Check out our latest episode!
Jan. 16, 2023

Frank Salemme - A Tribute


Frank Salemme passed away on December 13, 2022. This week's episode is a short tribute to his life along with a few perhaps lesser known stories. There will be much more to come about Frankie and his activities later this season. Next week, we’ll be looking at the bank robberies of the 1970s.

Linked Episodes:

Dottie Barchard Bonus,

The Boys of Winter Hill

The Defense Never Rests

Dying to be Made

Finding Frankie

Salemme's Congressional testimony.

Follow us on Twitter for sneak peeks of upcoming episodes. You can also find us on Instagram and Facebook.

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

Donate to Lara and Nina

Thank you for listening!

All the best,

Lara & Nina

Transcript

Lara:

 

Hi everyone! We’re back after our unexpected and very long vacation. Our last episode was about Joseph JR Russo’s early days.We were planning on putting out one more episode before our holiday break.



Nina:

 

BUT things didn’t go quite as planned! Lara had an unanticipated but most welcome guest, and I’ve been a bit under the weather. I would not call it a vacation!



Lara:

 

Indeed, we’ve both been working, just not on the podcast. 



Nina:

 

And I think we’re both still exhausted!




Lara:

 

Well in the name of exhaustion, let's get started.

 

By now most of you know that Frank Salemme passed away on December 13th at the age of 89, so in memory of Francis Patrick Salemme, Nina and I are going to do a quick tribute today. We aren’t going to go into detail about most events, and we’ll do our best to bring you some lesser known stories.




Nina:

 

Francis Patrick was born to Romeo Pasquale Salemme and Mary Agnes Haverty in Weymouth, Massachusetts on August 18, 1933. 



Lara:

 

Sorry to interrupt you, but later Mary’s middle name appears as Bridgette. Not the first time we’ve seen children reporting their parent’s middle names or even the names of their grandparents incorrectly.



Nina:

 

To be fair, sometimes even the kids didn’t know their own birth names! But we’ll go with what was reported in Mary’s younger years and even on Frankie’s marriage license. 

 

Ok back to his early family life. Frankie was one of seven children that included his brother John and five sisters. Mary’s father was from Ireland and her mother was from Canada. Mary was born in Boston. Frank’s father Romeo was born in Weymouth but his parents were from Mirabello, Italy. The surname was changed to Salemme by the time Romeo’s father, Alessio Apicella,  became a naturalized citizen. By the 1940s Romeo moved his family from the South Shore to Jamaica Plain where Frankie became something of a local sports star. The picture of him winning the relay race in 1949 is great!

 

 

Lara:

 

And he wasn’t just a track and field star. Frankie was a tight end for his High School football team. Triple letter man actually as in 1951 he was also the goalie for his high school hockey team.



Nina:

 

Actually a quadruple letter boy! He was on the High School baseball team too! And he wasn’t just a tight end, occasionally he subbed as a running back.



Lara:

 

The high school sports star married Alice Kathleen McLaughlin in New Hampshire on November 16, 1955. His occupation was listed as electrician on his marriage license. They would go on to have five children together. His son Frank Jr. having been born on October 12, 1956.






Nina:

 

For those wondering, Alice was not related to our Charlestown McLaughlins. At least not on this side of the pond. But her older brother, Dennis, was an old schoolmate of Frankie’s, and long time listeners might remember that Dennis McLaughlin was an associate of Jimmy Flemmi’s throughout the 1960s and into the 70s.



Lara:

 

Alright, let’s move onto Frankie’s criminal endeavors. Supposedly he was locked up in 1957 with Anthony Morelli of Providence. We have NEVER been able to verify this. There’s no mention of an arrest of Frankie in the ‘50s. And to top it off nothing about Anthony Morelli being in the can at that time either. If any of our listeners have some specifics about an arrest/conviction circa 1957, please share it with us. On his FBI wanted poster from January of 1970 the only arrest or conviction they list is an assault and battery rap but there is no date.



Nina:

 

Well, I don’t believe the Anthony Morelli tale. It’s like someone needed to fabricate a story connecting Frankie to Raymond Patriarca not knowing that geography alone would provide a natural connection.

 

The first case against Salemme that was made public was his September of 1969 indictment for the murder of William Bennett. By then the press was already using the nickname “Cadillac” for Frankie. A name he supposedly earned because he worked on cars at the garage.



