According to recent federal court filings, former New England mafia boss Francis (Cadillac Frank) Salemme gave authorities alternate versions of who he believed killed his business partner, Stevie DiSarro, 25 years ago this month – one blamed a dead mob superior of his, the other a lifelong friend and underworld associate. The United State Attorneys’ Office in Boston is of the opinion that in actuality it was Salemme himself that set the DiSarro homicide in motion.

The 84-year old Salemme, who led New England’s Patriarca crime family in the first half of the 1990s before being incarcerated and then entering the Witness Protection Program, will go on trial for ordering DiSarro’s murder in the coming days. DiSarro’s remains were dug up in Rhode Island in the spring of 2016. Opening arguments in the case are expected to begin next week.

DiSarro, 43, and Salemme co-owned, The Channel nightclub in the Fort Point section of South Boston. When the FBI and IRS jammed DiSarro up with evidence of shady real estate deals and bank fraud, he began cooperating with the government in building a case against his mob don business partner. Cadillac Frank suspected he was stealing from him, too. Less than two months later, on the afternoon of May 10, 1993, at the Salemme family home in Sharon, Massachusetts, DiSarro was strangled to death by Salemme’s now-deceased son as Salemme watched on with pride, per his indictment.

After Cadillac Frank was convicted of racketeering, he turned witness for the government and testified his way out of prison, helping prosecutors bust the most infamously corrupt FBI agent in history. He admitted to taking part in nine gangland slayings, but neglected to mention his or his son’s role in the DiSarro murder despite the fact that his son, Frankie Boy, had been dead for years.

During his initial 1999 debriefing, Salemme told the feds DiSarro was murdered on orders of imprisoned New England mafia boss Nicky Bianco, who Salemme said had a personal beef with DiSarro over a business deal gone bad. Bianco took the reins of the Patriarca clan for a year in the late 1980s as a means of stabilizing a fractured organization split between factions in Providence and Boston. Even though he was from Boston, Salemme sided with the Providence regime, where Bianco resided.

Nicky Bianco

Bianco had a reputation as a mediator of mob disputes, first earning accolades for his skills as an arbiter in the 1960s when he helped squash tensions in New York’s Colombo crime family. DiSarro and Bianco were both born and raised in Providence and knew each other from the city’s Federal Hill neighborhood. Following Bianco’s indictment for racketeering in March 1990, Salemme assumed the mantle of power in the Patriarca syndicate. Bianco died of Lou Gehrig’s Disease while behind bars at a Springfield, Missouri federal penitentiary in November 1994.

Salemme looked like he was in the clear from getting corralled into a legal quandary surrounding his misdirection with the feds regarding the DiSarro murder until 2003 when top Winter Hill Gang lieutenant and childhood friend, Stevie (The Rifleman) Flemmi, flipped and keyed his handlers to Cadillac Frank’s role in DiSarro’s death – he told the FBI he had unintentionally walked in on DiSarro being killed on an unannounced visit to the Salemme home and that days later Salemme informed him that DiSarro was clipped because of his cooperation and sticky fingers at The Channel (Flemmi can be seen in this article’s cover image).

The Winter Hill Gang was Boston’s Irish mob, back then run by Flemmi’s partner-in-crime, the notorious James (Whitey) Bulger. Flemmi and Bulger maintained a small silent ownership stake in The Channel and they were indicted alongside Salemme in 1995. It was soon revealed that they were both longtime FBI informants in bed with a dirty FBI agent named John Connolly.

The iconic Bulger, depicted by Hollywood stars Johnny Depp and Jack Nicholson, respectively, in the big-budget films Black Mass and The Departed, was a fugitive for 16 years until his apprehension in 2011 residing in Santa Monica, California. The half-Irish Salemme came up in the Boston underworld with Bulger and Flemmi, cutting his teeth in a brutal shooting war that raged in Beantown between rival Irish gangs in the 1960s and early 1970s.

Both Flemmi and Salemme were groomed in the ways of the mafia by Boston capo Larry Zannino. Together, they blew up the car of a mob attorney in 1968, costing the lawyer his leg. While Salemme did 15 years in prison for the crime, he protected Flemmi from being implicated.

The Rifleman didn’t return the favor.

Almost immediately after Flemmi became a cooperator in 2003 and he let the feds know of his alleged witnessing of the DiSarro hit, they indicted Salemme for perjury and obstruction of justice. He pled guilty and got an extra five years added to his reduced sentence. Since DiSarro’s body was never found though, Salemme skated away from any homicide charges.

However, the FBI kept trying to crack the case and upon agents paying a visit to Salemme in 2013, living in Atlanta under a new name as a part of the Witness Protection Program, he changed his tune again. This time, he placed the blame for DiSarro’s murder at the feet of Flemmi, a rare Italian member of the Irish mob.

Highly-decorated as a Korean War hero, Flemmi had in fact turned down induction into the Patriarca crime family on a number of occasions. Despite their Italian heritage, Flemmi and Winter Hill Gang hit man Johnny Martorano, who would also eventually join Team U.S.A., rose fast in the Irish underworld and acted as liaisons to the Patriarcas for Bulger, who used his relationship with the FBI to eliminate a series of counterparts in the Italian mob and accumulate their racket territory.

At his 2003 debriefing, Flemmi admitted to his role in more than a dozen murders, including killing two of his girlfriends he worried knew too much about his controversial status as an FBI mole. Flemmi went on to testify against Bulger and their ace-in-the-hole fed Connolly at separate trials and is scheduled to take the stand against Salemme as well.

Stevie Flemmi & one of his slain girlfriends

Leave a Reply