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Sept. 19, 2022

Taking it on the Lam


Mello Merlino, Stevie Flemmi, Peter Poulos, Frankie Salemme and Frank Vendi all go on the lam. A new FBI Top Echelon Informant is placed on the books. And SA Rico recruits Robert Daddieco to further his case to Hoover and Tolson for a job transfer to the sunny beaches of Miami.

Jack Goes Bad - Part 1

The Bennett Brothers Murders

Family Feud the Hill -Part 2

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Lara & Nina

Transcript

S2E2 - Taking it on the Lam



Lara:

 

Hi all! Last week when we left you, Pro Lerner, Rudy Sciarra, Robert Fairbrothers and John E. Rossi had been arrested and hit with both local and ITAR charges pertaining to the murders of Rudy Marfeo and Anthont Melei. Raymond Patriarca who was already serving time on conspiracy charges in the 1966 murder of Rudy’s brother, Willie, was also charged in both State and Federal court. But Frank Vendituoli and Louis Manocchio slipped away before the Feds could scoop them up and were deemed fugitives spawning a nationwide manhunt. We’ll come back to Vendituoli a little later in the episode. Louis will be the focus next week, but for now let’s talk about our other fleeing wiseguys.



Nina:

 

Before we move onto the other lamisters, let’s review what ITAR charges are for our listeners. For those who don’t know what ITAR refers to, it’s the acronym for the “Interstate Transportation in Aid of Racketeering” or what’s commonly referred to as the “Travel Act”. President Kennedy signed it into law in 1961 to give the federal government the power to prosecute organized crime that crossed state lines. This was the precursor to the 1970 RICO act, which would give the Feds even more power to go after organized crime.

 

We mentioned in the last two episodes that Federal charges could not be brought against Pro, Sciarra, Manocchio and the others in the Marfeo/Melei double homicide case if the murderers had not crossed state lines. This is why Jack’s testimony that he and Pro ventured down to Rhode Island and Sciarra and Manocchio went up to Massachusetts was so crucial. If only locals were responsible for the double homicide, the Feds’ case would be dead in the water.



Lara:

 

Glad you gave that explanation of RICO’s daddy!



Nina:

 

Good nickname for the rather bland ITAR.






Lara:

 

Well, I like it!

 

Ok, there were three others still at large in the summer of ‘69 as a result of Jack Kelley’s testimony, Phil Cresta, Stephen Roukous and Carmello Merlino.  If you listened to Jack Goes Bad -  Part 1 - Revenge by Robbery, you might remember the trio was involved in the December 1968 Brinks Robbery. The Feds were interviewing all of the usual informants in an effort to ascertain their whereabouts. We’ll discuss Roukous when we talk about Venditouli a little later.

 

On August 27, 1969, CI BS-1159-PC told SA Dennis Condon that Mello would certainly team up with Vendituoli and Manocchio now that they were all fugitives. He continued on that a man named Frank Grillo that hung out at Sam’s Spa on Harrison Ave. in Boston was in touch with Mello a couple of nights a week. 



Nina:

 

Can I please tell everyone who Condon’s informant was??? 



Lara:

 

Do us the honors!



Nina:

 

Frank Imbruglia!



Lara:

 

Well that explains the scammy parole violation after he gave up Rudy Sciarra. He does go on to become a top echelon informant in the ‘70s, but we have to wait to tell that story.



Nina:

 

I know, but another one of your favorites was also busy feeding fables to the Feds. Three months later, Vinny Teresa told SA Condon that he heard Butchy Micelli was aiding both Merlino and Manocchio.



Lara:

 

And the gossip mongering Teresa had to throw in there that Butchy was having marital issues!



Nina:

 

You always say those guys sat around sniping like old bitties!



Lara:

 

They certainly did, and I suspect most wouldn’t deny it! Maybe they wouldn’t admit their own gossip habits, but certainly would point their fingers at their compatriots.

 

And the Feds relied on those tendencies. But by the spring of 1970 the whereabouts of not just Vendituoli, Manocchio, Merlino, Cresta and Roukous were a mystery to the authorities, but also Stevie Flemmi and Frankie Salemme. And where else would you go to look for vanished gangsters than Maine!



Nina:

 

I always think of Maine as so WASPY but obviously I’m wrong.



Lara:

 

Well that’s another one of those lies we were told!

 

Anyhow, one of your favorite Feds, SA Charles A. Repucci made his way to York Beach, Maine to investigate whether or not any neighbors of the Vicca family of Rhode Island had seen any of the boys kicking around. Alas, their search was fruitless.

 

Now, Nina tell us about why Stevie and Frankie were on the run.



