Witnesses disguised by makeup take stand at Mafia boss trial
BOSTON (AP) — Two U.S. Marshals Service officials wearing makeup, wigs and beards to disguise their identities took the stand Wednesday in the trial of a former New England Mafia boss accused of killing a nightclub owner in 1993.
The officials, using pseudonyms, described how Francis “Cadillac Frank” Salemme left Atlanta where he had been living in the Witness Security Program and later was arrested at a Connecticut hotel after club owner Steven DiSarro’s remains were found in 2016.
Judge Allison Burroughs allowed the rare disguises after the Marshals Service pressed her to close the courtroom to the public while the officials testified, calling it a “question of life and death.” The officials work with people who are living under new identities in the witness protection program and revealing their true identities could have devastating consequences, the Marshals Service said.
One of the officials — a large man in a dark suit who told the jury his name was John Douglas — wore what appeared to be a dark wig, bushy beard, large fake nose and tan makeup. The other, who went by Kevin Smith, was a slight man in a brown suit with long red hair in a ponytail and a long, thin red beard.
Salemme and his co-defendant, Paul Weadick, are accused of killing DiSarro to prevent him from cooperating with authorities investigating Salemme. DiSarro’s remains weren’t found until March 2016 after authorities received a tip that they were buried behind an old mill building in Providence, Rhode Island. Salemme, now 84, and Weadick deny involvement in the killing.
Salemme, who led the New England family of La Cosa Nostra in the early 1990s, had been living in Atlanta in the Witness Security Program in 2016 under the name Richard Parker after cooperating with the government in a separate case.
Douglas said his bosses told him in the spring of 2016 about Salemme’s possible indictment in the DiSarro case and ordered him to take away Salemme’s passport, which Douglas said made Salemme suspicious. Douglas told the jury that he went to Salemme’s apartment in early August that year after not hearing from him and Salemme was gone, along with his toothbrush.
Authorities eventually got a tip that Salemme was in a hotel in Milford, Connecticut.
The other Marshals Service official described how he and his colleagues busted into Salemme’s hotel room at 12:30 a.m. Salemme, who was in bed wearing only his underwear, shot up in the bed, threw his hands up and said something along the lines of “You got me” or “I give up,” Smith said. Authorities found bundles of cash totaling more than $28,000 in various bags throughout the hotel room, he said.