The Patriarca crime family is a criminal organization based in New England, specifically Providence, Rhode Island and Boston, Massachusetts, and forms part of the Mafia or La Cosa Nostra. The Patriarca family is sometimes referred to as “The Office.”
The New England-based Mafia family that would later be known as the Patriarca family was founded by Gaspare Messina in 1916, and he led the family until his retirement in 1924. Messina was then succeeded by Phil Buccola. Under Buccola the family increased its power and wealth, mostly through loan sharking, gambling, and bootlegging. Buccola remained the boss of the crime family for thirty years before retiring to Sicily in 1954. He was succeeded by Raymond "Il Patrone" Patriarca
Patriarca made drastic changes in the family, the biggest being moving the family's base of operations to Providence, Rhode Island. Patriarca was a strict, ruthless but fair leader and successfully ran his crime family for many decades. He made it clear that other crime families were not permitted to operate in New England, and was also skilled at warding off police and maintaining a low profile and thus received little hindrance from law enforcement. The family ventured into new rackets such as pornography and narcotics, though mob informer Vinnie Teresa insisted that Patriarca forbade the family to become involved in drugs.
During his reign as boss, Patriarca also formed strong relationships with the New York crime families, who had controlled organized crime in Providence before he moved in. Patriarca’s long-time underboss, Enrico "Henry" Tameleo, was even a member of New York’s Bonanno family. He also worked with the Genovese family frequently. Patriarca and the Genoveses decided that the dividing line between the two families’ territory would be the Connecticut River. In addition to having close ties to the powerful New York mafia, Patriarca was also on the Mafia’s ruling commission and had investments in two Las Vegas casinos.
Another of Patriarca's underbosses was Gennaro "Jerry" Angiulo. Angiulo was involved in the numbers racket in Boston, and was being shaken down by rival mobsters because he was not a "made" member. Angiulo solved this problem by paying Patriarca $50,000 and agreeing to pay him $100,000 a year to become a made member of the family. Angiulo was based in Boston and gained complete control of gambling in the city. However, Angiulo's office at 98 Prince St was bugged by the FBI, who also persuaded Vincent Teresa to testify against many mob figures. Angiulo tried to have Teresa's wife and daughter hurt or killed, which, as Teresa was not a made guy, was a serious violation of the Mafia code. Instead, Angiulo's number two, Ilario "Larry" Zannino withheld millions of dollars from Teresa and never helped out Teresa's family. As a result of these two occurrences, Vincent Teresa decided to testify against them and many others, and eventually wrote a book about his life in the Mafia.
In 1957, more than 60 of the country’s most powerful crime bosses met in Apalachin, a small town in upstate New York. The meeting was attended by powerful organized crime figures such as Joe Bonanno, Carlo Gambino, and Vito Genovese. Raymond Patriarca was also in attendance and was subsequently arrested with all of the other attendees. The Apalachin Meeting drew a lot of attention to Patriarca from the press, the public, and law enforcement.
The situation became worse for Patriarca and his family in 1961, when Robert Kennedy became Attorney General and began an assault on organized crime. Law enforcement agencies worked to develop informers within the mob and finally succeeded in 1966 when Joe Barboza, a hit man for the Patriarca family who claimed to have killed 26 people, was arrested on a concealed weapons charge. Barboza became concerned when Patriarca did not raise his bail and two of his friends were killed for trying to do so. Barboza became an informant not long after, and in 1967, Patriarca and Enrico Tameleo were indicted for the murder of Providence bookmaker, Willie Marfeo. Patriarca was convicted and began serving time in 1969. While Patriarca was in prison, Angiulo served as acting boss. Patriarca was released in 1974 and resumed control of the family.
Patriarca was plagued by law enforcement for the rest of his life and was charged numerous times for a variety of crimes until his death in 1984: in 1978, Vinnie Teresa testified that Patriarca had participated in a 1960 attempt by the CIA to kill Fidel Castro that was never carried out. In 1983, Patriarca was charged with the murder of Raymond Curcio, and in 1984, he was arrested for the murder of Robert Candos, whom Patriarca believed was an informant. Raymond "El Pedrone" Patriarca died of a heart attack at the age of 76 on July 11, 1984.