Nina:

 

The first indictments to come down were in September of 1969. Stevie, Frankie, Peter Poulos, Hugh “Sonny” Shields and Robert Daddieco were all charged in the 1967 murder of William “Billy” Bennett, the brother of Wimpy Bennett. Stevie, Frankie and Peter were declared fugitives on September 12th. Frankie later claimed that Sonny Shields was the one who killed Billy Bennett just before Bennett’s body fell out of the car. If you want to hear more about that hit listen to the Bennett Brothers Murders episode. We’ll also be covering the murder trial in a future episode.



Lara:

 

Shields was arrested on September 19th. Poor Richie Grasso was also charged, even though he’d been dead for over 18 months. He’d been killed a week after Billy Bennett. Daddieco was already doing time in Walpole for a bank robbery gone wrong and had decided to turn State’s evidence which appeared to be the thing to do in 1969.



Nina:

 

And he was the only one left holding the bag! They all wanted to be like Barboza! 



Lara:

 

Every time I hear that statement, I cringe. They weren’t just becoming informants, they were becoming fiction writers!



Nina:

 

Aspiring artists, every last one of them! Including the Feds! 

 

Just one month later on October 10th, the Fitzgerald car bomb indictment came down. Like some twenty plus years later, Stevie and Frankie were nowhere to be found. 



Lara:

 

And just like in more than one of a few of the cases Barboza testified in,  Daddieco was the only so-called witness who provided statements and testimony to the grand jury. Fugitive warrants were issued for the duo on the same day and they were moved to the FBI’s most wanted list.



Nina:

 

Before we move onto how they became fugitives, I want to tell the story about Daddieco and Slim/Skinny Kazonis



Lara:

 

The never ending nickname controversy! As I’ve said in the past, I’ll stick with what I heard first hand. Slim!



Nina:

 

According to Daddieco, Kazonis came to him because Kazonis had seen him talking to his handlers while they were both locked up in Walpole. Kazonis wanted Robert’s help in “discrediting, disgracing, or embarrassing SA Rico. Kazonis worked for Jerry Angiulo and was close to Peter Limone who at that time was on death row for the murder of Teddy Deegan. 

 

Kazonis questioned Daddieco about why the feds were visiting him. Daddieco claimed that they were questioning him about recent bank robberies in Massachusetts. As far as Kazonis’ request, Daddieco claimed that he didn’t give a definitive answer.



Lara:

 

Daddieco also reported that Atty. Ronnie Chisholm paid him a visit for the same purpose! At the time Ronnie was representing Jerry Angiulo, in particular in the upcoming VA Hospital robbery case. 



Nina:

 

I love the last line of that 302:

 

“Copy Sent to Mr Tolson.” Rico was probably getting worried that Richie wasn’t going to be able to close on their deal, so he recruited Robert for extra insurance. 



Lara:

 

Well, it’s not exactly like dad was reliable. 

Now, let’s get into how Frankie and Stevie knew that trouble was on the horizon.







Nina:

 

I’m sure that many of our listeners know that Frankie Salemme claimed that SA Rico alone with only Gerard Comen for backup (breaking the edict sent down from J Edgar Hoover himself that he was not to meet with his CIs alone, but with three additional agents at all times) met with him and Stevie Flemmi to tell them that indictments were on the horizon. 

 

After Rico told them to get out of town, Stevie and Frankie and Peter Poulos took off for Chicago. There, according to Frankie, they caught a flight to Los Angeles. Now Frankie claims he doesn’t remember but he’s pretty sure he never left the airport because he didn’t think it was a good idea for all of them to stay together since they were all fugitives. So he got back on a plane and flew to NYC where he linked up with a man from Providence named Billy Candelmo who had an apartment near Broadway. Although by the time he brings up the apartment in NYC, it’s the summer of ‘72 (about 6 months before he gets pinched), and he’d been on the lam for nearly three years.

 

He says he remembered the address because he could see the sign for Man of La Mancha from his window and the lines of people waiting to get tickets. 

 

Maybe he made a mistake about the address, but in the summer of 1972, Man of La Mancha was playing at the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, which is over a mile away from the address where he claims he was staying. And yes, I looked!



Lara:

 

The real mistake is that he lied again. I don’t think he can help himself. Guess, I shouldn’t call it a mistake. If you read the informant statements in the 302s from late ‘69 and the early ‘70s, Frankie’s stories he told to Congress decades later almost, keyword being almost, matched those tales exactly.



Nina:

 

Even that address! But not the bit about Man of La Mancha. 



Lara:

 

If he only just stuck with the 302s he’d be ok, but he’s always throwing in his own crap to make it sound more authentic.

