When The Colombos Had A Snitch For Street Boss

An acting boss commands a crime family's captains, while a street boss generally is a capo in direct contact with the boss who passes on the boss's orders to the other captains, as our usually reliable sources tell us.

Ralph Francis DeLeo, onetime Colombo street boss
What me worry? Ralph Francis DeLeo, former street boss.

A boss would designate an acting or street boss when he is in prison or otherwise unable to command the family on the street. Why a boss would choose one man over another to be acting or street boss would depend on multiple considerations, including the political and the personal. One big consideration for the Colombo family circa 2008 was finding someone who wouldn't try to take over the entire organization, which is why they chose a Boston-based bank robber and convicted murderer.

Alphonse (Little Allie Boy) Persico—the son of Carmine Persico, the onetime reputed head of the Colombo crime family who died in 2019 while serving a 100-plus-years prison sentence—was seeking to avoid his father's historical blunder of choosing Vic Orena to be Colombo acting boss back in the 1980s, when he chose former cellmate Ralph Francis DeLeo to be Colombo street boss. 

For control of the Colombo family, Vic Orena was willing to start a civil war that went on from 1991-1993 and left 12 dead and dozens wounded (and put dozens and dozens more behind bars). Ralph DeLeo, well, he didn't do any of that.

Allie wanted someone who wasn't linked to any Orena loyalists, and the Arkansas-born DeLeo, who had been a lifetime friend of New England mob boss Gennaro Angiulo, seemed to fit the bill.

The move even surprised some FBI agents.

"This is the first time (in his 30 years in law enforcement) I have ever seen the acting street boss of a New York crime family in another area," FBI Special Agent Todd Richards said back then, noting that the unassuming DeLeo was living in a basement apartment in Somerville, a city in Massachusetts, when he was arrested for being Colombo street boss.
"He was actually a hard worker," Richards went on of DeLeo. "He was a maintenance man for a local company. He put in a full days' work, then he got home ... and was very much involved in the daily activities of the Colombo family."

Something else that many would find surprising, DeLeo had already flipped and testified before he even met Persico in a Texas prison cell.

DeLeo had considerable power when he was Colombo street boss: He even officiated at an early 2009 ceremony on Long Island to straighten out six Persico loyalists.

The FBI had DeLeo in its sights pretty quickly, ending his reign when he was about a year into it. For the Colombo family, it could have been much worse. But DeLeo, 77, doesn't go in for sequels apparently—or at least he didn’t flip a second time to inform on his New York compadres, as far as we can tell. (We at least have some fantastic wiretap transcripts out of it, as you'll see down below.) Not that any of this matters much in Allie Boy's case—Allie is serving a life sentence for ordering the 1999 murder of Colombo capo William (Wild Bill) Cutolo.

Alphonse (Little Allie Boy) Persico
Allie Persico named DeLeo street boss after his sentencing for the Cutolo murder.

DeLeo, meanwhile, was among the many defendants to recently petition the court for release from prison in light of the coronavirus pandemic. The status of his motion for release says "pending" on the website for the US Attorney's Office for the District of Massachusetts, which was last updated on September 20. As per the site, of the 441 motions filed, 238 have been denied, 94 allowed, and 92 are pending. 

Unless his "pending" is turned into an "allowed," DeLeo, who resides at Lexington FMC, has a slated release date of May 28, 2025, according to the BOP inmate locator.

Persico met and befriended DeLeo during his first prison stretch, in 1986, after Allie had been convicted of racketeering along with his father and given 12 years. Persico and DeLeo met in December of that year, when Persico, then 31, arrived at the Federal prison in Baxtrop, Texas. DeLeo had arrived there a few months earlier. DeLeo also became close with incarcerated Gambino soldier Oreste (Ernie Boy) Abbamonte, a John Gotti pal.

Apparently, Ernie Boy knew as much about DeLeo's past as Allie, though Allie should have known more. As Gang Land has noted, "the college educated Persico, who did legal research that helped him beat a racketeering-murder case and get out of prison in 1994, didn’t do any research into how DeLeo got out from under his murder rap." Had he truly done his homework, Persico would have learned that DeLeo had cooperated against a doctor who hired him to kill another doctor. That happened in 1977, when DeLeo, who had been in state and Federal prisons since the late 1960s for bank robbery, made a daring escape from a prison hospital. During this brief sojourn of freedom, DeLeo murdered Dr. Walter Bond in Columbus, Ohio, after Dr. David Ucker paid him to do the dirty deed. Bond was Dr. Ucker's rival for the affections of a certain woman.

DeLeo apparently isn't one of those bloodthirsty types: Although told to kill Dr. Bond by castrating him and letting him bleed to death, DeLeo instead shot him in the head and chest, and snuffed out the doc's life outside his own Livingston Avenue office on Halloween night 1977.

