Play the video above to hear excerpts from the ceremony.
Mobsters from throughout New England gathered at a modest home in Medford on Oct. 29, 1989, to baptize four new soldiers, who pricked their trigger fingers, burned holy cards and vowed to kill for the Mafia — unaware the FBI was recording every word.
New England Mafia boss Raymond “Junior” Patriarca said he had made peace with a renegade faction that had recently killed the family underboss in Connecticut and wounded another mobster in a shooting outside a Saugus pancake house. It was 26 years ago Thursday.
“We’re all here to bring in some new members into our family and, more than that, to start maybe a new beginning,” Patriarca, of Rhode Island, told the 20 in attendance. “Put all that’s got started behind us ... and bygones are bygones and a good future for all of us.”
A bug planted inside 34 Guild St. by FBI agents immortalized that ceremony. Many of the mobsters present that day were later indicted on federal racketeering charges and prosecutors played the recordings in court to bolster claims that the men committed crimes for the Mafia.
The hierarchy of the New England mob went to prison, leaving the family in disarray.
The tapes, marking the first and only Mafia induction ceremony recorded by law enforcement, also provided undisputed proof of the existence of the Mafia, also known as La Cosa Nostra, Italian for “this Thing of Ours.”
The Medford house was owned by the sister of Vincent Federico, who borrowed it for the ceremony without her knowledge after getting a weekend furlough from a state prison. He wrote on his furlough application that he was attending to “family business.”
Federico was inducted into the Mafia that day, along with Carmen Tortora, Robert “Bobby” DeLuca and Richard Floramo, who each pricked their trigger fingers, burned holy cards, and pledged their loyalty and their lives to the Mafia.
“You all come here highly recommended,” Patriarca told them. “You’ve all done everything you hadda do ... Stay the way youse are, don’t let it go to your head ... it’s not to be used to make money. It’s not an advantage, a ticket to abuse people, it doesn’t make you better than other people. The thing is you have all of us to protect you. If you don’t let it go to your head, and you don’t abuse it, you’ll have a happy, happy, happy life.”
Consigliere Joseph “JR” Russo asked Tortora if he had any brothers. He answered that he had one.
“If I told you your brother was wrong, he’s a rat, he’s gonna do one us harm, you’d have to kill him, would you do that for me, Carmen?” Russo asked.
“Yes,” Tortora said.
“Your mother’s dying in bed and you have to leave her because we called you, it’s an emergency. You have to leave. Would you do that, Carmen?” Russo asked.
“Yes,” Tortora said.
Biagio DiGiacomo, a capo born in Sicily, administered the oath in Italian and offered a primer on the history of the Mafia, dating back hundreds of years.
“We get in alive in this organization, and the only way we gonna get out is dead, no matter what,” DiGiacomo said. “It’s no hope, no Jesus, no Madonna, nobody can help us, if we ever give up this secret to anybody, any kinds of friends of mine, let’s say. This Thing cannot be exposed.”
But omerta, the code of silence, had already been broken. Angelo “Sonny” Mercurio, one of the soldiers present, was an FBI informant. He was one of a handful of informants, including Stephen “The Rifleman” Flemmi, the longtime sidekick of South Boston crime boss James “Whitey” Bulger, who had tipped the FBI to the ceremony, according to court documents and testimony.
FBI agents used the home of an agent, who coincidentally lived on Guild Street, as a surveillance post. They photographed the arriving and departing mobsters.
After mobsters wined and dined and finished their business, Russo and capo Vincent Ferrara stayed behind to make sure their visit would not be detected by the homeowner. They emptied the barrels in the kitchen and bathroom, opened the windows to get rid of the smell of smoke, and scooped up a few crumbs from the floor.
Just before Ferrara locked the door, agents heard him say, “Only the [expletive] ghost knows what really took place over here today by God.”