BOSTON — Francis “Cadillac Frank” Salemme was at the pinnacle of his criminal career when he rose to the head of the New England Family of La Cosa Nostra in the early 1990s.
But Salemme believed a nightclub owner was ratting him out to authorities, threatening that promotion, a federal prosecutor told jurors Monday. So Salemme had the man killed to keep him quiet, the prosecutor said.
“He had aspired to be a gangster his entire adult life,” Assistant U.S. Attorney William Ferland said of now-84-year-old Salemme. “All of the effort and time he put into making his name, so to speak, in the world of organized crime was being put at risk by Steven DiSarro.”
Ferland’s comments came in his closing arguments after a more than-month long trial for Salemme and his co-defendant, Paul Weadick, who are charged with killing DiSarro in 1993. Salemme and Weadick, who was friends with Salemme’s late son, deny any involvement in the killing.
Salemme’s former friend and partner Stephen “The Rifleman” Flemmi told jurors this month that he happened to walk into Salemme’s home and witness the killing. Flemmi, who is also 84, says he saw Salemme’s son strangling DiSarro while Weadick held DiSarro’s feet and Salemme stood by. Salemme’s son died in 1995.
Flemmi first told investigators that story back in 2003, but Salemme wasn’t charged with DiSarro’s killing until 2016 when DiSarro’s remains were dug up behind a mill building in Providence, Rhode Island. The mill owner told authorities about the remains after he was charged in a federal drug case.
Salemme and Weadick’s lawyers have tried to discredit Flemmi and suggested Flemmi may have been involved in DiSarro’s killing. Salemme, who was wearing a light grey suit and blue tie, shuffled into the courtroom and waved to the press as court began for the day and occasionally passed notes to his lawyer as Ferland spoke.
Defense attorney were to give their closing arguments later Monday.
Ferland sought to bolster Flemmi’s credibility, telling jurors the former gangster hasn’t wavered in his story in more than a decade. Flemmi also knew details — like the fact that DiSarro was strangled — before they were confirmed by authorities when his remains were found, the prosecutor said. Flemmi was the right-hand man of notorious gangster Whitey Bulger and a longtime government informant.
Ferland put images of a younger, “buff” Salemme on the screen and urged jurors not to be swayed by the now-elderly man now sitting in front of them in the courtroom.
“He looks like a seasoned old, polite, elderly gentleman,” Ferland said. “That’s not who we are talking about here. We’re talking about Frank Salemme from 25 years ago,” he said.