AS TIME GOES BY FOR MOB CHIEF PATRIARCA
By Richard J. Connolly Globe Staff
Raymond L.S. Patriarca still holds firm control over the Mob in New England, according to law enforcement officials who specialize in organized crime. But it appears to these experts to be only a question of time before his health and new troubles with the law will force him to surrender the power he has held for more than 30 years.
These are troublesome times for Patriarca. At 73, he is burdened with serious health problems and he faces three major criminal charges which, if he is convicted, could put him back in prison for the rest of his life.
Whether the Providence man can survive a heart condition, two murder- related trials and a federal labor racketeering charge remains to be seen, but law enforcement officials say they have growing doubt about Patriarca's ability to retain leadership of the Mob with the same strength he has possessed over past years.
A series of interviews and general discussions with law enforcement representatives have revealed there is speculation among investigators that the so-called Patriarca crime family will lose the independence it has experienced for a quarter of a century and that control of organized crime in much of New England will be seized by one of the five organized crime families from New York City unless the Providence-based gang comes up with a strong successor.
Some lawmen feel that if a New York family gains control, it would expand operations in such areas as New England's seaports.
"He's still in Providence and he's still in charge," one law enforcement official said recently of Patriarca, "but my feeling is that we're going to see some very serious moves being made by the New York families to take over New England.
"I think there could be violence (in the fight for control*," observed the official, whose job is to keep close tabs on mob activity. "But they'll (the New York mobsters* probably sit back and see what happens to the prosecution (of Patriarca* and then capitalize on that. There are some New York elements in here right now."
Down through the years, Patriarca has been independent, a powerful head of his own family which operates primarily in the Rhode Island-Eastern Massachusetts area. He has the respect of organized crime leaders across the country and a working arrangement with the New York mobs, according to sources.
His strength as a leader and his relationship with the heads of other crime families were indicated in the transcripts of an FBI electronic surveillance between 1962 and 1965 at his Providence office, where he operates a cigarette vending machine business.
Conversations recorded by the FBI between Patriarca and other mobsters substantiated Justice Department claims that he was part of a national criminal organization. There was evidence in the FBI records that Patriarca was so powerful he was able to send an associate to New York City to settle warfare between two crime families.
Patriarca claimed when part of the FBI transcripts were released - as he did following his recent indictment on labor racketeering charges - that he was not a gangster and that the law has "done nothing but trail me all my life."
His latest court appearance on Sept. 24 resulted from an allegation by the Justice Department that he and the heads of two other organized crime families in Florida and Chicago conspired in 1976 to steal millions of dollars from the Laborers' International Union of North America by seizing control of its insurance business.
Before he was released under $50,000 bond, Patriarca told a federal magistrate: "I was a bootlegger. I was a gambler. But since I got out of prison in 1945, I've done nothing wrong."
Twenty years after he completed the prison term he referred to in his remarks to the magistrate, the FBI used some of his own conversations - picked up by an electronic "bug" placed in his office - to show that he was a member of a national crime organization known as La Cosa Nostra.
The transcripts of the "bugging" operation showed that Patriarca had direct dealings with some of the top mobsters across the country and that his own organization was involved in murder, kidnaping, extortion, gambling, fraud, bribery, perjury and loan sharking.
He was back in prison in 1969 for conspiring to murder a Providence hoodlum and was paroled in 1975 when law enforcement officials said he resumed his legitimate business on Atwells avenue, Providence, and active control of The Mob. Authorities claimed that his brother, the late Joseph Patriarca, and several "trusted associates" kept the Mob together during Patriarca's confinement.
Now Raymond Patriarca faces the possibility of returning to prison in two other murder cases and in the investigation of his alleged role in labor racketeering.
He was arrested last Dec. 4 at his home in Johnston, R.I., on a charge of ordering the 1965 murder of Raymond (Baby) Curcio, a 31-year-old drug addict. Authorities say that Curcio was shot six times in the back of the head and neck on orders from Patriarca because Curcio burglarized the home of Patriarca's brother.
Raymond Patriarca was being treated for a heart condition at a Providence hospital last March 13 when he was arrested again. This time he was charged in connection with the 1970 murder of Robert (Bobby) Candos, a 30-year-old bank robber who disappeared in 1968 and whose skeleton was found 22 months later in North Attleborough.
Candos allegedly was slain because of rumors that he was going to testify against Patriarca. Both the Curcio and Candos trials have been delayed because of Patriarca's heart condition, which his lawyer claims could bring death at any moment.
