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Oct. 24, 2022

Piranha: Vinnie Teresa's Tales


Vinnie Teresa followed Jack Kelley into the Witness Protection Program. But Vinnie had a secret: he'd already been an FBI informant for over a decade.

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Transcript

Lara:

 

Welcome everyone! We’re moving on from Jack Kelley for a while, but not from the list of government star witnesses. Today, Nina and I are going to be delving into the man who gave Baby Doc Duvalier a Cadillac, Vinny Teresa, his Senate testimony in July of 1971, his many claims and when he actually became an informant.



Nina:



Did he really give Duvalier a Caddy or was that just another of his many tall tales? 



Lara:

 

I don’t know! It’s not like someone was going to call up Duvalier and ask.



Nina:

 

I highly doubt he did.

 

Today, we’re not going to review Vinnie’s family history. For more about that listen to our episode about the birth of the FBI’s Top Echelon Informant Program. We’re going to pick up Teresa’s journey in 1958. We and others believe this is when Teresa first began cooperating with the government although he wouldn’t be assigned a CI Number until late 1961 or early 1962 prior to the wiretap being installed at Raymond Patriarca’s office at the Coin-O-Matic in Providence, RI.



Lara:

 

Vinny was arrested on September 5th, 1958. He was charged with two counts of violating the small loans act. The indictments alleged that between January 1st, 1957 and September 3rd, 1958 Teresa conspired with Earl Vaughn, Ettore Ralli, Bobby and Jimmy Visconti, Frank Coliano, Mostino Iannaco and Thomas Brady to commit the crime of engaging in the business of making loans valued at less than $1500. The loans were to be repaid in installments with an interest rate and fees totaling higher than 12%. The loans were supposedly granted in the city of Medford where none of the men were licensed lenders. 




Nina:

 

Teresa’s then lawyer, Charles Baker met him at the East Cambridge Jail and posted his $5000 bail bond that was provided by the Continental Casualty Company. Three days later Teresa appeared at his arraignment with a different attorney, Henry Tempone. He pleaded innocent and the next court date was set for December 18th. When Teresa arrived in court that day he changed his plea to guilty on one of the indictments. The following day Judge Felix Forte sentenced him to three months in jail.



Lara:

 

Not for long! That same day he was sent back to court within minutes of arriving at the Billerica House of Correction. The sentence was revoked, the guilty plea was withdrawn and a plea of not guilty was entered. Less than two months later, Teresa was back in court and once again entered a guilty plea. On March 25th, Judge Charles Rome fined him $200 on the first count of the indictment, but the sentence was suspended which meant automatic probation until April 24. The Judge imposed two years probation on the second count. Judge John Meagher lifted the suspension and probation when Teresa paid the fine on April 28th. 



Nina:

 

Here’s an oddity. Attorney Tempone filed motions after the arraignment requesting dates, places and times of when the loans were given, the people who received the loans, the amounts of the loans and the repaid amounts that showed the victims were hit with interest rates higher than 12% and when Teresa participated. The Commonwealth said they were “unable” to provide such information.



Lara:

 

Do you really think that was so odd? Chances are the Feds built their case on an informant's statements. Do you really think they actually investigated? 



Nina:

 

No, not in the least! Not only that, I believe that Teresa was the one who gave everybody up to save himself. It likely wasn’t the first time and it certainly wouldn’t be the last. But his timing couldn’t have been better because at about the same time, J Edgar Hoover and the FBI were planning to cultivate a new breed of informant.

 

On March 14, 1961 the implementation of the Top Echelon Informant Program was announced. And what qualified a person to be a top echelon informant? A serial killer, a high ranking member of a prominent criminal organization and one who can disseminate highly sensitive information to the FBI. Teresa was no serial killer, likely didn’t hold a high position as he wasn’t made, but he sure could tell a story!



Lara:

 

As we mentioned earlier Teresa was assigned an official CI number by the Feds prior to the wiretap being installed in Patriarca’s office on March 6, 1962. The wire was assigned a CI number that ended with an asterix to differentiate it from live informant numbers. The wire was BS-837*. BS designated the Boston FBI Field Office which covered most of New England with the exception of Western Massachusetts and Connecticut. The number sequence was assigned in order of when the number was handed out. The number would be followed by either PC: potential confidential informant, CI: confidential informant and the newly minted C-TE: confidential top echelon informant. Vinny was BS-812-C-TE.



