In this Episode; the stunning conclusion of “Animal” The Rise and Fall of the Mob’s Most Feared Assassin, chronicled in Casey’s classic true crime novel.
Before there was Whitey Bulger, there was Joe “The Animal” Barboza. Casey and Dave give you the inside story of the first man ever placed into the Witness Protection Program and one of the most important organized crime cases in American history.
Voice Over: [00:00:05] Welcome to season two of Saints, Sinners and serial killers with co-hosts New York Times, best selling authors and renowned investigative journalists Casey Sherman and Dave Wedge. In this episode, the stunning conclusion of Animal The Rise and Fall of the mob's most feared assassin chronicled in Casey's classic true crime novel. Before there was Whitey Bulger, there was Joe, the Animal, Barboza, Casey and Dave give you the inside story of the first man ever placed into the witness protection program and one of the most important organized crime cases in American history. And now Casey Sherman and Dave Wedge.
Casey Sherman: [00:00:53] The mafia had just sent Joe the animal Barboza a terrifying message. If we can't get to, you will hurt those close to you. After a car bombing that nearly destroyed a small neighborhood, Garbo's lawyer, John Fitzgerald, was rushed to a nearby hospital where he'd spent six hours on the operating table. He was given 12 pints of blood, but surgeons couldn't save the man's right leg that had to be amputated three inches below the knee. The lawyer also suffered serious burns to his face and neck, but he was still alive, just barely. An explosives expert from the State Fire Marshal's Office later determined that two large sticks of dynamite three inches thick, 16 inches long and weighing 10 pounds in total had been wired to the ignition. Fbi agent Paul Reko and his partner Dennis Condon, drove to the hospital where Fitzgerald's family was sitting and vigil. Privately, Rico wished that the lawyer would die on the operating table. For Rico, it was a case of sacrificing one for the greater good of many. After all, he knew that Fitzgerald was being targeted for assassination, but he didn't lift a finger to stop it.
Dave Wedge: [00:02:11] The bombers were friends of Barbosa has now turned enemies Francis Cadillac, Frank Salemi and Stephen The Rifleman Flemmi, who just happened to be a top echelon informant for the FBI. But the attack on Fitzgerald was carried out in an effort to intimidate Joe Barboza and prevent him from testifying against mafia godfather Raymond Patriarch. But it had the opposite effect on the animal. The bombing only strengthened his resolve to bring patriarch down. Barboza attitude was this If I can't get that motherfucker with my bare hands, I'll get him with my mouth. A trial for Raymond Patriarch and his co-defendants, Henry Tamayo, and another gangster named Ronnie Caso began in early March 1968 in Boston. On the morning of Barbosa scheduled testimony, as many as five mafia hit men were positioned outside the courthouse with orders to kill the animal before he made his way inside the building. One assassin, tucked away on top of a nearby office building, covered the courthouse steps with a sniper rifle. Another killer tried to slip into the courthouse disguised as a police officer. A member of Babos Protective Service had discovered 500 pounds of nitroglycerin that the mob had planned to use to blow up his security convoy.
Casey Sherman: [00:03:28] But U.S. Marshal John Partington had them all fooled. He had smuggled Barboza into the building under the cover of night three full days before his testimony was about to begin. Sensing impending danger, the marshal had Barboza transported by helicopter from a secure estate and the fishing village of Gloucester, Massachusetts, to the famous hat shell where the Boston Pops performed every Fourth of July to avoid unwanted fireworks. Partington surrounded Barboza with eight heavily armed marshals during the short walk from the helicopter to the armored van. The U.S. District Court House resembled a military barracks with bomb sniffing dogs patrolling every floor. Barbosa and Partington slept on cots in a basement storeroom that had been reinforced with steel plates. Waiting patiently for their names to be called.
