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Oct. 25, 2021

An Institute of Higher Learning - Richie Chicofsky - The Early Years


In this episode Nina and Lara will be discussing Richie Chicofsky's early years, and his first prison stint. Fats Buccelli's son Bobby, the DeSisto home invasion and Richie's first encounter with SA H. Paul Rico will be included.

If you'd like to email Lara you can reach her at lara@doubledealpodcast.comand Nina can be contacted at nina@doubledealpodcast.com

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Thank you for listening!

All the best,

Lara & Nina

Transcript

Lara:

Hi everyone! Thank you for joining us again. Well it took us 7 episodes, but we’re finally getting to the central person in our podcast, dad.

 

Nina:

At last! Richie would have loved the dramatic build up! It was necessary to introduce our listeners to Richie's world and the people around him before we introduced him, though.

 

Lara:

No question about that. So before we get into dad’s childhood, I want to give a little insight into Richie’s nature. First, he would love that we're doing this podcast and telling his story. The good, the bad, the amusing and the sad. He was a true believer in Oscar Wilde’s quote, “There's only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.” Dad always said that it was better that people hear it from you. If you had no secrets, then no one had control over you. This was a man who carried his old wanted posters in his Prada bag. And it wasn’t uncommon for him to whip them out. I remember walking into St. Cloud on Tremont St roughly 30 years ago, and there was dad at the end of the bar showing someone an array of evidence to his criminal past. Young me was horrified, but dad was at ease with it all, as if he was showing off a PhD or some other degree. 

 

Nina:

You know people love that stuff!

 

Lara:

I know! A couple of years ago I had a conversation with a former law enforcement officer, and he mentioned that dad had conned people out of millions of dollars, but how he never pretended to be anything other than what he was, a thief and a conman. He never used a different name or hid his identity.

 

Nina:

Not only was he not shy about his life of crime, but he was open about being an informant.

 

Lara:

Yeah. That was the most intriguing thing to me. We’ve both read the 302s from the 60s, and everyone in his crew knew. Plus, there’s F. Lee Bailey’s The Defense Never Rests and the whole “Chicofsky Affair.”

 

Nina:

Don’t get into that now, but Richie proclaimed himself a double agent for the Feds and the Postal Inspectors live on the Paul Benzaquin radio show.

 

Lara:

Well that was dad. He put his shit right out there and wouldn’t have it any other way. Ok let’s get into dad's childhood. My grandparents immigrated to the US in 1913 and 1914. My grandpa, Stefan Ivanovich Chekhovskiy was from Volochysk, Ukraine and my grandma, Yosefa Petrovna Giedraityte was from Raseiniai, Lithuania. They met in Boston, married and had 5 kids, the youngest of which was dad, Richard Chicofsky born June 19, 1935.

 

Nina:

Your grandmother was already in her 40s by then, right?

 

Lara:

Yes! There was a 7 year age gap between dad and their second youngest son, my uncle Brendan.



Nina:

What did your grandfather do for work?

 

Lara:

Steven and Sons. It was a meat market. Grandpa was a butcher and my Uncle Eddie and Brendan worked with him.

 

Nina:

I know your grandfather was a hard worker, but were any of your uncles involved in crime?

 

Lara:

Only my uncle Danny. After they left the food business in the early 70s my uncles, including Danny, and my aunt went to work for the Suffolk County court. Brendan became a court officer. 

 

Nina:

What was Danny involved in?

 

Lara:

Danny was run over by a truck when he was little. It crushed his hip. Grandma kept him home and spent every single day getting him back to as healthy as possible. So he was kept out of school all of those years. Eventually, he was able to walk again albeit without being able to fully bend his left leg in a normal manner, and he was left with chronic pain that led to a lifelong addiction to painkillers.

At first it was petty theft. One of our cousins told me a story about how he and Danny were trying to steal a radio from a store, but it was plugged in so they didn’t get far. Between Danny’s bum leg and the cord in the outlet it was a flop!

 

Nina:

I remember you mentioned to me once that he was running dice games at some point.

 

Lara:

Yes! And grandma was the lookout! She would sit in the window of their apartment smoking her Sobranie cocktail cigarettes, and when the cops were coming she’d scream “sobaki, sobaki!”

