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″Mob That Couldn’t Shoot Straight” Caught on Tape

April 22, 1991

BOSTON (AP) _ On a Sunday autumn morning in a neat house in suburban Medford, New England’s reputed Mafia leaders gathered for a secret meeting to initiate members.

Officials say four men took blood oaths in Italian to defend the group, and vowed to murder anyone who posed a threat.

But the FBI was listening, tipped off when one inductee, a convicted killer serving time, supplied the address on his application for a furlough.

The house the group had scrupulously chosen also was on the same street as an FBI agent’s.

″It’s a little bit like the gang that couldn’t shoot straight,″ said Edith E. Flynn, a professor of criminal justice at Northeastern University and a specialist in organized crime. ″Not being caught by the cops is Rule Number 1. What is unusual is that they bungled it so badly.″

A seven-hour tape recording of the alleged initiation could be the most important evidence against reputed crime boss Raymond J. Patriarca and six alleged lieutenants facing racketeering charges, federal officials said.

Neither the recording nor a transcript has been made public, except for one brief segment.

On it, a man identified as Biagio Digiacomo administers an oath of loyalty.

″I ... want to enter into this organization to protect my family and to protect all my friends,″ the inductees repeated.

Each man’s trigger finger was cut to draw blood, a holy card with the image of a saint was burned and Digiacomo administered a second oath, officials said in papers filed with the court:

″As burns this saint, so will burn my soul. I enter alive into this organization and leave it dead.″

U.S. District Judge Mark L. Wolf has decided to let prosecutors use the tape in Patriarca’s racketeering trial, despite the protests of defense attorneys.

″Absent the evidence intercepted, there may not be a prosecutable case against some of the defendants, including Raymond Patriarca, the alleged ‘boss’ of the Patriarca family,″ Wolf said.

Patriarca’s lawyers argue that the tape contains no mention of a specific crime. They say they may ask Wolf to reconsider his decision.

″When there’s a cornerstone constitutional violation of the law that protects people in their privacy against surveillance, the suppression of evidence is required,″ said Martin Weinberg, Patriarca’s attorney. ″If it’s not suppressed then you diminish the deterrent effect that the Fourth Amendment was intended to create when the government violates the law.″

No trial date has been set.

Authorities worked for years to gather evidence against the mob, and won convictions that, by 1989, resulted in a power struggle inside the alleged Patriarca organization, documents show.

In June 1989, reputed ″underboss″ William Grasso was discovered slain in Connecticut. Alleged Patriarca ″soldier″ Francis Salemme was shot the same day.

New members would apparently be needed.

One alleged candidate, Vincent Federico, serving a sentence for murder in a Massachusetts prison, was considered a close associate of alleged Patriarca family ″captain″ Vincent M. Ferrara, government affidavits show. Ferrara now is one of the defendants in the racketeering case.

But the alleged mob leaders were concerned about surveillance, the FBI said. They needed a safe place to hold a ritual initiation and chose Federico’s sister’s house on Guild Street in Medford. Federico’s furlough application said he would be at the house on Sunday, Oct. 29, 1989.

When prosecutor Diane M. Kottmyer got a judge on Oct. 27 to let her task force secretly bug Ferrara and purported Mafia leaders Joseph Russo and Robert F. Carrozza, she did so without revealing information about the imminent initiation. That, she said, was because she was skeptical that Federico would have been so careless as to furnish the address.

Kottmyer ″simply could not believe that they would tell Federico the location of an induction ceremony and that he would disclose the address on a furlough application,″ Wolf said.

The FBI broke into the home when Federico’s sister and her husband left on Oct. 28, and planted listening devices, authorities said.

The next day, 17 alleged mob leaders from Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut - including Patriarca - drove up.

″He’s got to look a little bit silly, like a bungler, to his fellow mafiosi,″ Flynn said. ″Savvy, cunning and being more clever than the police are really critical components in maintaining your reputation.″

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