Joe Barboza: Boston Barbarian

9237001674?profile=originalBy Thom L. Jones for Gangsters Inc.

The alliteration is perhaps inexcusable. The description however, is almost as perfect as you will get.

A man who allegedly bit off part of another man’s ear in a bar brawl. Who terrified a family as he tried to destroy their car- with them in it. Someone who apparently actually frightened some members of the Boston police department to the point that they would walk away rather than confront him. So feared by the city’s newspaper photographers they would often attach a note to the back of their shots of him: NO CREDIT ON PHOTOGRAPHS. A hit-man who quite possibly murdered at least twenty men or more. This was according to the testimony of his lawyer, given at a Congressional Hearing in 2001.

And deeply and darkly hinted, a man who once chewed on a piece of skull from one of his victims, Carlton Eaton, shot dead by Joe in September, 1964.

Edmund H. Maloney writing about Barboza in the Hartford Courant, claimed that Barboza had a thing about chewing. Maybe it stemmed from his oddly shaped incisors that curved like fangs, rather than teeth.

In his relatively short life as a criminal on the streets of Boston, Joe Barboza created a reputation for violence and uncontrolled brutality that is hard to match anywhere in the records of American organized crime.

Attorney Victor Garo said about him:

He was a loan shark, a receiver of stolen goods, a leg-breaker. He’d shoot you in the head, puncture your ear-drum with an ice-pick or dismember you with a knife.

His own lawyer, F. Lee Bailey, called him:

One of the worst men on the face of the earth.

A memorandum from the Special Agent in Charge of the Boston Office of the F.B.I. John J. Kehoe Junior to J. Edgar Hoover, referred to Barboza as:

A professional assassin, responsible for numerous homicides and acknowledged by all professional law enforcement representatives in the Boston area to be the most dangerous individual known.

On one occasion when he was planning to kill a target, he decided to set up an ambush at the victim’s home. His plan was to set fire to the building and when the man fled, he would be shot down. When someone pointed out the man’s mother lived there and could die also, this apparently caused no concern to Barboza, who stated it was not his fault that the mother would be present, and he would not care whether the mother died or not.

He stood about five eight or five ten according to which records are consulted, and looked almost like a cartoon impression of a Neanderthal Man with enormous shoulders and upper body, balanced on undersized legs. His upper and lower halves did not balance, and linked into his block of a head and huge, jutting jaw he came across as some kind of cave-man lost in a time warp. Someone once said of him:

He walked like a Silverback Gorilla

Sensible people would avoid him, and even those close to him never knew what might trigger his fierce and at times uncontrollable temper. Joe came across as a wild, unhinged hot-rod, burning on all four tyres, revving in overdrive on all shifts. He went through his maleficent life like a hound dog searching for its prey. An insatiable appetite for violence fuelled by an egregious temperament made him a textbook example of an anti-social misfit layered with evil and dangerous tendencies. He once murdered a man a week after he had attended Joe’s wedding.

9237002060?profile=originalVincent Teresa writes in his book, Vinnie Teresa’s Mafia, the following regarding Barboza:

Take Joe Barboza (right). He was one of the toughest enforcers around in New England before he became a federal informer. He had a reputation on the street of being a violent, violent guy with a terrible temper. The cops were afraid of him, street people were scared of him, even me - as close as I was to the guy, I’d never so much as cross a bridge alone with him in a car. You never knew what would set the guy off.

There was one incident I remember in particular involving Joe. This happened on Bennington Street in East Boston. It was about one in the afternoon, and I was standing on the corner. Barboza was in a car with Guy Frizzi, a street guy that Joe was close with at the time. They were driving along Bennington Street when some poor guy with his wife and two little kids cut Barboza off by accident. Joe went wild. He started chasing this guy, blowing the horn and yelling out the window: ‘You mother . . . you son-of-a-bitch . . . I’ll get you.’

Finally, Joe caught up with the guy and cut him off. The driver was smart enough to lock all his windows and doors. Barboza and Frizzi pounded on the windows and then jumped up on the hood of this guy’s car, smashing at the windshield. At the same time, Barboza was yelling nasty things he planned to do to the guy’s wife. I remember seeing the poor little kids, crying their eyes out, hanging on to their father while their mother is screaming her head off. Now, while all this was happening, there was a cop standing on a nearby corner, just watching. Finally, the cop turned away and walked down the street. He was scared to death of Barboza himself. Joe wasn’t through though. He ran back to his car and got out a baseball bat and started pounding on the car. He smashed the fenders, the windows, everything. He almost destroyed the car before some cops finally came over and tried to calm Joe down. While they were trying to cool Joe, they told this poor driver who’s sitting there in his smashed-up car to get the hell out of the area fast and forget about the damage. I was standing there all the time watching it, laughing my head off. At the time it was funny. Now I think back and it ain’t so funny. The driver would have been killed if Joe had got his hands on him, and all because he accidentally cut Joe off in traffic.

And again, further testimony, still from Teresa:

…..That’s why he was so dangerous. He was unpredictable. When he tasted blood, everyone in his way got it. Barboza went into the club [searching for a member of the McLaughlin mob named Ray DiStasio] and caught DiStasio cold. The trouble was, a poor slob named John B.O’Neil, who had a bunch of kids, walked in to get a pack of cigarettes. Barboza killed them both because he didn’t want any witnesses. DiStasio got two in the back of the head and O’Neil got three. It was a shame. I mean, this O’Neil was a family man—he had nothing to do with the mob. Barboza should have waited. That’s why he was so dangerous. He was unpredictable.

There were however, some people who Joe didn’t scare. There's the time in 1965 when Joseph Elmer McCain, one of the toughest cops ever in Boston, arrested Joe Barboza, for beating up a patron at The Ebb Tide bar in Revere Beach. In the jail, Barboza insulted McCain, saying he wasn't so tough without his gun. On the spot, the cop unbuckled his gun and nightstick, stepped in the cell, and invited Barboza to take a shot. He declined, and McCain said, I thought so.

Although he had dreams of joining the New England Mafia, known by its members outside of Boston as the Office, and within the city as In Town, behind his back, these people referred to Barboza as the nigger because of his dark skin. As neither of his parents were of Italian descent, membership into the mob was never on the cards for Joe.

Like so many criminals, Barboza was downright ugly. The word ugly is Middle-English in origin, deriving from a Norse word meaning unpleasant or repulsive. It can also mean threatening or dangerous, adjectives that aptly describe so many of the people who populated the American underworld.

Joe Barboza was definitely one such man.

A killer for hire and a thug by nature and inclination, there seems at first glance, little about Barboza that justifies his importance in the history of the criminal underworld of America. Many of its members were ugly; many were mean and vicious and deadly killers. But Joe was different and for three reasons:

He was the first person ever to enter The Witness Protection Program. It was actually set up and created to protect him and manage his safety and that of his family.

He was one of only two East Coast mob-connected criminals to ever escape the wrath of a Mafia crime overlord, eloping to California to secure safety and freedom, to be then tracked down and murdered thousands of miles from his hometown. Peter Poulus is often fitted into this category, but his murder by Stevie Flemmi in Nevada was not Mob ordained.