 

Nina:

Since most of our listeners probably don’t speak Russian, that means dogs.

 

Lara:

Exactly! And since most of the cops were Irish at that time, they had no clue either. Eventually, Danny was arrested on bookmaking charges and sent to Charlestown State prison.

 

Nina:

Do you think that had an influence on Richie?

 

Lara:

To some extent I would imagine. Danny was always dressed to the nines. Very dapper as they’d say back then. You’ve seen pictures of him. There’s even one of him walking out of Charles St. jail after making bail.

 

Nina:

They loved taking photos!. The pictures of all of them in their outfits up on the rooftops of Boston. If they were around today they’d be Instagram stars!

 

Lara:

Instagram kings! They all loved custom made clothes, manicures, shoe shines and all of that. Grandma would take a stroll down to Bonwitt Teller to get her perfumes and face creams. She passed away the year before I was born, but I had all of her perfume and fancy liquor bottles.  I remember one bottle actually had a ballerina in a little glass bubble in the middle of the bottom that you could wind up and it would dance around. 

 

Nina:

It sounds like they were pretty well off then.

 

Lara:

I’d say so. They didn’t want for much. Grandpa’s business was successful. Dad had his beloved bicycles. He wasn’t always the size he’s remembered for being! He was slim and tall like Brendan and my aunt Helen. Eddie and Danny were slim and shorter. From the day Richie got out of prison his waistline slowly expanded. Often when I read a book or news article about him, he's described as short and fat. In his youth he was roughly 6’ tall, but by the mid 80s he began sleeping sitting up. Between the time he spent  in the car and sleeping like that, his spine compressed to the point that he lost about 5” off of his height. When he was seated, you could tell how tall he should have been from the length of  his legs, but the damage to his spine was too severe.

 

Nina: 

Why was he sleeping sitting up?

 

Lara:

He wanted to be able to be on his feet in a matter of seconds. Into his 50s he had the capacity to be up and on at the drop of a dime no matter how much he tied one one the night before or how little he slept, but he was roughly 375 pounds by then. So instead of losing weight, he opted to never lie down again.




Nina:

That’s where you get that from! You’re on fire and in a good mood the second you wake up, and you’re always up before everyone else!

 

Lara:

Hey, that's part of my charm! Plus whoever my housemate was knew they’d have coffee waiting for them. You benefited from that more than once! 

 

Nina:

Yeah, but then you’d drag me on a 10 mile walk!

 

Lara:

Another added benefit! Alright, back to Richie. Dad was very different from his siblings. The others were all quirky, eccentric and not very social. Richie on the other hand was extremely outgoing. He loved people and having lots of them around. So much so that he hated being alone. No matter what was happening he was always cool and calm. Not that he couldn’t be intimidating as hell, but he preferred to charm you rather than intimidate you. On the other hand, he had terrible issues with claustrophobia and being in the dark. There always had to be a light on.

 

Nina:

What do you think happened to him?

 

Lara:

Dad being the youngest, he was at home with grandma more than the others, and he would tell me stories about having to hide in the closet with his mother.

 

Nina:

Who were they hiding from?

 

Lara:

Commies! He said that the Commies would show up banging on the door screaming “Stefan, Stefan” and demanding he come out. Dad said a group of men would show up almost every day, and here is this little kid hiding from screaming Russians. That definitely left a scar on him. When he was dying, he talked about it daily. 

 

Nina:

But was your grandfather a Communist?

 

Lara:

I highly doubt it. Stefan’s father was starved to death during the Holodomor. His brothers died during the war. Only one survived, but landed in a DP camp after the war. That was Mattiev. He tried to come to Boston, but he disappeared from the camp. The French probably sent him back to the Soviet Union, and that meant certain death either in a gulag or a bullet in the head. Raisa, dad’s aunt, ended up on a collective with her husband and children. From her there are two grandchildren still alive and two great grandchildren. From the conversations I’ve had with my cousin, they suffered terribly from repression.

 

Nina:

I read Raisa’s letters to your grandfather, and I doubt they were communists.