Dave Wedge: [00:04:30] Patriarchy was on trial for ordering the murder of an independent dice game operator named Willie Maffeo, who had been shooting his mouth off and told the boss to go shit in his hat as an unindicted co-conspirator to murder. Barbosa told the jury that he had been recruited by the mob boss to whack out mafia patriarch who wanted him killed, the animal told the court. There were a lot of discussions about how we were going to do this. They suggested we use a meat truck and wear white coats to look like delivery men would use a dolly and walk into the place where he hung out. Rafael got whacked and basically everything that Barbosa said on the witness stand was true. The jury was handed the case on the fourth day of trial. The animal was sent back to his storage room to await the verdict. If Barbosa couldn't send patriarchy to prison, he had no doubt that the FBI would feed him to the wolves. But the verdict was guilty on all counts. The animal raises beefy arms over his head like you just won the heavyweight title. We did it. He yelled. We did it.
Casey Sherman: [00:05:34] The Portuguese hit man from New Bedford, Massachusetts, had beaten the mafia at its own crooked game, but he still had a few more scores to settle. John Partington handed him a marshal's uniform and told him to put it on. He had to keep Joe alive for trial number three, and deception was still the key. Barbosa changed out of his clothes and was handed a rifle unloaded. Of course, you pretend to guard one of the real guards who will pretend to be you? Partington told him. All right, Barbosa, you asshole. Keep moving, the animal said as he pushed his decoy along. At a sentencing, Raymond Parihaka, the boss of all bosses in the New England mafia, was handed five years in prison. This would mark the beginning of the end of the New England mob as we knew it. The patriarch of verdict was a watershed moment in the federal government's war on organized crime. For the first time in history, a major mafia figure had been taken down by the testimony of one of his own men. Barbosa was on a roll now. Next was the Teddy Deegan trial. This time, the animal and the FBI selected six innocent men to blame for the murder that Barbosa had orchestrated himself. He'd pinned the murders on Henry Tamayo, Ronnie accessO, Roy French, Louis Greco, Peter Lamone and Joe Salvatore. They were a collection of made mafia members and associates, but all were completely innocent of the murder that was carried out by Barbosa and Stephen Flemmi psychotic brother Vinnie the bear back in nineteen sixty five. And the FBI knew it, J. Edgar Hoover himself knew it, but these men were served up and based on Barboza bullshit testimony. Each was found guilty. Four men were sentenced to death and two others were given life sentences. J. Edgar Hoover praised FBI agents each Paul Rico and his partner, Dennis Condon, for their work to thank Barbosa. He was offered a chance to disappear with his family. The animal was the first man ever placed in the newly formed federal witness security program WITSEC.
Dave Wedge: [00:08:10] As if the story wasn't crazy enough, it gets even crazier now. Where could Barbosa go without the mob finding him? Barbosa wanted to go to Australia, but Hoover nixed the plan in favour of Northern California. They chose the sleepy town of Santa Rosa, California, with a new name, Joe Bentley. The animal was given a small place to live and his wife and daughter were given elocution lessons to erase their thick Boston accents. Joe found work as a cook, but he missed the action. What the feds had not realized was that his nickname was still the animal. Soon, Barbosa found himself back in trouble. He even put out an olive branch to his gangster buddies back home, saying that he'd recant his testimony for cash. Barbosa fell in with a small time hood named Ricky Clay Wilson, who was trying to move stolen securities stocks and bonds. One night after meeting up with Wilson, Barbosa left his address book Behind in a bar. Wilson picked it up and was startled to find contact numbers for the FBI, U.S. Marshals and the Justice Department. He then tried to lure Barbosa to a wooded area where he had confront him and kill him. But Ricky Clay Wilson had no idea who he was fucking with.
