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Nov. 8, 2021

An Unconfidential Informant - Richard Chicofsky - Part 2


Richie gets out of jail and returns to work for Mafia boss Ralphie Lamattina. He also starts robbing banks with Jack Kelley, and gun running. A not-so-chance meeting with FBI Special Agent H Paul Rico leads him to a crossroads. Now he must make a decision that will change his life forever.

Episode 8 - Richie Chicofsky - Part 1

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Questions or comments, email lara@doubledealpodcast.com or nina@doubledealpodcast.com

Thank you for listening!

All the best,

Lara & Nina

Transcript

Lara:

Hi all! We’re back! When we left you in episode 8, dad had just been released from prison only to find himself back in handcuffs. Fats Buccelli had been murdered earlier that morning, and Richie was at the top of the suspects list. 



Nina:

Luckily for Richie he had an ironclad alibi. He was still in custody being processed for release at the time of Fats' killing. The authorities had to release him, but life would never be the same for him.



Lara:

 

Fats’ murder was never solved. There were endless theories that it was a sanctioned hit on orders of Raymond Patriarca, that it was over the Brink’s heist or that the leaders of the narcotics ring that he had been convicted with took him out. 



Nina:

 

Buccelli was found at 3 am on June 19, 1958. His car was rammed into the rear end of another parked car. When he was first found they thought he had a heart attack while driving. But he had been shot once behind the ear and once in the back of his head indicating that whoever shot him was sitting behind him in the back seat of his vehicle. The window of the driver’s side was smashed to bits, but they never determined whether it was because he was shot through the window or a shot was fired from inside the vehicle.



Lara:

 

Fats had been released from Deer Island exactly one month prior. If you’ve been listening in, you’ll remember that he had received a 2 year sentence for being in possession of $57k of the Brink’s heist loot. But he wasn’t out scot free. He was convicted of being part of a $20,000,000 narcotics ring. The judge sentenced him to 5 years in prison in April of the same year, but he was free on $15,000 bail pending appeal.



Nina:

 

That seems very strange. Fats was accused of using the coal wharf as the drop point for the narcotics shipments. To add to the madness Johnny Earle was killed the day before in New York City. A well dressed hitman shot Earle 3 times at point-blank range. Earle was an associate of Elmer Trigger Burke as was Fats. If you recall from episode 3, Elmer was hired to take out Specky O’Keefe. And later escapes from the Charles St jail.



Lara:

 

One of the other motives thrown around was that it was revenge for Mesiti being blinded and disfigured in prison. Since Bobby was in protective custody, Fats was considered an alternate target. Hence, why dad made it to the top of the list of initial suspects.



Nina:

 

That is one of the stupidest hypotheses I’ve ever heard. And we’ve heard some pretty idiotic ones over the years. I could see if they’d said Richie went after Fats because Bobby put him in the can for no reason. But who really cared about Mesiti? Nobody was going to take revenge for him! Especially since everyone knew it was Jimmy Flemmi who attacked him!



Lara:

 

Helloooo! I still think the New York crew took Fats out. While the investigation into his murder continued, dad spent the next few weeks relaxing at home. They were still living on Barton St. in the West End. When he had his fill of grandma’s cooking, people in and out of their apartment drinking and playing cards, dad was back hanging around Ralphie’s.  



Nina:

 

I think we should talk about Ralphie, and his place in organized crime.



Lara:

 

I agree with you. We’ve both come to the same conclusion as to what we think brought so much heat on dad. Why don’t you start with some basics about Ralphie’s background?




Nina:

 

Ralph Lamattina was born July 10, 1922, the oldest child of Anthony Lamattina and Rose Siciliano. Vinnie Teresa claimed that Anthony Lamattina was a Don in the Boston Mafia. Born in central Sicily in 1899, his family arrived in the United States in 1901. Anthony joined the US Navy at 17, and served as Chief Petty Officer on the USS South Carolina. He was honorably discharged in 1919. Lamattina worked for the US Postal Service from 1933 to 1953. He was active in civic matters after his retirement until he passed away in 1978.



Lara:

 

Completely normal family, for a mob family. Maybe there is some weight to Teresa’s statement about Anthony, but Vinnie was such a liar. On the other hand, with two sons growing up to be in the mob, one who becomes a Don himself does leave room for doubt about “normal.” Hey, did you know Ralphie was arrested for the Brink’s heist on January 18, 1950?



Nina:

 

Who wasn’t picked up for that? But that’s probably another reason why Rico was squeezing Richie when he got arrested in March of ‘57.