Lara:

 

The following month he and Steve Flemmi were indicted for the car bombing of attorney John Fitzgerald. I promise we will NOT get into that again. For more about that listen to our bonus episode on Dottie Barchard, the Defense Never Rests, and our episode about Joe Barboza.

 

Frankie and Stevie had already taken it on the lam. They eventually split with Stevie heading north to Canada and Frankie heading back east to New York City.



Nina:

 

Living under the name Jules Selig, Salemme would remain on the lam until December 14, 1972 when he was arrested by then rookie FBI Special Agent John Connoly. To hear more about that, listen to episode 8 of this season, Finding Frankie.

Lara:

 

The trial dragged on  until June 19, 1973 when Frank was sentenced to a total of 28 to 30 years in prison for the car bombing of Fitzgerald. The charges pertaining to the murder of William Bennett had previously been dropped and Flemmi had been cut loose on both sets of charges. 



Nina:

 

And we all know why that was the case!



Lara:

 

No doubt!

 

Frankie was co-chairman of the inmates council at Norfolk prison, and had helped quell several disturbances during his time there. When an inmate named William Royce took two prison guards hostage and shot them, Salemme rose to the occasion. I want to note that Frank did NOT have a reputation for being chummy with the guards. CO William Murphy had been shot in the eye and Russell Fontaine was shot twice including once in his abdomen after being forced to strip naked by Royce. Frankie intervened in an effort to save the lives of the two wounded guards. He ran to the gate and demanded to see the superintendent. As the co-chairman of the inmates council he had the right to approach the guards and to speak to the authorities.



Nina:

 

Before you move on, we should mention that Peter Limone was also actively involved in saving the guards, and he too received a commendation from the governor.



Lara:

 

You are correct! 

 

Royce was finally subdued after being shot twice by two other COs. The .22 that Royce, who was serving a 15 to 20 year sentence for armed robbery, had used was believed to have been smuggled in by being hidden inside an amplifier from an outside band that had performed at the prison. Royce had chipped away at the wall in his cell where he had hidden the gun.

 

Russel Fontaine recovered from his wounds, but Officer William Murphy was left with a debilitating traumatic brain injury. As Nina mentioned Peter Limone received a commendation as did Frankie from Governor Dukakis for coming to the aid of the two officers. 

Nina:

 

What a tragedy.

 

In 1983 Salemme was named as an unindicted co-conspirator in the case against Jerry Anguilo, Larry Zaninno, and others. Zaninno was caught on tape saying that Salemme was in a cardboard box in the back of a beach wagon scoping out Walter Bennett. “If you see him, make a move, crack him.”

 

The following year, Walter Bennett’s wife testified that she and her husband had staked out Larry Zannino’s house before Walter was killed. It was her opinion that Zannino had requested Flemmi and Frankie to kill each of the three then deceased Bennett brothers.



Lara:

 

That explains Frankie’s later testimony about Zannino, the beach wagon and the cardboard box!



Nina:

 

Yeah, he borrowed it from Barbara Bennett and Zannino! Just like all the rest of his testimony was lifted from other sources. I cannot wait to get my hands on his file!



Lara:

 

Don’t go down that rabbit hole today!

Frank was released from prison in late 1987. Less than two years later, an attempt was made on his life on June 16, 1989. We won’t get into too much detail here as the shooting will be part of this season’s finale. But after driving to the IHOP on Rte. 1 in Saugus with $14,000 in a briefcase, Frank was shot, but he managed to make his way to safety in a nearby Papa Gino’s where the staff called for help.



Nina:

 

Let’s skip past the aftermath of the shooting, as there will be an entire episode dedicated to it. Indictments were handed down in November of that year against Joseph JR Russo, his stepbrother, Bobby Carrozza and Vinnie Ferrara. By the following summer, the papers reported that Salemme was emerging as the leader of New England. In August of 1990, the Feds said that Salemme had plotted to kidnap Providence bookie Blaise Marfeo, the son of Louis Marfeo and Antoinette Barbieri. 

 

Lara:

 

And to our listeners out there who cringe at our pronunciation we both apologize!

 

Later that year in December, Salemme was arrested for skipping out on a $56,000 hotel bill in Los Angeles. The judge released him on $75,000 bail. In April of 1991, he and his son were served with Governor’s warrants and ordered to return to Los Angeles to face the pending larceny charges.

 

That same year, Salemme was the subject of an FBI wiretap of his own. During a meeting at the Logan Airport Hilton with Gambino capo Big Chris Richichi, Salemme boasted, “I’m the boss! I got that crew that’s around, some kids from South Boston… Bulger and Flemmi.”  



