Boston-based journalist Casey Sherman takes us deep into the origins of the FBI’s infamously corrupt Top-Echelon Informant program, whose poster child remains Whitey Bulger, and shows that Bulger wasn’t the first FBI informant to use his bureau connections to get away with murder: Joe Barboza would create the horrific template.
To be published this week, “Animal” is a compelling account of the life and death of the legendary New Bedford psychopath. Sherman illustrates how Barboza was intimidating and fearless, how he once bit a Mafioso’s cheek in a Mafia-owned Revere bar, earning his nickname, the Animal. As a boxer who fought in the old Boston Garden, Barboza loved inflicting pain; as a hitman, he’d kill without conscience. Most of all, explains Sherman, the Portuguese Barboza wanted to be a “made man” in the Sicilian-dominated New England Mafia, then led by Providence-based Raymond Patriarca. Although Patriarca would use Barboza’s murderous skills, he never trusted “The Animal.” Patriarca “understood early on that this was not a sustainable relationship.”