Boston Gang Wars – The Gangs

A necessary step to piece together the murders in the Boston Gang Wars is to identify the gangs and the gang members. You cannot depend upon what the federal prosecutors present. They throw in anyone who has even marginal contact with the gang so as to awe the jury.

The prosecutors showed an exhibit of the Winter Hill gang as it supposedly existed around 1975.  The configuration included 32 people – many who really were not part of the gang such as bookies, runners or hang around guys from other sections of the city who did their own things. Some had no contact with some of the others or even knew they existed. These gangs were not like the Mafia where if you join you go through a ceremony involving a blood oath, a burning of a saint’s picture and sworn eternal allegiance. Even for the Mafia, though, the eternal allegiance sometimes only lasted until they got jammed up on a serious rap.

Winter Hill gang consisted of friends who came and went at different times over the gang’s existence. Most were not violent gang type. They were involved with nonviolent crimes such as tailgating, dealing in hot goods, larcenies, or bookmaking. Others who hung around with them were not involved in any criminal activity.

An example of a friend would be my cousin Roger Concannon who hung around with the South Boston Mullen gang. He knew all of them; he was a bartender at their club; he was as tough as any of them; but did not get involved in their criminal activities. There is a story, most likely apocryphal, that tells of Roger was standing outside a barroom with Tommy King who Whitey Bulger was trying to kill. Whitey approached in a car with his automatic weapon ready to hit King but when Whitey saw Roger standing with Tommy, Whitey held off firing.

Triple O’s

Roger was told a couple of times that Whitey wanted to see him. Knowing Whitey and Whitey’s reputation, Roger remained wary. He would let his brother Jimmy know of Whitey’s request of a meeting and then would be certain to tell Whitey that he had told Jimmy he was on his way to see him. Jimmy was not as ostentatious as Roger but, like Roger, was not someone you wanted to cross. In his quiet way, Jimmy was Roger’s insurance but neither was a gangster.

Some in the Winter Hill gang were independent guys like bookmakers and drug dealers who, in order to run their own businesses unmolested, had to pay tribute to the core leaders in the gang. One bookmaker, Jimmy Katz, who would testify against Whitey and whom I indicted for bookmaking twice after doing wiretaps, was nothing more than a sports bookie. Katz, when asked his occupation in federal court, simply said bookmaker.  Asked if he had an avocation, he said “he did, it was betting on games.”

It would be easy to suggest he was also a member of a gang and insert his name onto a flow chart if the intent was to make the gang look as big as possible.  But, that approach is rather deceptive. Rather than including guys like Katz who were forced to pay tribute to Whitey and Stevie but had no gangster-like connection, I limit the membership in Winter Hill gang to those in in inner circle.

Federal Prosecutors Chart of Winter Hill Gang

The core members of the gangs that existed and evolved during this time are:

The Bennetts:  Edward “Wimpy: Bennett, Walter Bennett, and William Bennett, plus Steve Flemmi, Vincent “Jimmy the Bear” Flemmi, and Frank Salemme. The latter three eliminated the Bennetts. They later became part of the Roxbury gang.

The Roxbury Gang: – Frank Salemme, Vincent “Jimmy the Bear” Flemmi, Steve Flemmi along with John Martorano, James Martorano. John Martorano was a loose associate being also involved with Joe Barbosa’s East Boston gang. All of them being Italian were friendly with the Mafia guys. James Martorano would leave the Roxbury Gang for the Mafia. This gang dissolved when Frank Salemme and Steve Flemmi were indicted and fled. Jimmy would later overdose in prison.

The Killeens:  Donald Killeen, Kenny Killeen, James “Whitey” Bulger, William “Billy” O’Sullivan. The Mullens eliminated this gang. Then Whitey moved on to Winter Hill.

The Mullens:  Pat Nee, Paul McGonagle, Tommy King, Francis “Buddy” Leonard, Mickey Dwyer. This gang was eliminated by desertions and murders by Winter Hill.

The New England Family: A Mafia family under the control of Raymond L.S. Patriarca who was assisted by Henry Tameleo who controlled the Boston Mafia.

The Boston Mafia:  Gerald “Jerry” Angiulo, Nicola “Nick” Angiulo, Francesco “Frankie” Angiulo, Larry Baione, Joseph Russo, Peter Limone. This gang was eliminated by the FBI. It has become a shadow of itself if it still exists.

The Somerville Gang: James “Buddy” McLean, Sal Sperlinga, Howie Winter, Alexander Petricone (Alex Roccco). This gang dissolved with the murder of Buddy McLean and when Petricone left to California. Winter then started his own gang.

The Winter Gang: Howie Winter, Joe McDonald, Jimmy Sims and Sal Sperlinga. This became the Winter Hill Gang when John Martorano and Whitey Bulger joined it.

The Winter Hill Gang:  Howie Winter, Joe McDonald, Jimmy Sims, Sal Sperlinga, John Martorano, James “Whitey” Bulger, Steven Flemmi. When Howie Winter went to prison, McDonald and Martorano took off on the lam, Sims disappeared in 1978, and Sal Sperlinga was murdered, the gang was then run by Bulger and Flemmi. This gang would continue into the 1990s.

The McLaughlin Gang:  Edward “Punchy” McLaughlin, Georgie McLaughlin, Bernie McLaughlin, Stevie Hughes, Connie Hughes, James “Spike” O’Toole. This gang would be eliminated by fighting with the Winter Hill Gang backed up by the Mafia and Roxbury gang.

The East Boston Gang: “Joseph “Joe the Animal” Barbosa aka Joe Baron, Joseph Amico, Arthur G. Tash Bratsos, Thomas DePrisco, Nick Femia, Jimmy Kearns. Most of this gang would be eliminated by the Mafia

The Notorangelli Gang:  Al “Indian Al” Notorangelli, Joe “Indian Joe” Angelli, Ralph DiMasi.   This gang would be eliminated by Winter Hill on contract from the Mafia.

I will divide the murders into those which occurred before Labor Day 1961; thereafter by murders the evidence suggests were committed by each criminal gang; other murders difficult to link with one gang of another; and murders not likely gang connected.

3 thoughts on “Boston Gang Wars – The Gangs

  1. Excellent post by Matt. Happy New Year to all. What about Billy Kelly? Eddie Connors? Brian Halloran, Jimmy Murphy, Melvin. Bucky Barret, Suitcase Fiddler and Steve the Greek? Always wanted to ask Howie Carr if he knw any of the above. Of course he didn’t He only came to Boston in 1980. So he and the Globe experts were making it up as they go. Those who lived in Southie and Savin Hill knew many of those characters and knew the media were clueless about the gangsters.

  2. A lot of good information.I remember Matt writing about a Cape Cod sunset towards the end of his writing.I wish he was still with us,quite a life .

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