Nina:

 

We should mention that John Gotti was actively involved in settling the war between the Salemme faction and those loyal to JR Russo. Much more to come about that next season.




Lara:

 

A little over two years later, Steven DiSarro went missing in May of 1993. Two months after that a FGJ handed down a secret indictment against him on bank fraud charges. DiSarro was a RI native whose family was close to Raymond Patriarca. DiSarro owned the Channel Nightclub in Boston. There will be more about his murder in a bit and of course much more in season 3.

 

Nina:

 

Fast forward to 1994. Frankie’s father passed away at the age of 84. The following year in January, Frankie’s longtime business partner George Kaufman along with Stevie Flemmi and Whitey Bulger were named in a complaint regarding extortion payments made by bookmaker Chico Krantz to the trio and Salemme. Flemmi and Bobby DeLuca were picked up almost immediately. Kaufman would eventually turn himself in, while Frankie and Whitey remained at large.

 

Frank Jr. passed away from complications from AIDs in June of 1995, a byproduct of his drug addiction. He was under indictment and house arrest at the time of his death. Frank Sr. was still on the lam and didn’t officially attend the wake or funeral, but it was rumored that he attended in secret.



Lara:

 

Either way, less than two months later, Frankie was arrested in West Palm Beach. He was living in the middle class neighborhood of Sandalwood on the other side of the tracks. The neighbors described him as tan, fit, well manicured and polite.



Nina:

 

He was also regularly feeding the ducks!



Lara:

 

Don’t knock feeding the ducks. I’m guilty of feeding ducks and other winged creatures and of course my squirrels!



Nina:

 

Ok, ok. Frank’s trial was continually delayed. By May of 1996, four murder charges were added to both the case against Frank and Stevie Flemmi. The 1967 murders of the three Bennett brothers and Richie Grasso. In June of 1997 the FBI released the information that Flemmi was an informant and had tried to recruit Frankie as an informant in 1969 when the two men were on the lam. By the beginning of 1998 Judge Wolfe was still trying to determine if a contract existed between the Feds and Stevie Flemmi essentially giving him a license to kill. Later that month Wolfe suspended hearings in the case. Two months after that he was still mulling over whether or not to step down but he never did.



Lara:

 

The following month on April 23rd, FBI Special Agent John Morris admitted accepting some $7000 in payoffs from Whitey Bulger. The pretrial hearings dragged on with no trial date set. Salemme, Flemmi, DeLuca and Martorano appeared daily dressed to the nines until one day the US Marshals refused to collect the garment bags left off for the boys. Instead of appearing in the nylon tracksuits they had been transported to court in, the quartet demanded to see the judge who came to a compromise. Instead of being allowed to change into a second suit and accessories for the afternoon session, they had to make do with one ensemble a day.



Nina:

 

The fashion commentary from the press over the decades certainly was Vogue worthy.

Back to the case. In July, Johnny Martorano disappeared from the court after cutting a deal with the Feds. It was also revealed that month in court that the FBI knew that others were plotting to kill Salemme in 1989 and never gave him a heads up. And Stevie Flemmi revealed that he had been informing on Salemme up until the end of 1993. Finally in September of 1999 it was officially announced that Martorano had made a plea agreement wiping 20 unsolved murders off of the books. Later that week Attorney Anthony Cardinale stated he would ask Judge Wolfe to release Salemme on the grounds that you couldn’t charge someone with conspiracy if the other party didn’t have actual criminal intent because they were an undercover officer or informant.



Lara:

 

In October Cardinale submitted a motion seeking bail for Frank. Salemme had been held at the Plymouth County Jail since August of 1995. He was willing to have his calls tapped and wear an ankle monitor if he was released on home confinement. That wasn’t to be. On December 9th Salemme was to appear in court and enter a guilty plea. The plea agreement was supposed to have been made without any cooperation on Salemme’s part with the authorities. Dressed in pinstriped charcoal gray suit, he pled guilty to 15 counts of racketeering, extortion, bribery and interstate travel in aid of racketeering. A sentence of 10 years and 10 months to 13 and a half years was recommended.



Nina:

 

Salemme was immediately transferred. Less than a week later Frank testified in front of a Grand Jury about Flemmi, Whitey Bulger and retired Special Agent John Connolly. So much for the no cooperation part. At his sentencing in February Cardinale said that Frank was a victim of evil. On February 24, 2000 Frankie was sentenced to 11 years and four months.



