defendant screamed at a prosecutor (“I’ll get you, you bastard. I’ll see tears running down your face before this is over”), punched a wooden door and broke his hand. A witness for the prosecution disappeared for a day, only to resurface with a tale of being whisked to a secret location and asked to testify against everyone except Patriarca and Lerner; as the witness left the stand, a defendant’s relative threatened her life.
After three days of deliberations in March 1970, a jury in Providence convicted Lerner, Patriarca and three others of conspiracy, while Lerner was also convicted of murder. The man with a career batting average of .308 was given two life sentences. He was just 34.
Patriarca himself would get off much easier. On August 31, 1970, Patriarca and his associates were convicted of conspiracy to commit murder and sentenced to 10 years in prison, though he continued to run his family while imprisoned. Lerner and the other defendants were subsequently exonerated when it was established that Kelley had perjured himself at the trial, as had FBI agent H. Paul Rico, who had corroborated Kelley’s testimony.
In 1972, Patriarca made news again when he was taken from the Atlanta Federal penitentiary to testify before the House Select Committee on Crime about investments made by the singer Frank Sinatra in the now-defunct Berkshire Downs racetrack near Hancock, Massachusetts, which was allegedly financed by organized crime figures.
The House Select Committee inquiry wanted to question both Patriarca and Sinatra about his activities as director in the early 1960’s of the race track. It was revealed after Sinatra sold his interest in the track that Patriarca as well as late former Lucchese boss Tommy Lucchese held secret interests in the track.
Frank Sinatra would furiously denounce the committee for allowing a convicted felon to engage in what he would deem a character assassination by saying that he was a front-man for the mob. Aside from the issue with the racetrack, the felon (Joseph Barboza again) would also suggest that Sinatra held interests in two Las Vegas hotels as a front for Patriarca. And though Sinatra was clearly posturing for the public, given his clear long-time connections to organized crime, I have little doubt that this particular story was false.
For his part, Patriarca testified that he’d never met Sinatra, stating “The only place I’ve seen him is on television.”
Despite public posturing that he would shun the inquiry, Sinatra eventually testified that while he’d invested $55,000 personally in the race track, he never actually knew who the other investors were. So both parties more or less played dumb and kept their mouths shut, whatever the arrangements may have been.
So Patriarca was in prison from 1969 until he completed his federal sentence in April 1973. In 1973, he was transferred to a Rhode Island prison where he remained until he was paroled on December 26, 1974 and finally released in 1975. Upon his release, he resumed control of the family (Genarro Angiulo had been serving as Acting Boss in his stead though Patriarca was really running things during his six years behind bars).
Unfortunately, law enforcement would continue to dog him and charges would follow him around for the remainder of his life. While Patriarca was in prison, the crime family which bears his name would have another informant in former “made” man Vincent “Fat Vinny” Teresa who agreed to cooperate in 1971 and also became part of the Witness Protection program.
Ultimately, Vinny Teresa would be responsible for indictments against over 50 mobsters and would go on to write several books while in hiding claiming that he was a top lieutenant to Ray Patriarca. That said, Teresa also refused to testify specifically against Patriarca who he claimed had always treated him fairly.
However, in 1982 Teresa was charged with conspiracy to import cocaine while in Witness Protection so he too (like Barboza) caused issues for the FBI while under their protection. His testimony and the FBI’s diligence with verifying the information put forth has been called into question over the years. Teresa would eventually die in 1990 of kidney failure at the age of 61.
That said, one interesting suggestion from Teresa was that Patriarca may have been a part of the 1960 plot by the CIA to kill Fidel Castro that was ultimately never carried out. According to Teresa, Patriarca helped select Maurice (Pro) Werner, a Brookline, Massachusetts convict to kill Castro.
Now of course I know what you’ll say, Teresa said he wouldn’t testify against Patriarca and here he is saying things about Patriarca. In this case, it’s difficult to know whether that’s true or not given that the CIA-Castro plot, which I 100% believe happened, is more commonly associated with mobsters like Sam Giancana, Santo Trafficante, Johnny Roselli, and not Patriarca. Is it plausible that Patriarca was involved, perhaps? Was it likely, I personally doubt it. But it makes for a good story.
The Twilight Years & The End of An Era
The mid-1970’s would become a very complex time period for Ray Patriarca. He was immediately facing significant pressure from federal authorities and the U.S. Attorney’s office. Future Governor of Rhode Island Lincoln Almond was spearheading the attack and was almost singularly focused on getting Patriarca.
