Hey Wiretappers, don’t forget to buy us a shot and a beer on your Venmo app. Just hit up ganglandwire to help with the podcast expenses. Today my regular contributor Camilius Robinson provides us with more stories from Raymond L.S. Patriarca and his new England Crime family known as the “Office.” Wild Guy William Grasso began his mob career in New Haven CT as an associate of Columbo family under a Capo named Ralph “Whitey” Tropiano who was a bad guy in his own right who once killed his entire crew on mob orders. He allegedly was one of the men who killed Willie Moretti, the New Jersey boss of the Genovese family. In the early days, Grasso ran dice games and street loans for Tropiano, but he was a big thinker. He put together a plan to take over the entire garbage industry for New Haven, CT. He was convicted of this conspiracy and the government gave him a 12-year sentence. This turned out to be beneficial in the long term, Grasso was fortunate to have a cellmate named Raymond L.S. Patriarca, the boss of all organized crime in New England.
When Wild Guy William Grasso was released from prison he switched allegiance from the Columbo family to Patriarca. He began to work closely with Raymond Patriarca, enforcing territorial lines between the New York families and the New England Borgata. In the late 1960s, the Five Families shared Connecticut and most of Massachusetts, but Raymond L.S. Patriarca did not accept their intrusion. Patriarca began taking over all of New England and pushing the other families out. Grasso helped him with this while still insulating Patriarca. Wild Guy Grasso’s old boss Columbo capo Ralph Tropiano is in prison when Grasso returned to New Haven. During the late 1970s, the New England Gambino family representative Paul “the Greaser” Agresta disappeared, and capo John “Slew” Palmieri was killed by a car bomb. In 1978, Columbo representative Sal Annunziato was released in from prison and he disappeared in 1979. Grasso’s old boss and Genovese capo Ralph Tropiano was shot and killed in 1980. With these moves Grasso eliminated the Gambino, Genovese, and Columbo families from New Haven for Raymond Patriarca, taking control of everything east of the Housatonic River in Connecticut.
Wild Guy William Grasso dressed modestly, reportedly buying his clothes from K-Mart, wearing cheap shoes, and living in a ranch home in a quiet neighborhood at 147 Tuttle Dr. in New Haven.
He knew the police were after him and was careful about surveillance. He drove 40-50 miles to make local calls from different payphones and would park on the side of the highway just to lose tails, and he refused to discuss business indoors. The FBI would report they never had anything incriminating on Grasso. He owned a restaurant called Franco’s on Franklin Avenue, New Haven’s Little Italy, and rarely left the area. He was a health fanatic and demanded his food be free of salt. Grasso was also militant about how it was prepared and would erupt if anything was out of place. He was tyrannical in the treatment of his men, demanding half of their income. Across the board, he treated everyone, mob members, and civilians, all ages, terribly. He is later described as a “real gangster,” not flashy or showy.
Hartford, CT was historically an open city for the mob. It was not officially claimed, so anyone could operate there without permission until Grasso moved in. Grasso approached Genovese town capo Tony Volpe at Valle’s Steak House and tells him to leave town and Volpe complies. The Five Families understand that the Patriarcas are too powerful on their own turf, so new partnerships must be formed. Wild Guy William Grasso lined up all book-makers between Connecticut and Rhode Island and demanded percentages. Grasso oversaw all gambling in Connecticut. Court testimony states Grasso was bringing in millions a week just in eastern Connecticut.
In 1984, Grasso’s mentor and boss, Raymond L.S. Patriarca died of a heart attack. He names his son to be his successor and Raymond Patriarca Jr. became boss, and the Boston based Gennaro “Jerry” Angiulo became underboss until he was imprisoned in 1986. Wild Guy William Grasso followed Angiulo to become underboss to Raymond Patriarca Jr. Sources at the time report Ray Jr. is weak and not well-regarded by the men as having earned his position. “Cadillac” Frank Salemme (Boston) and Grasso are considered the power behind the throne. Grasso began expanding his gambling empire into Springfield, MA, the Genovese turf. He also begins disputing vending machine turf in Worcester with Genovese mobster Carlo Mastrototaro.
Grasso’s rise to power has not made him a popular man. He has been abusive and greedy with his own men, he has violated previous agreements with the Genovese family, and his influence over Ray Patriarca Jr. has angered other capos. Capo Joseph “J.R.” Russo, and Vincent “The Animal” Ferrara are not close to Patriarca Jr. and resented his leadership and the new power of Grasso and Salemme. J.R. Russo was the man who killed Joseph “the Animal” Barboza. In 1987, Consiglieri Ilario “Larry Baione” Zannino of Boston, a well-respected and powerful Mafiosi, goes to prison. He recognizes possible trouble, so advises Patriarca Jr. to promote J.R. Russo to Consiglieri. Russo is ambitious and he really wants to run the family and believed he could over-throw Raymond Jr. if he killed Frank Salemme and William Grasso.
On June 16, 1989, an assassin shot Frank Salemme as he was walking across a parking lot in Saugus, MA. The killer hits him twice, but Salemme dove into a pizza shop. Four hours later, the body of William Grasso was found partially submerged along the Connecticut River in Wethersfield, Conn. Because Wild Guy William Grasso was very suspicious, special planning had to go into any assassination. Grasso was lured to a meeting with Genovese capo Carlo Mastrototaro to discuss vending machine territories, implying that the Genovese family was in on the hit. As usually happens, members of his won crew were responsible. Gaetano Milano, Frank Colatoni, and Louie and Frankie Pugliano of Grasso’s Hartford crew followed Grasso to this meeting and killed him as he drove up the I-95 freeway.
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