Casey Sherman: [00:09:30] Listen, you fuckin snitch. I heard about those guys you put on death row back east, Wilson shouted at Barbosa. He then reached for a gun from his waistband. Barbosa pounced on Wilson and wrestled him to the ground. The animal snatched the gun out of the man's hand and jammed it against his skull. Wilson made another move, reaching for a gun he had hidden in his boot. Seeing this, Barbosa fired twice. One bullet tore through Wilson's left eye. The other traveled through his temple. Barbosa then dragged Wilson's body deep into the bushes and dug a shallow grave. The story should have ended there, but there are witnesses. Two young women would come along for the ride. It may have been a disastrous oversight, or it may have been the fact that Barbosa had never hurt a woman before. Either way, the animal let the girls live to tell their tale.
Dave Wedge: [00:10:31] Word about Barboza is involvement in the Wilson murder soon made its way to the Sonoma County Sheriff's Department, but the FBI was close behind and tried to prevent investigators from tying their star witness to the crime. Assistant District Attorney Ed Cameron couldn't tell the good guys from the bad guys when he flew to Boston to interview Barboza, his old associates, his hotel room was broken into and his files were stolen. Cameron was convinced that it was the work of the FBI. Barbosa was charged with the murder of Ricky Clay Wilson and put on trial in California in October 1971. Amazingly, both Paul Reko and Dennis Condon testified for the defense. Let me repeat. The FBI testified for the defense, supporting Bob Rose's claim that he killed Wilson in self-defense. Assistant DA Ed Cameron could not believe it. We had a pretty good capital murder case, he told reporters in frustration. And we got to the end, and we're having FBI agents suddenly appear as character witnesses for the killer. They damaged our case to the point where we didn't think the jury would convict in a first degree murder case. On December 13, 1971, Joe the Animal Barboza entered a guilty plea to a charge of second degree murder, meaning that he'd only serve five years behind bars. Barbosa and the FBI had won again.
Casey Sherman: [00:11:57] While in prison, Barbosa offered to testify for the government again, this time for Florida Congressman Claude Peppers Select Committee on Crime. Dressed in a tracksuit and wraparound sunglasses and with a cigarette dangling from his lips, Barbosa told the committee that his former boss, Raymond Parihaka, had invested two hundred and fifteen thousand dollars in a horse racing track in Massachusetts. Patriarch is alleged partner in the deal was none other than Frank Sinatra, the chairman of the board. Sinatra didn't take the accusations lightly and was willing to testify himself. He marched into the Cannon House Buildings Caucus room. He was waving a newspaper over his head with the blazing headline witness links Sinatra to mafia figure. That's charming, isn't it? Sinatra said angrily. I'm asking someone to be fair about it. How do you repair the damage done to me by this bum? Barboza went off at the mouth and I resent it. Sinatra denied knowing Raymond Parihaka. The committee used the opportunity to press the legendary crooner on ties to other notorious mob figures, including Charles Lucky Luciano.
Speaker4: [00:13:14] I was introduced to Mr. Luciano by a newspaper man named Nate Gross from Chicago. Was that in Havana or was in Havana? Yes, in Havana. Obviously, I knew who Mr. Luciano was because I'd read enough about him. Everybody else did that. That was the extent of my knowledge of Mr. Luciano.
Casey Sherman: [00:13:35] Sinatra was combative with the committee. One congressman whispered to another, Who does he think he is? He must think he's Frank Sinatra. The other lawmaker replied.
Dave Wedge: [00:13:45] Barbosa spent the rest of his time in prison working on his memoir. At one point, Truman Capote was attached to write it. He also spent a lot of time planning for his life after jail. Barbosa considered going back to Boston and waging his own war with anyone who was left in the New England mob, including underboss Jerry and Julio. Killing the animal was still a top priority for the mafia, La Cosa Nostra had placed a $100000 bounty on his head. Gerry Angulo reviled Barbosa, but he also had much to thank him for. Angelo had filled the power vacuum left by Raymond Patriarch after the boss was sent off to prison. In September 1975, Boston FBI agents sent word to their counterparts in San Francisco that Angulo had dispatched to hit men to the Bay Area to find out when and where Barbosa would be paroled and then set them up for the kill. The FBI also warned that Angelo's men were planning for a public execution. Barbosa was quietly paroled from the Sierra conservation camp in California after serving four years for the murder of Ricky Clay Wilson. His family had abandoned him, and he was given a new name, Joseph Donati Barbosa, believe that gangsters in San Francisco were weak and primed for the taking. It wouldn't take him long to establish his bloody control over Northern California. Barboza shared his dreams with a friend who shared them with a man at the Hilton Hotel in San Francisco. That man's name was J.R. Russo.