However, Joe’s real claim to fame as a malcontent swimming around the edges of organized crime in Boston was to be the man who cost the United States Government over $100 million dollars as a result of his illegal actions which sent four innocent men into prison on life sentences. When he was ultimately exposed, it resulted in the uncovering of one of the most scandalous examples of corrupt behaviour that has ever occurred within the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Joe Barboza was born of Portuguese immigrants, in New Bedford, Massachusetts, on September 20th 1932. He grew up a lawless child and in 1945, at the age of thirteen, he and his brother were arrested for vandalising streetcar signs in the town. By the time he was seventeen, he was leading a pack of young thugs who became known as The Cream Puff Bandits, when after robbing a restaurant they pelted each other with pastries across the dining room.

He went to prison for the first time in December, 1949. Three years later, at the age of twenty, he led a prison break-out from the Concorde Reformatory of himself and six other inmates, the biggest in the prison’s seventy-five year history. Re-captured within twenty-four hours at an East Boston subway station, he was given an additional sentence, to be served this time, at the maximum security facility in Walpole.
He was paroled from here in 1958.

9237001890?profile=originalIt was in Walpole, one of the toughest prisons in Massachusetts, that Joe Barboza’s (right) criminal career would take a quantum shift. There have been suggestions that he met up with prisoners who were either Mafiosi or certainly associates of the New England mob, and through this link, he became known to Raymond Loreda Salvatore Patriarca, the boss of the New England mafia.

Patriarca had put in a long apprenticeship during the Prohibition period, getting his first criminal conviction at the age of seventeen, and three more times before he was twenty. This would be followed by numerous other arrests on charges ranging from white slavery to breaking and entering and armed robbery.

During his lifetime Patriarca was arrested or indicted 28 times, convicted seven times, imprisoned four times, and served 11 years in prison.

He masterminded a jailbreak in which a prison guard and a trustee were killed and in between learning the ways of the mob, first as an associate then a member of a New York Mafia crime family which he allegedly joined in 1929, although this has never been substantiated, spent ten years in prison. It was more than likely that his career in the Mafia began in the crime family of Frank Iaconi, the head of the Worcester clan.

Raymond Patriarca allegedly worked as muscle on rum-running launches operated by Iacone during the Prohibition period. Virgil W. Peterson the famous lawmaker, confirmed this at the Kefauver Committee Hearings that ran from 1950-1951. Because of Iacone’s manipulation of the political and police machinery that ran Worcester, it was a strong part of the triangle-Boston/Rhode Island/Worcester-that controlled organized crime in the state of Massachusetts. Patriarca had been born in Worcester and always had a soft spot for the city. He and his family had moved to Providence, Rhode island, when he was three. His father, Eleuterio, had been offered a good job there as a manager of a packing store and they lived in a house on Atwells Avenue, in the Federal Hill neighbourhood, just across from the building where Raymond would make his business headquarters in the years ahead. Eleuterio at some stage opened a bar on the Avenue and his wife found work as a nurse.

Patriarca lived in Worcester during 1920s and 1930s and maintained his ties with friends and business associates there. He was the senior man attending at the Little Apalachin conclave held at the former Bancroft Hotel there, in 1959. By 1956, Iaconi was dead of natural causes, and Patriarca had assumed control of the New England Mafia.

He was pure Mafia-through and through.

In an illegal wiretap of his office in 1966 he was heard reminiscing:

In this thing of our, your love of your mother and father is one thing, your love for the Family is a different kind of love.

9237002673?profile=originalPatriarca (right), referred to by his peers and mob associates as The Man, or George, and who lived in a modest white, clapboard house on the corner of Lancaster Street in Providence, had taken over the mob of Boston based Philip Buccolo when he himself relinquished his position as the boss and retreated to his birthplace-Sicily-in 1954. There, he developed a successful poultry business on a five acre site next to his luxurious home on Piazza Marie Consolatrice, in Palermo city, where he lived until he died aged 101, in 1987.

With his departure, the power base of the New England Mafia shifted south to where Patriarca would run his business from the Mafia sewer that was Providence, Rhode Island.

A vicious, brutal man himself, who was overheard on a law enforcement wiretap saying the happiest days of his life were when he was on the street clipping people, he was once described by a Massachusetts State police officer as just the toughest guy you ever saw.

Raymond Patriarca perhaps recognized the potential in Barboza. He would be useful for the mob’s street activities-enforcing loan payments, protecting shylocks, intimidating potential extortion targets, collecting on gambling debts-the staples of mob activity, the grease that kept the cogs from slipping, and which helped feed and fuel the major activities, union control, political manipulation, drug trafficking, distribution and management of illegal poker machines and control of prostitution rings. So much crime, so little time.

Once Patriarca established himself as the Czar of organized crime in the region, he handed over control and management of the Boston area to Gennaro Angiulo. This sub-division of territorial rights would operate in the years to come not so much as a satellite, but more a stand-alone unit, coughing up a monthly tribute to Providence. Angiulo on his return from military service in 1945, had quickly established himself in the tough, Italian enclave of Boston called ‘The North End.’ and by the late 1950s had struck the deal with Patriarca for the right to run Boston. According to Barboza, at any one time, Angiulo had over a million dollars out on the streets in shy lock money. And this was only one of his income earners.

Patriarca ran his criminal empire from a ram-shackled building at 168 Atwells Avenue on the corner of Dean Street, in Federal Hill, which housed the National Cigarette Service Company and Coin-O-Matic Distributors, a vending machine and pinball business. The business officially opened in 1956. In his dingy office he had an old leather couch and a black and white television set. There were there thirty years later when he died. His brother Joseph, worked alongside Raymond, and would be his surrogate when he went to prison in the late 1960s. This district within the city of Providence has always attracted a large Italian migrant population, and even to-day, 20% of the city’s ancestry connection is still from Italy. From here, he and Agiulo, (who according to O’Neil and Lehr in their book The Underboss, Patriarca had quickly seen as the pepper pot needed to shake Boston out its backwater doldrums,) would for the next thirty years like The Odd Couple, control organized crime in the state.

Patriarca had strong ties to the New York Genovese Mafia crime family who had a foothold in Connecticut, was allegedly a partner in illegal gambling operations in Philadephia with their mob boss, Angelo Bruno, and apparently had a hidden interest in the famous Berkshire Downs race track, one of whose owners was Frank Sinatra.

It is not entirely clear who Barboza reported to in the New England Mafia, although Vincent Fat Vinny Teresa, the Mafia associate, swindler thief and gambler, often called The New England Joe Valachi for the information he disclosed about the Mafia, claimed Joe Barboza was retained by Patriarca on a fee of $900 a week, to be on call to carry out killings when required.

Joe Barboza was also available for hire to another group of thugs and killers in New England: the non-Italian underworld.

