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Rhode Island mobster’s memory and honesty questioned on the witness stand

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BOSTON, Mass. (WPRI) – Defense attorneys attempted to poke holes in the testimony of admitted Rhode Island mobster Joseph DeLuca on Thursday, questioning his memory and honesty.

DeLuca, 78, of Providence, was back on the witness stand at federal court in Boston in the trial of former mob boss Francis “Cadillac Frank” Salemme and codefendant Paul Weadick. The pair, along with Salemme’s late son, are accused of killing Boston nightclub owner Steven DiSarro.

DiSarro, a Providence native, went missing in May 1993. His body was exhumed behind a mill building on Branch Avenue in Providence in March 2016. Salemme and Weadick have pleaded not guilty.

On Wednesday, DeLuca testified that he picked up DiSarro’s body from Salemme in North Providence, then helped bury it with the assistance of three others.

Elliot Weinstein – one of Salemme’s attorneys – asked DeLuca on Thursday why his May 2016 testimony before a grand jury was slightly different form his testimony on Wednesday, notably the timing of when he said he picked up a car that was used to transport DiSarro’s body.

“You try and go back 25 years and dissect every little thing that happens, I think you will have a problem,” DeLuca replied, adding that he thought further about the question after his testimony before the grand jury.

“One day a couple of times I was out in the woods and I sat down and I started to think about it and I went over every detail,” DeLuca said. “Mostly in [mental] pictures. Those pictures started to come back in every detail.”

DeLuca admitted that he hoped his cooperation with the government would not only keep him out of trouble, but might help his imprisoned brother, Rhode Island mob capo Robert “Bobby” DeLuca.

Bobby DeLuca, 72, is in custody after pleading guilty to charges that he lied to federal investigators about what he knew of DiSarro’s death.

The younger DeLuca is scheduled to be sentenced after he testifies in the Salemme trial.

The dig for DiSarro in March 2016 occurred after the mill building’s owner, William Ricci, was charged in a separate drug case. He provided information to investigators in exchange for leniency. Ricci was sentenced to three years of probation in the drug case.

Under questioning from defense attorneys, Joe DeLuca alleged that shortly after DiSarro’s body was discovered, he ran into Charles “Harpo” Garabedian at Twin River in Lincoln. (DeLuca has testified that Garabedian was one of the people who helped dispose of DiSarro’s body.)

DeLuca said Garabedian complained to him that Ricci had flipped too easily.

“He said, ‘Imagine that [expletive], he couldn’t even do three years [in prison],’” DeLuca testified.

In an email, Garabedian’s son and attorney called DeLuca’s testimony “patently unreliable.” 

“It came out today that Joe changed key parts of his grand jury testimony,” Garabedian said. “The prosecution failed to introduce any audio recordings to substantiate claims by Joe about what my father said or didn’t say.”

Court filings show Joe DeLuca, Garabedian, Ricci and DeLuca’s nephew Richard Cinquegrana – who DeLuca said also helped in the burial – all received immunity from prosecution.

While the Salemme trial may be taking place in Boston, Rhode Island’s underworld continues to be front and center in the courtroom.

DeLuca testified that his brother was angry at Luigi “Baby Shacks” Manocchio – who succeeded Salemme as boss – because Manocchio was cutting into Bobby DeLuca’s criminal proceeds and had approved a request to have Bobby killed in 2009.

The hit was never attempted and rival capo Anthony “The Saint” St. Laurent was later sentenced for trying to plan the gangland slaying. (St. Lauren has since died of natural causes.)

“Your brother was not happy with Mr. Manocchio,” Weinstein said.

“True,” DeLuca responded.

Defense attorneys asked DeLuca if he coordinated with his brother about what to say ahead of the grand jury testimony in 2016.

Joe DeLuca said he and his brother didn’t get into details during phone calls because they were always concerned they were being recorded.

A retired FBI agent who tailed Salemme, DeLuca and other organized crime figures during the 1990s will continue testimony on Friday.

Tim White ( twhite@wpri.com ) is the Target 12 investigative reporter and host of Newsmakers for WPRI 12 and Fox Providence. Follow him on Twitter and on Facebook

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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