I was going through my papers and came across the name Vinny Teresa. I decided to Google him. I learned he died on February 21, 1990. Here’s his obit in the Seattle Times:
“Vincent “Fat Vinnie” Teresa, 61, reputedly the No. 3 man in the New England Mafia until he became a federal government informer, is dead of kidney failure. He died Feb. 21 in Des Moines. Teresa, who once lived in the Maple Valley area under the name Charles Cantino, reportedly brought in more than $150 million to crime syndicates.
He was indicted in a huge stock swindle and imprisoned at the Lewisburg, Pa., federal penitentiary. An FBI agent persuaded him to turn state’s evidence in the early 1970s, and Teresa’s testimony resulted in the indictment or conviction of more than 50 organized-crime bosses, including Meyer Lansky, the Mafia’s biggest moneymaker.
Teresa, who was given the Cantino identity after testifying against the others, later wrote a book titled “My Life in the Mafia.” In December 1984, Teresa, as Cantino, was indicted on charges of smuggling rare birds into the country. He pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Seattle and was sentenced to two years in prison. His son, David, an Arizona resident, was put on probation for three years and fined $1,000 for his part in the family smuggling ring. Copyright (c) 1990 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.”
I represented Vinny, sort of, sometime back in the late Sixties. He was a client of the small law firm I worked for in Boston. One of the two partners sent me out to Pittsfield in the western part of Massachusetts to get a continuance in his case. I knew nothing more than that about it. Massachusetts not being too large it took me about two and half hours, maybe a little more, to get there. I arrived at the superior courthouse a little after 9. I’d never been there before and never went back again.
I noticed there was a trial list. Vinny’s case was the only case on it. I got talking with some of the lawyers and they ribbed me about being a big time Boston lawyer coming out to their locale to try cases involving Mafia guys. They went on to say I’d soon learn juries out there didn’t like Boston lawyers or Mafia guys. ”Juries?” I thought, “What the hell are they talking about juries for?” I had not tried a superior court case at that time. I thought I knew how to do it but I didn’t intend to start then because I had no idea what the case was about. I didn’t even have a case folder.
At 10:00 sharp Judge Francis Quirico walked onto the bench. Right off the bat the clerk announced, “Commonwealth v. Vincent Theresa”. The prosecutor who I never saw before stood up and said “Ready for trial.” Quirico looked at me. I said I was there to ask for a continuance.
He said, “Denied, the case is on for trial.” I gulped. He then looked at me more severely asking, “Are you a member of the Massachusetts bar?” probably concerned because I stood there with my mouth open with no words coming out. I nodded. He went on, “This case is scheduled for trial. We have a jury waiting to be impaneled. You are a member of the bar and have filed an appearance. We’re going to trial today, counsel.” I could feel the perspiration drops falling under my arms.
He then said, “Where’s your client?” I turned around to look for him — I don’t know why. I had never seen him before and had no idea what he looked like. There were only a dozen or so people there, mostly lawyers I’d already talked with who had come for the show. None of them looked like a Vinny Teresa, whatever he was supposed to look like. I turned back and said, “I don’t see him, your honor.” Quirico turned to his court officer and said “Call the defendant!”
I’m now thinking how am I going to try a case I know nothing about. In the background I heard the court officer stating, “Vincent Theresa, please step forward” or something like that. No one showed up. Quirico said: “Default the defendant, arrest warrant to issue, and you (meaning me) are held here. Be ready to impanel a jury as soon as he gets here.” I felt it was my duty to object so I did. The judge left the bench.
My preparation for his trial was to plead with the clerk to give me copies of the indictments which he did. I figured it’d be a good start to see what he was charged with. I begged for a yellow legal pad from one of the lawyers. He gave me a half used one when I promised to give him a new one the next day. Two or three hours later as I sat in court ruing my fate I learned to my great happiness that Vinny had driven off the Massachusetts Turnpike and destroyed his car.
He was in a hospital in Worcester. (I had a feeling that he did that because he heard I had been sent out there to represent him.) Given that, Quirico released me from my involuntary servitude. Driving back to Boston I felt I had to visit Vinny in the hospital. I figured I should tell him he was going to be arrested. I was taken to his location in the hospital. There he was lying on one of those stretchers they push around on wheels. A sheet covered his body. It looked like a great white whale was there rather than a person. I never saw anyone so fat, I mean big. I gave him the news. He grunted. I said good bye. We never met again.
I don’t know what happened to that case — he probably had not paid the firm and they sent him a message by sending out a rookie (me) to be his trial counsel. He must have changed firms after that, I don’t think my being his lawyer for a day made him decided he was better off in the hands of the FBI, but who knows.
He’s the only Mafia guy I ever entered an appearance for in court for the one main reason I’m Irish. That’s an example of how you learn the trial business — you’re thrown in and have to swim or sink. Fortunately that day I was able to float.