Jury hears tape of mob induction – climax of prosecution’s case



HARTFORD — A Sicilian capo regime definitively confirmed the existence of Cosa Nostra on the first tapes ever captured of a Mafia induction ceremony, played here yesterday as the finale of the racketeering case against Nicholas L. Bianco of Providence and seven alleged Mafia colleagues.

“Everybody fight this thing, they call it Cosa Nostra,” said Biagio DiGiacomo, a Sicilian-born captain from Boston who pleaded guilty to racketeering earlier this year.

“It is Mafia,” DiGiacomo said. “We got together to call it La Cosa Nostra, Mafia, or organized crime.”

DiGiacomo defined the organization into which four men were inducted on Oct. 29, 1989, after burning an image of the crime family’s patron saint and taking a blood oath to kill their own sons or brothers if a Mafia superior said they were informing on them to the police.

DiGiacomo explained the Sicilian roots of the organization to 21 members of the Patriarca crime family from Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island who dressed up in suits for the Sunday afternoon “baptism” of Robert DeLuca of Lincoln, R.I., and three Boston-area men.

Two hundred years ago, DiGiacomo said, “In Sicily, they all get together because there was a lot (of) abuse to the family, to the wife, to the children. Until some people, nice people, they got together, and they said let’s make an organization over here, but let’s start to do the right thing.

“Who makes a mistake he’s gotta pay.”

DiGiacomo’s history lesson on the Mafia was on one of six tapes played for a federal jury here yesterday. It was taken from five hours’ worth of tapes the FBI made off a listening device planted at 34 Guild St., Medford, Mass., the home of Loretta DiStefano, sister of inductee Vincent Federico, of Boston.

The recordings climaxed 35 days of testimony about loan-sharking, illegal dice games, casino gambling, the murder of the late underboss William P. “The Wild Guy” Grasso and the burial of Peabody, Mass., businessman Theodore Berns and the remains of two other unidentified people in earthen pits beneath a Hamden, Conn., garage.

The ceremony was part of the balm that then-boss Raymond J. “Junior” Patriarca tried to apply to the wounded relationship between Boston and Providence after the bloody summer of 1989. That is when Boston captains Joseph “J.R.” Russo, Vincent Ferrara and Robert Carrozza are suspected of ordering Grasso’s murder – allegedly carried out by four men on trial here – and the shooting of Francis P. “Cadillac Frank” Salemme, in Saugus, Mass.

Courtroom jammed

The courtroom was jammed yesterday with spectators and about 25 journalists.

The restrained atmosphere belied the historic nature of the recordings and the anticipation of the media. Jurors and the eight men on trial sat stoically listening to the ceremony, following patiently along on about 9 1pages of transcripts. The jurors apparently were interested in the recordings – when the judge asked if they wanted a break, they opted instead to move along.

Bianco, who did not attend the induction ceremony despite having a reserved seat as underboss at the time, stared straight ahead as the tapes were played, not even peering at a transcript.

A loud television at the ceremony made it sometimes difficult to hear voices on the recordings. The noise was reminiscent of tapes the FBI made in 1981 at the Boston headquarters of former underboss Gennaro Angiulo. Two radios, a television, a CB radio and a police scanner played at all times in the North End headquarters to foil “bugging” efforts.

On the first tape played at the Hartford trial, guests trickled into the plain two-story house. The first arrivals were Gaetano J. Milano of East Longmeadow, Mass., and Louis R. Failla of East Hartford, both on trial, who were shuttled in a black Lincoln Continental to the ceremony after leaving their car at a drop spot nearby. They chat about loan-sharking with the two hosts, Russo and Ferrara.

Then Patriarca arrives, chauffeured by Angelo “Sonny” Mercurio, whose job it was to bring extra chairs. Patriarca makes a crack, “We got to bring our own chairs, and everything.” (Mercurio remains a fugitive from indictment in Boston.)

Russo says, “You look good, Ray.”

Patriarca, who had just promoted Russo and agreed to induct three Boston men in an attempt to resolve a rift between Boston and Providence, returns the compliment: “You look good.”