Lara:

 

I was thinking the same thing. Ralphie was released shortly after that, but he was picked up again on March 6th. According to the FBI 302s, Ralphie wouldn’t tell them anything. Nothing about his activities, his income or how he existed. 



Nina:

 

An informant in Philadelphia told the Feds that Ralphie killed George R. Killeen on May 20, 1950. The BPD said that the killing was a result of an argument over a girl.



Lara:

 

Not the only time that someone was killed over a woman in this story. 





Nina:

 

Nope. The BPD said Ralphie was involved in illegal gambling. We know Richie was working the dice games at Ralphie’s club. They also claimed Ralphie was a loan shark.



Lara:

 

And a shtarker for Johnny Williams!



Nina:

 

What’s that?



Lara:

 

It’s Yiddish for a tough guy. You know an enforcer, a leg breaker.



Nina:

 

Ah, got it. Before we move on, I want to talk about the Killeen killing for a minute. He was also a suspect in the Brink’s case and had been questioned multiple times from January until being shot in the head in front of Vali’s restaurant in the North End. No one was ever tried for his murder. 



Lara:

 

One of many on that list. 

 

Nina: 

 

The cops thought that Amato Santaniello was involved initially, but eventually had to drop the charges after witnesses failed to identify him six months later. The police thought it was strange that Killeen was at Vali’s at all. It was not his usual hangout.

 

Lara:

 

Back to Ralphie. His record stretched back to September 10, 1942. He made 13 court appearances between then and April 8, 1949. The charges ranged from motor vehicle violations to illegal gambling, but he was never sentenced to any jail time. 




Nina:

 

Still don’t think Anthony Lamattina was a bigshot in the mafia? 

 

By 1957 and Richie’s first arrest, Ralphie was on the FBI’s radar for narcotics trafficking. Another Philadelphia informant was providing that information. Ralphie was also believed to be the owner of the Coliseum Restaurant.



Lara:

 

Who wasn’t believed to be one of the owners of the Coliseum?



Nina:

 

Another one of those endless lists. After the Apalachin meeting one of the attendees, Frank Valenti was found to be in possession of a business card from the Coliseum restaurant. Fast forward to September 3, 1958 a subpoena was issued for the phone records of Victor Calamaro, a close associate of Angelo Bruno, head of the Philadelphia family. A phone call was placed from Calamaro’s home to Ralphie’s unlisted home phone number. Ralphie was described by the Philadelphia FBI office as an associate of Johnny Williams in Williams’ cigarette vending machine company, R&L Vending.




Lara:

 

To top that off, during a search of Angelo Bruno’s office, the same unlisted phone number of Ralphie’s was found in Bruno’s address book. From that point on the heat was on Ralphie and everyone connected to him.



Nina:

 

I don’t think anyone in Boston realized that it was Ralphie’s connection to Angelo Bruno that was putting them under a microscope.



Lara:

 

For those who aren’t familiar with who Angelo Bruno was, he was the boss of the Philadelphia family from 1959 until his unsanctioned murder in 1980. Nina, do you have a little background info on Bruno?



Nina:

 

Of course I do! Angelo Bruno was born on May 21, 1910 in Villalba, Caltanissetta, Sicily. He immigrated under the name Annaloro as a baby, but if you follow his immigration papers, and the FBI 302s, his real name according to the Italian National Police was Antonio Angelo Cumella. The son of Michele and Vincenza Cumella. The stepdad’s surname was Annaloro, but he soon changed it to Bruno, and Angelo did the same.

 

Lara:

 

He was definitely a powerful figure and his reach went beyond Philadelphia. Back in Boston,things weren’t the same in the North End. The scene had drastically changed. Fewer people were coming to the dice games. The heat on Ralphie's place had been too much for the regulars. Ralphie had been brought in for questioning several times in the fall of 1958 in regards to his connection with Bruno. Heroin use had spread across the city, and the Feds were taking notice. Fats wasn’t the only one suspected of running narcotics. Ralphie was also on the Fed’s radar for narcotics trafficking, but no one had any idea it was because of an informant all the way in Philadelphia.



Nina:

 

Did you ever figure out who the informant was?



Lara:

 

I’ve rifled through all of the 302s we have on Bruno, and I can’t figure it out..



Nina:

 

Well, if it’s out there, we’ll find it. So what did Richie end up doing?



Lara:

 

He continued to work for Ralphie and two bookies until he crossed paths with Jack Kelley again in early 1961. Jack had recently been released from prison and was putting a new crew together. 