9237003085?profile=originalBefore the Italians dominated the crime scene in Beantown, there were the Boston Irish gangs. Criminal mobs developed over the years across South Boston, Charlestown, Somerville, Dorchester and Roxbury, many of them working for the Gustin Gang (named after a street in South Boston) under Frank Wallace (right), until he was gunned down on the streets of North End by Italian gangsters. He and Bernard Doddy Walsh were invited to a sit-down with Joe Lombardi and Philip Bucculo at the C and F Importing Company on Hanover Street, (some sources refer to this as CK Importing) on December 22nd and were shot dead as they entered the premises and made their way upstairs to the office. It was the last time an Irishman was to run the rackets in Boston until the early 1960s.

By then, many of these criminals had coalesced into two main groups, one that included James Buddy McLean which became known in 1972 as The Winter Hill Gang, based in Somervile, and the other headed up by George McLaughlin working from its territory to the east, in Charlestown.

Up until the time a drunken day out at a beach party went wrong, the McLeans and McLaughlins were the best of friends. Peat from the same bog, as the Irish say.

On Labour Day 1961, at a picnic near the New Hampshire border, McLaughlin, blind- drunk and belligerent, made a pass at a girlfriend of Andy Petricone, a close friend of McLean’s. (Petricone subsequently left Boston, moved to California, changed his name to Alex Rocco and became a movie star. Best known for the part he played of Moe Green in the Godfather.)

The two men gave McLaughlin a good beating that hospitalized him for two weeks. George’s brother Bernie, who headed the Charlestown gang demanded an apology which was refused by Buddy Mclean.

On October 29th, McLean, late in the evening, noticed three men hanging around his car parked in the street. They scattered as he went after them, shooting off his .38 revolver. Checking the car, he found it had been wired with three sticks of dynamite.

Within a few days, Bernie McLaughlin was dead. Reports give different days and different places of his killing; shot at close range with a .45 semi he was just as dead. Allegedly, the shooter was McLean, although he was never indicted for the murder. Effective that day, the infamous McLaughlin-McLean War began. It went on for years, before winding down towards the end of 1967.

Under the washed-out and faded blue sky of eastern Massachusetts, light reflecting off the dingy gunmetal greys of the roads and the rusted reds of the bricked buildings of Boston, the dead piled up. The back alleys, car parks and wastelands of Somerville and Charlestown became the killing fields in what might have been perhaps the bloodiest gang war in American criminal history. Perhaps as many as fifty men or more would die before the killings stopped.

Supporting McLean were a group of hard-case killers including Stephen Flemmi and his brother, Vincent, and Joe Barboza, who was undoubtedly responsible for a lot of the war’s casualties. Teresa claimed that Joe Barboza handled more hits than any one guy during the war.

Barboza told author Hank Messic who ghost-wrote his 1975 biography, Barboza, that he had murdered seven men, although he also allegedly bragged to his friends that the tally was closer to thirty.

Most of the victims of the war were shot dead. One was beheaded. Another dismembered. One was drowned. Four were beaten to death. One of the victims, John O’Neil was simply an innocent bystander at a christening party. No one really knows for sure just how many bodies fell. Somewhere between forty and fifty is believed to be a reasonable estimate.

To the media and any interested observer, the Boston underworld in the 1960s was a cesspit of warring factions-Irish-American, Italian-American and just plain old Americans fighting each other and among each other to grasp a share of whatever legal and illegal opportunity presented itself

Joe Barboza was not just killing people however. He had a business to run. He and his crew of street thugs would congregate at JB’s Bar on the corner of Bennington and Brook Streets in East Boston to work out their daily doses of criminal intent. They used it so much, it eventually became better known as simply Barboza’s Corner. His crew consisted of:

Joe Amico
Patrick Fabiano
James Kearns
Arthur Bratsos
Thomas De Prisco
Joe and Ronald Dermondy-father and son.
Carlton Eaton
Edwrad Goss
Nicholas Femia

All of them would ultimately be murdered.

Henry Skinny Man Tameleo from Cranston, Rhode Island, was a senior figure in the Patriarca crime family. Some sources claim he was the under boss, others that he carried the position of consigliere, or advisor. Either way, he was a senior part of the family’s administration.

He ran his operation in the Boston area from a club in Revere Beach. Five miles north of Boston city, it is the site of America’s first ever public beach, established in 1896. In the 1960s it was also the home to clubs and bars that were often frequented by Boston’s mob. The Ebb Tide Lounge on the Beach Boulevard, belonged to Richard Castucci, a member of the Winter Hill Gang. It turned into such a bucket of blood, the name was changed to The Beach Ball in the late 1960s. Joe Barboza was a frequent visitor here as he was to the old, three-story Victorian Pleasanton Hotel, further south down the road.

Legend has it that Barboza’s nickname The Animal was given him by Henry Tameleo. One afternoon drinking in the bar at the Ebb Tide, some old Italian guy started to remonstrate with Joe about something, and he responded by hitting the man. Tameleo interceded. Barboza as an ex-boxer, was accredited with hands as dangerous weapons.

I don’t want you to touch anybody with your hands again, Tameleo shouted, Barboza sat brooding at the bar and then, suddenly leaned over and bit off part of the old man’s ear.

See, he shouted back, I didn’t touch him with my hands.

Sometime in 1963, according to Teresa, Tameleo hired Joe and his crew on a monthly retainer organizing a protection racket on clubs and bars in the Boston area. Barboza and his men would go into the places, start a fight and create havoc. Henry would then approach the owners, offering them protection. Apparently, it never failed to work. Joe had learned his apprenticeship in the protection racket business working for Edward Fishbein, an infamous Jewish loan shark, working-out of his office in Batterymarch Street, in Boston’s Wharf District.

So, through the late 1950s and early 1960s Joe had his hands full-stealing, scamming, extorting, cruising the city of Boston like a great white shark, breaking legs-and of course, killing people. He had also found the time to marry a Jewish woman, Philomena Termini in July 1958, on his release from Walpole, divorced her, re-married a woman called Claire and fathered a son by one wife and a daughter and a son by the second. He bought himself a new house in a well-to-do Jewish neighbourhood in Swampscott, a small town in Essex county, about fifteen miles north of Boston, and for a period between 1964 and 1966 he worked at legitimate jobs as a salesman and clerk at the Shawmut Insurance Company in Boston and moonlighted as a payroll clerk at $100 a week for the Blue Bunny and Duffy’s Lounges. By the end of 1968, he saw his second wife drift away.

By this time he was living under the care of the U.S. Marshals, as a protected witness, giving testimony against the New England Mafia. The program to secure his safety was set in place under the control of marshal John Partington. Barboza was at first held on Thatcher’s Island, off Cape Cod, then moved to a private estate at Freshwater Cove, near Gloucester and finally, near the end of the year, to Fort Knox, Kentucky.

He was the first person to become a ward of the government in what became known as The Witness Protection Program, a concept created by U.S. Attorney, Raymond Pettine and former attorney general, Robert Kennedy, although it was not ratified as such until 1970.