Casey Sherman: [00:15:23] J.r. Rousseau was a legendary killer for the Boston mob. Jerry Julio called him a fucking genius with a carbine. Rousseau was a strange dude, too. He liked to wear women's dresses around the North End. He said it was a disguise to trick the cops, but other mobsters wondered. But if they had something to say, no one dared say it to Russo's face. On the morning of February 11th nineteen seventy six, Barboza borrowed his friend's car to run some errands. That friend tipped off J.R. Russo, who caught up with the animal on Maraga Street in San Francisco. As Barboza placed a can of spam and other groceries into the car, he noticed a white van barreling down the street. The sliding door of the van pulled open and Giarrusso, with a stocking covering his face, leaned out with a carbine pointed directly at Barboza chest. The first bullet missed Barboza and ripped through the side of the car. The next blast struck him squarely in the chest, lifting him off his feet. Barbosa fell to the ground next to the barred vehicle as the van sped away. Barbosa spit blood. This time it was his own. He closed his eyes for the last time the animal was dead. Our boss's body was eventually shipped home for burial in his native New Bedford. You're one tough son of a bitch as a brother, Donnie said, staring over the casket. You always told me how this would end. At least you're at peace now. The priest asked Donnie whether the family wanted the eulogy delivered in English. No father, please deliver it in Portuguese. Donnie said proudly. My brother was Portuguese.
Dave Wedge: [00:17:23] But Joe Barbosa, his ghost, lived on twenty five years after the animal was gunned down in San Francisco. His secrets and those of the FBI finally came to light in the nation's capital. That's when the House Committee on Government Reform launched an investigation into the FBI's handling of controversial informants at center stage was Joe Barboza and the Teddy Deegan murder case, which sent several men to prison for a crime they did not commit. Documents surfaced showing the J. Edgar Hoover had allowed it to happen. One of the wrongly convicted men, Joel Salvatore, spent 30 years in prison before his sentence was finally commuted. Others died in jail, although Barbosa was long dead. His FBI handler, Paul Ricco, was still alive to face the music. He was ordered to testify before Congress and was asked if he had any remorse for what he had done.
Speaker5: [00:18:20] A dramatic event unfolded today at Paul Ricos hearing when questioned by Republican Congressman Christopher Shays about having any regrets about his role. Rico stared back and scoffed. What do you want? Tears.
Casey Sherman: [00:18:38] Rico would die soon after his testimony, but not before being formally charged with helping another of his informants, James Whitey Bulger, pull off a gangland hit of a Tulsa, Oklahoma, businessman. The case became a huge embarrassment to the Justice Department, and there was a formal request to pull J. Edgar Hoover's name off of FBI headquarters. Joe Salvatore, Peter Lemony and the relatives of the other wrongly convicted men sued the U.S. Justice Department and were awarded one hundred and $7 million. It's the largest payout of its kind in American history. The government quickly appealed, but finally gave up the fight in 2010. Each of the men and their families received cheques for $33 million, including two million bucks of accumulated interest while the case was on appeal. Who says crime doesn't pay?
Voice Over: [00:19:51] Saints, Sinners and Serial Killers is a joint production of MuddHouse Media and Fort Point Media. Produced and edited by Mike Joshua. Studio space provided by Work Local maker Original Music by Chris Speargun. For more from the MuddHouse Media Podcast Network, visit muddhousemedia.com and for the latest on their podcasts and all of the writing and film projects of Casey Sherman and Dave Wedge, visit Fort Point Media.