 

Nina:

 

I know who they were! Sonny Diaferio, Mello Merlino, Roy Appleton, Tommy Richards, and Richie.



Lara:

 

Exactly! But dad was still wrapped up with Ralphie moving drugs. The first robbery that I know of for sure was the Garden City Trust on Rte. 9 in Chestnut Hill. This story always stuck in my head. I was fascinated by the idea that they broke into the bank overnight and waited for the bank to open. Eavesdropping little me was dying to ask more questions or pick up more bits of info.




Nina:

 

This was a very intriguing case. The same bank was robbed by three men in August of 1960 for $6000. Frederick Baldinelli was arrested in October of 1960, but I couldn’t find anything else about the case. But did you know that Baldinelli testified against Sonny and Cavanaugh in the Elmer Trigger Burke escape case? He was in Charles Street awaiting trial at the time.



Lara:

 

I had no clue, but who wasn’t locked up in Charles St. at the time? Fucking Grand Central Station! On Monday, November 20, 1961. At 8 am that morning when the first employees entered the bank they were greeted by 3 men in masks wearing identical rain coats. Two were armed with submachine guns and one with a pistol. They had gained entrance to the bank by Mello driving the car up to the teller window, while they climbed on top of the roof of the car and climbed through an unlocked second floor window.






Nina:

 

That reminds me of the Sturtevant job in 1947! The employees said they thought the men had come in from the third floor offices. 



Lara:

 

Another job that was more than likely Jack rather than Sammy Granito.



Nina:

 

Poor Sammy Granito. 

 

Back to Garden City Trust in 1961.

 

When the guard entered the bank, Tommy Richards was crouched in the corner pointing a submachine gun at him. One of the employees told the guard that it wasn’t a joke and to do what they said. At that moment Richie appeared from behind the teller’s desk brandishing a handgun. Shortly after the guard arrived, the bank manager entered through the rear door and went straight to his office only to find Jack waiting there for him. They rounded up the four employees and sat them down in the stairwell. Jack demanded that the bank manager, Joseph Bayer, open the safe while Tommy and Richie watched the employees. And complained about being cold all night.



Lara:

 

That poor bank manager. He was there during the robbery the year before. Jack stuffed pillow cases with the money from the vault. At that point he took Bayer’s keys. The other employees along with Bayer were locked in the vault. They used Bayer’s car as their getaway vehicle. The car was abandoned at the old Bacon Estate in Jamaica Plain just a short distance from where dad was now living on the Jamaica Way.



Nina:

 

No one was ever arrested for the robbery. But things weren’t going as smoothly as they seemed. In September of that year a fight broke out over a woman at an end of the summer party in Salisbury Beach. I don’t want to get into detail here as we will be doing an episode dedicated to how the McLean/McLaughlin war allegedly started and its aftermath will be played out through season one.







Lara:

 

As we mentioned in a previous episode the McLean/McLaughlin war wasn’t just between the immediate members of the gang. Practically every organized crime player picked a side and so did at least one agent of the Boston FBI office.



Nina:

 

Richie was spending more and more of his time with Jack honing his driving skills and learning from his mentor. On March 30, 1962 they hit the Essex Trust bank in West Lynn. Once again it was Tommy, Jack and Richie. This time Richie was at the wheel while Jack and Tommy entered the bank. It seems to me that Jack was training Tommy and Richie as they were less experienced in armed robbery, well at least in Richie’s case.



Lara:

 

I agree with you. As we’ve mentioned before Tommy had been out with Jack prior to Jack going away for the Harvard Trust robbery. But dad was strictly a hustler before teaming up with Jack. I have my theory as to how Jack decided on his dream team. Mello and Sonny were seasoned thieves. If any of you listened to the Bobbsey Twins episode, you might remember that Sonny and Mello had records for robbery going back to their early teens. They were the kind of guys who had the nerve for armed robbery, the ability to play the heavies. Dad had an amazing memory, calm to the last breath, and the ability to think quickly. Roy was the analyst and the armorer. Tommy possessed the physical strength to do any of the heavy lugging.



Nina:

 

Before we get into the Essex Trust robbery, maybe we should talk a little bit about Tommy since we didn’t cover him in previous episodes.



Lara:

 

Sure. I wanted to give Tommy his own episode, but since he was for the most part a clean cut, working guy, there just wasn’t enough for a stand alone. Tell us about Tommy’s background.



Nina:

 

Tommy was born Thomas R. Baghdadlian on September 29, 1925 in the Bronx to Mary and Richard. Richard Baghdadlian was a tailor. The family left New York in the late 20s first moving to Watertown, then to Quincy by the early 30s and later in 1940 to Weymouth where Richard owned a tailor shop called Dick’s. 

