EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) - In the wake of a national crackdown on organized crime, the ranks of the New England crime family have been decimated but experts warn against calling them extinct.
In a special edition of Newsmakers, Deputy Attorney General Gerald Coyne said the on-going investigations into Rhode Island La Cosa Nostra have put high-ranking members behind bars, but pointed out there is still an element on the street.
"Law enforcement has been successful and forceful at investigating people who have been longtime top echelon members, but I would never say it's extinct," Coyne said.
The organized crime roundtable included Coyne along with Rhode Island State Police Colonel Steven O'Donnell, Providence Journal reporter W. Zachary Malinowski and – later in the program – veteran Boston Globe reporter Shelley Murphy.
O'Donnell said they are aware of about eight active made members of the mob in Rhode Island right now. But many of them are behind bars.
"I think what people need to understand that they joined an organization that swears allegiance to criminal activity and to kill people," O'Donnell said.
There are several unsolved murders suspected to be mob-related, O'Donnell said, and detectives are always looking for new leads to bring the killers to justice.
"As long as they remain alive, law enforcement will purse them," O'Donnell said.
One of the more high-profile mob cold cases is the gangland slaying of alleged enforcer Kevin Hanrahan, who was gunned down on Atwells Ave. in 1992.
In January several reputed members and associates were arrested in a federal crackdown, including the reputed former boss of the Patriarca crime family, Luigi "Baby Shacks" Manocchio.
As Target 12 first reported, 18 letters-of-support on Manocchio's behalf were sent to federal court in his plight to be released on bail. Among them filmmaker Michael Corrente who wrote that Manocchio is a "kind and understanding" man.
"I think it's an incredibly naive view of the world," Coyne said. "The criminal justice system and jails are full of people that neighbors and friends never saw that side of the person."
Murphy said with the arrest of Manocchio, the balance of power has shifted back to Boston for the first time since Francis "Cadillac Frank" Salemme was the boss of crime family in the early 1990's.
"Even in Boston though, there are few people left that are made members from my understanding," Murphy said. "I would say the New England Mob is at an all time low in terms of power."
Manocchio and seven others have been arrested so far in the case. They are accused of shaking down area strip clubs for protection money.
No hearing has been set yet to deal with the request that the 84 year-old be freed on bail. His lawyers are asking he be placed on a GPS monitoring bracelet and be placed under home confinement with his brother in Glocester.
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