OPINION | Chris McCarthy: John Gotti and the New England Mafia
The A&E channel had a special about John Gotti, head of the Gambino Family branch of the Mafia recently. His son mentioned his "family" connection to New England.
The New England arm of La Cosa Nostra is called the Patriarca Family, because of the long reign of its leader, Raymond L.S. Patriarca, and then the much briefer reign of his son "Junior" Patriarca.
During the A&E special, John Gotti, Jr., himself a convicted gangster, explained that Raymond Patriarca, Sr. would visit his grandson at the New York Military Academy at the same time his father would visit him there. While it was nice to see the youngsters at the school, they also used it as an opportunity to discuss shared mafia business between the Gambinos and the Patriarcas.
The connections between John Gotti and the New England Mafia ran deep and strong.
The TV special also discussed the accidental death of one of the Gotti children, and the intentional death of the man who killed the child. John Favara was a neighbor who ran over 12-year-old Frankie Gotti with his car when the boy shot into traffic on a mini-bike, killing the child. According to law enforcement, Favara was later kidnapped by multiple men who beat him with clubs and tossed him into a van in broad daylight in front of a diner. The man was shot and his body was dissolved in acid. John Gotti was vacationing with his wife in Florida when the attack and disappearance happened.
Rhode Island gangster Richard "Red Bird" Gomes was one of the murderers of Favara. According to the Providence Journal, "Gomes held a special stature in the Rhode Island criminal world. He had been a lifelong friend and the onetime driver for the late Gotti, also known as the Dapper Don, the charismatic head of the New York-based Gambino crime family. In the late '60s, Gomes and Gotti struck up a friendship while they were both serving time in the federal penitentiary in Lewisburg, Pa."
The same article quotes Brian Andrews, retired detective commander of the Rhode Island State Police, as having "no doubts" that Red Bird Gomes participated in the murder of Favara. Gomes had a picture of Patriarca, Sr. and one of Gotti hanging on his wall when he died.
Gomes also surfaced in a trial of John Gotti, Jr. when the federal government played tapes made of Gotti speaking with his lawyer.
According to the New York Post:
"In a taped meeting at an upstate prison, Gotti allegedly told attorney Richard Rehbock to send money to Richard “Red Bird” Gomes – a reputed Gambino hitman suspected of having helped whack a neighbor who had accidentally killed Gotti’s 12-year-old brother.
“I knew him since I’m a baby. Red Bird, he was very dear to my father,” Gotti said on March 11, 2004, in a conversation that was taped by prison officials. “I want to send $500 to him. I know he’s in jail. I know he’s broke. This is a great guy. This is a real man.”
The feds have long believed Gomes, a former driver for the late John “Dapper Don” Gotti, helped kill John Favara in retaliation for his accidentally having struck Frank Gotti with his car while the boy was riding a bicycle in March 1980."
Another Rhode Island gangster friend of John Gotti's was the late Gerard "The Frenchman" Ouimette. He was extremely intelligent and even more dangerous, whether he was in prison or not. He and his crew were part of the Patriarca family, but not officially in the Mafia because they were not Italian. Red Bird Gomes was part of the Ouimette arm of the family.
Reporter W. Zackary Malinowski at the Providence Journal explains his status:
"On April 16, 1979, the FBI produced a document about Ouimette and his known background as the leader of a non-Italian faction of organized crime figures:
“Subject OUIMETTE controls a large group of criminals known as the OUIMETTE faction, whose criminal activities include gambling, loansharking, extortion and property violations such as major hijackings, robberies, and burglaries. Although not Italian, OUIMETTE enjoys the same stature as lieutenants under RAYMOND L.S. PATRIARCA, who controls organized crime (OC) in the Boston and New England area.”
The document also said that the federal authorities suspected that Ouimette was responsible “for seven or eight gangland-style murders.” Despite the FBI document, Ouimette was never convicted of murder, although his name regularly popped up as a prime suspect in gangland slayings in Rhode Island and across the Northeast."
John Gotti used to make the trip up to Rhode Island from New York to visit Ouimette in prison, according to the same article.
Gerard Ouimette wrote a book from prison before he died. On the cover of What Price Providence? is a picture of Gotti and a picture of Patriarca, along with a picture of the Frenchman himself.
