BOSTON (WPRI) – Francis “Cadillac Frank” Salemme, the former Mafia don of the Patriarca crime family, has died at a federal prison. He was 89.
Salemme was serving a life sentence after he was found guilty in the 1993 murder of Boston nightclub owner Steven DiSarro, who lived in Providence. In March, Salemme lost his last hope for a new trial when the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear his appeal. He was serving a life sentence at a federal prison in Missouri.
An email to a Federal Bureau of Prisons spokesperson was not immediately returned seeking more details on Salemme’s death, but the agency’s website states that Salemme died on Dec. 13.
In 2018, federal prosecutors convinced a jury of 10 women and six men that Salemme and co-defendant Paul Weadick killed DiSarro in Salemme’s Sharon home, then solicited the help of then-mob capo Robert DeLuca and his brother Joe to bury DiSarro’s body behind a Branch Avenue mill building in Providence.
Informed of Salemme’s death, DiSarro’s son Nick told Target 12: “The world is better off without him. Good riddance.”
Salemme’s former attorney Steven Boozang said that despite his persona, Salemme was always “a gentleman,” and “honest and forthright” with him in their interactions.
“I think he regretted a lot of things in his life but came from a different era,” Boozang said. “I think he felt particularly bad for the hardship that came to his family and to other families.”
In 1989, when Salemme was a rising star in the crime family, he was the target of an assassination attempt when masked gunmen opened fire on him as he was walking into a Saugus, Massachusetts, pancake house.
Salemme survived, but another mob leader, William “Billy” Grasso of Connecticut, was slain. The shootings marked the beginning of a mob war that ended when then-boss Raymond “Junior” Patriarca inducted new members into the family.
After Patriarca was imprisoned in 1992 — in large part because the induction ceremony had been secretly recorded — Salemme took over as boss.
Salemme had one son, Francis Jr., who took part in the murder of DiSarro. The younger Salemme died of natural causes in 1995.
That same year, the elder Salemme was indicted in a sweeping racketeering case that also ensnared notorious South Boston gangster James “Whitey” Bulger and his sidekick Stephen “The Rifleman” Flemmi. Salemme was ultimately sentenced to 11 years in prison, and while incarcerated he learned that both Bulger and Flemmi were top-echelon informants for the FBI.
As a result, Salemme agreed to provide information to the government on what he knew about the pair, who controlled the Winter Hill Gang. (It was later discovered that Bulger had been in hiding in California at the time.) Salemme’s cooperation helped lead to the conviction of Bulger’s handler, the corrupt former FBI agent John Connolly.
Salemme eventually entered the witness protection program. In 2016, Target 12 reported that he had become a member of a New England Patriots fan club while living under an assumed name in Atlanta.
Salemme later voluntarily left the program. His final arrest came after DiSarro’s body was exhumed from behind the Branch Avenue mill building.
Weadick — who prosecutors said held DiSarro’s legs as Salemme Jr. strangled him — was also convicted and is serving a life sentence.