 

Lara:

I agree, but that would be all the more reason they would be looking for my grandpa. Boston was actually a hotbed for radicals of all sorts. There was grandpa going down to buy Russki Mir to keep up with what was happening, and maybe he drew attention to himself. Who knows what else he was up to. The other thing that I suspect messed dad up was being in the hole in Charles St. That experience of being in solitary for 6 months sleeping on a bare floor, the dark and lack of human contact had to have had a lasting effect on him. When he stopped drinking in 1998 was when the damage really started to show.

 

Nina:

You know how I feel about our prison system. 

 

Lara:

The system was designed to be strictly punitive. Rehabilitation was/is the last thing on their minds.

 

Nina:

Exactly. And when they’re finally freed, they have no real opportunity to get back on their feet. It’s awful. We could do an entire podcast on just that subject. But we should do a profile of Charlestown State Prison and its more colorful characters. Did you know it was first declared “unfit for human occupancy” in 1880? They continued to use it for another 75 years. 

Ok, I’m off my soapbox now. 

So how did Richie end up in the life?

 

Lara:

After grandpa passed away from a heart attack at the kitchen table in 1951, Richie started skipping school and hanging around the North End. He was almost 16, and there wasn’t much anyone could do to keep him in school. He was washing and parking cars for the guys hanging around Ralphie Chong’s club. That led to working in the club, cleaning up and helping with the dice games. 

 

Nina:

A not so uncommon thing it seems back in those days. Has a ring of A Bronx Tale to it.

 

Lara:

Yeah, except there wasn’t anyone to discourage him. After a year or so he started running heroin for Ralphie.This went on for years. Little by little he gained Ralphie’s confidence. Ralphie started loaning him out to a couple of bookmakers in the area. Dad had an amazing personality and presence. People were naturally drawn to him. I guess that’s what made him such a successful conman. 

 

Nina:

When did he first get into trouble?

 

Lara:

On January 5th, 1957 the DeSisto family in Medford was the target of a home invasion. The men tried for the crime were Salvatore Mesiti, William Dickson, Lawrence Wood and Robert Buccelli, yes, Fats Buccelli’s son.

 

Nina:

That case was disgusting! 

 

Lara:

Oh, this is another one of those cases that was completely insane.

 

Nina:

Let’s backtrack a little bit before we get into the DeSisto case. Salvatore Mesiti had a record going back to the early ‘40s. He had already served two terms in state prison. The charges were mostly burglary, but he graduated to armed robbery in the ‘50s. At one point he jumped into the Boston Harbor trying to flee the police. Two more Boston pastimes!

 

Lara:

It’s true!

 

Nina:

On January 2, 1957, Mesiti surrendered himself to the Boston Police. The week before his surrender, Jimmy Flemmi was picked up for a payroll robbery. Two men robbed the Boston & Albany Railroad Employees Credit Union of $4500 on December 19, ‘56. Jimmy was being held on $5000 bail when Mesiti surrendered. The judge ordered Mesiti be held on $20,000 bail. His arraignment was scheduled for January 9th. But he seems to have made bail.

 

Lara: 

The cops apparently knew that Mesiti was involved in the robbery before they knew of Flemmi’s identity. Mesiti reportedly made his way to Connecticut shortly after the heist to bail his friend, William Alton Dickson, out of jail

 

Nina: 

Dickson had been picked up in Connecticut a couple of hours after midnight on December 18 for “breach of the peace”. The police had found him and a friend walking on the side of the road. Their rental car from Boston had been abandoned about a mile away. The police also found a .22 revolver and 2 rolls of heavy surgical tape in close proximity. Dickson and his friend denied that the items were theirs. 

Dickson was soon freed on $5000 bail that Mesiti had procured for him. His case was continued on January 3.



Lara:

Shortly after noon on January 5th Bobby Buccelli knocked on the door of the DeSisto home in Medford. Bobby and Wood forced their way in and tied up Mrs. DeSisto and her maid. There were three young children also in the home. Cloth baby diapers were placed over the heads of the two women. Two men then entered the home, and they demanded to know where the safe was. Mrs. DeSisto refused to tell them even after they threatened to drown the youngest child in a bathtub filled with scalding water.  One of the other children showed them where the safe was. They fled 90 minutes later with roughly $4500 in cash and jewelry.