Later, the law caught up to him, and as part of a deal, DeLeo pleaded guilty to the murder and was given 15 years to life. Even though DeLeo testified against Ucker, Ucker was found not guilty in Franklin County Common Pleas Court. But since DeLeo carried out his part of the agreement and testified, a Franklin County prosecutor advocated for his release. So in 1991, then-Governor Richard F. Celeste commuted DeLeo's sentence as one of his last formal acts in office.

DeLeo became a free man in 1997. He kept in touch with Allie and was inducted into the Colombo crime family in 2000, as per sources.

After meeting DeLeo, Allie Boy didn't taste freedom again until the summer of 1994 when, capping a six-week trial in Federal District Court in Brooklyn, Persico was found not guilty of plotting war-related murders from prison. Persico, then 40 years old, strutted out of the courthouse and into freedom for the first time in eight years. The Colombo family at the time was being run by Carmine's cousin, Andrew (Mush) Russo, a longtime capo who was serving as acting boss. When Mush was sent back to prison for jury tampering and racketeering in early 1999, Little Allie Boy finally became acting boss.

His reign was short and abruptly terminated when the Feds arrested him and charged him for hiding a 12-gauge shotgun and a semiautomatic pistol aboard his 50-foot yacht, Lookin' Good, in the Florida Keys.

In February 2000, Alphonse was sentenced to 18 months on the gun charges. On Persico's slated release date in January 2001, he was hit again, that time, for participating in a sprawling loan-sharking conspiracy that took place in New York from 1993 to 1999. He was detained without bail. A week later, Persico, John (Jackie) DeRoss, and nine Colombo associates were hit with racketeering and other Federal charges. In 2001, he copped to a plea bargain and pleaded guilty to racketeering, loansharking, and money laundering and agreed to forfeit $1 million to the U.S government. In return, he received a 13-year prison sentence. He would get out of prison in 2012. But then, in 2004, he and DeRoss were indicted for orchestrating the Cutolo murder. Two years later, the jury hung 10-2 for conviction. But he was convicted in late 2007 following the retrial.

Persico, 67, is currently residing at McKean FCI. Next to his release date on the BOP inmate locater, it says "LIFE."

Thomas (Tommy Shots) Gioeli
Tommy Shots was arrested in 2008, paving the way for DeLeo's rise.

The year of DeLeo's promotion, 2008, was not a good year to be a big shot in the Colombo family.

That June, acting boss Thomas (Tommy Shots) Gioeli and underboss John (Sonny) Franzese (though Franzese was not a Persico fan, of course) and 10 other alleged Colombo family mobsters and associates were arrested and charged with various crimes. (Gioeli, 69, is still there—specifically, in Danbury FCI in Connecticut with a slated release date of May 2, 2024. Franzese was released, for the last time, from the Federal Medical Center in Devens, Massachusetts, on June 23, 2017, at the age of 100. He had been the oldest Federal inmate in the United States and the only centenarian in Federal custody at the time of his release. He died at 103 in February 2020.)

Also in 2008. Joel (Joe Waverly) Cacace—who was already serving a 20-year bid for several murders—was charged with ordering the 1997 murder of New York Police Department officer Ralph Dols. (Cacace got out in 2020 and has remained off the radar.)

Around that time, Carmine Persico's nephew—and heir apparent—Theodore (Skinny Teddy) Persico Jr. was arrested after he was tape-recorded naming Benjamin (The Claw) Castellazzo, a former Persico rival, as the new acting boss. Whether Castellazzo had attempted to take over the crime family is debatable (he opposed the Persicos in the third Colombo war), but Allie Boy seemed to be very concerned about Orena faction rivals gaining control of the crime family in his absence. Hence, he sought to stymie them by making the unconventional move of anointing Ralph DeLeo as street boss of the Colombo family.

DeLeo was exposed by Gang Land News on Christmas Eve 2009, when the site reported that "a murderous Boston bank robber who earned his way out of prison by becoming a stool pigeon was serving as the "street boss" of the Colombo family until he was nabbed last month on a drug rap by the FBI in Little Rock, Arkansas."

DeLeo was mostly a telecommuting crime boss who would travel from Boston to New York to conduct business two or three times a month by car or plane. The FBI began targeting him almost immediately. DeLeo seemed to forget that basic FBI investigation tactics generally include tailing people and tapping their telephones.

By late 2008, months into his reign as street boss, DeLeo was caught on a wiretap giving Vietnamese drug courier Tri Cam Le directions from Arkansas to a Doubletree Hotel in Boston. DeLeo had invested $50,000 in the 2.2kg of cocaine that Le was moving. (DeLeo knows as much about navigation as he does about defeating surveillance, which was not very much, and Le got lost). But the real trouble came a few days later on the afternoon of December 12, when Arkansas State Police pulled Le over on Interstate 40 between Little Rock, Arkansas, and Memphis, Tennessee, and found the cocaine.

