A pair of Providence mob associates copped plea deals this week stemming from their arrest this summer for trying to avenge a 2017 burglary. Rhode Island wiseguy Ricky Dion pleaded no contest to the misdemeanor assault, disorderly conduct and conspiracy charges handed down in July and east coast real estate mogul Frank Zammiello, a treasured confidant to a string of New England mafia dons, entered a so-called “Alford plea” to a charge of assault.

Dion was sentenced to a one-year suspended sentence and received 12 months of probation. Courtesy of his Alford plea, Zammiello avoids any time behind bars or court-ordered supervision so long as he avoids arrest for the next year. In an Alford plea, the defendant admits the state holds enough evidence to convict him and is allowed to maintain his innocence. Acclaimed WPRI Target 12 television investigative reporter Tim White in Providence broke the news Friday night.

Last December, according to the indictment, the 67-year old Zammiello and the 52-year old Dion, along with two others, tried to kidnap a Rhode Island Department of Transportation employee named Danny Branca as he left work as retaliation for Branca’s reputed involvement in a burglary at Zammiello’s mansion in February 2017, where bandits ripped him off for $500,000 in cash and valuables. Branca told police the four assailants attacked him and tried to push him into a vehicle in the parking lot of his suburban Providence office, only relenting upon Branca’s screams attracting a crowd.

Per court records, Zammiello has been linked closely with three generations of Patriarca crime family dons and Dion is a member of crew run by imprisoned Providence mob captain Edward (Little Eddie) Lato. Zammiello’s name surfaced in testimony at this summer’s federal murder trial in Boston which saw one-time Patriarca clan boss Francis (Cadillac Frank) Salemme found guilty of ordering the May 1993 gangland slaying of nightclub owner Stevie DiSarro. Dion was sent to federal prison in 1998 for collecting shakedown money and trafficking cocaine and pain pills in a racketeering case involving Lato. He was released in 2003.

DiSarro and Salemme co-owned The Channel, a famous 1980s era rock club in South Boston. Zammiello was friends with both men and reportedly provided some of the financing for buying the club out of bankruptcy in the early 1990s. While Zammeillo admits he discussed funding the purchase, he claims he never ended up providing any start-up cash for the ill-fated venture. Salemme, 85, suspected DiSarro of skimming money from the club and cooperating with the FBI.

Zammiello rose from meager beginnings as an electrician in the Olneyville section of Providence to being the most prominent real estate developer in the state of Rhode Island. He developed land with Salemme’s predecessor as New England mafia boss, Raymond Patriarca, Jr., even paying Patriarca, Jr.’s bond money when he was busted on racketeering charges in 1986.

It’s widely known that Zammiello is also tight with Salemme’s successor as Godfather of the Patriarca family, Luigi (Baby Shacks) Manocchio. Throughout the 2000s, Zammiello and Manocchio were often seen dining together in Federal Hill, Providence’s Little Italy. FBI agents have followed the pair on vacation and Manocchio is said to have access to Zammiello’s private jet, the same jet that the U.S. State Department borrowed in the days after the 9/11 terrorist attacks to ferry members of the Saudi royal family out of the country.

Manocchio, 90, and Patriarca, Jr., 72, are respectively retired from mob affairs today. To augment his vast real estate portfolio, Zammiello has a fleet of private aircraft he uses for his Northstar Aviation luxury jet rental business.

Dion once worked the beat as a cop in Providence for a short period of time. He got hooked up with Little Eddie Lato, currently at the back end of a prison term for extortion and being eyed by federal investigators in at least one cold-case murder, in the 1980s, according to sources familiar with both men. Informants have told the FBI that the 71-year old Lato helped plan and carry out the September 1992 mob hit on rogue enforcer Kevin Hanrahan, gunned down leaving a Federal Hill steakhouse one early autumn evening 26 years ago. As of last year, Dion was the day-to-day manager of Oxford Investment, the owners of Rhode Island’s historic Tillinghast estate.

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