 

Nina:

Dickson and Mesiti were arrested at two a.m. on February 6th in a Charlestown apartment. Both were held on $100,000 bail. However, they were released the next day when the DeSistos failed to identify them. Only to be picked up immediately by police in Arlington for another bank robbery that had taken place there in June 1956.

 

Lara:

Now supposedly, Bobby Buccelli was kidnapped by Dickson and Mesiti on January 9th. In his testimony he said they threatened to kill him with a gun and stabbed him 7 times. Somehow he managed to escape, hide behind a tree, then took a cab to his apartment in Brookline. Later he took another taxi to the Boston City Hospital. He bounced before the police could question him.

 

Nina:

Meanwhile William Dickson’s case in Connecticut was continued 7 times between his initial arrest and January 19. Dickson was more than an hour late to his court appearance that day. His bond was declared forfeit and he was taken to Hartford County Jail. Where he should have been in the first place!

 

Lara:

Bobby was found in San Diego on March 1st. Yes, Bobby fled to California. He was returned to Boston and held on a $50,000 double surety and placed in custody in Norfolk County Jail.

 

Nina:

On March 11th, Mesiti, Dickson and Buccelli were indicted on 21 counts. There was also a 22 count secret indictment returned. In addition Mesiti and Dickson were indicted for the June 1956 bank robbery in Arlington, and for kidnapping Buccelli. In the meantime Mesiti had been cleared of the robbery charges he picked up with Flemmi from the December job.

 

Lara: 

I looked into William Dickson’s background. He was a Korean War vet who was wounded in battle several times. There’s too much info on this case, so if you want to know more about this crime or the individuals involved click on the link in the show notes to read more about it on our blog.

 

Nina:

It appears Bobby had no prior record.

 

Lara:

He didn’t, but obviously with Fats as a father he had ample exposure to the life. We both read the FBI reports from the moldy loot case that both of Fats' boys were questioned by the Feds and Bobby was there when Fats was pinched.



Nina:

Now let’s get to how Richie got thrown into this mad mix.

 

Lara:

When Bobby was extradited to Boston, he continued cooperating with the government. The case went from three to four suspects. Richie was indicted as an accessory before the fact. Bobby claimed that dad offered him $100 to borrow his car back in December of 1956.

 

Nina:

So Richie wasn’t even involved?

 

Lara:

No! He always swore up, down and sideways that he had absolutely nothing to do with it. Look dad wasn’t shy about his involvement in crimes. If the statute of limitations had run out, he had no problem telling you all of the sordid details. Now don’t get me wrong, dad was an amazing liar, but this wasn’t one of his lies. Even at the trial Mrs. DeSisto said the only time she saw Richie was when she went to the North End where her husband owned a fruit stand. She remembered seeing him walking around. But dad had no alibi. He was running a dice game for Ralphie the night of the home invasion, and he had paid Bobby to borrow his car in the past to make his heroin deliveries. He couldn’t tell the law either of those things.

 

Nina:

When did Richie get arrested?

 

Lara:

On March 18th, 1957 Richie was arrested. And this is when he first met Rico. In the meantime, grandma raised the $6000 needed to bail dad out. She gave my uncle Brendan the money, and what did Brendan do?

 

Nina:

He went to the track and blew the money!

 

Lara:

Exactly! Brendan never won a bet in his life! Dad ended up in the hole at Charles St. jail. 

 

Nina:

Didn’t Rico try to turn him then?

 

Lara:

Yes. I have some of Richie’s notes from when he was contemplating writing his story. Because of dad’s connection to Bobby Buccelli, Rico thought there was a chance he could make a connection to Fats and the Brink’s money.

 

Nina:

Well, it does make perfect sense from a cop’s perspective. What ended up happening?

 

Lara:

Rico didn’t get anywhere. Richie said Rico hated him on the spot. At that time it was unimaginable to dad that he would turn on Ralphie or the guys that he was running for. Plus, he had nothing to do with Fats on that level. He knew Fats from Ralphie’s club. Somehow he reached out to Fats in prison to reason with Bobby. Fats basically said he didn’t care what happened to Bobby. It was HIS problem. 

