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Friday, Oct. 11, 2013: Boston’s Other Mob Trial

By Scott M. Deitche

Scott M. Deitche is the author of five books on organized crime including Cigar City Mafia: A Complete History of the Tampa Underworld and The Silent Don: The World of Santo Trafficante Jr. He also has written dozens of articles on organized crime for national magazines and newspapers. Deitche has been featured on The Discovery Channel, The History Channel, A&E, C-SPAN and national news and radio shows. Deitche writes blogs for The Mob Museum on a regular basis.

Cigar City Mafia: A Complete History of the Tampa Underworld and The Silent Don: The World of Santo Trafficante Jr. He also has written dozens of articles on organized crime for national magazines and newspapers. Deitche has been featured on The Discovery Channel, The History Channel, A&E, C-SPAN and national news and radio shows. Deitche writes blogs for The Mob Museum on a regular basis.

Now that the Red Sox have clinched their historic World Series win at Fenway, media outlets in the Boston area will be turning back to the trial of a Boston Mobster who was arrested after 16 years living on the lam under an assumed identity. His trial promises to offer a revealing glimpse into the internal strife between different factions of the New England underworld. The resulting war led to over a dozen deaths and tore the crime family apart.

No, it’s not Whitey Bulger—it’s Enrico Ponzo. Ponzo was a low-level wise guy who was allegedly one of the gunmen in the1989 shooting of Frank “Cadillac Frank” Salemme, former boss of the Patriarca family. Salemme survived the botched hit.

Mark Silverman (whose own life in the Boston underworld was featured in our book “Rogue Mobster”) recalls Ponzo. “I never socialized with him, but I used to see him around quite a bit. He had a big reputation as an enforcer. But Rico was an earner too.”

Though he was eventually indicted in absentia in 1997, Ponzo actually left town three years earlier in 1994. Investigators said he left to avoid the increasing law enforcement pressure. Ponzo’s attorneys maintain that he ran for his life, fearing the growing discord in the Patriarca family was turning against him.

Ponzo relocated to Marsing, Idaho, where he became Jeffrey John Shaw, a rancher who lived a quiet life and was well liked by his neighbors. In 2011, after a tip, Ponzo was arrested and transported back to New England. He was charged this past January with racketeering, drug charges and the attempted murder of Frank Salemme.

The trial, which started in mid-October, is expected to last six weeks.