Nina:

 

The first 302 that we’ve seen attributing information to 812 was from September 20, 1962. The Feds have continued to hold the reports regarding when, how and why Teresa flipped as classified. 



Lara:

 

Absolutely ridiculous, particularly considering the volume of lies Teresa told. The timing of his becoming an official informant is very suspicious to me. In October of 1963 Joseph Valachi made his debut in front of the McClellan Committee to tell his tale. A tale that many believe was fed to him by the FBI for months until he memorized the stats he was to repeat at the hearing. The plausibility that a mid-level made man would be privy to such information about not just his own family, or a NewYork family but essentially every mafia organization in the country is highly doubtful. I think the Feds were shopping for someone they could coach and train to remember their lines to parade in front of the cameras, and Vinny wasn’t ready for his closeup in 1962.



Nina:

 

Well, Vinnie would have nearly a decade to get his stories straight. In the meantime he was feeding info to the Feds about his brethren and cohorts in crime. Besides the endless stories about Patriarca and Angiulo, he was also busy trying to bury Pro Lerner, William Agisotelis aka Billie Aggie and his former partner in crime Albert Gigorio. 

 

Vinny had a history with Gigorio and Robert Daddieco who would go on to become an informant himself in 1969. To hear more about Daddieco listen to The Bennett Brother Murders from season one and Taking it on the Lam from the beginning of this season.



Lara:

 

I know we shouldn’t get off track, but you have to tell the story about Robert’s jailbreak!



Nina:

 

Let’s go back to 1958 again. The New Year’s Day arrests of Giorgio and Daddieco for the robbery of the State Spa on Broadway in Somerville saw both of them charged with pistol whipping the owner and robbing him of $2800. The thing is there was a third man who was never charged, Vinnie Teresa.



Lara:

 

Chances are Vinnie gave them up, but it wasn’t like Giorgio and Daddieco weren’t menaces without the assistance of Teresa. While the duo were being held at the Somerville Police Headquarters awaiting their bail hearing, Daddieco must have been a bit bored. He shimmied down a drainpipe and went off on some sort of an adventure only to return 12 hours later on his own. 



Nina:

 

I’m still trying to imagine a 210 pound 24 year old shimmying down a drainpipe unnoticed. He probably went home to shower and shave. The headline was fantastic! Human Fly Escapee Dolls Up and Surrenders.



Lara:

 

I have to say that the journalists in those days were fantastic writers. Witty, sharp and entertaining. Now it’s as bland as a boiled potato with every news wire running the same dry story.





Nina:

 

Don’t get me started on the grammar errors and spelling mistakes!



Lara:

 

No, please! No rabbit holes today.

 

Giorgio and Daddieco both made bail of $25,000 each, but the next month they were pinched in Lechmere Sq. after pistol whipping a store manager they were attempting to rob. When brought in front of the judge, they told him they needed to cover the expenses of fighting their other case.



Nina:

 

Let me guess, they made bail?



Lara:

 

Of course! It’s Massachusetts.

 

As we mentioned earlier, in the fall of 1962 BS-812-C-TE was busy telling his handler about the supposed inner workings of the local Mafia dropping Jerry Anguilo and Raymond Patriarca’s names any chance he could. And there was no question in our minds that Teresa was darkening their doorstep any chance he had thanks to the wiretap at the Coin-O-Matic.



Nina:

 

I want to note that Teresa was NEVER identified as being in attendance at the Coin-O, but rather conversations about him were recorded and disclosed. One of those conversations was about the infamous Jade theft of 1963 that Teresa would later testify about.



Lara:

 

In April of 1963, the late president of Woolworth’s home in Falmouth Foreside, Maine was broken into while the widow was away in Florida. It was estimated that the value of the jade and ivory that was stolen was somewhere around $100,000. 



Nina:

 

That amount magically changed to $1.2 million when Teresa testified eight years later.



Lara:

 

Hey it was inflation!

 

Teresa had the jade and ivory stashed in his home, and Raymond wanted in on it. Poor Henry Tameleo was delegated with the task of retrieving the jade from Vinnie’s home on the Cape. But Henry and Raymond weren’t the only interested parties, the Feds knew all about it too and were waiting for someone to show up. 