How all this happened came about this way:

Barboza drove around in a flashy auto, a James Bond car as the cops referred to it. A gold, 1965 Oldsmobile, with a 360 horsepower engine, white wall tyres and a hidden panel on the driver’s door which held a stash of hand guns. To the Boston P.D. it was akin to a red rag to a bull. From time to time, he was pulled over by those police officers brave enough to face up to him. It happened on the night of October 6th 1966.

Cruising the Red Light district of Boston which borders on Chinatown and was known as The Combat Zone, Barboza was stopped by a passing patrol car. Following a search of the Olds which disclosed an M-1 Carbine, a .45 semi-automatic and a hunting knife, the four occupant-Barboza and three of his crew, Arthur C. Bratsos, Nicholas S. Femia and Patrick J. Fabiano-were arrested. Joe and Femia were out on bail in connection with a stabbing that had occurred three months earlier. Because of this, and the serious weapons charge, bail for Barboza was set high at $100,000.

According to Vincent Teresa:

This was when the law began applying a squeeze that was to force Raymond Patriarca to make fatal mistakes.

Desperate to get out of jail, and unable to raise the money, Barboza instructed two of his crew to start hitting up people in the underworld for money to meet the bail requirements. It was then that the mob sent Joe a message.

Having raised a substantial amount, some sources say $60,000, others as much as $80,000, the two men, Bratsos and Thomas J. DePrisco were then shot dead on the night of November 1st. Their bullet-riddled bodies were found in Bratsos’s black Cadillac abandoned in South Boston. The money disappeared.

Joe Barboza was sent for trial in January, 1967, found guilty on illegal weapons charges and sentenced to four to five years in Walpole State Prison.

And this is when crime and justice begin to unravel in a big way.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation had made a decision in their Boston office to target and cultivate potential underworld sources. Two of their operatives, Dennis Condon, a homeboy from Charlestown, and his partner H. Paul Rico, from Belmont, Middlesex County, who worked together in Boston for four years from 1966 to 1970, had been trying for months to make headway through the murky swamp of North End that surrounded Gerry Angiulo and his Mafia mobsters. Their chief, J. Edgar Hoover, had created a Top Hoodlum Program following the infamous 1957 Mafia concave that was held at an Apalachin property in upstate New York owned by mobster Joseph Barbara,

Hoover instigated this program that was to be effected in every city which had an F.B.I. field office, irrespective of whether or not the mob was represented. Butte, Montana, for example went hard to work and produced damming evidence against ten juvenile delinquents. For this, they received high praise from their boss.

The Boston office was struggling through the late 50s and earl 60s to come up with anything that was concrete. They gathered Intel on names and places, raided gambling dens, rousted street criminals, stuff like this. But the harder they worked, it seemed the more elusive Angiulo and Patriarca and the other major figures became. It seemed a no-win situation until Joe Barboza came along.

Following the murder of his two crewmen, the agents visited Joe in prison, on March 8th 1967 for the first time, talking to him, trying to turn him, edging him into a sea of insecurity. They told him Patriarca had washed his hands of him, and for evidence brought along a copy of a tape from the bureau’s electronic surveillance of the mob boss’s office on Atwells Avenue. This had been bugged between March 1962 and July 1965, creating twenty-six volumes of logs. On it, Patriarca is heard cursing Joe:

Barboza’s a fucking bum. He’s expendable.

Joe Barboza eventually rolled over and testified at three trials, starting in January 1968. The first against Patriarca and Tameleo. The second against Angiulo and four other mobsters. And the third, which began in May. It was this trial that would in due course expose a level of federal law enforcement corruption on a level unheard of until this time.

9237003493?profile=originalIt was all about the killing of a low-level Boston criminal called Edward Teddy Degan (right). His body was found in an alley off 4th Street in Chelsea, in the early hours of March 13th 1965. He had been lured to this spot in the belief that he would be part of a gang breaking into the offices of the Beneficial Finance Company, which was located on the second floor of the Goldberg Building. A man called Roy French had approached Deegan with the offer of the job. As they gathered in that dingy back lane- French, Barboza, Ronald Casessa, Romeo Martin and Vincent James Flemmi- sometime between nine and eleven that night, Deegan was shot multiple times in the back and the head and died on the spot.

William Landay the author, writes:

In 1967, Barboza became a cooperating witness for the FBI and later became the first man to enter the federal Witness Protection Program.

His false testimony in a 1968 murder trial would ultimately unravel a story of unimaginable corruption in the FBI’s Boston office, a story in which crooked FBI agents actually protected gangster-informants while they went right on murdering people in the street. Imagine: a select few mobsters were effectively above the law, protected by the federal government. There is a straight line from the feds’ protection of Joe Barboza in the 1960s to its infamous marriage with Whitey Bulger in the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s. It is as if, in Chicago, Al Capone had cut a deal with Eliot Ness for FBI protection. It is the defining story of the Boston crime world.

The whole story is told in a congressional report called “Everything Secret Degenerates.” If the story interests you, I highly recommend it. The prose is dry and lawyerly, and there is a lot of detail, still the story leaps off the page. There are many other, less authoritative versions out there on the web.

Briefly, the story is this. On March 12, 1965, Barboza and a small crew murdered a small-time hood named Teddy Deegan. Six men were indicted for the Deegan murder. At trial, Barboza — by then a protected state witness — testified in detail about how the murder was planned and carried out. On July 31, 1968, after a two month trial, all six defendants were convicted. Four got the death penalty, two life in prison, all on Barboza’s word.

The trouble was, Barboza lied — and the FBI knew it all along. Four of the men he named — Louis Greco, Peter Limone, Henry Tameleo, and Joseph Salvati — had nothing to do with the crime. And one he did not name, Jimmy “The Bear” Flemmi, was actually one of the ringleaders and may well have been the triggerman. The day after the murder, Flemmi admitted to an FBI informant that he was in on it.

Why did the FBI keep silent? To protect a valued informant-witness in Barboza, no doubt. But it is also true that Jimmy The Bear had been an FBI informant for awhile, a fact the feds were eager to cover up. Flemmi was nearly as volatile as Barboza. He had told an FBI informant that he hoped “to become recognized as the No. One ‘hit man’ in this area as a contract killer.” In 1964, as the congressional report dryly puts it, “Flemmi killed an FBI informant by stabbing him fifty times and then, in a surfeit of enthusiasm, shooting him.” The FBI knew Jimmy The Bear was out of control. In September 1965, he shot another man and was charged with ABDW with intent to murder, and the feds dropped him as an informant — not because of the murder but because, according to an internal FBI memo, “any contacts with him might prove to be difficult and embarrassing.”

Of the four innocent men Barboza framed in the Deegan trial, two died in prison after serving almost thirty years, two others were finally released in the 1990s. The legal battle to free those men was one of the threads that ultimately unraveled the FBI’s corrupt alliance with the Boston mob, most notoriously Whitey Bulger.

9237003690?profile=originalWhat is even more unbelievable is that the F.B.I. knew two days before the hit went down that Deegan was to be murdered. On March 10th, an underworld informant had told Agent Rico that Raymond Patriarca had ordered Flemmi to kill Deegan. And one week after the hit, a memo to Hoover from the S.A.C. in Boston confirmed that Flemmi had been present when the killing went down. Hoover tacitly approved not to prosecute Flemmi for the murder as his potential outweighs the risks.