 

Do I get to go on one of my tirades about his testimony about Punchy Mclaughlin, the Beth Israel hospital and the rabbi’s costumes?



Nina:

 

No! Our listeners have already been subjected to enough of your tirades about the rabbis! There are plenty of other lies for you to scream about. Pick another story!



Lara:

 

Relax!



Nina:

 

One would assume that John Durham and company provided Frankie with his full file and all of the statements about him prior to his so-called testimony. Unredacted, of course.

 

Lara:

 

Oh! FYI - Billy Candelmo also had a place in Maine, which, frankly, seems more likely to be where Frankie was hiding for most of that time. 

 

Nina:

 

Maybe he was getting sun down in Miami with Rico! 



Lara:

 

Tell us about where Flemmi and Poulos where while Frankie was supposedly enjoying the sights and sounds of NYC.



Nina:

 

Or Miami! 

 

Stevie Flemmi was busy murdering Peter Poulos in the Nevada desert. Several of our listeners have asked about Peter, so we’re finally getting to him. On October 10, 1969 Poulos’ body was found, but identification wasn’t made until January the following year, despite the fact that the fingerprints had been sent to the FBI immediately.



Lara:

 

More Fed magic. It took Boston Police fingerprint expert Michael Monahan less than three hours to match the prints to Poulos, but months had passed before he was given access to a photocopy of the prints. 



Nina:

 

And there was no sign of the $50,000 that Poulos had supposedly fled with.



Lara:

 

Shocker! Gee, I wonder what happened to that money?



Nina:

 

Hey Stevie Flemmi needed to pay his therapist! A February news article reported, “Flemmi was seeing a psycho-analyst regularly three times a week before his hasty departure.”



Lara:

 

Please the Feds were probably footing the bill!



Nina:

 

You mean the taxpayers!



Lara:

 

Speaking of shots at the government, the parting line in that same news piece was great! “Since it’s apparently so difficult to find them when they’re dead, it’s probably even harder to locate them alive.”



Nina:

 

And people say we’re snarky!



Lara:

 

Indeed! 

 

Mello Merlino’s road trip would come to an end in a parking lot outside of a tavern in Kentucky in October of 1970. 



Nina:

 

Aren’t you going to tell the story about how he was caught???



Lara:

 

No! I’m saving it for the Brinks episode!

 

Stephen Roukous was finally apprehended in Allentown, PA on August 4, 1971. We’ll cover their demise along with the other members of the Brinks crew in a few weeks. Salemme would remain on the lam until December 14, 1972 when he was arrested in NYC. We’ll get into that a little later in the season along with Daddieco’s disappearance the following year which resulted in the Billy Bennett murder charge being dismissed. Phil Cresta would be snatched up in a toy store in Chicago in March of 1974.



Nina:

 

And of course we’ll be covering how Stevie Flemmi magically escaped all of the charges unscathed.

 

Now, we’ve mentioned Frank Venditouli in several episodes, but have yet to give his background.



Lara:

 

Go for it!




Nina:

 

We haven’t been able to figure out why Frank was targeted or who fingered him (besides Jack). Frank’s story is another one of those tragic ones. He was born in 1914, the second son of Michele Vendituoli and Emilia Cuzzone. Emilia passed away ten days after Frank’s 13th birthday leaving 7 children for her husband Michele to care for. He soon remarried. In September of  1930, tragedy struck again when Michele was killed in a car accident while driving home. His car stalled out on the railroad tracks and was struck by an express train. Michele and his passengers were all thrown from the car, and were dead on impact. At the age of 16, Frank was an orphan. 



Lara:

 

But there were plenty of other family members around. Unfortunately, those family members included Frank’s second cousins, the Baccaris.



Nina:

 

I’ll quickly remind our listeners that the Baccaris managed to find themselves in the middle of most feuds and other petty criminality in Rhode Island and were related to the Marfeos through multiple marriages. Sarah Baccari had been married to Jackie Nazarian, who had been murdered in 1962. Rudy Sciarra was tried for that murder, but the government couldn’t get a conviction. For more on that story, check out episode 22 from season 1. The Marfeos, Meleis, Sciarras and even Jackie Nazarian were either married to a Baccari and/or a victim of them in some way.



Lara:

 

So what you’re trying to say is Frank Vendi was doomed.



Nina:

 

Basically, yes. I’m telling you, it was the Barone blood. Something went wrong there. We should also note that it seems unlikely that any of the Baccaris were made and from what we can tell, none of them were informants.