DeLeo was caught on wiretap shortly afterward, telling associate George Wylie Thompson, "I don't know if I can sleep tonight. That was devastating!"

Just before that conversation ended, Thompson wished the boss a good evening, prompting DeLeo to blurt, "How the fck am I supposed to have a fcking good evening?"

According to The Colombo Crime Family blogger, who we tried to contact recently, with no luck, the bust of one of his cocaine couriers didn't stop DeLeo from presiding over Cosa Nostra's most solemn ceremony, the induction of new members.

On January 31, 2009, DeLeo traveled to New York and hooked up with Colombo soldier Michael (Mikey) Ferrara, who was DeLeo's main "point of contact" in New York, according to court papers.

"The Bostonian boss had never met the men being inducted and needed to be taught on how to conduct the service, which took place on February 1." The blog also identified the six Persico loyalists, including their age at the time of the ceremony:

    Salvatore (Sally from Coney Island) Castagno, 51

    Emanuele (Manny) Favuzza, 50

    Anthony (Big Anthony) Russo, 49

    John Maggio, 46

    Joseph (Joey) Savarese, 46.

    Daniel (Fat Danny) Capaldo, 44

As Gang Land reported in May 2012, two days after the ceremony, DeLeo told his sister Michelle about his trip, noting there was "a couple of things going on that I had to reside over." (We believe he meant "preside." But don't misunderstand, we kinda like Ralph. A guy who telephones his sister so frequently can't be all bad, right?)

"I'm laying down. I'm tired. I didn't sleep for two days. I was doing a lot of running around in New York, and it was kind of stressful, you know. That was my ahh, one of my first days on the job. I had a lot of, well, that weekend was, you know, it was like ahh, busy, busy weekend, I had to meet people and ahh, ahh, we had a couple of things going on that I had to reside over and I was ahh, I was tired. It was like overwhelming a little bit…"

Michelle: "Did you have a chance to go out?"

Ralph: “Oh yeah, that was the problem. One time I was out you know til 1 o'clock in the morning. I was eating constantly. I had to meet these people, everybody wanted to go out to eat. When I got back to my hotel room my stomach looked like it was a big basketball in there. I was eating all day. I started with meeting people for breakfast. And right after breakfast I had to go meet someplace somebody else at a restaurant at another end of town…. Then we had to meet some people and then we went out to dinner at 8 o’clock to meet some more guys, alright, and that 8 o’clock dinner lasted til 1 o'clock in the morning and ahh my stomach I just had too much food I couldn’t sleep. Then, the next morning we had a thing going on. I’ll tell you about it when I see you, but that ahh was like ahh a ceremony. And, yeah so anyhow we had that going on that morning, actually all day cause we had to go in different groups and different cars and make sure we weren't followed and all this type of stuff. You know, so it was a big deal people picking us up here, driving us there. Other people picking us up taking us somewhere else, and all that type of stuff. I wasn't ready for all that.”

“Here,” continued DeLeo, “I’m nothing like that. There, everybody is holding the door for you, helping you on with your coat, giving you hugs, hugging you, kissing you and all this kind of stuff. Oh, you gotta sit in the front; you gotta do this; are you comfortable? Can I get you coffee?”

Michelle: “Oh that is so cute.”

She repeated that four times, before asking whether restaurant patrons stared at him, because he has “the look.”

“Well,” said Ralph, “they’re coming up and giving me hugs and kisses. That’s why people are looking. People wonder why they kissing this guy.”

DeLeo wondered how he ever got himself into this, told his sister that he kept his girlfriend in the dark about his “business” trip, and didn’t want to be doing “this for a long time” because “it’s risky.” But some opportunities “to make money” in some “legitimate things” had come up.

“You know,” said DeLeo, “there’s some place in New Jersey, Bayonne, that we got, and there’s a construction company here in Boston that wants the job. It’s a 10-year-job… Anyhow, I should make money there. That’s what I’m hoping for. I gotta make money for my old age.”

But none of it was to be. Later that year, the Feds put him in the hoosgow for cocaine trafficking in Arkansas and for racketeering conspiracy in Boston.

In May 2012, DeLeo pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy and being a felon in possession of firearms and ammunition. In November, U.S. District Judge Douglas P. Woodlock sentenced DeLeo to 235 months in prison, with credit for 36 months of time served, for a total of 199 months (about 16.5 years), to be followed by three years of supervised release and a $50,000 fine.

"The acting street boss of the Colombo crime family faced justice,” said Richard DesLauriers, the Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Boston Division.

Acting street boss? Christ, yet another title.....