Of all the innocent men who were wrongly convicted of this crime, perhaps the most tragic is Joseph Salvati. A truck driver and a minor figure in the underworld, more of a gopher than a real criminal, he went to prison for thirty years, simply because he refused to pay back a loan of $400 to Barboza who had been acting as a loan shark in the transaction. In prison, Joe, desperate to collect owed monies to go towards his legal defence, had one of his associates demand the loan back. Salvati is alleged to have replied:

Tell Joe to go fuck himself.

He spent five years in prison for each of those words!

Salveti and his wife, Marie, kept their relationship going through all the long years. She poignantly described her life as existing in a shoebox. She said her husband did his time on the inside, she and the children on the outside.

Jack Zalkind, the prosecutor in the Deegan case said:

I must tell you this, that I was outraged—outraged—at the fact that if [the exculpatory documents] had ever been shown to me, we wouldn’t be sitting here . . . I certainly would never have allowed myself to prosecute this case having that knowledge. No way. . . . That information should have been in my hands. It should have been in the hands of the defence attorneys. It is outrageous, it’s terrible, and that trial shouldn’t have gone forward.

Barboza’s FBI handlers knew from the beginning that Joe Barboza was lying. . . . They have a witness that they knew was lying to me, and they never told me he was
lying. . . . [The FBI] figured, well, let’s flip Joe, and let Joe know that we’re not going to push him on his friend Jimmy Flemmi. So they let Joe go on and tell the story, leaving out Jimmy Flemmi; and then Jimmy Flemmi is allowed
to go on and be their informer.

The evidence is overwhelming that Barboza should not have been permitted to testify in the Deegan murder prosecution. Nevertheless, it was his uncorroborated testimony that was used in the Deegan prosecution that led to four men being sentenced to death and two others receiving life sentences.

J. Edgar Hoover crossed over the line and became a criminal himself, said Vincent Garo, Mr. Salvati's lawyer. He allowed a witness to lie to put an innocent man in prison so he could protect one of his informants.

And the Federal Judge who ultimately heard and determined damages on behalf of the men wrongly convicted for the killing of Deegan was equally forthright in her condemnation of the behaviour of the bureau:

I find that both men (Rico and Condon, photo right) lied in fundamental ways about their relationships with the Flemmi brothers and Barboza, about the information they had concerning the Deegan murder at the time of the trial, and their actions afterwards.

9237004277?profile=originalWhen Barboza was originally released on parole in April, 1969, the F.B.I. sent him and his family (Joe was now reunited with Claire) to Santa Rosa, California, in the wine country, above San Francisco, where they cared for him. They enrolled him into the Marine Cooks and Steward’s Training School, on Mark West Spring Road, in Sonoma County. There, he trained along with others, under European cooks, to qualify to work as chefs on passenger ships and freighters.

It was not the first time he had been involved with cooking and maritime ventures. Sometime in the late 1960s he had shipped out on a vessel the SS President Wilson on a trip to the Orient, as a ship’s cook.

Under the alias Joseph Bentley which he had been allocated by the W.P.P., he worked and socialized with people in the city of 170,000. One group, included a twenty-six year old man called Clay Ricky Wilson and his wife Dee Wilson, nee Mancini, and their friends.

However, relocating Barboza from one part of America to another did nothing to change his attitude or temperament. In the dark nights of his soul, he carried on committing crimes-and murder.

Barboza bragged to this group about his true identity and how he had been responsible for sending Salvatit to prison for crossing him over a loan. He told Wilson that he had the government wrapped around his little finger, and he could manipulate them any time he wished. He told them that he could do this any time he was in trouble because all he would have to say was that he was going to change his testimony in prior trials. To him, this was merely a game of chess and he would always counteract the government’s future moves on him. He said that he could continue his violent lifestyle and get away with it.

Wilson was a bulldozer driver, and seemingly a couple of ants short of a picnic . In his spare time, he moonlighted as a criminal. A tall, skinny, drop-out, who still lived with his parents at1069 Emerald Court in Santa Rosa, he made the mistake in confiding in Barboza that he had robbed a home in Petaluma, of antiques and jewellery and a bundles of stocks and bonds worth about $250,000.

Following a dispute with Wilson, Barboza shot him dead- two in the back of the head- around the 5th or 6th of July 1970, close to midnight, and buried him in a grave in a forest near Glen Ellen, fifteen miles south-east of Santa Rosa. Two women, Dee Wilson and Paulette Ramos, witnessed the killing, but were too terrified of the killer to notify the authorities.

Not long after, Barboza for some reason, travelled back to Massachusetts. One theory suggests that he actually went back to sit down with the Mafia and discuss recanting his trial testimony in return for money and favours. Although in fact he had no intention of carrying out his side of the bargain. He was in essence, going to shake down the mob!

In typical Barboza fashion, while back in New Bedford, he became involved with a group of people in a car over a traffic dispute, produced a gun and threatened them. They notified the police of Bristol County, who quickly tracked Barboza down and found him in possession of a loaded firearm and a quantity of marijuana. He was arrested and incarcerated in Walpole State Prison.

He was held in a cell next to William Geraway. A forger and convicted murderer, who had killed David Sidalauskas in Quincy in April 1966, he had a memory so powerful, he would entertain Barboza by reciting Oscar Wilde's epic-length Ballad of Reading Gaol, a poem that runs to over four thousand words!

Geraway said it was not long before Barboza opened up about his time in California and described Wilson's death down to the least detail. Geraway remembered everything, from the colour of Wilson's pants to the exact description of his burial site and a description of the stump above his grave which Barboza had placed to cover up the site. A stump which was so big, it took three men from the sheriff’s department to move!

Geraway also claimed that Joe had told him he had whacked out six people since his release by the government following his trial testimony and the minimum sentence that had been imposed by the judge for his cooperation.

Geraway passed the information onto the local authorities in a hope of mitigating his sentence, but they showed little interest. He then, through his lawyer, had the information passed to the Santa Rosa police department on October 1st. Detective Sergeant Tim R. Brown of the Sonoma County Sheriff’s office carried out an investigation and the grave and the body, under the huge tree stump, were found in the exact place specified by Geraway, on October 12th and in due course, in February 1971, Joe Barboza was extradited back to California to face trial for yet another murder he had committed.

Another prisoner at Walpole, Lawrence Wood, claimed in a statement he made to the FBI on November 2nd 1970 that Barboza had also told him he had killed six people since his release in 1969, including two on the West Coast.

When Barboza eventually went into court, charged with first-degree murder, a crime then punishable by death in the state of California, on October 19th 1971, to say the trial was weird would be an understatement. His own public defender, Marteen Miller, claimed it was bizarre to say the least.

Here he was, Miller later stated, with all kinds of evidence against him in a death penalty case, and he acted like he was in small claims court. He wasn't concerned at all. I've been in that business for 34 years and I've never seen anything close to it. It was uncanny. (Photo below: Miller and Barboza.)