 

Nina:

Bobby didn’t stop with Richie. In May, Lawrence Wood was picked up by the Feds in Los Angeles. He was part of the secret indictment. They had to bring him back by train since he refused to fly! The only prior offense I could find on Wood was when he got picked up for stealing a woman’s raincoat and assaulting a female store detective at Jordan Marsh! 

 

Lara:

Bobby’s list didn’t stop with Wood either. When dad was arrested Leo Aylward was picked up as an accessory after the fact. Bobby included him as one of his kidnappers. Mind you Aylward was Mesiti’s brother-in-law. 

 

Nina:

Leo Aylward had a record for petty theft and stickups. When I was researching him for this episode, I found a newspaper article about a car crash that he was in. It was 1956 and his passenger was a William Joyce. It reminded me of episode number 6 when we were discussing the Ross case. We were trying to figure out who our mystery man named Joyce was. Well, we have another potential suspect.

 

Lara:

I doubt it’s a coincidence. Same time frame, same area, same group of people. The little digging I did on Joyce turned up petty things like hurling a brick through a shop window.

 

Nina:

And they caught him immediately! You know it’s the same old story. First there’s three or four suspects then there are two. Or there are three suspects and then there are eight.



Lara: 

No argument here! In Buccelli’s testimony he stated that he and Wood forced their way into the DeSisto home. Bobby blamed Wood for tying them up and stabbing the maid with a penknife.

 

Nina:

The trial was scheduled to start on June 10th, but they couldn’t come up with a jury. So what did they do? The judge ordered the court officers “to go to the highways and byways to pick up persons as potential jurors.” The court officers went to the Cuneo Press factory. They rounded up 58 factory workers and dragged them to the court house.

 

Lara:

I’ve never heard of anything like that before! Who knew that was even a thing?! There was a seldom used statute that allowed the sheriffs to collect jurors from the street. Dad wasn’t going to risk a pissed off jury. The day after his 22nd birthday, he pled guilty to being an accessory before the fact and conspiracy.  I’ll post the photo of dad being led away by a court officer with grandma in tow.

 

Nina:

The following day Mesti, Dickson and Wood tried to fire their attorney, Joseph Sax. Mesiti claimed that Lt. Cornelius Crowley had been threatening Sax to throw the case. A verbal altercation broke out between Mesiti and Crowley. Ending with Crowley screaming, “you’re a liar!” The judge denied their motion.





Lara:

At the trial Sax stated that Bobby set up the robbery. He said Bobby was shaking down the De Sisto family, and had been operating as an enforcer collecting debt for the mob, and that’s how he knew about the money. 

 

Nina:

Well, that makes sense. Fats was away, and Bobby was collecting for him. Bobby shows up later in the 302s being interviewed about his late father’s activities. He claims he was taking messages to Raymond Patriarca in Providence for his father who was incarcerated at Deer Island. Reading between the lines, it was more than messages. And he probably wanted a little extra for himself. But Bobby couldn’t take the heat, so he turned on his partners in crime. As an added bonus he threw in Richie.

 

Lara:

More than likely. There was bad blood between Bobby and Richie. Shortly before the DeSisto robbery, dad had Bobby thrown out of the dice game for screwing around with the high rollers.  They couldn’t stand each other. Dad thought Bobby was a brainless loudmouth. And he was definitely no fan of Fats. Richie knew Bobby was getting even with him.

 

Nina:

The trial didn’t go smoothly. When Mrs. DeSisto was testifying she had a verbal altercation with Wood and Mesiti. She clearly identified Bobby and Wood as the ones who forced their way into her home. She changed her story, though. Instead of the cloth baby diapers, she said that a thin blanket was thrown over her head, so she could also see Mesiti and Dickson. She stated Richie wasn’t there, and he was only familiar to her from the streets of the North End.

 

Lara:

Both Woods and Mesiti screamed at Mrs DeSisto during her testimony including Mesiti screaming “you’re a liar!”