Additionally, Patriarca had a complex relationship with Boston’s Winter Hill Gang (and Whitey Bulger), and Patriarca’s good friend Supreme Court Justice Joseph Bevilacqua was under judicial review which would cut into some of his political power.
And in 1975, a robbery that may have actually been larger than the Lufthansa Heist was committed in Providence that would come to be known as the Bonded Vault Heist (there would later be a movie “Vault” made after these events).
On August 14, 1975, the firm Hudson Services, Inc., also known as Bonded Vault was robbed by seven male suspects. An Investigation disclosed that Hudson Services maintained a large number of safe deposit boxes, many of which were rented under assumed names by organized crime figures.
Estimates of the amount of loot taken range from $1 to $5 million. The amount stolen was later estimated to be in the range of $30 million. It was called by some “the biggest single payday in the criminal history of the northeast” and the fact remains that none of the loot was ever recovered by authorities.
Now there is some information out there stating that a source in the Patriarca crime family gave police the names of most of the people involved soon after the heist. Other sources state that Patriarca himself received a piece of the robbery.
According to sources, many of the 146 boxes contained the spoils collected by members and associates of the Patriarca crime family. As a boss, he had an iron fist and a reputation built on violence and fear. His bookies, associates and wise guys used the boxes to hide everything from cash and guns to gold bars and jewelry.
It turned out that the really valuable loot including gold bars, top-quality jewelry and rare gems was given directly to none other than Patriarca himself. Following the robbery, two shares of $64,000 each were given to Patriarca according to interviews with retired FBI agents and others directly involved in the case.
At the time of the crime, that revelation surprised investigators because the people who lost valuables in the robbery were the same bookmakers, associates and wise guys who paid homage to Patriarca. This led to the obvious question, why would he move to punish his own men?
According to Wayne Worcester, who covered the story as a Providence Journal reporter, “Patriarca had just finished serving a prison sentence and came home to find the revenue that he should have made in his absence apparently was not quite what he thought it was. It either meant that someone was skimming from him while he was in jail, or his people were lying down – and either way he couldn’t let that happen. He wouldn’t let that happen.”
Detectives with the Rhode Island State Police and Providence Police tried to connect the dots of the robbery back to Patriarca. According to law enforcement, Patriarca not only gave the “green light” for the robbery – he even had a hand in the planning as well as the fencing of the proceeds.
This robbery had striking similarities to Lufthansa and although no “made” member of the Patriarca family was ever charged in the Bonded Vault robbery, the fallout from it reverberated throughout the organization.
Worcester described it as “the moment when the mob started to lose some of its grip in New England. I think that’s the whole reason for paying attention to Bonded Vault. If you look at what was going on with [the heist], you can see this was the first major incident of the mob really starting to feed on itself.”
In 1978, Patriarca would again be cited by the FBI as a major leader within Cosa Nostra outside of New York, with his name appearing next to the likes of Tony Accardo and Joey Aiuppa (of Chicago), James Licavoli (of Cleveland), Anthony Zerilli (of Detroit), Frank Balistrieri (of Milwaukee), and even Tony Spilotro (of Las Vegas by way of Chicago) among others.
Also that year, the Justice Department was ordered to draft an index of conversations monitored by the FBI at the office of Patriarca dated back to 1962-1965 with the express purpose of leveraging these documents “as a means of focusing legal arguments on each individual document.” Again, not a good trend for the Patriarca family though in 1979 a Federal appeals court ruled that the tapes could not actually be released since they were made illegally.
By this point, if you haven’t noticed a trend, it was getting harder and harder for Patriarca to remain low-key and law enforcement was set on putting him behind bars sooner or later.
And to that end, in December of 1980, Patriarca would be charged for the 1965 murder of Raymond “Baby” Curcio. This hit happened in response to Curcio and the informer Vinny Teresa burglarizing the home of his brother, Joseph. Curcio was found in his car shot three times in the head.
Now to me, this is quite shocking that Teresa himself wasn’t also murdered. If Teresa was truly as close to Patriarca as he claimed, this would have been quite the backstab and no doubt would have resulted in swift retribution. So my guess is either Patriarca didn’t know or Teresa potentially fabricated some of the circumstances.