9237004861?profile=originalMiller flew to Massachusetts to see if he could find anything of an exculpatory nature that would act in Barboza’s favour. While he found little in the way of evidence, he did discover help and assistance from an area he least expected. Rico and Condon the F.B.I. agents agreed to come to the trial and offer testimony in defence of his client. And that was not all. In addition, Edward Harrington, the chief of the Massachusetts Organized Crime Task Force, also agreed to offer support.

At some stage, Harrington had mentioned in an internal memorandum that F.B.I. agent Rico had told Barboza that he should leave Massachusetts because the Mafia knew he was there and that two killers had been set up to get him. The problem with this admission of course was that Barboza’s presence in Massachusetts was a direct violation of his parole agreement with the state which required he never came back. This information was never passed onto state authorities and was still another example of the duplicity of the agency in dealing with their informant.

9237005085?profile=originalThe trial took place, and Barboza pleaded out to manslaughter, irrespective that he had shot his victim in the back of the head. In support of his evidence on behalf of the defendant, Edward Harrington (left) offered the court quite an unbelievable statement:

……it is essential that the government should fulfil its commitment to Barboza to do all within its power to ensure that he suffers no harm as a result of his cooperation with the federal government.

And then according to F. Lee Bailey:

Barboza was sentenced to 5 years to life and, was hustled off to Montana to some country club to serve his time.

Marteen Miller said he figured during the trial that the federal officers appeared on Barboza's behalf because they were afraid he would recant the testimony he had given at the Boston trials. At one time, Rico offered to lie for the defence, according to a statement later made by Miller who also commented:

Is this the stuff the FBI gets away with?

But he said he wondered at the time why they didn't let Joe go ahead and then simply laugh him out of court. :

Evidently, Miller reported, now it appears their motive was a little farther reaching than that.

Marteen Miller told the House Committee on Government Reform in 2003, that the FBI was absolutely fearful that Barboza would receive the death penalty, fearing he might recant his testimony as a government witness in past trials if sentenced to death. To assist with Barboza's defense, Mr. Miller said that then-U.S. Attorney Edward Harrington and FBI agents H. Paul Rico and Dennis Condon were fully cooperative in testifying on behalf of Barboza. Mr. Miller commented that in his 40 years as a criminal defence attorney, Barboza was the only individual to be convicted of second degree murder yet only serve 4 years in prison.

The 1971 trial was a local sensation, with Barboza mugging for the cameras, threats against witnesses, and even talk of sequestering the jury to protect them from possible Mafia intimidation. Before he left for prison, he sent a quote to a court reporter for the Press Democrat newspaper:

It was a pleasure to be living Santa Rosa.

Ed Cameron, an inspector in the Sonoma County District Attorney’s office who worked the Clay Wilson murder, was outraged at the manipulation of the trial by the government’s representatives.

This fellow Barboza murdered one of our street punk criminals who was not a heavyweight by any stretch of the imagination, he said. But he didn't deserve to get killed. And he got killed as a direct result of letting this animal back out on the street. And it turns out his testimony was false to start with. It's damn well unbelievable right up until today.

Within a month of Barboza entering the prison system, Edward Harrington began campaigning for his parole, the first letter, dated January 19th, 1972, including:

The government also requests that Barboza’s significant contribution to law enforcement in the organized crime field be weighed when his eligibility for parole is considered.

Edward F. Harrington, by now a United States senior judge, was still defending crooked agents of the F.B.I. twenty-six years later, when he gave evidence in 2008 in a court in Florida, in support of John J. Connolly Junior who had been indicted on murder and conspiracy charges and who according to the sentencing judge, was another agent who had crossed over to the dark side.

In May, 1972, Joe Barboza was called to Washington D.C to give evidence at a select committee on crime investigating organized crime’s involvement in horse racing.
Vincent Teresa said:

The committee did not know what time of day it was. They had Barboza testifying about fixing races. He never fixed a race in his life. He was an enforcer, a mob assassin, not a money man.

For good measure, Joe also threw in that Frank Sinatra was in bed with organized crime, stating he had been told personally by Raymond Patriarca that the singer held front points for him in the Fontainbleau Hotel in Miami Beach and the Sands Hotel in Las Vegas. He also told the committee:

I was an enforcer that kept the other enforcers in line.

9237005283?profile=originalJoe Barboza testifying before select committee

In July 1973, Harrington travelled to Montana to appear before the parole board as a character witness for Barboza.

Barboza was moved to a bewildering variety of penal facilities in the short, forty-three months period he spent behind bars.

He started in Santa Rosa jail, then went to Vacaville, Tehachapie, Washington State, Folsom, Eel River Montana, Deer Lodge Montana, Missoula County jail, San Quentin and finally, on October 30th 1975 was quietly released from the Sierra Conservation Centre near Jamestown, about one hundred miles east of San Francisco. His prison time was not without incident. On one occasion, on December 17th 1973, he attacked a guard and broke his jaw, which resulted in the transfer to San Quentin.

Barboza while in prison, drafted out an idea for a book to be called In and Outside of the Family, and used a friend from Lynn, Massachusetts, James Jimmy Chalmas, aka Theodore Sharliss, a Greek-American now living in San Francisco, to carry out negotiations with the writer chosen to ghost the story, Bob Patterson. Barboza and Chalmas had first met when they both in prison in the late 1950s and had been friends until Chalmas left Boston. Although this project never went ahead, Barboza did eventually create a manuscript which was sent to famous crime author Hank Messick to edit into another book, which was published in 1975. Joe also filled in time by writing poetry and painting-he was it seems a very talented artist. His verse was less so, somewhat naïve and inept.

The book ghost written by Messick, carried a foreword by Edward Harrington. Perhaps the first and only time a book by a mass murderer was endorsed by a senior figure in the American judiciary system. (Harrington is currently a senior judge in the U.S. District Court of Massachusetts.)

Harrington informed Joseph Barboza by letter at his prison in Deer Lodge, Montana in December 1972:

I will be very happy to meet with your ghost writer and provide him background on you and your dealings with the organization here in New England and your significance as the first government witness to testify against the organization in this area.

. . . I will be quite happy to write some remarks in the preface extolling
your contribution to law enforcement in the organized crime

Released after four years in prison, Joe Barboza had four months left to live.

9237006082?profile=originalNow calling himself Joe Donati, he moved in with Jimmy Chalmas (left) and his wife, Regina, who lived at 1710 25th Avenue, in the Sunset district of San Francisco. Chalmas had a severe alcohol and drug problem at this time and was seemingly very unstable. He was known to the police as a bookmaker and extortionist. Unknown to the police, he was also an informant for the F.B.I and had been since the early 1970s.

Joe lived with them from November 1st until the 15th when along with his girlfriend, thirty-two year old Maggie Delfel, he moved into a $250 a month apartment at 1250 La Playa Street, one block back from the beach, and just south of the Golden Gate Park, in the Outer Richmond district of the city. They seemingly lived an uneasy, but quiet life here, making causal acquaintances, of other residents in the building, but no close friends.