Patriarca's indictment in the plot to grab the insurance funds of the laborers' union was the Justice Department's first formal charge that the Mob in New England has been involved in labor racketeering to any significant degree.
Traditionally, New England mobsters have been unwilling or unable to reach into union activities, according to one federal source who noted that loan sharking and bookmaking generate most of the criminal organization's cash flow.
Wiretap information obtained by the FBI during undercover investigations of labor racketeering, particularly during "Unirac," the code name for a probe of waterfront corruption, showed there was little infiltration by the Mob of business activities in New England ports, according to a federal source.
This is one of the major reasons why New York mobsters are eager to gain control of the Patriarca organization, the official reported. The New York families see a great opportunity to expand their activities, according to the source.
Patriarca is said to maintain an alliance with members of the New York crime families. Federal investigators have surveillance evidence that in the past year Patriarca attended a meeting with representatives of the Genovese and Gambino families from New York and New Haven.
Despite Patriarca's reported independence, the influence of the New York families on operations has been noted increasingly by law enforcement officers in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut in recent years.
For example, all five New York families are now represented in Connecticut, and organized crime leaders in Springfield and Worcester, while maintaining a friendly relationship with the Patriarca group, are considered part of the Genovese family in New York.
Even some of the high-level figures in the Patriarca organization, although faithful to him, have strong ties to New York, leading some law enforcement experts to believe that the New York influence will grow stronger as Patriarca weakens. There is speculation, too, that some of Patriarca's associates can muster the strength to succeed him.
Investigators and prosecutors who monitor organized crime activities point to the following as possible successors to Patriarca:
- Nicholas Louis Bianco, 49, of Barrington, R.I., who reportedly was sponsored by Patriarca when Bianco was formally inducted into La Cosa Nostra and who helped Joseph Patriarca keep the gang together while Raymond was in prison in the 1970s.
Bianco was Patriarca's intermediary in attempts to solve the Gallo-Profaci gang war in New York in the early 1960s.
- Gennaro J. Angiulo, a 62-year-old Boston area real estate owner who for more than 20 years has been considered by law enforcement officials as head of The Mob in the Boston area and No. 2 man in the Patriarca organization.
- Louis (Baby Shanks) Manocchio, 53, a Rhode Islander who has been a confidant of Patriarca and who has been described by one organized crime investigator as "a classy guy with the ability to stay out of the limelight."
The headquarters of Angiulo in Boston's North End was raided earlier this year and he has become the target of a federal grand jury investigation which could have far reaching effects on the Boston criminal organization.
Manocchio was indicted in Providence in 1969 on charges of being an accessory and engaging in a conspiracy to murder a gangland figure. He fled the country and spent time in France. He also hid in New York City, where law enforcement sources say he developed strong ties with local mobsters, and surrendered in 1979. He's awaiting trial in Providence.
Of those mentioned as possible successors to Patriarca, Bianco appears to be the strongest, sources claim. He has been chosen by Patriarca to direct the organization on a temporary basis in the past, they point out, and he enjoys the respect of associates in Rhode Island as well as New York City.
Bianco was found guilty in Federal Court in Brooklyn in 1975 and served a four-year term for income tax evasion. At that time he was described as a loan shark who held a high position in the New England mob and who had been a "caporegina" or lieutenant in the New York crime family of Joe Colombo who was slain in 1971.
Bianco had been sent to New York by Patriarca to help mediate the Gallo- Profaci troubles which resulted in at least a dozen murders and Patriarca had assured him that he would be welcomed back to the Providence family if he decided to return, according to FBI sources.
Bianco did return to Rhode Island after his release from a federal penitentiary in 1978 and became a paralegal assistant to attorney John F. Cicilline of Providence, who is Patriarca's lawyer.
If Bianco has one handicap, according to a law enforcement official, it is the newspaper publicity and the attention of investigators which he drew when he accepted the job in the lawyer's office which was across the street from Patriarca's headquarters.
Bainco, Patriarca and Cicilline, among others, became targets of an FBI investigation, according to court records, and with the approval of US Chief Judge Raymond J. Pettine of Providence an electronic surveillance device was placed in Cicilline's office in July 1980. Pettine said the "bug" was authorized in an investigation of gambling, robbery, murder and theft from interstate shipments.
The results of the surveillance never became public because another federal judge ruled that the "bug" had been illegal and that it had violated the attorney-client privilege of those who sought counsel in Cicilline's law firm.
US Judge Martin F. Loughlin of Concord, N.H., who heard the case after Judge Pettine and another Rhode Island judge disqualified themselves, ruled invalid any indictments or grand jury proceedings that might have resulted from the "bug."