After Patriarca's death, the New England Mafia began a long period of decline, resulting from both legal prosecution and internal violence. After Patriarca’s death, Jerry Angiulo attempted to take over as boss, despite being in jail. However, Larry Zannino, the family’s top lieutenant, backed Patriarca’s son, Raymond Patriarca Jr. for the position. The National Commission approved Patriarca Jr.’s ascendancy to leadership and his position was confirmed. Zannino was made consigliere, but he was sentenced to thirty years in prison in 1987. Gennaro Angiulo was sentenced to 45 years in prison for racketeering charges. Other senior members such as Henry Tameleo and Francesco Intiso died, and William Grasso then filled in as underboss because of the younger Patriarca’s weak leadership. Some law enforcers believed Grasso was actually in charge, but these rumors ended when Grasso was found dead in June 1989. Nicholas Bianco then took over the family’s Providence operations.
On March 26, 1990, Raymond Patriarca Jr. and 20 other family members and associates, including underboss Bianco, consigliere Joseph Russo, and lieutenants Biaggio Digiacoma, Vincent Ferrara, Matthew Gugleilmetti, Joseph A. Tiberi Sr. , Dennis Lepore and Robert Carozza, were indicted on numerous racketeering, extortion, narcotics, gambling, and murder charges. The arrests were described as “the most sweeping attack ever launched on a single organized crime family.” One of the most damaging pieces of evidence was a tape recording of a Mafia induction ceremony, at which 13 Mafiosi were present. Because of this embarrassment, Patriarca was replaced as boss by Bianco, who maintained a very low profile.
However, in 1991, Bianco was sentenced to 11 years in prison, while eight other family members were convicted of RICO charges. Bianco died in prison in 1994. Patriarca was sentenced to 8 years in prison in 1992 after pleading guilty to racketerring charges. On January 6, 1992, all of the defendants in the RICO trial pled guilty and received lengthy sentences and large fines. In 1993, 26 others were indicted and convicted for running a bookmaking operation. Much of the legal trouble was the result of cooperation between Whitey Bulger, a mob rival and leader of Boston's Winter Hill Gang, and FBI agent John Connolly, who let Bulger run his criminal operations with impunity in exchange for information.
Frank Salemme took over the family after the trials and moved the family’s base back to Boston. Salemme’s ascension to the position of boss, however, sparked tensions among family factions. In 1991 and 1992, six mob-related killings resulted from interfamily violence. The war between Salemme and a crew of renegade mobsters continued for several years. In 1995, Salemme was indicted on racketeering charges, and his younger brother Jack took over as acting boss.
In 1997, the FBI indicted 15 members of the renegade crew including Anthony Ciampi, Michael P. Romano, Sr., Michael “Gigi Portalla” Marino, Enrico M. “Rico” Ponzo, Nazzaro Ralph Scarpa, Sean Cote, Mark F. Spisak and Anthony Allan Diaz, Eugene A. “Gino” Rida, Jr., John M. Arciero, Paul DeCologero, Christopher Puopolo and Leo M. “Chipper” Boffoli as well as faction leader Robert Carozza—the only made member of the group. The grand jury testimony that resulted in the indictments was dominated by Sean Thomas Cote, who was the first of four indicted members to turn government witness. When the verdict for the trial returned, the jury acquitted the defendants of most charges and was deadlocked on murder and racketeering charges. While a second trial was underway, several of the defendants, including Anthony Ciampi and Eugene Rida, changed their pleas to guilty. In February 2000, Salemme, who had already been in prison for several years, made a plea bargain and got eleven years.
The current boss of the Patriarca family is believed to be Luigi "Baby Shanks" Manocchio. The alleged underboss is Carmen Dinunzio, who was arrested December 2, 2006. The New England Mafia is estimated to have about 40-50 active members and many more associates. The Patriarca crime family remains one of the largest and most prominent La Cosa Nostra families outside of New York.
Today, the Patriarca family handles most of its activities in local social clubs and businesses owned by members and associates of the family in the Federal Hill Section of Providence RI and also at remote locations in Boston, Massachusetts. Most remaining members keep a low profile, but the family is believed to be trying to rebuild after a period of decline