Frank Salemme called Steve Hughes the most dangerous of the Hughes brothers. It is said that Steve, who had recently been released from the hospital after spending over a month there because of the ambush, had to identify his brother’s body. It must have been tough looking at his younger brother laying dead in front of you with two bullets in his head. Rage must have flowed through his body. Steve had to have thought that he was next on the hit list.
He probably had a good idea who murdered his brother. The question was could he do anything about it. Steve pretty much was the only tough guy of the McLaughlins left living aside from James “Spike” O’Toole. But, O’Toole couldn’t be much help as he had been sentenced to five to six years in prison on November 2, 1965, for harboring, concealing and assisting George McLaughlin.
Steve Hughes was in trouble most of his life. When he was 21, on April 26, 1948, he was arrested for larceny of a revolver and operating a motor vehicle after his license had been suspended. On August 28, 1948, he was charged with intent to rob Boston City Councilor John B. Wenzler and with assault and battery on a Boston police officer. Steve’s case was continued because the person who was with him was Bernard McLaughlin, 26, of Charlestown. Bernard was in the hospital with a bullet in his abdomen. Again, here we see the closeness of the McLaughlins and Hughes.
A year later December 24, 1949, he was found in a stolen car with Frederick Zoboli, 44, twice Steve’s age. Zoboli was an interesting companio for Steve. When arrested, Hughes was carrying a firearm. Zoboli had a firearm and a hypodermic needle on him. Zoboli would be charged with conspiracy to rob, carrying a pistol, a narcotics offense and possession of a stolen car. He would jump bail. Five months later, the FBI would arrest Zoboli and extradite him to New York to answer different felony charges.Zoboli had a long criminal record having served time in Sing Sing, Chicago, Memphis and Louisville. Zoboli was returned to Boston, pleaded guilty to the charges that arose from his Christmas Eve arrest, and was sentenced to four to five years in State Prison.
The next we hear of Zoboli he was arrested when the police caught him in the act of breaking into a safe at a doctor’s office. On February 15, 1957, he went to trial in Suffolk County for breaking and entry, possessing burglary tools and attempted breaking into a safe. After two hours, the jury returned a not guilty verdict to the astonishment of the judge. The judge then blasted the jury for their lack of common sense and intelligence. I don’t suppose that was the reason. I’m sure the jury knew he was guilty but tossed him a break because they felt sorry for fifty-plus year-old guy trying to steal his way through life. Frederick Zoboli did not live too much longer after that gift from the jury. He died on February 5, 1963 at age 58.
Stevie Hughes next appears in the news on July 17, 1959. It related to an attempted murder of Francis X. Ahearn of Charlestown on Columbus Avenue in Roxbury. Ahearn had two bullets shot into his head. He was found lying on the street. A friend of Ahearn’s, Leo C. Shea, who was a witness to the shooting, was held in high bail as a material witness. It was reported that Ahearn was shot because he had information on the killing of Tommy Sullivan in South Boston two years earlier. Steve Hughes fled the city. He came back in June 1960 after his attorney worked out a deal for him to plead guilty to the charge. He was sentenced to five to seven years at State Prison.
Stevie Hughes was released from prison in April 1965. On June 10, 1965, Francis X. Ahearn was sipping a drink in Driscoll’s Café on Medford Street, Charlestown. About 10:00 p.m., the bartender left the room and the waitress went into the kitchen, so they said, and two men entered the café. One of the two men opened fire on Ahearn, hitting him five times in the neck. He ended up in serious condition at the Massachusetts General Hospital.
Ahearn recovered quickly. On July 29, 1965, Ahearn was passing bogus twenty-dollar bills in Mattapan Square with two other guys. A chase ensued and a package of $1600 in counterfeit bills was thrown from the car. Ahearn was before a jury in December 1965 on those charges. The jury acquitted him. He made as statement after the verdict saying, “I am deeply grateful for the break you have given me.”
Ahearn recognized he was given a Christmas gift not so unlike the one given Zoboli. Ahearn continued speaking to the jury about shootings in Charlestown. He then told the jury that when he was working on the waterfront, he was pressured to sign a paper that would have put the ex-convicts in control of the docks. He opposed signing and told others not to sign it because if they did, the gangsters “would take over the waterfront.“ The statement to the jury had nothing to do with his acquittal but did indicate the disputes among the longshoremen may have played some part in Steve Hughes going after him.
Ahearn did not identify Steve Hughes as the one who shot him but he still would have been wise to avoid him. Maybe Hughes was satisfied that he would not have to fear Ahearn anymore, but he could not know for sure. These guys, as we continually see, were nuts. Fortunately for Ahearn, he did not have to avoid Steve Hughes for too long because Hughes was dead the following September.
The last we heard of Ahearn was an incident on October 15, 1968, when he was stabbed multiple times in front of 250 Medford Street, Charlestown about 10:30 in the evening. He made his way home to his Revere house and then called the police. He was rushed to the Massachusetts General Hospital. Joseph O’Rourke, 43, was arrested for the stabbing
Ahearn, again wary for his life once again did not identify O’Rourke as the man who assaulted him. O’Rourke was one of those lifelong Walpole prison inmates. In May 1957 he was pictured presenting a gift of money for refugees. He was identified as the “vice-president of the Inmate Council at Walpole State Prison.” In 1961, he shot up a Malden barroom when the bartender refused to give him another drink. Then, he committed the stabbing of Ahearn in 1968. The last we hear of O’Rourke is he was stabbed in the ankle at Walpole prison in September 1974 while he was serving a 12 to 18-year sentence for armed robbery.