During the A&E broadcast, the exclusion of John Gotti's prized attorney Bruce Cutler is discussed, and Cutler himself participated in the documentary. The federal government argued successfully that Cutler and another attorney should be excluded from the case, because they may be involved in the Gambino family and serve as a type of corporate counsel to the criminal organization. Among the evidence offered was tapes of Gotti instructing Cutler to contact a Rhode Island lawyer to get messages to Raymond Patriarca Jr., who was then head of the New England Mafia.
Journalist Edmund Mahony of the Hartford Courant has long chronicled organized crime. He covered the legal twists of the early 1990's that besieged the mafia in New York and New England. He explains how the Patriarca and Gotti used their attorneys to communicate:
"During the recorded conversation in the Ravenite hallway, Cutler said to Gotti: ". . . you wanted me to call some law office in New England to say that if I can give you an answer."
"No!," Gotti said. "In the future, this Jack Cicilline ... whatever the (expletive) his name is. Jack Cicilline. He's New England's lawyer ... So, the guy represented Raymond Junior when he just got pinched."
As the conversation continued, Gotti and Cutler agree that Patriarca was ready to jump at Gotti's "beck and call."
"So I'm gonna send him a message," Gotti said, "that if I ever wanna get a message to them, or from them, we'll do it through you."
"Okay," Cutler said."
The Jack Cicilline discussed is the father of Rhode Island Congressman David Cicilline, who was previously the elected Mayor of Providence, and the father of John M. Cicilline, a successful criminal defense attorney who has run afoul of the law himself.
When Gambino underboss Sammy "The Bull" Gravano stabbed Gotti in the back and became a cooperating witness for the government, he shined more light on the relationship between Gotti and the New England mafia.
In a 1991 debriefing with the FBI, Gravano explained that Boston mafia members were at a Long Island wedding for the son of a New York mobster, and he was there with Gotti and other members of the Gambino family. The Boston mobsters requested "an audience" with Gotti to discuss the situation in New England. The Boston delegation of capos was lead by Joe "J.R." Russo, an infamous assassin, and he gave Gotti an update on the business of the Boston rackets. He then explained he and others were upset with Raymondy Patriarca, Jr. and his lack of leadership. Gotti told them he would arrange a meeting with Patriarca and told Russo to avoid violence.
According to Gravano, Gotti arranged for Patriarca to meet with him at a midtown New York City hotel two weeks later. At this meeting, Patriarca explained to Gotti that he was going to step down as head of the New England family. This meeting of the two Godfathers was arranged by Gambino Capo Chris Richichi.
The same Chris Richichi was later recorded by the FBI at a Boston meeting with Francis "Cadillac Frank" Salemme discussing the pornography business. Longtime Rhode Island pornographer Ken Guarino had Richichi on his corporate payroll for years. Ken Guarino was friends with Steven DiSarro, the man "Cadillac Frank" Salemme is currently on trial for murdering in 1993.
According to the Boston Globe, the new head of New England LCN bragged "I'm the boss," Salemme allegedly told Las Vegas Mafioso Natale (Big Chris) Richichi during a December 1991 rendezvous in a Logan Hilton room that had been bugged by the FBI.
Salemme didn't stop there, implicating not just himself, but his friends and business partners, James J. (Whitey) Bulger, the South Boston underworld leader, and Stephen (The Rifleman) Flemmi. "I got that crew that's around, some kids from South Boston . . . Bulger and Flemmi," Salemme said, according to FBI transcripts of the conversation.
Apparently, uber informant James "Whitey" Bulger would inform his FBI handler about Salemme's relationship with John Gotti after Salemme told him, or someone else, who then told Bulger the tales.
The evidence of the working relationship between John Gotti, the Gambinos and the Patriarca family in New England is overwhelming. James Martorano, a Patriarca capo from Massachusetts, was even caught on an FBI wire discussing the murder of Sammy "The Bull" Gravano's family, because they couldn't get to him since he was in witness protection as an informant.
Chris McCarthy is the host of The Chris McCarthy Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from 10 a.m. to noon. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @Chris_topher_Mc. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.