Former Framingham and Milford, Massachusetts racket chief Tommy Hillary was vanquished from the east coast in 1991 by the New England mob administration for stealing $4,000 from a mafia-controlled nightclub in Boston. The 73-year old Hillary took the witness stand this week in a federal murder trial and colorfully recounted his life in the underworld, including the tale of his banishment.

Francis (Cadillac Frank) Salemme, the one-time Godfather of New England’s Patriarca crime family, is standing trial for the 1993 murder of his business partner, Stevie DiSarro. Salemme and DiSarro co-owned The Channel nightclub in South Boston. According to his indictment, Salemme ordered DiSarro killed for cooperating with the government and skimming profits from their business arrangement. Hillary recounted to the jury how two years earlier, he was admonished for pocketing money from the club without permission, physically attacked by Salemme and subsequently fled south until he was arrested in 1992 and joined the Witness Protection Program.

DiSarro, 43, was baptized as an infant by legendary New England don Raymond Patriarca, one of Salemme’s mentors and Hillary’s surrogate father. Patriarca, Hillary and DiSarro grew up in Providence, while Salemme was born and raised in Boston. Attending law school in Massachusetts, DiSarro would move to Boston and start his career in the real estate and nightclub business.

Cadillac Frank went to prison in the 1970s for blowing up a mob attorney in a car bomb at Patriarca’s behest. Upon being released a decade and a half later, Salemme was inducted into the Boston-Providence crime syndicate by Patriarca’s son and successor Raymond Patriarca, Jr., who introduced him to Hillary to help him get back on his feet after 15 years behind bars. In turn, Hillary put DiSarro, who he looked at like a “kid brother,” in touch with the ambitious and savvy Salemme to find video-poker machine distribution routes in bars and restaurants across the northeast to profit from. Soon, Cadillac Frank was boss of the crime family, surviving an assassination attempt and benefiting from the federal prosecutions of allies and rivals alike.

Receiving financing from Salemme, in 1990, DiSarro purchased The Channel, the premier rock music venue on the Beantown club scene. Hillary had a “no show” job at the establishment and Francis (Frankie Boy) Salemme, Jr., Cadillac Frank’s son and protégé, was the assistant manager. Salemme tasked Hillary with overseeing bookmaking and loan sharking operations in the west Boston suburbs of Framingham and Milford, located in Middlesex County.

*This story’s cover image is a Massachusetts State Police surveillance photo of Stevie DiSarro, Frankie Boy Salemme, Jr., Tommy Hillary and Cadillac Frank Salemme exiting a lunch at a Boston diner in the 1990

Per his testimony at Salemme’s trial, Hillary took $4,000 in cash from The Channel to give to a girlfriend of his for her to start a fashion line and when Salemme discovered the missing money in September 1991, he went ballistic. Flanked by his right-hand man, Providence capo Robert (Bobby the Cigar) DeLuca and Dennis (Champagne Denny) Lepore, a top lieutenant of the Salemmes in Boston’s North End, Cadillac Frank met Hillary at a Chinatown restaurant where Hillary was supposed to be sitting down with a local Asian gangster to negotiate buying a stolen cargo haul of silk shirts. He immediately went after him.

“The second I got in the booth, Frankie grabbed me by the throat,” Hillary testified. “Bada boom, bada bing, (he told me), ‘Listen you piece of shit, get out of this town. If I see you again, I’m going to kill you myself’…..I ruined my life for 4Gs.”

Hillary, who could never be “made” into the mafia because he was Irish, not Italian, told jurors he was refused travel cash by DiSarro for fear of reprisal in a chat on the telephone about what had just happened and quickly moved to Florida to avoid physical harm. DeLuca was Hillary’s best man at his wedding. Lepore acted as Salemme’s buffer with an East Boston crew long opposed to his rapid ascension to the throne.

 

Tommy Hillary (left) & Bobby DeLuca (right) in 1976

The fall 1991 phone conversation with DiSarro was the last time Hillary would ever speak to him. Less than a year later, Hillary was busted for drug pushing and, alongside Salemme, Jr. and Lepore, he was indicted in a Hollywood film extortion scheme involving the bribing of labor union officials. Taken into custody in August of 1992 at a traffic stop in Florida, he became an informant. Serving just one year in prison, Hillary has spent the better half of the last three decades living under an assumed identity in an undisclosed part of the country.

Pleading guilty, Lepore, 71 years old and nicknamed for his expensive tastes, did eight years in prison. Champagne Denny returned to the streets in 2002. Salemme, Jr. died of AIDS in 1994 at 38, never reaching trial in the extortion case.

The suspect in more than one gangland murder, including DiSarro’s, the younger Salemme had contracted the then-deadly virus from sex with a female prostitute. Prosecutors believe on the afternoon of May 10, 1993, Salemme, Jr. picked up DiSarro at his house in a red-colored Jeep Grand Cherokee, drove him to the Salemme family home in Sharon, Massachusetts, where him and his best friend, mob associate Paul (Paulie the Plumber) Weadick, strangled him to death in the kitchen as Cadillac Frank observed nearby.

Bobby DeLuca admits to organizing the burying of DiSarro’s body in Rhode Island that same night. When a member of DeLuca’s former crew got pinched in a wholesale marijuana conspiracy in March 2016, he flipped and led the FBI to DiSarro’s remains under a converted textile mill in Providence he owned. DeLuca, 72, and Salemme 84, were both in the Witness Protection Program at the time and charged in the homicide conspiracy in August of that year. The 62-year old Weadick, closely aligned with current Patriarca bosses the DiNunzio brothers (Carmen and Anthony), was charged too and is Salemme’s co-defendant. Salemme joined Team America from inside prison walls in 1999. DeLuca jumped ship in 2011 and will be the star witness against Salemme and Weadick at trial this spring.

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