The Providence Mob
Raymond L. S. Patriarca
Raymond Salvatore Loreda Patriarca was born in Worcester, Massachusetts, on St. Patrick's Day 1908. He was 3 years old when the family moved to Providence, where his father operated a liquor store. Patriarca's early life was uneventful until his father died in 1925. Just 17, Patriarca was arrested and convicted of breaking prohibition laws in Connecticut. Over the next 13 years his arrests included failing to stop for a policeman, breaking and entering, white slavery and masterminding a jail break in which a prison guard and a trusty were killed. During his lifetime Patriarca was arrested or indicted 28 times, convicted seven times, imprisoned four times, and served 11 years in prison. More than half of his prison time was for a murder conspiracy charge during the 1960s.
From an early age he possessed the right combination of brawn and brains to make him successful in his chosen field. Patriarca gained a reputation for fairness, but if crossed he could be the most ruthless of men. He was once described by a Massachusetts state policeman as, "just the toughest guy you ever saw."
During the Prohibition years Patriarca served his apprenticeship in Providence, first as an associate and later as a member of the New York Mafia. In the late 1920s, he was involved in prostitution and hijacking. In 1938 Patriarca participated in the robbery of a Brookline, Massachusetts, jewelry store. He was convicted of carrying a gun without a permit, possession of burglar's tools and armed robbery. He was sentenced to three to five years in state prison. Less than three months into the sentence Patriarca was paroled, setting off a political corruption storm in the wake of his release. The ensuing investigation lasted three years. In 1941 Daniel H. Coakley, a Massachusetts Governor's Councilor, was impeached and removed from office for his involvement in the incident.
After getting out of prison in 1938, Patriarca returned to Providence where his influence and power increased during the 1940s. His rise included murder and building political influence. Patriarca's only rival in Providence was Irishman Carlton O'Brien, a former bootlegger who went into gambling and took control of the area's race-wire service. Patriarca's men shot O'Brien to death in 1952. By the early 1950s, it was "impossible to be a major figure in crime in New England and not have to deal with Patriarca."
With the retirement of Buccola in 1954, Providence became the center of the New England Family's operations. From a wood-frame, two-story building in Providence Patriarca ran his crime empire. The building, nicknamed "The Office," housed the National Cigarette Service Company and Coin-O-Matic Distributors, a vending machine and pinball business, on Atwells Avenue in an area known as Federal Hill. Organized crime figures there were referred to as "members of the Office." Vincent Teresa described Atwells Avenue as a noisy open-air market that was also an armed camp with "spotters" located everywhere. These "spotters" were area residents and vendors who kept an eye out for suspicious people especially snoopy law enforcement officials. This set up was similar to other popular mob-run areas like Mulberry Street in Manhattan's Little Italy, Arthur Avenue in the Bronx, and Prince Street in Boston.
In The Underboss, Patriarca was said to be "a member of the ruling Mafia commission in New York." His influence outside the New England area could be seen in his national investments. He held hidden interests in two Las Vegas casinos and pieces of deals in Florida and Philadelphia. Patriarca had a "polished way" with the police and the public. From his Atwells Avenue office he held court and sorted out both domestic and crime family disputes. O'Neil and Lehr write that Patriarca was involved "in a complex maze of interests, he completely controlled some markets, especially those involving gambling, loansharking, and pornography, and dabbled in others such as truck hijacking and drug traffic, in which free-lancers negotiated a fee to do business." Contradicting part of this statement, however, Teresa explained that Patriarca had a hard and fast rule on narcotics and there was nothing worse than dealing in drugs as far as the boss was concerned.
"No one in the New England mob ever starved, whether they were made guys or working for the organization," Teresa affirmed. "Patriarca wasn't like Genovese or old Joe Profaci. He made sure his men got paid well."
