With the recent capture of the infamous gangster Whitey Bulger and the arrest of 83-year-old Howie Winter, from Boston’s notorious Winter Hill gang, (see accompanying article), Irish mobsters are back in the news. When Bulger went on the lam in 1995, the streets of Boston became a warzone as the Italian Mafia, The Winter Hill Gang and the Renegade faction of the mob vied for control of the areas rackets.
Mark Silverman’s book, Rogue Mobster, which he co-wrote with noted true crime writer Scott Deitche, takes a look at the Boston gangland scene and gives the history of the players and a firsthand glimpse into the inner workings of Boston’s criminal underworld and the dynamics that occur between the Irish and Italian ethic groups. Silverman grew up in the shadow of Whitey Bulger, Howie Winter, Raymond Patriarca and Jerry Angiulo, the most infamous Boston crime bosses and his story resonates with the truth. Gorilla Convict got with him and Scott Deitche, the co-writer to get the lowdown on what was going down.
Why did you decide to write this book or tell this story?
Silverman- I decided to tell my story because I felt as though I could give the reader a unique perspective on the entire New England Mafia. I was one of the very few guys who had inside access to the Irish Winter Hill Gang and the Italian Mafia.
Is your story typical of a Boston bred wiseguy?
Silverman- No. Most Boston gangsters work strictly within their own ethnic crime families. There were some exceptions though.
We have heard a lot about the Italian Mafia, but not as much about the Irish Mob, break down their mystique for us a bit?
Deitche- The Irish were actually among the first ethnic crime groups in the US. You can go all the way back to the Irish gangs in New York City, in neighborhoods like the Five Points. By the 1920s there are Irish mobs in a number of US cities, but apart from the Westies in NYC, the Irish mob in Boston didn’t fade away in the early part of the 20th century. In that way, they are an anachronism in the American underworld, and there’s a fascination with that.
With Buger specifically, the fact that the Most Wanted man in the world, next to Bin Laden was an Irish wiseguy from Boston who evaded capture by the FBI for 16 years, is interesting even if you never heard of the Winter Hill Gang.
What do you think is going to happen with Whitey Bulger and where will they put him considering he is a big rat?
Deitche- Honestly, I thought he had died on the lam, so I was really surprised they caught him. That being said, I wonder now if he’ll make it to trial in regards to his health. I don’t think he’ll get nay special treatment, though, if he’s found guilty and sentenced to prison.
Break down the New England Italian Mafia and who the players were and what their connection to New York’s five families is?
Silverman- Maybe I can rephrase this question because leadership has changed hands several times since 1984 when Raymond Patriarca Sr. died and in 1986 when Gennaro ‘Jerry’ Angiulo and his brothers were arrested and sent off to prison. The family had been under absolute leadership for almost 30 years until those two incidents forced a changing of the guard.
Raymond Patriarca Jr. of Rhode Island became the boss of the family when his father passed away. Nicky Bianco of Rhode Island was his underboss and Joseph ‘JR’ Russo of Boston was his consigliere. His main Boston Capos were Vincent Ferrara and Robert ‘Bobby’ Carozza (JR Russo’s step brother).
While the New England mafia has always worked with various New York families, the boss had to be sanctioned by New York’s Genovese family.
The Boston faction and Rhode Island were constantly at odds with each other as the new family administration began to take shape. It was all leading up to a coup de tat. The New York families began to feel the tension and tried to intervene and prevent an all-out fight for power. Eventually a new dominate New York boss emerged. His name was John Gotti. And he represented the Gambino crime family.
Where is Steve ‘The Rifleman” Flemmi now, how much time is he doing and how do you think he is surviving since it has come out that he is a big rat?
Silverman- I don’t know exactly what federal prison Steve Flemmi is currently serving his natural life sentence at. Probably in Witsec. I don’t think he’s having any problems surviving as a government informant. There are many informants who are serving lengthy federal prison terms.
