An elderly Mafia member Wednesday described helping Francis P. “Cadillac Frank” Salemme dispose of the body of Steven DiSarro in 1993, detailing how he oversaw the burial of DiSarro’s body in Providence in the dark of night and then ordered it dug up days later to remove a blue tarp Salemme feared could incriminate him and others.
Joey DeLuca, a Providence native who said he followed his brother, Bobby, into becoming a “made member” of the Mafia decades ago, testified that Salemme was a leader of the regional Mafia in 1993 when he ordered Bobby DeLuca to be ready to bury a body on May 10, 1993.
Joey DeLuca testified in US District Court that he decided to handle the task mostly on his own because he was concerned his brother, who was by then known to be a major figure in the New England mob, could end up being arrested if he was found with a corpse. His brother had “two challenged children” and Joey DeLuca said the children would be without their father if Bobby DeLuca participated.
“I said there is no sense in both of us going,” he testified. “One of us got to stay on the street if something happens.”
DeLuca said a rented car was parked near a jewelry factory in Providence and that he met Salemme on May 10, 1993. Salemme was driving a red Jeep or a vehicle that looked like one, DeLuca testified. He said after some brief conversation, both he and Salemme picked up DiSarro’s body from the Jeep and transferred it to the rental car.
“At that point, he lifted the hatch up and I opened the trunk,’’ DeLuca testified. “The body was wrapped in a blue tarp, and we both picked it up and switched it into the [rented] car. It was uncomfortably heavy, but we both managed to pick it up and put in the car.”
Before they both drove off in opposite directions, Salemme allegedly gave final instructions to DeLuca.
“ ‘Make sure that tarp comes out,’ ” Salemme allegedly told DeLuca. “ ‘There’s a lot of prints on there and yours are on there now.’ Then he told me . . . ‘make sure that blue tarp is gone.’ ’’
According to federal prosecutors, Salemme and his son, Frank Salemme Jr., orchestrated DiSarro’s death because they feared he would cooperate with the FBI in an ongoing investigation targeting the Salemmes. DiSarro managed the Channel, a now-defunct South Boston nightclub that Salemme and his son allegedly had a hidden interest in.
The elder Salemme is accused of summoning DiSarro to a meeting at his Sharon home on May 10, 1993, then watching while his son strangled him and Paul Weadick held his legs off the ground. Salemme Jr. died in 1995.
Weadick and Salemme have both pleaded not guilty.
Joey DeLuca is testifying under an agreement with prosecutors, and a federal prosecutor said in court that the statute of limitations for improper disposal of a body has expired.
On the witness stand, DeLuca said the car with DiSarro’s body in it was left parked in Providence for the next several hours while he and his brother decided how to dispose of the victim’s remains. They contacted William Ricci, who owned a Providence factory and was in the process of illegally burying hazardous waste, DeLuca testified.
He said they met Ricci at his factory, and all three discussed what to do next. Ricci offered to turn on a boiler at his mill so DiSarro’s remains could be incinerated. The idea was rejected because they feared chimney smoke might attract attention but more importantly may generate an odor that could lead to the arrival of police.
“Mr. Ricci said, ‘Well, all right, just come by tonight and put him in the hole [where] I am burying hazardous waste.’ ”
Several hours later, DeLuca along with a nephew he enlisted to help him were contacted by a Mob associate who arrived at his Providence home driving the rental car with DiSarro’s remains.
“He came down and picked us up in the car with the body in it,’’ he said. “There was a smell in the car.’’
He said the three drove to the Providence factory and carried the body inside while they waited to see if they could bury the body without being seen by neighbors or a passing police officer. They waited about two hours in the factory while DiSarro’s remains lay nearby.
DeLuca said he got tired of waiting and found a rusted handcart in the building, put DiSarro’s body in it, and began moving it across the property.
“After a couple of steps, we were outside, and [the associate] fell down, and the body fell off the handtruck,” he said. “We dragged it across the lot and there was [a] hole” there.
He said DiSarro’s body — still wrapped in the blue tarp — was dumped into the hole and said he and his nephew threw some dirt on him. “The blue tarp there was pretty well covered, but I wasn’t concerned about it because Ricci was going to be [burying] it” the next morning.
The mob associate took the rental car while DeLuca and his nephew walked home and were met by Bobby DeLuca. Joey DeLuca said he outlined how the burial went, including the fact that DiSarro was buried still wrapped in the blue tarp.
“My brother wasn’t happy because we left the blue tarp on. He wasn’t happy at all,’’ DeLuca testified, adding that his brother said the tarp would get him in trouble. “He meant Salemme; I don’t know if he mentioned his name or not, but I know it was Salemme.”
Bobby DeLuca told Salemme that the blue tarp was not buried with the body but tossed into a Dumpster. DeLuca said that his brother continued “hemming and hawing” about the tarp, which prompted him to hatch a plan to dig up DiSarro’s remains.
He said he first asked his nephew to help him a second time, but decided against it. Instead, he and Ricci were going to handle it using a backhoe in the late afternoon when someone wearing hard hats and operating construction equipment would not draw any attention.
“He was out there digging already. . . . He hooked onto the rope” at the end of the blue tarp, and pulled it into the air, DeLuca said. “He pulled it up, and it ripped open, down the middle. You could see the body fall out. The body fell out and down where he was digging. The blue tarp was hanging at the end of the shovel.”
He said he climbed into the hole and picked up the blue tarp and he then motioned to Ricci to fill the hole in. DeLuca said he remembers that DiSarro was wearing a blue jogging suit.
DiSarro’s remains were recovered in 2016 when Ricci faced criminal charges himself.
Under cross examination by Salemme defense attorney Elliot Weinstein, DeLuca said he was sworn into the Mafia in 1993 by Salemme.
“That oath doesn’t mean a darn thing to you, did it?” Weinstein asked.
“Well, currently it doesn’t mean much to me,” replied DeLuca, who also admitted to fixing horse races, greyhound races, and running illegal betting operations for the Mafia.
DiSarro’s wife, Pamela, listened, along with her children, to DeLuca’s testimony and occasionally wiped tears from her eyes.