In 1957, while in prison, Salemme became acquainted with Patriarca family mobster Anthony Morelli. After Salemme's release from prison, he started working with Morelli in criminal activities. Although Salemme quickly gained stature in the Patriarca family as an associate, he could not become a made man, or full member. Patriarca boss Raymond Patriarca respected Salemme for his obedience to the family and his skill as a money maker. However, Patriarca only allowed full-blooded Italians to become made men, and Salemme was part Irish.
During the early 1960s, Salemme participated in the Irish Gang Wars in Boston. Testifying before Congress in 2003, Salemme admitted to murdering numerous rival gang members in Charlestown, Massachusetts:
he Hugheses, the McLaughlins, they were all eliminated, and I was a participant in just about all of them, planned them and did them.
In 1968, Salemme arranged a car bombing of John Fitzgerald, a lawyer representing Patriarca mob informant Joseph Barboza. The point of the attack was to scare Barboza into not testifying against Raymond Patriarca and other mob leaders. Fitzgerald survived the attack, but lost his left leg. It was later established in testimony by several witnesses and confirmed by the U.S. House of Representatives Organized Crime unit investigation that Salemme was involved in the bombing, but did not carry it out.
After the unsuccessful attack, Salemme went into hiding. He remained a fugitive until 1972, when he was captured by FBI agent John Connolly on a Manhattan street in New York City. Salemme was convicted and sentenced to prison for 16 years.
In 1986, family boss Jerry Angiulo had been sent to prison on racketeering charges, leaving a power vacuum in the Patriarca family. In previous years,Salemme had forged strong ties to Whitey Bulger and the mostly Irish Winter Hill Gang. Salemme was especially close to Bulger's lieutenant Steve Flemmi (who by this time had been a federal informant for ten years). In early 1989, soon after his release from prison, Salemme attempted to gain control of the Patriarca family. Patriarca caporegime Joseph Russo opposed Salemme's move, fearing the loss of his lucrative rackets. In June 1989, Angelo "Sonny" Mercurio, a Russo loyalist, lured Salemme to a meeting outside a Saugus, Massachusetts IHOP. Gunmen then ambushed Salemme, wounding him in the chest and leg. The feud between Salemme and Russo continued until John Gotti, the boss of the New York Gambino crime family, brokered a peace agreement. Under the agreement, Salemme loyalist Nicholas Bianco became boss and Russo became consigliere. By 1991 Salemme, with the support of Bulger and Flemmi, had become the defacto boss of the Patriarca family.
During the 1990s, at the urging of Frank Salemme Jr., Frank Sr. started extorting money from a film crew that wanted to avoid paying high salaries to union workers while filming in Boston and Providence, Rhode Island. As it turned out, the film crew was actually a Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) front. These events were highly fictionalized in the 2004 film The Last Shot. At the end of the operation, Frank Sr. was arrested in Fort Lauderdale, Florida and charged with racketeering, crossing state lines for criminal activity, extortion, conspiracy, and loansharking.
In January 1995, Salemme was indicted on racketeering charges along with Bulger and Flemmi. Salemme was convicted and sentenced to 11 years imprisonment. In 1999, while serving his racketeering sentence, Salemme learned that both Bulger and Flemmi were government informants, and that both men had provided information on Salemme to their FBI handlers. Salemme now agreed to provide the government with information on the FBI handling of Bulger and Flemmi. Salemme's testimony would help convict FBI agent Connolly, the same man who had arrested him 20 years earlier in New York. In 2003, in return for assisting the government, Salemme was released early from prison and brought into the Federal Witness Protection Program. Shortly after his release, Salemme appeared before a Congressional committee to testify on the Connolly case.
In November 2004, Salemme was arrested for perjury during a federal investigation of the 1993 murder of nightclub owner Steve DiSarro. Prosecutors alleged that Frank Salamme Jr., had strangled DiSarro in a Sharon, Massachusetts home and Frank Salemme had helped dispose of the body. However, Frank Jr. had died in 1995 and Frank Sr. denied any involvement in the murder. On July 16, 2008, Salemme pleaded guilty to perjury and obstruction of justice and was sentenced to five years in prison. Since the plea deal gave Salemme credit for four years already served in prison, he was expected to be released in January 2009. As of February 2009, it is assumed that Salemme is out of prison and re-enrolled in the Witness Protection Program.
Boston Globe profile of Francis Salemme
Whitey World: Francis "Cadillac Frank" Salemme
Boston.com Local News Man who helped bug the mafia dead at 70
Americanmafia.com: Mob War in Beantown II by Allan May
The Chicago Syndicate: "Cadillac Frank" Salemme Gets Five Years in Prison
Patriarca Crime Family Boss
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