Stevie Hughes had twice tried to kill Jimmy Flemmi. He was with O’Toole and Punchy McLaughlin in the May 1966 shooting. It had been almost a year since Punchy McLaughlin and Buddy McLean were murdered. It was four months since his brother’s death. He could not have missed the handwriting on the wall that his days were numbered.
Salemme made it clear how his Roxbury gang thought. They were in a war with the Irish. Salemme said he was looking at various devices to figure out if they could be used as: “potential weapons against the Irish gang, and if anybody’s Irish here I apologize, but the Irish gang that we were fighting, which was the McLaughlin group.” He told how he was practicing with devices in his Roxbury garage. Shortly after that he said “the Hugheses, the McLaughlins, they were all eliminated, and I was a participant in just about all of them. I planned them and did them.”
Samuel Lindenbaum, called by the gangsters Sammy Linden, fits into Steve Hughes story because he was involved in the rackets and was close with Steve Hughes. One person referred to him as an “abortionist.” He made most of his living from selling what Salemme called “treasury tickets” all over New England. Treasury tickets is a numbers game based on the last three numbers of the daily Treasury balance. Salemme said Linden made big money doing treasury tickets and carried large amounts of cash. With large amounts of cash on him, he needed a bodyguard or as Salemme said: “muscle.”
Steve Hughes was Sammy’s muscle. The last few months before Steve Hughes’ death they were continually seen together. According to Steve Flemmi in order to track down Steve Hughes, they decided to wiretap Sammy’s telephone. Using Salemme’s knowledge gained as an electrician they put a wiretap on Lindenbaum’s telephone allegedly using the device owned by Wimpy Bennett.
That device would have been similar to the ones I used when we did legal wiretaps working in the District Attorney’s office. We called them slaves. We would ask the telephone company to give us a line that ran next to the telephone line of the target on a pole near his house. We would then climb that pole. We had the identification of the our line and the line of the target which was done at that time by knowing the pair colors of each line. The slave had four wires. Two would be connected to the target’s line and two to our installed line. We could then go to a distant location, dial the number associated with our phone and it would hook onto the target’s phone and act as an extension of it.
That is what Flemmi and Salemme did. They would need a connection in the telephone company to do it. Flemmi, in his debriefing, identified that connection but it was redacted.
An FBI report in May 1967 on Jerry Anguilo, Henry Tamelo, Jimmy Flemmi and Joseph Francione included information on Lindenbaum. The report said Linden “was asked by an unidentified man whether he wanted the killing of [Henry] Reddington postponed since Reddington owed Linden $8000. Linden said he didn’t care about the $8000 and didn’t want to hear anything about the killing… ”
Lindenbaum was connected with Raymond Patriarca. Though not a member of the Mafia because he was Jewish, Linden was considered an associate member. That most likely meant that Lindenbaum paid Patriarca tribute to operate. It was suggested the Linden was a big money maker for the Mafia.
Salemme said that they wanted to murder Steve Hughes but they could not do it without endangering Lindenbaum. Salemme said they went to Patriarca with the problem. Patriarca said he warned Lindenbaum to stay away from Hughes twice. He did not heed the warning, so Hughes was fair game.
I’d suggest Lindenbaum did not get any warning. Patriarca would not have minded Lindenbaum being eliminated because he would benefit if Lindenbaum’s number racket folded. Patriarca could take over his business. Also, as some said, Patriarca borrowed money from him. One person claimed it was $75,000 and another $80,000. They suggested that Patriarca knew he was going to be hit so he would not have to pay it back. In either case, the murder of Steve Hughes and Samuel Lindenbaum was approved by the boss in Rhode Island.
On Friday September 23, 1966, Lindenbaum was driving a rented automobile on Route 114 in Middleton, Massachusetts. Steve Hughes rode with him in the passenger seat with two dogs, one a tiny chihuahua and the other a mongrel. Flemmi said he knew that Lindenbaum was going to go on his rounds of picking up money from the wiretap on his telephone.
Around 2:00 p.m., a black sedan overtook Lindenbaum’s car at the top of a hill as Lindenbaum was returning from Lawrence after making his collections. In the black sedan sat three men and a woman or the latter may have been a man in a wig. A .30 caliber rifle was pointed out the window. The rifle, probably an M1 which is a gas operated, 8 shot clip, semi-automatic rifle first used in WWII which continued to be issued to all Marines up into the early 1960s, unleashed a full clip into the Lindenbaum’s vehicle.
The shooting took place at the top of an embankment and the car careened down the hill taking out the guard rail and falling into a ditch. The weapon was the same type of weapon used to murder Connie Hughes which lends credence to the idea the same gangsters were doing the shooting – Steve Flemmi and Frank Salemme along with two others. Hundreds of lottery tickets and a little over $1,000 in cash were found in the car. The two dogs were found alive. Both men had been hit in the head with the bullets and were dead when the first people reached the car.
I trained on the M1. To fire it correctly, you needed to practice. It had a significant kickback when fired and had to be kept tightly against the shoulder when aiming. I learned about the kickback the hard way on my first day training with it. It made the next few training days especially painful. One of the gangsters among this group would be the most capable of handling it. That would be Steve Flemmi from his service in combat in Korea. Without familiarity firing the M1, bullets would have flown all over the place.