Ex-New England mob boss arrested on charge he killed witness

FILE - This 1995 file photo taken in West Palm Beach, Fla., and released by the FBI shows Francis P. "Cadillac Frank" Salemme. Federal prosecutors said Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2016, that the former Mafia boss has been arrested on charges related to murder of a witness. He is expected to make an initial appearance in federal court in Boston Wednesday afternoon.(Federal Bureau of Investigation via AP, File)

BOSTON — Former New England Mafia boss Francis "Cadillac Frank" Salemme was ordered held without bail Wednesday in the 1993 murder of a Boston nightclub manager, but his lawyer said he denies participating in the killing and will fight the charge "tooth and nail."

The 82-year-old ex-mob boss made a brief appearance in federal court after being arrested in Connecticut and had a jaunty greeting for Assistant U.S. Attorney Fred Wyshak, a veteran organized crime prosecutor. "Hey, Fred, fancy seeing you here," Salemme said as he was led into the courtroom in handcuffs.

Court documents said Salemme is charged with the murder of a witness on May 10, 1993.

The documents do not name the witness, but a recent indictment against Robert DeLuca — another former high-ranking member of the New England mob — said DeLuca and Salemme arranged to have the body of Boston nightclub manager Steven DiSarro buried in Rhode Island after he was killed by Salemme's son on May 10, 1993.

DeLuca was charged in June with lying to federal officials about DiSarro's killing.

Salemme, who headed the Patriarca crime family in the early 1990s, was indicted on racketeering charges in 1995 and convicted in 1999. 

He was indicted again in 2004 for denying knowing anything about DiSarro's killing while negotiating a plea deal in 1999. He was convicted of obstruction of justice and sentenced to five years in prison. The indictment alleged that Salemme and his son had a hidden interest in DiSarro's nightclub, The Channel.

Salemme has previously denied a claim by another mobster — Stephen "The Rifleman" Flemmi — that he watched his son strangle DiSarro and helped dispose of his body. Salemme's son died in 1995.

Salemme went into the witness protection program while he was a cooperating witness during the prosecution of Boston gangster James "Whitey" Bulger and former FBI Agent John Connolly Jr., Bulger's handler while he worked as an informant.

Wyshak asked a judge to hold Salemme without bail, noting that he fled during two earlier prosecutions and was attempting to flee again when he was apprehended in Connecticut on Wednesday. Salemme agreed to a voluntary order of detention.

Salemme's attorney, Steve Boozang, disputed Wyshak's claim, saying Salemme was on his way to Massachusetts to face the charge when he was arrested. Salemme had been living in Atlanta.

"He's a guy that deals with things," Boozang said. "At that age, it's certainly quite a thing to have hanging over your head, but he'll fight this tooth and nail."

DiSarro's remains were found behind a mill building in Providence in March. Bottom of Form

The charge against Salemme — murder of a federal witness — carries a maximum sentence of death or life in prison. Authorities have not said whether they will consider seeking the death penalty.

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