Ex-New England Mafia Boss ‘Cadillac Frank’ Salemme Dies in Prison at 89

Francis Salemme, the head of a New England crime family known as “Cadillac Frank,” died in federal prison last week, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons. He was 89. At the time of his death, he was in Missouri, serving a life sentence for the 1993 slaying of a Boston nightclub owner.

The bureau’s online records indicate that Salemme died last Tuesday, but the cause or circumstances surrounding his death were not immediately available. The 89-year-old’s death was first reported Sunday by WPRI-TV.

In 2018, a jury convicted Salemme and his co-defendant Paul Weadick of killing Steven DiSarro, the 43-year-old owner of The Channel club. Prosecutors argued at trial that DiSarro had been murdered because Salemme and his son, who had vested interests as “silent partners” in The Channel, suspected he might supply information to federal investigators.

“The world is better off without him,” Nick DiSarro, Steven’s son, told WPRI after learning of his death. “Good riddance.”

“It’s a good day for the families that he’s destroyed,” Mike DiSarro, another son, said to The Boston Globe.

Federal Bureau of Investigation

Salemme had been living in witness protection in Georgia under the assumed name of Richard Parker when Steven DiSarro’s remains were unearthed behind a Rhode Island mill in 2016. When he heard that the authorities were searching for DiSarro in Providence, Salemme fled Atlanta. He was arrested in Connecticut several days later.

Salemmes rap sheet read like a true gangster. In the 1960s, he was imprisoned for 16 years for maiming a lawyer in a car-bomb attack, but had also admitted to killing eight people as a young man. He was released from prison in 1988, whereupon he was “made” into the Patriarca crime family.

In 1989, Salemme survived an assassination attempt outside a suburban Boston pancake house, escaping with bullet wounds to his chest and legs. That year, then-boss Raymond “Junior” Patriarca led a family induction ceremony that was secretly recorded by the FBI, leading to his imprisonment three years later. Salemme, still recovering from his injuries, had not attended the meeting, and took over as the head of the Patriarca family after Junior went away.

Salemme was caught in a federal racketeering dragnet in 1995, a case that also ensnared gangster James “Whitey” Bulger and Salemme’s best friend, Stephen “The Rifleman” Flemmi. When Salemme learned that his sidekick and Bulger, a gangland ally, had been longtime FBI informants, he buckled and agreed to plead guilty to more than a dozen counts of racketeering, loansharking and extortion in 1999.

“I want no part of anything ever again… I’ve learned my lesson,” Salemme told a judge, according to the Associated Press. “Shame on me if it happens again.”

He was sentenced to 11 years in prison, but agreed to cooperate with the government in exchange for a reduced sentence, testifying against Bulger’s former FBI handler, John J. Connolly Jr., in the ex-fed’s own racketeering trial in 2002. But Salemme continued to maintain he knew nothing about DiSarro’s disappearance, and was placed in witness protection in 2003.

It was Flemmi who had first connected Salemme to DiSarro, testifying that he saw Salemme’s son, “Frankie Boy,” strangling DiSarro while Paul Weadick held his legs and Salemme looked on. (“Frankie Boy” Salemme died in 1995.) Prosecutors were unable to make murder charges stick without a body, but in 2004 indicted the aging gangster on charges of making false statements and obstructing justice during a 1999 interrogation about nightclub owner’s death.

Salemme took a plea deal that saw him sentenced to five years in prison in 2008. He was free and back in witness protection by 2009. “I will categorically deny that I had anything to do with the DiSarro assault, murder,” Salemme told the court after his plea, according to the Boston Herald. “That’s for his family and that’s for my family.”

Asked if his client was planning to testify as a witness in an upcoming murder trial for Connolly, defense attorney Robert George said, “Mr. Salemme has no intention of ever appearing in a courtroom again.”

Back before a judge during his 2018 trial, Salemme was “more disappointed for Paul Weadick than for himself” by the jury’s conviction, according to his new lawyer, Steven Boozang, who told Boston.com, “That’s just the kind of guy he is.” (Weadick, 67, remains imprisoned in Pennsylvania, according to Bureau of Prisons data.)

To the Globe on Sunday, Boozang said, “There are two sides to all human beings. There was certainly some good in him.”

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