Nina:

 

Of course they were there. Vinnie told them to be there! He needed them for muscle. He didn’t know that it was just poor Henry Tameleo who had been sent.



Lara:

 

You have to assume Vinnie promised to deliver Raymond. He probably told them that Patriarca was coming to collect the booty personally.



Nina:

 

Tameleo had the sense to know something was wrong when he arrived at Teresa’s and got the heck out of Dodge before the Feds could snatch him up. When he arrived back at the Coin-O and relayed what happened to Jerry and Raymond, Jerry berated Tameleo in front of Raymond claiming that he allowed himself to be tailed. He went on to tell Tameleo that the Feds raided the home after he left but Vinnie managed to have his uncle sneak the jade out.



Lara:

 

Tameleo became angry and said that it was impossible that he was followed. He suggested that someone must have been listening to Vinnie’s calls. The argument got pretty heated. In the end Raymond layed one of his jewels on them, “Forget the whole thing, it’s gone, there’s nothing we can do about it now.”

 

After Tameleo stormed out Raymond told Jerry that Tameleo was doing too much and that he was busier than 6 bosses. Bitterly Jerry quipped, “certainly he doesn’t have the experience in this field that we have.” 



Nina:

 

The Feds were smart to cover Teresa’s ass with the faux raid. 

 

As for the jade and ivory, it was magically recovered in August from a burnt out taxi cab that was torched on Mass Ave in Boston and returned to the owner undamaged. FBI SA Buck Weafer was there to oversee it. 



Lara:

 

Speaking of the Feds covering up for Teresa, when he was informing on the new kid in town later that winter Teresa was very concerned that the object of his gossip, a man he called Reno would know Teresa was the one giving him up. Pro Lerner’s debut on the Boston crime scene after trading in his baseball bat for a gun had come to Teresa’s attention and he couldn’t wait to tell his handlers all about him. 



Nina:  

 

It wasn’t just Pro that he was spinning tales about. His old partner in crime, Albert Giorgio was also thrown in the mix along with Billie Aggie.



Lara: 

 

I’m telling you right now that it was Teresa who told the authorities to glom onto Billie right after the Plymouth Mail Robbery. Remember later he said that Billie had gone to Jerry about getting funding for the Mail Heist.



Nina:

 

Please, Vinnie claimed to be privy to every conversation that every criminal in New England had!





Lara:

 

No doubt about that! Back to Teresa’s story about the trio. He claimed that Pro, Girorgio and Billie pulled off the Suburban Trust Bank robbery on September 3rd of that year. According to Teresa, Giorgio had lost $2500 in a barboot game more than two months after the robbery. This was his reason for believing Giorgio was responsible.

 

Nina:

 

Was Giorgio even on the street? He and Daddieco were sentenced to nine to fifteen years in prison in April of 1959. Daddieco was definitely still locked up.



Lara:

 

Giorgio was definitely out on the streets. The Feds tailed him day and night and all he did was go to work. I suspect Teresa had some old resentment against him. Teresa also told the Feds that Pro and Billie had robbed The Boston Five Cent Savings Bank on August 27th. Other than the fact that Billie was hanging around Pro’s apartment on Winchester Street in Brookline, their investigation was fruitless.



Nina:

 

We covered those bank robberies in more detail in Pro’s episode: “Not Your Average Hitter”.



Lara:

 

And as I said in that episode if you read the witness descriptions the thieves were Mello and dad. There weren’t a lot of stocky blonde thieves roaming around in those days. That eliminates Billy, Pro and Giorgio!



Nina:

 

How could you miss that it was Richie and Mello? Even I knew it was them from the descriptions. But the Feds were covering for Richie since he was Rico’s CI.

 

And Teresa continued to feed one bad lead after another to the Feds. Of course there was also the story that he and Pro were on his boat off the coast of Fisher Island with Pro in his wetsuit ready to jump in the ocean in an effort to assassinate Joe Barboza. 



Lara:

 

And don’t forget the tale of the CIA approaching Patriarca to kill Castro.Teresa claimed that Raymond approached Pro, but the timeline doesn’t fit.The CIA’s efforts came to a grinding halt in March of 1963. Pro was still an unknown entity only months away from his last baseball game. The story I heard and what Jack Kelley claimed later was that the CIA approached him in the winter of ‘62. When they asked him how do you kill Castro, he said “you don’t!” In Jack’s wise opinion it would be suicide to operate outside of your own territory. He told the CIA that he and his crew weren’t for hire.



