WARWICK, R.I. (WPRI) – Two men who investigators have said had ties to organized crime figures, were arrested Thursday in a case that they attempted to use street justice to solve a robbery.
Frank Zammiello, 72, of Cranston, and Richard Dion, 52, of Johnston, were arraigned at Kent County District Court on three misdemeanor counts of simple assault, disorderly conduct and conspiracy.
They pleaded not guilty.
The case stems from a February 2017 break-in at Zammiello’s sprawling Cranston home. According to court documents, “numerous” items were stolen from Zammiello “including jewelry, watches, and a gold bar,” all valued at about $500,000.
According to a state police affidavit, the following December Zammiello, Dion and two men – identified as Tyrus Pugh and Kemphis Bason – approached Daniel Branca at a R.I. Department of Transportation facility in Warwick, where Branca works.
According an affidavit by Det. Mark McGehearty, the men believed Branca took part in the robbery at Zammiello’s home or knew something about it.
Branca told police the men approached him as he was locking up the RIDOT facility, and told him “you’re coming with us,” attempting to grab him. At one point, Branca said his shirt was pulled over his head and he was pushed to the ground.
“Daniel Branca stated that it felt like all four males were on top of him and they continued to grab him and tried to pick him up,” McGehearty wrote. “Furthermore, he stated that it felt like they were trying to kidnap him.”
Branca said he screamed and other RIDOT workers came to his aid. He told detectives he feared the men were going to kill him.
The incident was captured on RIDOT surveillance video that the state police obtained, according to court documents.
Zammiello’s attorney John Cicilline said his client was trying to question people about the missing items, but there was never an assault.
“Mr. Zammiello was the victim of a home invasion in which he lost a lot of personal belongings sentimental in value,” Cicilline said. “Mr. Zammiello has been cooperative with law enforcement spoke with them.”
“It is our hope at the end of the day justice will prevail and we look forward to our day in court,” he added.
Ciclline said Zammielllo has not recovered the stolen items and no one has been arrested for the house break.
Zammiello is a developer and businessman who owns Northstar Aviation in Warwick, a private jet concierge service. He has also been tied to organized crime figures in the past. In the 2011 federal extortion case against former mob boss Luigi “Baby Shack” Manocchio, federal prosecutors described the longtime mobster as a close friend of Zammiello’s. During a bail hearing in the 2011 case, prosecutors argued Manocchio was a flight risk because he could hop on a private jet owned by Zammiello to flee the country.
Zammiello also helped bail out then-mob boss Raymond “Junior” Patriarca for a 1986 arrest.
Dion is a former Providence police officer – who served less than a year on the job – and has been identified as an associate of mob capo regime Edward “Eddie” Lato. Dion pleaded guilty in a 1998 extortion case where he was identified as a “collector” for Lato and was sentenced to more than five years in prison.
At of late afternoon Thursday state police said Pugh and Bason had not been arrested.
Zamiello and Dion were released on $3,000 personal recognizance and will be back in court next month.