Over the years Patriarca built a relationship with the Genovese and Profaci/Colombo crime families. The New York families had exercised control over Providence in the past and Patriarca was considered their man. Patriarca's underboss, Henry Tameleo, was a member of the Bonanno crime family. Part of Patriarca's dealings with the Genovese Family were over territorial matters with the New England Family. The Connecticut River was considered the dividing line between the New York and New England Families. The Genovese Family exercised control in Hartford, Springfield, and Albany, while New England controlled the cities of Worcester and Boston, as well as the state of Maine.
Under Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy the government got active in going after organized crime in the early 1960s. Records from illegal FBI bugs placed in Patriarca's office from 1962 to 1965 indicate many political payoffs to the governor's office, legislators and judges in both Rhode Island and Massachusetts. Patriarca was overheard on one bug telling an associate, "in this thing of ours, your love for your mother and father is one thing, your love for The Family is a different kind of love."
With the 1960s came increased scrutiny of Patriarca and his operations. Patriarca was not a hard man to keep track of. He lived modestly in the Federal Hill neighborhood he grew up in and commuted daily to his Atwells Avenue office. It was said that during warmer weather Patriarca would stand outside his vending machine business and puff on a cigar while looking for any signs of police or government surveillance. The Boston Globe reported that, "He scowled at strangers and those out of his favor, and he cursed newspapers, the FBI and the late Robert F. Kennedy. Publicly he denied that he was part of organized crime."
In Deadly Alliance, a 2001 release by award-winning journalist Ralph Ranalli, who has written for both the Boston Globe and the Herald, the author reveals:
"The Kennedy's hated the Mafia, particularly their hometown mob boss, Raymond L. S. Patriarca, who had taunted the brothers during the McClellan committee hearings, saying: "You two don't have the brains of your retarded sister." Bobby Kennedy told a friend that he and Jack were 'going after that pig on the hill,' referring to the mob boss's Federal Hill stronghold in Providence."
Meanwhile, the FBI turned gang members and associates into government witnesses and by the mid-1960s Patriarca found himself indicted for several crimes. In March 1969 Patriarca began a prison term for his involvement in the murder of Willie Marfeo, who was shotgunned to death in the telephone booth of a Federal Hill restaurant in 1966. While serving this sentence, in the federal penitentiary in Atlanta, he received a 10-year term from Rhode Island for conspiring to kill Marfeo's brother, Rudolph, and Anthony Melei. Both were shot gunned to death on April 20, 1968, in a Providence grocery store. Patriarca completed his federal sentence in April 1973 and was transferred to a Rhode Island prison where he remained until paroled on January 9, 1975. During the six years Patriarca was behind bars he continued to run his crime family from inside prison.
Legal problems plagued Patriarca for the rest of his life. In 1978, Vincent Teresa testified that he was present in 1960 when the CIA gave the mob a $4 million dollar contract to murder Cuban leader Fidel Castro. Teresa stated that Patriarca helped select Maurice (Pro) Werner, a Brookline, Massachusetts, convict, to kill Castro but the plot was never carried out. In December 1983, Patriarca was charged with ordering the 1965 murder of Raymond "Baby" Curcio. The murder was in response to Curcio and Teresa burglarizing the home of Patriarca's brother Joseph. Finally on March 13, 1984, Patriarca was arrested, while in the hospital, for ordering the 1968 murder of bank robber Robert Candos. Patriarca believed Candos was going to testify against him.
On July 11, 1984, at about 11:30 in the morning the North Providence Fire Department Rescue Squad received an emergency call from a Douglas Avenue address. It was later revealed that this was the home of a girlfriend. (Patriarca's first wife died in 1965. He married a former nightclub hostess and was living with her in Johnson, Rhode Island at the time of his death.) When emergency workers arrived they found Patriarca in full arrest. Rushed to Rhode Island Hospital, doctors kept up intense efforts to revive him including electrical shock and the implanting of a cardiac pacemaker. At 1:00 Patriarca was pronounced dead of a massive heart attack at the age of 76.
A Boston Globe article stated, "In a business where violent death is often inevitable, Patriarca died relatively peacefully, unable to outwit failing health caused by a heart condition and diabetes that led to amputation of a gangrenous toe." At the time of his death Patriarca was under indictment for two murders.