Nina:

 

Well, Vinnie wasn’t interested in pesky facts and truth. The saga he relayed to the Feds rivaled any Mark Twain novel.



Lara:

 

Twain was a great humorist and really many of Teresa’s tales were comical.



Nina: 

 

We’ll get to some of those shortly. Let’s jump to the beginning of Vinnie’s demise. On July 13, 1967 he was arrested along with Peter Antonelli and Albert Perry. They were initially charged with larceny of an automobile, and released on $3500 bail. The case seemed to fade into the background.

 

In September of that year was when Vinnie and Pro were supposed to have been cruising around Thatcher Island on Vinnie’s boat The Living End waiting for an opportunity to kill Barboza.



Lara:

 

Here’s the story Jack told and of course dad too. Pro was driving around equipped at all times with everything ranging from scuba to commando gear waiting for the opportunity to get Barboza. It’s interesting how Jack and Vinnie were feeding info at the same time to the same folks and it’s amazingly so similar.





Nina:

 

Don’t question the narrative!



Lara:

 

Yeah, ok!

 

On October 11, 1968 the Feds picked up Teresa and hit him with Federal charges. A total of 58 indictments were handed down against him. Teresa posted a $100,000 bond on October 18th. Before he could take a deep breath he was subpoenaed to testify in front of a Grand Jury about the bond scheme. You can listen to the Nite Lite  episode to hear about the others indicted along with him.

 

On October 23rd, he was accused of stealing over $800,000 worth of securities. Vinny was facing charges in Baltimore, New Jersey, New York and Massachusetts in addition to the Federal charges. In mid-November the names of Vinnie’s co-conspirators were released. Some of them were Francesco Balliro, Anthony Ciullo, Richard Donati (Bobby’s twin brother), Joseph Modica aka Don Pepinno and Phil Waggenheim.



Nina:

 

In the Gaslight Part 2, we spoke about Zelmanowitz and his partner Saperstein who conveniently turned up dead in November of ‘68. This just made me think of Zelmanowitz saying he met someone named Fatoni Salerno. We know he was referring to Fat Tony Salerno and joked that it was Vinnie masquerading as Salerno. During his senate testimony, which we’ll get to in a couple of minutes, Vinnie claimed Salerno was from Massachusetts and attended a supposed monthly meeting on some farm in Framingham, MA. Now I’m even more convinced Teresa was pretending to be Salerno!



Lara:

 

The man was a liar! And not nearly as creative as Frankie Salemme.

 

Don’t worry, no tirades. Teresa was free to roam about despite the kerfuffle going on around him. In March of ‘69 he and his secretary Joan Harvey were arrested in a Back Bay apartment and charged with possession of stolen checks. The following month his trial began in Baltimore. He was convicted on April 16th, sentenced to 20 years in June, and the authorities weren’t going to stop there. The car theft case trial against Vinnie was set to start on April 28th. His four other co-defendants were convicted the year before and all received House of Correction rather than State prison sentences.



Nina:

 

I assume Vinnie helped to convict them.



Lara:

 

No question. But whatever happened with the securities case the Feds were no longer willing to protect Vinnie. We both think Daddieco may have provided statements about Vinnie but that wouldn’t have been until June of ‘69. Maybe they were tired of the BS Teresa was feeding them. 



Nina:

 

They couldn’t have been too fed up with him! Even after his conviction in Baltimore, he was still on the street. On the morning of May 5th, the day his trial was set to begin, he crashed his car into a guardrail while driving himself to court! 




Lara:

 

Well, that didn’t last! When he didn’t appear in court the judge revoked his bail and stationed State policemen around his hospital room to ensure he appeared in court upon his release. On May 29th he was finally released from the hospital and returned to the courtroom. The judge sent him straight off to jail!



Nina:

 

Being Massachusetts and all, the following day the judge set bail at $50,000 and a trial date was set for July 7th. Vinnie posted bail on the 30th, but was under supervision of the probation department after the prosecutor complained that he had difficulty getting Teresa to appear in court.