 

Nina:

On June 25th the sentences were handed down. Mesiti was given 3 to 5 years for assault, plus two 7 to 10 year sentences for assault with a deadly weapon and kidnapping. The sentences were to run concurrently. Dickson was sentenced on 5 different counts with the highest sentence being 35 to 45 years. Wood was sentenced on 4 counts with the maximum sentence of 43 to 55 years. Aylward was given three sentences of 3 to 5 to run concurrently for being an accessory after the fact.

 

Lara:

It was interesting to me that although Richie pled guilty on June 20th, he wasn’t sentenced until December 19th. He was given 2 and a half years with 5 years probation to begin upon release. Dad ended up in Concord with Jack, Roy, Billie and Mello. Dad always referred to Concord Prison as the institute of higher learning he attended.

 

Nina:

He probably learned more there than most do in Uni these days!

 

Lara:

No question. Richie may have never finished high school, but he read everything he could get his hands on over the years. As for street smarts, he died of old age, granted he was on probation at the time, but he wasn’t in a prison cell. He was the last of his original crew to pass away. He outlasted them all. 

 

Nina:

On October 15th Mesti was blinded and disfigured in an acid attack in prison. Mesiti had more than his share of enemies. A man who held a gun to a woman’s head while he tried to drown and scald a small child during the robbery at the De Sisto home wasn’t winning any popularity contests. Three men were charged with the attack, James Parker, Russell Halliday, and William Cavanaugh. If you’ve been listening in you might remember that Cavanaugh was Sonny Diaferio’s partner in the pepper theft and was convicted of aiding Elmer Trigger Burke’s escape from Charles St.

 

Lara:

The inmates raised $600 for the defense counsel of the three. The defense attorney was Joseph Sax. They were all acquitted in December of 1957. If you listened to episode 3, you will remember that Billie Aggie was voted out of Walpole State Prison. Well, Billie wasn’t the only one voted out, James Parker and Russell Halliday also made the list of 23. Halliday was serving time for aiding Martin F. Feeney for one of his many escapes. We will be talking about Feeney later in the season. Oh and let’s not forget Jimmy Flemmi. And off to Concord they went.

 

Nina:

I want to point out that Jimmy Flemmi arrived in Walpole just a few days before Mesiti was attacked. I highly suspect Jimmy was involved in the acid attack. It wouldn’t be his only attack or murder in his time in prison. The other boy who got picked up for the 1956 robbery with Flemmi and Mesiti was later attacked in prison too.

 

Lara:

I agree with you! When I saw that Jimmy had recently been sentenced for the robbery he was involved in with Mesiti and a few days later the acid attack happened my mind jumped immediately to Jimmy. Especially since the charges were dropped against Mesiti in their robbery case. Jimmy probably thought he informed on him. 




Nina:

Well, I have my own suspicions on when I think Jimmy became an informant and it certainly wasn’t 1965! 

 

Lara:

No doubt in my mind!

 

Nina:

But I do wonder if Jimmy was involved in that robbery at all. As usual there’s too many missing pieces to get a clear picture. He certainly didn’t do himself any favors in the interim. First he went on the lam. Then when he was finally caught in Saugus in July and brought to court, he tried to escape the police. We have a photo that we will post on the website.

Back to the DeSisto case. Dickson and Woods had their sentences reduced in early 1958. Both had a decade taken off of the minimum portions of their sentences. Mesiti was released in 1961 on account of his blindness. In July 1958, Bobby was sentenced to 2 years in the Plymouth House of Correction “for his own protection.” 

 

Lara:

Dad was released on June 19th, 1958. His birthday. But his freedom didn’t last long. Fats was murdered on the same day and before Richie could step foot in his home, Rico was there to arrest him for Fats’ murder!



Nina:

We hate to leave you hanging, but you’ll have to wait until episode 10 to find out what happened next!

 

Lara:

Next week, Nina will be telling us about Hoover’s All American Boy’s Club! We will be discussing some of the Special Agents of the Boston FBI office who were prominent in the 1950s and 60s. Many of whom will be popping up throughout season one. I’m just coming along for the ride on that one! 

 

Nina:

I think it will be great! And hilarious!

 

Lara:

If you say so! Thank you all for listening! Shameless plugging time! Please follow us on whatever platform you listen on, leave a review, like our Facebook page, follow us on Twitter and Instagram. Spread the word!

 

Nina and Lara:

BYE!