When everyone has assembled, including Rhode Islanders Pascone Galea of Providence, Matthew L. Guglielmetti of Cranston and Robert DeLuca of Lincoln, Patriarca makes a brief introduction.

“We’re all here to bring in some new members into our family and more than that, to start maybe a new beginning. . . . Hopefully, they’ll leave here with what we had years past. And bygones are bygones and a good future for all of us.”

After polite applause, DiGiacomo opens the ceremony: “In onore della Famiglia la Famiglia e’ aperta. (In honor of the Family, the Family is open.)”

The first inductee is Vincent Federico, on furlough from a state prison where he is serving a sentence for murder. Following him is DeLuca, then Carmen Tortora of Brockton, Mass., and Richard Floramo of Everett, Mass. Each swears allegiance to the organization, punctuated with a blood oath with the prick of his trigger finger.

Then a “cumpare” or buddy is designated to assist him with the burning of the holy card of the patron saint of the family. The cumpare is selected through an Italian finger-thowing game with Russo doing the counting. After the inductee burns the saint’s card, Patriarca assigns him a captain.

Later in the ceremony, the new inductees are lectured on the national complexion of Cosa Nostra.

Russo: All Families are related all over America.

Patriarca: Throughout the world.

Russo: Through a common cause, but it’s like cousins. The immediate family likes to keep their business to themselves.

Russo: We have one Family in New England. One Family. Remember that. One Family. New York has five Families. . . . Chicago got their own Family.

Patriarca: Springfield’s got more than one.

Russo: . . . Springfield also has a smattering belong to New York Family, Vito Genovese. . . . That’s been that situation . . . years.

Patriarca: And there’s like four or five other Families coming out of Connecticut.

Russo: You’re gonna be being with people, but our family mosta them right now here, an like I say, the New England area we have a few from New York. They’re all Amico Nostro.

Over and over the ranking members stress to the new underlings that the new Family henceforth is the object of their preeminent allegiance.

DiGiacomo makes sure nothing got lost in the translation.

“You don’t know what I was saying to you (in Italian) and repeating after me. But most of you guys you don’t understand what you say. You giving up your property, your money and everything over here.”

The roomful greets this remark with loud laughter and consternation.

Russo stresses that members must inform their captain of all business dealings, unless a member of another family approaches them and says it’s an emergency. Otherwise, they must go through “proper channels.”

He says, “Whatever you got belongs to you. None of us will take from each other.”

Then Patriarca says, “Actually all, all business deals legal or illegal, should be brought to the table.

“If I’m in the garbage business and you own a dump, before you go to ah, BFI and go do business with them, if you know anybody at this table can aid you in a business, legitimate or illegitimate, your obligation is to come to us first.

“And ask us, you know, whoever put you in that particular business that could aid you before you go to a stranger. In other words, you look to do the business with a Friend before you go outside the Family.”

Ferrara pipes in, “Richie, you might want to sell your restaurant. . . . A Friend might want to buy it.” He was referring to Floramo’s cafe in Chelsea.

Patriarca says, “Don’t go sellin’ it to a stranger.”

An extraordinary amount of time is consumed on the tapes by the leaders explaining to the new members how to introduce themselves to one another and stressing that they cannot reveal that they are soldiers unless they are properly introduced.

“Only a friend can introduce us,” Ferrara says.

DiGiacomo adds, “Try to specify” personal friend or “A Friend of Ours.”

The inductees also are cautioned about public displays of affection among members.

DiGiacomo: Years ago we used to kiss each other.

Charles Quintina, of Boston: We try to stop kissing in public. . . . We stand out.

Shortly thereafter, there are sounds of furniture moving, men kissing and warm goodbys being said.

Then DiGiacomo says: “L’onore della Famiglia ritorna chiusa. (The honor of the Family is now closed.)

Before locking the doors, Ferrara draws a fateful conclusion: Only the . . . ghost knows what really took place over here today by God.

After the tapes were aired, Assistant U.S. Attorney John H. Durham concluded the prosecution’s case by questioning Michael J. Buckley, an FBI agent who monitored the tapes.

Is this the first time in Mafia history that the FBI has intercepted a making ceremony? he asked.

Buckley: That’s correct.