He would visit Jimmy almost every day, and soon had a job, which may have been set up by Chalmas, as a chef at the Rathskeller Restaurant in Turk Street, two blocks north of City Hall. It was an interesting choice of job locations for Joe, as the noisy, downstairs bar and food hall was a popular place for the police to meet after their shifts had finished.

In the few weeks he lived in San Francisco, Joe could not resist the temptation of easy money, and tried setting up a number of extortion schemes with porn shops and strip clubs that infested the area around The Tenderloin District, in the city centre. It was rumoured that the Mafia in San Francisco had asked for the help of Los Angles based Mafioso, Aledena Fratiano to sort the problem out, but that he had deferred it to Boston. Barboza was often found at Luigi’s or La Pentera, restaurants in the city, which he frequented three or four nights a week.

On Wednesday, February 11th 1976, Joe Barboza visited Jimmy Chalmas at his home. Joe was wearing a sports coat and slacks. His wallet contained $300 and he had a .38 Smith and Wesson revolver tucked into his belt. The two men went to a nearby deli for lunch and returned late in the afternoon. At approximately 3:40PM, Joe said goodbye to his friend, telling him he was going off to pick up a prescription at a pharmacy, and walked the few yards to Moraga Street where he had parked his car, a light blue, two-door 1969 Ford Thunderbird.

As he went to open his car, a white Ford Econoline panel van pulled alongside him. Its sliding door opened. Joe, obviously suspicious was turning, reaching for his gun, when two men appeared in the van’s entrance. A witness claimed one man was tall, wearing a red ski mask. He was holding a shotgun. The other man was shielded by this first gunman, and pointing a rifle of some kind. The guns went off, the noise booming across the quiet intersection. The rifle shot missed Joe, burying itself in the interior of the car, The shooter with the semi-automatic shotgun did not. Three times he racked and fired, the weapon. Thirty 00 buckshot rounds hammered into Joe’s body above his right hip, tearing open his intestines, eviscerating him, rupturing his liver and lungs, bursting his body open like a watermelon stamped on hard. He was dead before he hit the asphalt.

In his last seconds of life, Joe Barboza was heard screaming out:

You fuckers! You fuckers!

Was he cursing the men who were killing him, or maybe all the men he himself had killed over his short and brutal life?

9237006885?profile=originalThe house three down from the corner is where Jimmy Chalmas lived.

The van screamed away down the road, and was found abandoned five blocks away. The shotgun, a 1912 Winchester 12 gauge, and a rifle, along with some spent shotgun shells had been discarded inside, the killers long gone.

Chalmas rushed from his home on hearing the shots, and found Joe slumped against the side of his car, sprawled in a widening pool of blood. Homicide detectives from the San Francisco police department under Lt. Charles Ellis visited Chalmas that night, and questioned him extensively. From the first, the police investigators knew this was a mob hit, but it was some time before all the dots were connected.

That night, the news was played on the radios at the MCI medium security prison in Norfolk, Massachusetts. Henry Tameleo and Peter Limone were housed there, and the prisoners broke out in cheering and yelling that went on for over an hour, celebrating the death of a rat and pay-back in some form at least, for the four men who had already spent years in prison for a crime they never committed.

On May 24th 1976, an airtel from the Boston office of the F.B.I. to the one in San Francisco, stated that an informant had passed on word that Sharliss (Chalmas) was to be murdered by The Office as they were concerned he might fold under interrogation by law enforcement.

The San Francisco office contacted Sharliss with this information. Four days later, while being question by agents, Sharliss confessed that he had notified Boston Mafia capo Joseph Russo that Barboza visited him on a regular basis, and that he believed Russo had shot Joe. In October or November 1975, he stated that he had met with Russo in the dining room at the Hilton Hotel in downtown San Francisco and that Russo had offered him $25000 to kill Barboza. Sharliss said that he had refused. He also told the agents that he had spoken by telephone with Russo less that forty-eight hours before Barboza died.

On October 28th 1978, Jimmy Chalmas now living in Chula Vista, south of San Diego, was indicted in connection with the murder.

On January 24th 1979, he was charged with violation of Title 18 USC, Section 241, Civil Rights-Murder and Conspiracy. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to five years in the custody of the Attorney General under a plea agreement of complete cooperation and testimony against those responsible for the murder of Joe Barboza.

On November 28th 1980 the S.A.C. in the Boston office of the F.B.I. contacted the current head of the bureau, William H. Webster, confirming that they had evidence placing Joseph Russo in San Francisco hours before the hit on Barboza.

9237006683?profile=originalThe case against Russo for the murder dragged on for another eleven years until May 1990 when Russo along with other members of the New England Mafia were indicted on various charges, including the killing of Barboza. In January 1992, Russo (right) pleaded guilty to killing Joe Barboza and was sentenced to sixteen years in prison and fined $758,000.

It had taken fourteen years to bring someone to justice for the murder of Joe Barboza, but only one of the three involved paid the price. The drive of the van, and the other shooter were never traced. It was almost a given that the Boston family would have coordinated their activities with the head of the San Francisco Mafia family, James Lanza in the planning and preparation for the hit on Barboza. If nothing else, common courtesy would have demanded it. The F.B.I gathered information that indicated the getaway van had been bought some weeks before the killing. Joe Cerrito of the San Jose Mafia family forty one miles south of San Francisco, was apparently concerned that one of his men, Joe Piazza who had carried out the purchase assisted by two other members of the family, Angelo Marino and Manny Figlia, might be indicted for their part in the killing of Barboza, although this never eventuated.

It was another seventeen years before justice was served on the four men wrongly convicted and imprisoned because of the perjured testimony of Barboza in his Faustian pact with the government.

In the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts, Peter J. Limone et al versus United States of America, Judge Nancy Gertner found on July 26th 2007 that:

Peter Limone, Henry Tameleo, and Edward Greco were originally sentenced to death by electrocution. Joseph Salvati was sentenced to life in prison. And though two were finally released in recent years, it is fair to say that all of them literally lost a lifetime. I find that their losses were proximately caused by the malicious prosecution, negligence, and conspiracies engaged in by the government.

Losses of this magnitude are almost impossible to catalogue. The loss of liberty. The loss of the enjoyment of their families. The loss of the ability to care for and nurture their children. The loss of intimacy and closeness with their spouses. Indeed,
the task of quantifying these losses -- which I am obliged to do -
- is among the most difficult this Court has ever had to undertake.

She did a good job, awarding damages of over $100,000,000 to the plaintiff’s and their families.

In 2009, the First Circuit Federal Court of Appeals in Boston Massachusetts dubbed the FBI's conduct outrageous and a sad chapter in the annals of federal law enforcement, in upholding a lower court judgment of $101,750,000 against the federal government for its 30-year cover-up in helping a Top Echelon informant secure convictions of four men for a murder they did not commit.

The murky, sometimes incomprehensible manoeuvrings that surrounded Joseph Barboza and the Boston underworld, helped create an urban landscape where cops and robbers became at times, almost indistinguishable. Barboza’s story is one of bribery, corruption, deceit and the seduction of power that would rival anything by Zola or Dostoevsky. But no one should be above the law, including and especially, lawmakers.