Lara:

 

In March of 2001 it was officially announced that Frank was a cooperating witness for the government. Two days later Judge Wolfe admitted that Salemme’s sealed file was accidentally left in a public court file which led to his cooperation being leaked to the press.

 

Frankie’s quote said it all about informants in Boston as well as elsewhere. “This life is so inundated with top echelon informants, you couldn’t survive half a day in it.”



Nina:

 

Do you buy that Frankie’s file was left out just by accident?

 

Lara:

 

It seems awfully fishy to me.

 

His cooperation didn’t earn him an immediate release. His lawyers petitioned to have his sentence reduced saying that he was framed for the car bombing of Fitzgerald. The Feds argued one case had nothing to do with the other, but the deal Frank had made with the government would earn him his freedom.



Nina:

 

Frank’s mother passed away in November of that year at the age of 89, the same age Frankie was when he passed away. That same month investigators were excavating a site in Hopkinton MA in search of the bodies of the still missing Bennett brothers. At that time it was believed that Frank had led them to that area. After four days the search was abandoned. I know now is not the time for this, but I still do not believe Stevie and Frankie killed Walter and Wimpy. 



Lara:

 

You’re not going to get an argument from me, but all of that needs to wait for next season.

 

The trial of SA John Connolly took place in the spring of 2002 and Frankie was amongst those that testified against him. On May 18th, Frankie took the stand and said that Connolly had promised to tip him off if there were any upcoming indictments and that Connolly made good on that promise in January of 1995 when Connolly tipped off Stevie for them to hit the road.

 

And no I don’t buy that story. First of all, why would Connolly make such a deal with Frank if they didn’t have a quid pro quo relationship? Second, if Stevie was the one Connolly gave the heads up to, why was Stevie the only one to be arrested? Rhetorical questions, but think about how it unfolded and come to your own conclusions.



Nina:

 

I still think Connolly tipped off Frankie and Frankie left Stevie holding the bag as revenge for leaving Frankie in the lurch for the Fitzgerald bombing case. 



Lara:

 

On May 28th, Connolly was convicted. 

 

The next time Frankie would be in the public eye was in the Spring of 2003. On April 10th

Frankie was granted immunity to testify in front of Congress. I’ll spare you my complaining about his testimony. We’ll link in the show notes to some of those episodes. 




Nina:

 

Thank goodness! We’ll link to the testimony if anyone wants to read some bad fiction.

 

In May 2005, Connolly filed a motion for a new trial alleging that Frankie had told a fellow prisoner that he’d been forced to testify against Connolly or die in prison. Philadelphia mobster Roger Vella said that Salemme referred to Connolly as “his ticket home”.  


And speaking of revenge, as part of his 2003 plea deal Stevie Flemmi told the Feds that he had walked in on Frankie’s by then late son, Frank Jr. killing Stephen diSarro a decade earlier. According to Flemmi, Frankie was present at the killing, but Stevie walked out before diSarro died. However, since DiSarro’s body was still missing, the government couldn’t charge Frankie with homicide. Nevertheless, in November of 2004, the Feds arrested Frankie for withholding evidence in the diSarro murder. The legal wrangling went on for years while Frankie sat in pre-trial detention. In 2008, Salemme finally pleaded guilty to charges of perjury and obstruction of justice, and was sentenced to five years in prison. By that time, he only had 8 months left to serve. As part of the plea agreement, Salemme denied that he was responsible “for the disappearance and presumed murder of diSarro”. At the sentencing, Salemme misstated his age. He later quipped to the judge: “I want to make one correction. I won’t be 75 until August 18th. Anything can happen, your honor.”




Lara:

 

Once he was released they put Frank back in witness protection until they found and identified DiSarro’s body in June of 2016. Thanks to the cooperation of Robert DeLuca, DiSarro's remains were discovered on the grounds of a mill in Providence, RI owned by William Ricci.

 

Another one of Frank’s quotes was beyond fitting for his demise, “You’re not going to beat the government…. Let’s face it. At some point, they’re going to get you.”



Nina:

 

Frank lived out his days behind bars where he passed away on December 13, 2022. 

 

We’ll have much more about Frankie to come in this season and the next.

Lara:

 

That’s for sure!

 

Thanks for listening. I’m glad we’re back. Next week, we’ll be looking at the bank robberies of the 1970s. Hope you listen in!



Nina & Lara:

 

BYE!!!!