 

This time the trial commenced on schedule, but four days in the judge declared a mistrial! The judge discovered a relationship between one of the jurors and the wife of the assistant district attorney. Once again Vinnie’s bail was revoked, and this time he was transferred to the Lewisburg Penitentiary to begin serving his sentence for the Baltimore securities fraud conviction. The prosecutors continued to attempt to try him on the car theft charges.



Lara:

 

And just as the trial began in February of 1970, Teresa changed his plea to guilty!



Nina:

 

Teresa was sentenced to five to seven years to be served consecutively not concurrently. And with that Vinnie went back to the drawing board and made a new sales pitch to the Feds. I’m sure Jack’s new gig as State’s witness offered him some inspiration. He offered up all of his former associates on a silver platter and unlike Jack was paraded out in front of a senate committee hearing in July of 1971. But not before giving grand jury testimony in four other cases in Baltimore, one in Boston and one in Miami leading to the indictments of some 50 people.



Lara:

 

The government and Jack used each other to get what they needed, but to be broadcast around the country was not Jack’s style. He looked like your cranky uncle who sat in the corner alone at cookouts. Jack wasn’t malleable enough, and the Feds certainly weren’t going to risk what might come out of his mouth on live television. Decades later when Senator Dan Burton was holding the hearings about corruption in Boston, dad was dragged in to be screened before being sent off to DC. Needless to say, he was back home that afternoon and never made an appearance. 



Nina:

 

No teasers! Let’s dig into some of Vinnie's deal with the government and what he had to tell the nation.

 

It cost the government $11,306 to relocate his wife and their three kids. His sentence was reduced from 20 years to 5 at Lewisburg and he was to be granted immediate parole in exchange for testifying. His wife was given an allowance of $700 a month. Vinnie was questioned if the government was also giving an allowance to his girlfriend. He said, “no, she’s got to go to work now, poor kid.”



Lara:

 

When questioned why he turned State’s evidence, first he claimed that he flipped because Patriarca and Henry Tameleo were incarcerated, and there was no one to protect him anylonger.

 

“The mob wanted to squeal on me but I did it to them instead.” “A shady bunch of characters.”

And he chose the FBI to make his deal with because he had never met a corrupt Fed. He said no one had ever heard of a crooked Fed!



Nina:

 

Yeah, ok.

 

He told the McClellan Committee that he was going straight. He praised SAs Kehoe, Welby, and Sheehan for helping him to see that the mafia didn’t have his best interests at heart. He also made it sound like Ted Harrington used Daddieco’s testimony against him to flip him. But as we all now know, Vinnie didn’t need to be flipped. 

 

I want to tell my favorite tale.



Lara:

 

What the piranha?



Nina:

 

Yes! Teresa claimed they had a piranha in a bowl in the office of the so-called Piranha Company! They would stick peoples hands in the bowl with the piranha if they didn’t pay. Mind you this office was supposedly in a posh office building on State Street in Boston.

 

I would like to imagine that Don Peppino would not indulge in such a thing.  



Lara:

 

First of all a baby piranha needs 20 to 25 gallons of water and a full grown one requires 100 gallons of fresh water. So of course I had to watch the testimony because I never trust what’s written. Teresa did specify a fish tank rather than a bowl, so it’s possible they had a piranha, but did the company even exist? 



Nina:

 

I was never able to find anything on Piranha or Pan American Finance. We found Jerry Angiulo’s jingle business and the others he had Al Horrigan on, but there was nothing on the Kater brothers, Don Peppino and certainly not Vinnie. And the Feds are still refusing to release transcripts of the wiretap from Joe Modica’s office fifty something years later. Classified!

 

Lara:

 

You should submit a FOIA again! 

 

Teresa told the committee about his childhood, minor crimes from his youth, his time in the Navy, inevitable court martial and his dishonorable discharge. 



Nina:

 

But hey, he left the Navy with over $14,000 in cash that he earned gambling!



Lara:

 

Vinnie gave more details about his background claiming to be the grandson of a “Mafioso chieftain” and that his uncle was a driver for Joe Lombardo. He married Blanche in 1949 and she stuck with him throughout it all. 



Nina:

 

I said this last time but I think it bears repeating. Both of Teresa’s grandfathers were long gone by the time he was born and only one was Sicilian. 