 

In November of 1943, Frank was arrested for passing a bad check. Luckily for him his maternal grandfather bailed him out. He pleaded nolo and the sentencing kept getting postponed.



Lara:

 

My favorite Frank story is when he and the daughter of the chief of police of Seekonk were arrested in 1949 for trying to defraud the Narragansett Race Track by defacing a betting ticket in order to collect the winnings. He had the ink and the stamps and everything in the car with him.

 

Nina:

 

Well that didn’t go so well for him. Frank was charged with conspiracy to defraud the Race Track by selling those fake tickets. He was already out on parole on charges of auto theft. Rhode Island got him first and he served about 15 months in state prison. His second cousin, Joe “Buffy” Baccari, was locked up with him on separate charges. Rudy Marfeo and his brother Freddy (who was married to Buffy’s sister) were also there. A regular family affair.



Lara:

 

It’s New England! It’s normal!

 

Fast forward twenty years, in May 1969, Frank was indicted on charges relating to receiving and concealing cars stolen outside the state. Speaking of cars, according to Imbruglia, Frank and Roukous were partners in crime and the car business. Imbruglia also claimed that the pair spent a considerable amount of time with Rinaldo DiPietroantonio of CT, a bookie nicknamed Pickles also from CT and a cousin of Henry Cipriano.



Nina:

 

Who the hell were they?



Lara:

 

I have no idea who DiPietrantonio was, and there were way too many Pickles. But Henry was one of the many on RI State Police Col. Stone’s list of usual suspects. It seems he had a reputation for being a good thief.

 

Nina:

 

Back to Frank. In late July of 1969, Frank was stopped for speeding on Rte 301 in the state of Georgia. He was scheduled to appear in local court the following week, but of course, he never showed and forfeited the $25 bond.

 

And then the following month, he found himself charged with the murders of Rudy Marfeo and Anthony Melei. Frank took it on the lam like Louis Manocchio. The Feds began interviewing his family members and friends.



Lara:

 

Frank’s son, Thomas said, “my father is more or less a drifter and a hustler who has very little concern about his family but thinks mostly of himself.”



Nina:

 

In their hunt for Vendi, the Feds raided Al Jamiel’s dilapidated house in Bristol, RI where they found ammo, teargas, mace, 37 reels of obscene movies and a 9mm Browning automatic pistol. But no sign of Frank.

 

Lara:

 

The search for Vendi took the Feds all the way to the Caribbean where they found a man named Billy Dale whose stepson was supposedly involved in building a private club named Xanadu in the Bahamas. The authorities thought Dale and Vendi were one in the same. The kicker was that Frank Sinatra was said to have been an investor!



Nina:

 

When the fingerprint results came back, they realized that Dale was just Dale, and like most of the other ventures the club turned out to be a scam. 

 

The Feds interviewed Al Jamiel for a second time on October 30, 1969. He told the same story about Rinaldo DiPietrantonio (aka Connecticut Pete) and Vendi being close. He promised to contact them if he learned of Vendi’s whereabouts. 

 

The following month Jamiel told the Feds that he had contacted Connecticut Pete and had arranged to meet with him the following weekend. He said he’d inquire about Vendi’s whereabouts.

 

Lara:

 

That same month Frank contacted his wife about getting divorced.



Nina:

 

You left out that he married the chief of police’s daughter that he was pinched with back in the ‘40s! 



Lara:

 

Shame on me for leaving out that little tidbit!



Nina:

 

Ina was his third wife, I think. I’m still trying to untangle it. Frank continued to contact Ina and his other ex-wife, Peggy (usually about money) throughout his journeys along the East Coast in a 1970 two-tone cutlass bearing NY plates.



Lara: 

 

The divorce had to wait as Frank remained a fugitive until July 23, 1971 when he was arrested at a Dunkin’ Donuts in South Portland, Maine by FBI SA Guy Bailey. Bailey approached Frank while they were both standing at the counter waiting for their coffee. “Your Frank Venditouli aren’t you?” asked Bailey. And Frank replied, “yes” and with that he was cuffed and taken away. 



Nina:

 

You’ll have to wait until we cover the Marfeo-Melei murder trial in episode five for the rest of that story.



Lara:

 

That’s going to be a good one. Next week we’ll be focusing on Louis Manocchio’s time on the lam including all of the locations he supposedly had been spotted.



Nina:

 

Hence the title “Where in the World is Louis Manocchio?”



Lara:

 

Thanks for the reviews and feedback.




Nina:

 

And for the new YouTube subscribers. But we still need more please! Remember Lara is making slideshows for each new episode that you can see on YouTube.



Lara:

 

And of course spread the word!



Nina and Lara:

 

BYE!!!