While Patriarca was being arrested at his home, a doctor accompanying his lawyers detected an erratic heartbeat and he was subsequently hospitalized. Patriarca would plead not guilty literally from his hospital room and in a twist of events, police would actually lose the bullets used in the slaying, which were to be used as key evidence in the trial.
Over the final few years of his life, Patriarca would be in and out of the hospital due to declining health. As a result, he would undergo several surgeries and his trial would be delayed several times as he was deemed too ill to stand trial.
The man who allegedly supplied the murder weapon in this case, Rudolph E. Sciarra, was sentenced to life in prison in August of 1981. So the judge in this case was not messing around. Had Patriarca stood trial for it, he may have found a way to wiggle out, but it’s clear they were out for blood so the tactic he employed was to delay, delay, delay.
And unfortunately for the family, Patriarca’s frailty was cause for concern as early as 1981. Law enforcement feared that there would eventually be a major battle for control over the family after Patriarca was removed or died (something that eventually did come to pass).
Finally, in 1981 while in the hospital for health problems, Patriarca would be arrested for the 1968 murder of Robert “Bobby” Candos, whom he believed was an informant who was poised to testify against him.
Candos was reported missing on July 30, 1968, one week before he was to stand trial in Providence for an $11,000 bank robbery. His skeleton was found in North Attleboro 22 months later, and it was discovered that he’d been shot three times in the head.
The triggerman, Nicholas Palmigiano, testified that he killed Candos with a .45-caliber handgun on orders from Patriarca. He said Patriarca suspected Candos was ‘going bad.’ He would also implicate Patriarca in the Curcio 1965 slaying.
This would end up being the final legal charge added to Ray Patriarca’s mob career. However, before the old man would make it to trial for either of those murders, fate would have other plans.
On July 11, 1984 at 11:30am, a fire department was called to Patriarca’s residence on Douglas Avenue in Providence where they found him in full cardiac arrest. He was rushed to the Rhode Island Hospital, but despite intense efforts to save him, Patriara was pronounced dead at 1pm.
Raymond Loreda Salvatore Patriarca is buried in Gate of Heaven Cemetery, East Providence, Rhode Island. He is buried in a mausoleum along with his first wife Helen as well as his parents Eleuterio and Mary. His 2nd wife, Rita, is buried just to the right side of the mausoleum.
Even despite his ill-health in later years, Patricarca was still very ruthless, deadly, and in full-control over his family almost right up until the end.
Despite garnering a fair amount of legal notoriety during the last half of his life, Patriarca insisted he was a legitimate businessman who operated the National Cigarette Service, a vendor machine business, in the Federal Hill section of Providence.
He is quoted as saying the following in an interview from September 1981 following an indictment by a Federal grand jury in Miami on charges of labor racketeering, “I was a bootlegger, I was a gambler, but since I got out of prison I’ve done nothing wrong.”
Over his career, Patriarca was arrested more than 30 times on charges ranging from bootlegging to conspiracy to muder, and served several prison sentences, with the last being a six-year bit at the Federal penitentiary in Atlanta for murder. He ruled his family with an iron first for over 30 years.
Law enforcement officials contend that Patriarca controlled a massive web of illicit activities that spread across New England, and in reality his era of the New England mob can probably be called the golden age as the mob in Boston and Providence really have never reached the pinnacle of power they had under Patriarca.
In the aftermath of his death, the Patriarca family descended into a years-long, bloody civil war for control over the family which pitted his relatively ineffective son, Ray Patriarca Junior against a renegade faction led by the Joker-looking mobster J.R. Russo. It was truly mob nepotism at its finest, and caused a major fracture within the family.
But that is a story for another day.
That’s it for this episode! It certainly was a massive one.
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Until next time, gratzie!
- https://timesmachine.nytimes.com/timesmachine/1984/07/12/059726.html?pageNumber=31 (Death announcement)
Books & Other Sources:
- Sherman, Casey (2013). Animal: The Bloody Rise and Fall of the Mob’s Most Feared Assassin.
- Lehr, Dick and O’Neill, Gerard (1989). The Underboss: The Rise and Fall of a Mafia Family.
- Cressey, Donald Ray (1969). Theft of the Nation: The Structure and Operations of Organized Crime in America. Harper & Row. ISBN 9780060500269, 0060500263.
- Sifakis, Carl (2006). The Mafia Encyclopedia: From Accardo to Zwillman. Third Edition. Viva Books Private Limited. ISBN 9788130902753, 978-8130902753