Lara:

 

Teresa also said he was never made because he didn’t want to be made. You're the grandson of a “mafioso chieftain”, a thief and a loan shark, but you never wanted to be straightened out? That makes no sense! No one offered! That’s why he wasn’t made.

 

He admitted he was the third man in the Somerville robbery with Giorgio and Daddieco that we discussed earlier. And said his relationship with them went back to 1952.



Nina:

 

And he gave details about the men involved in the loan loan sharking case from the late ‘50s, and how his relationships with them went back to the early ‘50s.  Oh, and how could I forget that he described himself as a gambling degenerate!

 

He told the committee that he beat that ‘58 case because he had a “hep” layer who used the $5000 he gave him to pay off the judges. But Teresa claimed he didn’t believe him and thought he put it in his pocket.



Lara:

 

No comment!

 

He claimed that none of the Boston guys were in the narcotics trade. That was absolutely not the case. Look at Fats Buccelli! Granted Fats was killed in June of ‘58, but the Lamattina brothers had been trafficking heroin since the ‘50s too. Vinny either wasn’t privy to that info or wasn’t going to expose those guys, but he had been feeding the Feds info on Ralphie Lamattina at least since 1962. 



Nina:

 

Yeah, when he said that Ralphie was on Raymond and Jerry’s hit list. More bogus intel since Ralphie lived into his 90s!

 

Back to his claims about himself, he said that he earned a total of $6 million between stolen securities, stocks, bonds, credit cards and loans. For good measure he threw Rudy Sciarra’s name in there claiming Rudy was famous for providing bad plastic i.e. fake credit cards. Teresa said Rudy had a fancy machine that he would make them on.



Lara:

 

The man didn’t have heat in his house but he had hightech equipment to make bogus credit cards? Come on! The Feds told Teresa who to focus on just like with Jack. Vinnie testified that Butchy Miceli was the head of a mob hit squad for Carlo Gambino that functioned as a sort of mafia police! And as we know Butchy and Vinnie knew each other since they were kids and were involved in the stolen bonds together. But that wasn’t enough to pin on Butchy. He had to go all out on that story.



Nina:

 

And then of course there were the gambling junkets to Puerto Rico and George Raft’s club in London. He explained how the gamblers would pay $1000 and get $800 and change back in chips once they arrived at the casino. The idea was that they would blow that money and much more. He told the story about gifting the Caddy to Duvalier in order to get him to consent to allowing the mob to open a casino in Haiti.




Lara:

 

I can’t with the Caddy. I’m sure someone gave Baby Doc a jazzy new car, but I doubt it was Vinnie. Here’s the thing, who was going to challenge what he was saying? You’d end up incriminating yourself.



Nina:

 

Just one more claim of Teresa’s before we move on. He said that he was almost a victim of the McLean-McLaughlin Feud! He told the Committee that Stevie and Connie Hughes had tried to kill him as he was heading home. They had fired twice but missed. Imagine missing Vinnie!



Lara:

 

Like the McLaughlins gave a hoot about Vinnie! Never have I heard such nonsense. And shooting at Vinnie and missing would be like shooting at the side of a barn and missing.



NIna:

 

Of course the Hughes brothers were long dead by the time Vinnie told the story, so there was no one to dispute it.  It’s like Frankie Salemme trying to claim the attempts on Punchy McLaughlin! 



Lara:

 

Hey, stay off my soapbox!



Nina:

 

Relax, I know debunking Frankie is your thing. We’ll have much more of it next week.

 

When his time in front of the Senate came to an end Teresa entered the United States Federal Witness Protection Program and received a new identity as Charles Cantino. He wrote three books in his spare time. In his first book My Life in the Mafia he claimed he flipped because Raymond and his crew stole $4 million from him.



Lara:

 

Do I have to say the man was a liar again?



Nina:

 

No! We’ve got it!



Lara:

 

Teresa let it be known in that first book that he felt used and mistreated by the Feds who had no concern for his safety or regard for his true value.



Nina:

 

As if he was the victim!



Lara:

 

Hey I’m just telling you what he said. 

 

In his last book Wiseguys, the main character was based on Butchy Miceli. Vinnie used this to explain why he was never made. He changed his story and said Raymond would never make him because he had never killed anyone. This is not an entirely true statement about who is eligible to be made, but again who was going to question it? Although a couple of the Senators' questioned Vinnie’s bullshit.