Silverman- A street cowboy is very similar to the cowboys of the old Wild West. They don’t play by the rules and they take by force. I describe John Gotti as a cowboy because he broke most of the rules that govern the mafia. He rose to power by whacking out the boss and underboss of the Gambino family. Breaking the cardinal rule within the mafia: The boss is the boss until he dies or appoints another successor. You abide by his decisions, like them or not.
Break down the significance of being an independent and what it means in the mob controlled underworld on the east coast?
Silverman- An independent is not aligned with the traditional Irish or Italian mafia. In other words while he may earn with the mafia he is not protected under the umbrella of a mafia crime family. He leaves himself open to shakedowns from various mafia groups because he doesn’t get protection. He must protect himself!
Did you see the recent Irish Mob segment on Discovery Channel’s Outlaw Empires series? What did you think of that and who are Kevin Weeks and Patrick Nee? What part did they play under Whitey Bulger?
Deitche- I thought it was really well done. Weeks and Shea were interesting to listen to, though I’m not a fan of all the re-enactments.
What’s your opinion on all the books about Boston Gangster and which ones do you think stick out as the best?
Deitche- There have been a number of really good books about the Boston underworld, and some not so great ones. I think Black Mass by Dick Lehr and Gerard O’Neil is one of the best to outline the Whitey Bulger relationship with the FBI and the resulting fallout. I also liked Lehr and O’Neil’s The Underboss, about the late Jerry Anguilo. Kevin Weeks’ Brutal is another good look at life inside the Boston Irish mob. And of course Rogue Mobster…
Rogue Mobster can be purchased at www.strategicmediabooks.com, Amazon, Barnes and Noble and anywhere books are sold.
Just ‘a couple of benevolent grandfathers’
By Matt Stout and O’Ryan Johnson
Saturday, June 9, 2012 –
The geezer former leader of the notorious Winter Hill Gang and an alleged henchman — both hauled into court yesterday to face charges of extortion — are actually good Samaritans being unfairly punished for coming to the aide of an extortion victim, their attorneys argued at their arraignment.
Howie Winter, 83, and James Melvin, 70, are not only “nice guys,” Winter’s attorney, Peter Mullane, said, they’re “very nice guys” helping out an overwhelmed lawyer looking to get out from under the thumb of two goons demanding $4,000 a week in loan payments.
“They’re a couple of benevolent, innocuous grandfathers,” Mullane said of the defendants, who pleaded not guilty to extortion and conspiracy charges in Somerville District Court. A judge ordered each held on $25,000 cash bail. Winter was released and returned home late yesterday afternoon, but declined to speak to a reporter.
If you believe the government,” Mullane said, “they’re trying to extort guys who are extortionists and loan sharks who are half their age.”
Not exactly, prosecutors say.
The victims — identified only as V-1 and V-2 in court documents — told police they had loaned a man $100,000. He stopped paying in January. That’s when the phone calls and meetings with Winter and Melvin allegedly began.
Winter — James “Whitey” Bulger’s predecessor atop the Winter Hill gang — and Melvin told the two alleged victims they had the mob-backed “North End” behind them and threatened them face-to-face, in phone calls and in letters saying they would “have some problems” if they didn’t pay up, authorities said. Winter and Melvin demanded $35,000 apiece in obscenity-laced calls and meetings, authorities charge.
“You used someone else’s name and they were so (expletive) aggravated that they wanted to come over and bang you the (expletive) out,” Winter allegedly told the victims in a recorded conversation, according to a police report. “You don’t know who I am? … There’s no one in the (expletive) country that don’t know who I am.”
Middlesex Assistant District Attorney Stephen Gilpatric requested $100,000 for both men. He also said police found an envelope in Winter’s house detailing the victims’ names, how much they owed and how much they had paid.
Both men were ordered to wear GPS bracelets and forfeit their passports. Both wives attended the hearing but declined comment. Winter’s wife, Ellen Brogna, could be seen sobbing into her hands as the judge ruled on the bail.
“I’m OK, I’m OK,” she told a man comforting her.
Winter — who appeared in court in a gray hooded sweatshirt and large, black sunglasses — was convicted in 1979 of being the mastermind behind a race-fixing scheme. He was again sent to jail in 1993 on drug charges.