Mafia boss Francis “Cadillac Frank” Salemme died in prison in Missouri last Tuesday at the age of 89, online records from the US Bureau of Prisons show. The cause of death is unspecified.
Salemme led the Patriarca crime family in the early 1990s. Rubbing shoulders with Irish gangster Whitey Bulger’s Winter Hill Gang, Salemme’s outfit controlled illegal gambling, extortion, loansharking, and drug rackets in Massachusetts and Rhode Island.
Born in Boston in 1933, Salemme became an associate of the New England Mob in the 1950s, but then-boss Raymond Patriarca wouldn’t let him become a made man because he said it was a privilege reserved for full-blooded Italians. Salemme’s mother was Irish.
Instead, he became a trusted hitman and participated in the vicious turf wars of the 1960s between the Patriarca and the Irish gangs.
In the 1980s the arrest of then-boss Jerry Angiulo created a power vacuum in the New England mafia, and Salemme led one of the factions wrestling for control of the organization.
His Irish roots helped him forge close ties to Bulger and Stephen Femmi of the Winter Hill Gang, and their support helped install him as the de facto boss of the Patriarca family by 1991.
Little did Salemme know, Bulger and Flemmi were longtime FBI informers whose evidence had helped convict Angiulo. The feds had allowed the pair to run their criminal operations with impunity in return for information about the inner workings of the Patriarca mob.
In 1995, Salemme was indicted on extortion and racketeering charges, along with Bulger and Femmi, whose credit had by then run out with the FBI. That’s when Salemme discovered, through court documents, that his close allies were snitches.
The discovery prompted him to become a government informant himself. His testimony helped secure the conviction of Bulger’s former FBI handler, John Conolly, on racketeering, obstruction of justice, and murder charges.
Connolly’s ties to Bulger had led him to “cross over to the dark side” in the words of the judge, who sentenced him to 40 years in prison.
In 1972, Conolly had captured and arrested Salemme for his involvement in the unsuccessful car-bombing of a lawyer who was representing a mob informant. Salemme was sentenced to 16 years in prison for that crime.
Bulger Killed in Prison
Tipped off by Conolly, Bulger went on the run shortly before his indictment and was a fugitive for 16 years. In 2013, he received two life sentences for racketeering and murder.
He was killed in his prison cell in October 2018 at the age of 89. The murder occurred less than 12 hours after he was transferred from a Florida prison to US Penitentiary Hazelton in West Virginia.
Two of the inmates since indicted for Bulger’s murder have reputed connections to the Patriarca crime family.
Salemme was placed on a federal government witness protection program after cooperating with authorities. In 2018, he was indicted for the 1993 murder of bar owner Steven DiSarro and sentenced to life imprisonment.
Assistant US Attorney Fred Wyshak said that Salemme admitted to murdering eight people during the 1960s and was suspected of involvement in a further six in the 1990s.
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