 

If any of our listeners don’t know what became of Vinnie, surprise, surprise he did not go straight! 



Nina:

 

Neither did his sons!

 

Like most of the other men who found themselves in the Witness Protection Program, Vinnie continued to commit crimes under the protection of the Feds. As a result he overstayed his welcome in NY, El Paso (where he started and ran a motel), and San Diego. In California, he went into the import business, specifically trafficking exotic birds. But he must have gotten into trouble again because the Feds moved him to Tacoma, WA in 1978. Teresa continued importing the birds, and in less than a year he was headline news. Officials confiscated 250 of the birds he was trying to sell, and charged him with importing them without a permit. 42 of the birds that were seized died in captivity



Lara:

 

Vinnie’s version of events was, of course, quite different. He claimed that he and his family were told they’d have to move again, this time to Omaha. When Vinnie refused, he claimed the Feds called in Customs as revenge.

 

Meanwhile, Vinnie’s oldest son had become addicted to cocaine and killed another man in the summer of 1980. He was convicted the following December. Vinnie claimed he was no longer involved in crime and was only trying to earn money to pay his son’s legal fees.



Nina:

 

In another bit of irony, wiretaps were placed at Vinnie’s after he threatened to kill the prosecutors in his son’s case.

 

But what the authorities discovered was that Vinnie was back to another one of his old tricks: insurance fraud. Vinnie and his other son had “stolen” the office furniture and equipment from a local dentist who had turned around and filed a $250,000 claim for the supposed loss. 



Lara:

 

It gets better! The Feds watched Vinnie and his son steal the stuff!

In the meantime, Vinnie was also under investigation for drug smuggling from Bolivia. Vinnie’s cover had been totally blown.



Nina:

 

Of course the dentist turned state's evidence and his testimony was used against Vinnie in the court case. He was eventually sentenced to ten years in Federal prison on charges of mail fraud and cocaine trafficking. 

 

Before he was sentenced, the judge asked Vinnie about his background (he’d clearly read Vinnie’s book). Vinnie gave the same sob story about being a gambler, and claimed, “I don’t believe in doing wrong to my friends and I don’t believe in running.” But despite this and a request that Vinnie remain free pending appeal, the judge ordered the sentence to begin immediately because Vinnie had also bragged that the mob had come after him since he’d been in Witness Protection. 



Lara:

 

While Vinnie was serving his sentence in Arizona, he was hit with federal charges of smuggling 269 endangered birds from Asia and selling them to a man in Pennsylvania.

 

And with Vinnie’s final downfall, dad inherited one of Vinnie’s former bodyguards as his new partner in crime so to speak. He is still amongst the living to the best of my knowledge, so we won’t be naming him in any of our episodes later this season. We’ll call him Randolph as dad did.



Nina:

 

Why did Richie name him Randolph? 



Lara:

 

Dad loved Eddie Murphy and must have seen Coming to America 20 times. The two gunnif commodities brokers were Randolph and Mortimer. Dad was Mortimer and Vinnie’s ex-bodyguard was Randolph. It was actually quite fitting.



Nina:

 

We’ll leave why it was fitting for later this season!

 

Back to Vinnie. He had one more scheme going, komodo dragons!



Lara:

 

Speaking of movies, that movie with Marlon Brando and Matthew Broderick! 



Nina:

 

Oh yeah! I didn’t even realize Brando’s character was based on Vinnie!



Lara:

 

Not just the girth, but the dragons! In June of 1985, Vinnie pleaded guilty to one count of trying to sell an endangered species and one count of conspiracy, and was sentenced to another two years in prison.



Nina:

 

Vinnie eventually passed away from kidney failure in 1990. 

 

 

Lara:

 

For all of his claims that the mob was out to get him, his gluttony got him in the end.

 

Next week we are going to be discussing Frankie Salemme and his arrest in NYC  in December 1972 after being on the lam for over three years.



Nina:

 

Man of La Mancha! If you haven’t listened to our episode about Frankie’s time on the lam, check out this season’s second episode.

 

We’ll be following Frankie through his trials, and bringing back some old favorites: Robert Daddieco, Billy Stewart, Stevie Flemmi, attorneys F. Lee Bailey and John Fitzgerald.

 

Thanks for listening everyone!



Lara & Nina:

 

BYE!!