No one is born evil. Evil is taught to us.

Shakespeare’s Iago appears in Othelo as simply pure evil. To constantly lie and deceive your friends and your wife, you must be evil, or amoral. To steal and kill without the slightest feeling of guilt you must be guilty of a level of sin that goes beyond natural boundaries. Iago appears in the play as a Machiavellian schemer and manipulator, a trusted soldier of the Moor whom he betrays. It has been rightly determined that evil has nowhere else been portrayed with such mastery as in the evil character of Iago. The analogy between him and Joe Barboza is compelling.

Joe Barboza even went past this line. Possessing a keen intellect, he was fluent in three languages and had an above average IQ. The thing he lacked of course, was a conscience. He killed often for pragmatic reasons-to remove an obstacle, fulfil a promise, earn a reward-but he also killed because it was convenient or simply because he did not care. The example of the old lady in the house he wanted to burn down with her dying as collateral damage is a good example of this.

The philosophical dilemma inherent in the presence of evil has long plagued philosophers.

The New Testament uses a number of terms to describe evil including Anomia-non observance of a law, and Parabisis-to transgress. Those of us who never knowingly adopt this vocabulary of sin are considered normal and law-abiding. People like Barboza had no idea they even existed.

What was Barboza? A mass murderer. A serial killer. A mob executioner?

In essence, these are simply categories of evil. His body count was high, somewhere between seven and thirty or more, making him a suitable candidate for all of these descriptions.

His own murder has made it impossible for any real study of a man who was a minefield of paradox and dissonance. A classic example of someone suffering from ASPD-antisocial personality disorder, showing the characteristic persuasive pattern of disregard for, and violation of, the rights of others, something that began in his childhood and continued throughout his life.

Maybe as a child, he fell on his head or was subject to a form of viral infection that damaged him irreparably for life, causing some kind of psychological meltdown. Add to this, his broken home upbringing-his drunken father left him and his mother and siblings to fend for themselves in the late 1930s. By his early teens, Barboza was an incorrigible thief and troublemaker embarking on a career that would take him in only one possible direction-to that quiet street in suburban San Francisco.

The fact that he was helped on that journey with considerable assistance, by members of the premier law enforcement agency in the country, is something that perhaps even William Shakespeare might find hard to adapt into one of his many tragedies. The evil of Barboza in this story is only matched by perhaps an even bigger evil, displayed by servants of the government who in their own twisted way, sought to justify an end by whatever means they thought was necessary.

Joseph Barboza, like most people, was not all evil. He loved animals, especially dogs; he treated children with care and respect-would often buy popcorn at cinemas for those too poor to afford it. Most of the men who worked in his crew were loyal to the point where it got them killed. There were two women who loved him enough to marry him. His daughter, Jackie, grew up without realizing just what her father was and broke her heart when she finally discovered the truth, hidden from her for years by her mother, in a class on organized crime she attended in college.

Something, somewhere, went terribly wrong. And that is what we will remember about Joe Barboza.

Joe Barboza was a cold-blooded killer. They gave him a new identity. They put him in the middle of an unsuspecting community. They put him on the payroll. And he killed again. At that point they should have locked him up and thrown away the key. They did just the opposite. They did everything they could to get him back on the street. Joe Barboza was murdered himself in 1976. I have to wonder, if he hadn't been killed, how many murders would they have let him commit before the Justice Department decided to reign him in?

Dan Burton, chairman House Government Reform Committee, 2003.

It is better to die on your feet,
than to live on your knees,
And know your concepts are sound.

Than to try to run, hide and scurry,
Out of fear of the dirt, the earth and the ground.

An excerpt from Boston’s Gang Wars written by Joe Barboza in Folsom Prison.

Copyright © Thom L. Jones & Gangsters Inc.


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  • great article on Barboza & "Mimi" Chalmas !  First met him when I was 14 and he was 28, he just got out of Walpole at that time, and was hanging around with Mario Lepore.  Remember the Thom McCan shoe robbery ?  I think that's when those two hooked up ! Was i n the early '60's. (? 1962 circa).  Brings back lot's of old memories, that's for sure.

  • @Paddy78 book came out earlier this year. You can order a personally autographed copy through my website,

  • @emily sweeny..hey when did your book come out? looking to find it, im in mass too...  @jbitowt.....yea lots of good books by non rats out now instread of kevin 2 weeks etc

  • Joe was shot to death in San Francisco's Sunset District where he was living on, I believe, 25th Avenue. The Sunset is not far from the neighborhood where I grew up, which is the Ingleside District. 

  • Great article!

    I have a lot of Barboza photographs in my book: 

    Last year I sent the FBI a Freedom of Information Act Request for their files on Barboza. They sent me a copy of his autopsy photos, which I was not expecting.

  • I knew Joe Barboza quite well although I didn't learn until after he had been shot to death who he really was. When he and I met at the Marine Cooks & Stewards Training School, which was located near the Napa Valley, in the summer of 1969 Joe was using the surname of Bentley. Joe and I became good friends, or at least as good as someone with his background who was in the federal witness protection program would have allowed himself to befriend a stranger. I liked him well enough, however, to invite him to my parents' house for dinner a couple of times. I lost track of him in late 1970 or 1971. I never heard a word from or about him until Valentine's Day 1976 when my father telephoned me late one morning and we had the following exchange:

    "Say, Chief, that fellow you went to cooking school with ... " My dad's voice trailed off. "You brought him by the house a few times."

     "You mean Joe Bentley?" I interrupted.

     "Yeah, Bentley, " my father replied. "Joe Bentley."

     "What about him?" I said.

    "They got him," he said.

    "Got him? What do you mean they got him? Who got him? What are you talking about?"

    "The Mafia," he continued. "They killed him the other night over in the Sunset District. His name wasn't Bentley. It was Barboza. Joseph Barboza. He was a hitman for the Mafia."

    "Jesus Christ, Daddy. Are you serious? Somebody killed Joe Bentley? He was in the Mafia? The Mafia? Are you kidding me? The Mafia?"

    "I'm telling you what's in the paper, boy. It's all right here. They even printed his picture. It's the same guy you brought to the house. He seemed like such a nice guy, too. I guess you never really know about people do you?"



  • Great article. My only question is how Peter Limone being the boss of Boston now is not part of the story. Just seems like that would have some importance to the story. Other than that it is one of better recent articles and it is always great to learn of a new character in the never ending saga of organized crime.
  • "Citizen Somerville", "Marked Card" and "Hitman" are three must reads if one wants to get to the bottom of organized crime in Beantown, Mass.. Great article on Barboza, who once boasted that he would become the first non Italian "made-man" . A vicious killer who just couldn't leave the lifestyle.

  • Great story on Joe Barboza.For more interesting reading on the Boston mob wars The Godson by

    Willie Fopiano is insightful.Also Howie Carr's Hitman.I read Hank Messick's book Barboza,but it

    is now rare and very costly to find.

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