Sunday Times Profiles Patriarca Mobster in Special Section

In May, the Sunday New York Times ran a special section profile about a largely unknown Boston gangster with ties to a legendary Cosa Nostra boss.

For those of us interested in the mob, this is a good thing....

A young tough guy....

Reporter Dan Barry's lengthy piece detailed the story of Ralph DeMasi, an aging New England mobster who specialized in robbing armored trucks.

DeMasi was known as a dedicated family man for whom crime was a 9-to-5 job, with the odd late night occasionally thrown in.

Like Gambino capo Joe Piney Armone, in his later years...

Both DeMasi and Armone reportedly NEVER stepped out on their wives.....

 "The police routinely watched him drive off in the morning to lay the groundwork for a planned robbery, then return home in the evening, leaving the carousing to others."

“That was not like the other wiseguys I knew,” a former Rhode Island law enforcement official told Barry. “Ralph was all about work.”

But the thing is, the story is not really a profile. Rather, it's a story about a profile interrupted by a murder.....

Before writing for the Times, Barry worked for the Providence Journal, where he wrote about the New England Mafia, among other topics. So true-crime reportage is in his DNA, you could say.

At the Times, Barry hooked up with the hosts of the celebrated Crimetown podcast (which we covered previously) who then introduced Barry to DeMasi.

Barry since has said he was struck by the 80-year-old DeMasi's bedroom: walls covered with photos of children and of wiseguys, some recognized by Barry, court records in a closet; and a little article, "Tips for Improving Your Memory," on his nightstand.

Barry considered writing a story about the mobster but was interrupted by the 2016 presidential campaign (an election that will probably be pondered for centuries). Then, after the Trump administration became reality, he was contacted by a source who told him that the former Patriarca crime family soldier had been arrested and charged with a 25-year-old murder....

The murdered man, Ed Morlock, 48 at the time of his death, had been gunned down during an armored car heist....

New York Times "special section" about New England mobster Ralph DeMasi.

The story includes a lot of detail on the how-to-rob-for-a-living front.

Armored cars required "a lot of preliminary work.... You had to assemble your crew: gunman, wheelman, lookout. You had to spend weeks on surveillance: watching the police routines, the traffic flow, the arrivals and departures of the armored trucks, the habits of the armed guards. And of course, you had to plot your getaway.

“Everything had to be planned out,” DeMasi said. “It couldn’t be just spur of the moment.”

Tony Fiore, a former cohort, also figures in the piece. "Fiore’s reputation as a specialist in robbing armored trucks is memorialized by a tattoo adorning his chest. It depicts a thief wielding a gun, with a bag of cash at his feet and an armored truck in his sights."

Fiore.... check out his ink....

So after several weeks of planning, DeMasi and his crew went into action one September morning.

They had a problem, however. The stolen van they were in while heading to their rendezvous was being followed by the FBI -- and the five men were arrested before they know what was happening.

DeMasi, caught wearing a bulletproof vest and nylon stocking on his head, looked kind of silly -- though “he was cold,” recalled James Mullen, a Rhode Island State Police detective who assisted the F.B.I. “No emotion. Nothing.”

DeMasi was sentenced in federal court to more than 20 years in prison.

DeMasi told the judge: “Kiss my ass.”

DeMasi was once "a valued associate of Mr. Patriarca, the Mafia boss who ran New England organized crime from his vending-machine business on Federal Hill in Providence. In the front of Mr. Patriarca’s drab store sat broken cigarette machines and old arcade games, and in the back, the cluttered desk where he collected tributes, co-opted elected officials and ordered people dead.

DeMasi and Patriarca "bonded," as Barry tells us, while the two did time together in a Rhode Island prison, where they took long walks in the yard.

"The older Mr. Patriarca had also grown up without a father, and perhaps he saw himself in how his tough new friend avoided flash and kept his mouth shut. Even when Mr. DeMasi was wounded in that drive-by shooting, he refused to give names, including Whitey Bulger’s."

The Patriarca connection paid off for DeMasi, too. "During his frequent prison spells, Mr. DeMasi knew that his family would have food deliveries, the use of a car, a tree at Christmas. And every week, Ms. DeMasi said, she would go to Mr. Patriarca’s storefront — “and there’d be an envelope with $200.”
DeMasi, back home.....

DeMasi has an eighth-grade education yet he once represented himself -- and was acquitted.

He spent decades in prison --- was inside for the Clinton and Bush administrations. While he was away "pay phones all but vanished. Email replaced handwritten letters. A black man became president." DeMasi was released in 2013. He allegedly received "walking-around money — about $5,000 or so — from Patriarca Jr., the son of the old mob boss..."

"DeMasi melted back into a New England that had largely forgotten him. Continuing a kind of institutionalized existence in the squat house in Salisbury, he exercised, corresponded, followed a vegetarian diet, kept his cell of a bedroom neat. He also dreamed."

Until he was nailed for murder.

Read the Times story includes audio from the writer's interview with Ralph and his wife...and a bonus Crimetown podcast dedicated to DeMasi....


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