FBI alleges ‘crime boss’ DeLeo ran crew in Greater Boston

By Shelley Murphy
Globe Staff / January 17, 2010

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In Boston, home to the New England Mafia and a string of legendary former bosses like “The Cheese Man’’ and “Cadillac Frank,’’ Ralph DeLeo was a virtual unknown.

“Here, I’m nothing,’’ DeLeo said within earshot of an FBI bug.

But in New York, he said, “Everybody is holding the door for ya, helping on your coat, giving you hugs . . . kissing you, and all this type of stuff. ‘Oh, you gotta sit in front, you gotta do this, are you comfortable? Can I get you coffee?’ ’’

But to the FBI, DeLeo, 66, of Somerville was somebody.

Agents tapped his cellphone from January through November of last year, then he was indicted last month on a federal racketeering conspiracy charge. The indictment filed in US District Court in Boston alleges that he is the “street boss’’ of New York’s Colombo family and runs a small crew based in Greater Boston involved in drug trafficking, extortion, and loansharking.

DeLeo is being held in Arkansas, where he’s also facing charges of cocaine trafficking. An FBI affidavit filed last week in courts in Boston and Arkansas detailed DeLeo’s alleged position in the New York mob and offered snippets of conversations from his bugged telephone calls.

The affidavit alleges that DeLeo is the highest-ranking member of the Colombo family who is not in prison, and ran the family’s business for most of last year. He allegedly reported to its boss, Carmine “The Snake’’ Persico, and acting boss, Alphonse “Allie Boy’’ Persico, who are in prison.

During an FBI-bugged call to his sister from New York last week, DeLeo, who had allegedly presided over a mob induction ceremony, admitted that he found his job “like overwhelming a little bit,’’ the affidavit said.

He described going to the ceremony in different groups and cars to “make sure we weren’t followed,’’ and added, “it was a big deal; people picking us up, taking us somewhere else and all that type of stuff, I wasn’t ready for all that.’’

In October 1989, New England mobsters did the same thing, arriving at a Medford home in different cars and groups.

But it didn’t do them much good because the FBI had planted a bug in the house and captured its first-ever recording of a Mafia induction ceremony that led to a takedown of the hierarchy of the local mob.

Before the New England family was weakened by waves of prosecution, it was unheard of for another Mafia family to encroach on its territory.

The indictment alleges that in the past year DeLeo and three other men, Franklin M. Goldman, 66, of Randolph, Edmond Kulesza, 56, of Somerville, and George Wiley Thompson, 54, of Cabot, Ark., plotted to distribute marijuana and cocaine, extort money from victims, including one in Canton, and collect loansharking debts.

DeLeo allegedly paid $50,000 for 2 kilograms of cocaine that were transported from California to Massachusetts in December 2008, according to the indictment.

It’s not DeLeo’s first brush with the law.

He served a 25- to 40-year sentence in state prison at Walpole for kidnapping and armed robbery when he escaped in 1977.

He was convicted of killing an Ohio doctor in 1977 and sentenced to 15 years to life. But the state’s governor granted him clemency in 1991 and he has been free since 1997.

Unaware that his alleged encroachment into New England last year had drawn attention, DeLeo kept talking as the FBI kept listening.

During a March call to his sister from Florida, DeLeo lamented about all of the attention he was getting from other wise guys.

“They gave me too much attention,’’ DeLeo said, according to the affidavit. “You know, too many hugs, too many kisses. You know, holding the car door for me, holding doors for me, you know all that type of stuff. And, um, I’m not into that type of stuff. I’m, uh, you know, I’m . . . at heart I’m a regular guy, you know. Uh, you know to them I’m something else, but I’m really not that something else.’’

When his sister asked if he brought his girlfriend on the Florida trip, DeLeo said he was just “with the guys’’ because he was afraid she would be suspicious if she saw the royal treatment he was getting.

“You know what I mean, cause they definitely act like Sopranos and . . . the way they [pay] attention to me is, you know, they would huh, you know she would suspect something.’’