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Former mob boss tells of access to FBI
By Shelley Murphy, Globe Staff, 2/13/2004

They were the glory days for Francis "Cadillac Frank'' Salemme and Stephen "The Rifleman'' Flemmi, who once roamed the city dressed as rabbis while stalking a rival during Boston's bloody gang wars of the 1960s. They finally killed the man at a bus stop, Salemme said, with the help of an FBI agent.

They made sure, Salemme said, that Boston mob underboss Gennaro "Jerry'' Angiulo was aquitted in 1968 of being an accessory to murder by slipping into the Suffolk County courthouse at night to meet with a juror. It was routine for them to use their contacts at the Registry of Motor Vehicles to run license plates so they could get people's addresses.

"We could go anywhere in the city and get identification, get plates, talk to jurors after hours at night in the court, anything,'' Salemme told a congressional committee investigating the FBI's handling of informants, particularly in Boston. "We had that kind of access in the city of Boston.''

Salemme's account of underworld Boston and alleged FBI corruption was made public yesterday when the US House Committee on Government Reform released a 154-page transcript of the closed-door deposition that the former boss of the New England Mafia gave last April.

His most damning allegations were made against H. Paul Rico, a retired FBI agent who died last month while awaiting trial in Oklahoma on charges that he helped longtime FBI informants Flemmi and James "Whitey'' Bulger kill a Tulsa businessman in 1981.

Salemme claimed that Rico leaked information to him and others who were aligned with Somerville's McLean gang during the 1960s that allowed them to ambush and kill two members of the rival McLaughlin gang from Charlestown.

Salemme claimed that Rico had "animosity'' toward the McLaughlin gang because federal wiretaps had picked up conversations in which the gangsters cast ``aspersions on Paul's manhoood'' and his relationship with former FBI director J. Edgar Hoover.

The McLaughlin gangsters were overheard saying that Rico had "a menage a trois'' with Hoover and another high-ranking FBI official, Salemme said.

Boston lawyer E. Peter Parker, who represented Rico in a number of civil suits filed against him in federal court in Boston, called Salemme's claims ridiculous, arguing that it's in Salemme's interest to smear Rico, because Salemme has said that he plans to sue the FBI.

"Apparently, he is quite willing to plumb the depths of what evidently is a rich fantasy life,'' Parker said. ``What's next, Rico killed JFK?''

Salemme, 69, was released into the federal witness protection program last year after serving eight years in prison for racketeering and extortion. He admitted to eight gangland murders in the 1960s, but was given a reduced sentence because his cooperation led to the May 2002 conviction of retired FBI agent John J. Connolly Jr. on federal racketeering charges.

US Representative Tom M. Davis III, a Virginia Republican who is chairman of the Committee on Government Reform, said the panel kept Salemme's transcript sealed for the past 10 months at the request of federal and state investigators who were targeting Rico.

But after Rico died Jan. 17, the committee decided to unseal Salemme's deposition to ``allow the public further insight into the improper, indeed, criminal relationship between Boston FBI agents and their murderous informants,'' said a statement Davis issued yesterday.

During his deposition, given under a grant of immunity, Salemme said that he and Flemmi tried to kill Edward ``Punchy'' McLaughlin twice, once outside Beth Israel Hospital while disguised as rabbis. But they ended up wounding him instead, prompting Rico to say later, ``Boy, that was a sloppy piece of work.''

Salemme claimed that after McLaughlin went into hiding, Rico gave him a slip of paper with the address of the Canton house where McLaughlin was staying with a girlfriend, allowing Salemme and Flemmi to trail McLaughlin from Canton to a West Roxbury bus stop, where they killed him on Oct. 20, 1965.

Another McLaughlin gang member, Ronald Dermody, asked Rico to meet him at a prearranged spot. But, according to Salemme, Rico called gang leader Buddy McLean and told him where Dermody was, ``and Buddy goes there and kills him.''

Rico picked up McLean at the scene of the crime and let him stay at his Belmont home for a few days ``until the heat rolled over,'' Salemme said.

Back then, Salemme said, he didn't know that Flemmi was an FBI informant, recruited by Rico in 1965. Flemmi was secretly providing Rico with information about the criminal exploits of his rivals and his friends, including Salemme.

Salemme said he wasn't suspicious when Rico and his partner, FBI agent Dennis Condon, frequently came by his Roxbury garage to hang out and have coffee. Salemme said it was a different era, when law enforcement officials had cozy relationships with gangsters.

Salemme said he repaired Rico's FBI car at no cost when it was rammed at the racetrack so Rico wouldn't have to explain the damage to his superiors. On another occasion, Salemme said, he gave Rico a car.

Salemme said he and Flemmi also gave Rico a ``throwaway gun'' to use for protection when the agent feared he might be targeted by ``lamsters,'' fugitive members of the McLaughlin gang.

At the time, Salemme, who would become boss of the New England Mafia in 1991, was an up-and-coming member of the crime family. He described how in 1968 he met with a member of the jury that later aquitted Angiulo of being an accessory before the fact in the murder of Rocco DiSeglio, who was killed in 1966 because associates believed he helped rivals stick up card games on Mafia turf.

Salemme said he knew a custodian at the Suffolk County courthouse and was able to slip into the building one night.

The government's star witness in that case, Mafia hitman Joseph ``Baron'' Barboza, testified at another murder trial that year, leading to the wrongful conviction of four men for the 1965 gangland murder of Edward ``Teddy'' Deegan.

Two of those men, Louis Greco and Henry Tameleo, died in prison. The others, Joseph Salvati and Peter Limone, spent 30 years in prison. They were released after FBI documents indicating that Barboza had framed them were not turned over to defense lawyers during their trial. The documents suggested that one of the killers had been Flemmi's brother, Vincent ``Jimmy'' Flemmi, who was also an FBI informant.

Salemme told the committee that Rico and Condon knew that four men had been framed for Deegan's murder and that Condon even joked about Greco's being on death row for a murder in which he wasn't involved.

Salemme said Rico had tried to recruit him as an informant, but he refused.

Copyright 2004 Globe Newspaper Company.

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