 

At the time of his draft card Tommy was working at the Bethlehem-Hingham Shipyard. Shortly after, in late 1943, he enlisted in the Navy. When he got out of the service he briefly worked for Jack’s stepdad before taking a job with the electric company. He got married in 1954. Sometime after he started using his middle name Richard as a surname eventually adding an S to the end. 



Lara:

 

Tommy will be making many appearances throughout the season. At least now everyone knows how he fits into the picture. Ok, let’s get back to the Essex Trust bank robbery. As I mentioned earlier, on March 30, 1962 the Essex Trust Co. in West Lynn was robbed. Things didn’t go quite as planned this time.



Nina:

 

When Jack and Tommy entered the bank there were 24 people inside, 10 tellers and 14 customers. Tommy didn’t say anything, just fired a single shot into the ceiling. As you know by now, this was something unheard of in any of Jack’s robberies. Their timing was off. An armored car pickup had happened a few minutes before, so instead of getting $60,000 they ended up with only $28,000. Boston traffic had struck again.



Lara:

 

Well it didn’t get better. As they fled the scene with dad behind the wheel, the cops were in pursuit. A total of 50 cruisers from 7 cities and towns were on their tail. Shots were being fired in both directions



Nina:

 

Tommy fired his gun out the rear window at the police cruiser trailing them. He fired a second shot that went through the windshield of the cops’ car and grazed the driver’s arm. The other cop started firing back at this point. He smashed out their back window before they got to Saugus. Tommy kept shooting back at them through the smashed window. At least two of his shots went wild and struck two parked cars. The chase went through North Revere to Route C1 and then on to the Northeast Expressway.



Lara:

 

At the entrance to the Mystic Bridge in Chelsea they shook the cops. They crossed over the Chelsea Everett line onto Summer Street, near Ferry Street in Everett. There they commandeered a laundry truck by pulling out of a driveway and blocking it.



Nina:

 

They held the driver at gunpoint, threw him in the back of the truck with three bags of dirty laundry on top of him. Jack drove the truck to Roxbury where Tommy got out. He drove a little further and dropped off Richie near Faulkner Hospital.



Lara:

 

Once again a short walk home for dad! Really he didn’t like to walk. Even when fleeing a crime!

Later, before there was a drive thru at Starbucks, he had his own carside delivery service setup. He had a list of cellphone numbers of the employees, and would call one of them to bring his coffee out to the car. I used to go nuts. Dad would tell me, “Why should I wait in line like everyone else? I never waited in line in my life. I tip them more for a cup of coffee than they make in an hour.” 

 

Nina:

 

I can’t! Back in 1962 and before Starbucks was even a thing, Jack was still working on his escape plan. He abandoned the truck with the driver still in it somewhere near Roxbury Crossing. He yelled back to the driver to stay where he was. The driver waited a few minutes before cautiously getting out and heading to the closest police station.



Lara:

 

After that fiasco, Jack and his crew laid low for a while, but not dad.






Nina:

 

Sometime in May Richie went on a different kind of mission. This time he was transporting weapons to the McLaughlins as the gang war was starting to heat up.



Lara:

 

Dad was driving to Charlestown when he saw a light flashing behind him. First one cruiser, then a second and a third. At first dad thought it was just a speed trap even though he hadn’t gone over the limit. He pulled over and parked on the side of the road. The first man approached the vehicle, it was the Statie Lt. Cornelius Crowley, the same Lt. Crowley from the DeSisto case. There was a BPD Detective also, but it was the third man who approached the vehicle that left him numb, SA H. Paul Rico. The handguns wouldn’t be a problem, but the machine guns meant life in prison.



Nina:

 

When he was brought in, Rico took Richie into an interrogation room, and his deal with the devil was made. Now you can’t tell me that someone didn’t finger Richie. He had been out for almost 4 years and other than his arrest the day he was released, he hadn’t been picked up once.



Lara:

 

I agree with you, but the question is who was it. We hate to leave you hanging, but if you want to find out what Richie’s deal with Rico was then you’ll have to wait until episode 15. Next week we will be going back in time to early 20th century Boston when the Black Hand or Camorra ruled the streets, the arrival of the Sicilian Dons and the transition to the rule of Raymond Patriarca. We hope you listen in!

 

Plugging time! Please leave us a review or rating wherever you listen. Thank you all!



Nina and Lara:

 

Bye!