A longtime Rhode Island mobster was arrested Monday on charges that he thwarted the investigation into the 1993 slaying of South Boston nightclub manager Steven A. DiSarro, whose remains were found in Providence in March.
Robert P. DeLuca Sr., 70, was arrested by FBI agents, with assistance from Rhode Island and Massachusetts State Police, in Broward County, Fla., according to Christina DiIorio-Sterling, a spokeswoman for the US attorney’s office in Boston.
An indictment returned last Thursday and unsealed Monday in US District Court in Boston charges DeLuca with obstruction of justice and two counts of making false statements for allegedly lying to federal investigators about the murders of DiSarro and other unnamed victims.
DeLuca, the onetime New England Mafia capo, appeared briefly in federal court in Fort Lauderdale and was ordered held without bail until a hearing Thursday about removing him to Massachusetts to face the new charges.
DeLuca allegedly misled investigators after he was arrested in February 2011 and had “agreed to cooperate with federal law enforcement authorities in an effort to obtain a lighter sentence,” according to the indictment.
DiSarro’s remains were found March 31 behind a complex at 715 Branch Ave. in Providence owned by reputed mob associate William L. Ricci, after investigators were told DiSarro was buried there. DiSarro, 43, of Westwood, was a father of five. He had been missing since 1993. Nobody has ever been charged with his murder.
The indictment publicly reveals for the first time the plea deal that DeLuca made five years ago to cooperate against fellow mobsters, including former New England Mafia boss Luigi “Baby Shacks” Manocchio and others charged with extorting payments from two Providence strip clubs.
DeLuca pleaded guilty to a single count of racketeering conspiracy in July 2011, and in exchange for his cooperation was sentenced in 2014 to only one day in prison — the day he spent in custody before agreeing to cooperate.
While DeLuca’s 2011 case remains under seal, court documents indicate that a cooperating witness identified by the initials R.D. wore a hidden wire and secretly recorded conversations by other mobsters. DeLuca never had to testify because those cases were resolved with guilty pleas.
The indictment unsealed Monday alleges that DiSarro acquired The Channel, a now-defunct nightclub, between 1990 and 1991 and that New England Mafia boss Francis “Cadillac Frank” Salemme and his son, Frank, had a hidden interest in the club.
On May 10, 1993, the Salemmes participated in the murder of DiSarro and transported his body to Providence, where DeLuca “arranged to have the body buried in the vicinity of 715 Branch Ave.,” according to the indictment.
But during a June 23, 2011, interview with federal prosecutors and investigators, DeLuca “denied any knowledge regarding the disappearance and suspected murder” of DiSarro, the indictment says.
The indictment suggests that investigators are also looking into other unsolved gangland murders. One of the counts against DeLuca says he lied when he “denied any knowledge of any other murders committed by members and associates” of the New England branch of La Cosa Nostra.
DeLuca gained notoriety as one of four soldiers inducted into the New England Mafia during a 1989 blood-oath ceremony in Medford that was bugged by the FBI.
He was also a lesser known codefendant in the 1995 federal racketeering case against Salemme and Boston gangsters James “Whitey” Bulger and Stephen “The Rifleman” Flemmi.
In 2003, Flemmi told federal and state authorities that he walked in on the murder of DiSarro on May 10, 1993, at the Sharon home of Francis Salemme’s former wife, according to a Drug Enforcement Administration report filed in federal court in Boston.
Flemmi said Francis Salemme and two other men were watching as Salemme’s son, Frank, strangled DiSarro. He identified the two other men as Francis Salemme’s younger brother, John, and a friend of Francis’s named Paul Weadick.
According to Flemmi, Francis Salemme later told him that DeLuca “was present during the burial” of DiSarro, according to the report. Flemmi said Salemme was concerned about DiSarro’s friendship with a man who was cooperating with law enforcement.
Salemme’s son died in 1995. By the time Flemmi implicated the elder Salemme in DiSarro’s slaying, the former Mafia don was already in the Federal Witness Protection Program for cooperating with the prosecution of Bulger and his corrupt FBI handler, John J. Connolly Jr.
In 2008, Francis Salemme was sentenced to five years in prison for lying and obstruction of justice for denying any knowledge of DiSarro’s murder during plea negotiations in 1999 that resolved the racketeering indictment against him.
Salemme denied the allegation that he had watched his son strangle DiSarro, then helped dispose of his body. After he served his sentence for lying about DiSarro’s slaying, he was readmitted to the witness protection program, where he remains to this day.