No One’s Pal Joey: The FBI’s Big Arrest

Joey BurkeI thought most of the Charlestown morons were wiped out when the McLaughlins got caught up in the losing end of the fight with the Somerville crowd in the 1960s. Joey from Charlestown shows there are some still around. Joseph Burke (Joey) age 51 has a record going back to at least 1988. Then he was twenty four-years-old and was sent to prison for five years for multiple robberies. How times have changed, Whitey in the Fifties got 20 years for the same type crimes. Joey was then convicted of possession of cocaine with intent to distribute in 1993. He got ten years in prison and is still on federal probation.

Joey’s just been arrested. He was “hired” by an undercover FBI agent to kill another guy who just happened to be an undercover FBI agent. The thing that I cannot figure is how did the FBI agent and Joey get together in the first place? Was Joey handing out cards saying he’d murder someone for a price?  My curiosity compelled me to look at the criminal complaint against him signed by FBI agent Benjamin A. Alves who has been with the FBI six years and with the Harrisonburg, Virginia police for seven years prior to that.

I am curious how Joey got himself involved. Unfortunately, we are not told how Joey and the undercover agent, UC-1, met. At their first meeting set out in the affidavit Joey says he might have to pull an armored car hold up to get some money. Joey is feeling the pinch.

Joey also asks UC-1 if he knows any wealthy individuals Joey can rob. Joey then tells him if he knows anyone who might like get out of a marriage he can take care of that. He indicates how by a gesture showing him firing a gun. I guess Joey never heard of divorce actions.

Over three months later UC-1 brings along another FBI agent, Target, to meet Joey. The meeting didn’t go well since Joey said some nasty things about Target after the meeting.

Another couple of months pass and UC-1 tells Joey that Target is making trouble for him with the IRS.  UC-1 tells Joe he’ll show him Target’s s office in New York City. Joey is undecided how he will murder him but brags “Three in the derby and three in the chest” and says some other things only a moron would say. He tells UC-1 to borrow money from Target saying: “That’s how wise guys do it  When the wise guys get clipped . . . you ain’t gonna pay it back. He’s gone.” Sounds like a bright lad.

On September 19 UC-1 reserves a hotel room for Joey in New York City. Joey had his girl with him. Apparently he owns no guns because he tells UC-1 he was going to buy a Glock and a submachine gun. He plan to use the Glock with a silencer to murder Target.

UC- 1 tells Joey that Target will have a hundred thousand on him at his office. UC-1 then gives Joey $2,000 as a down payment. Later Joey tells UC-1 he has to meet with a “wise guy” in New York. Agent Alves the affiant says that means a member of organized crime. I figure it’s just Joey throwing out a line so he can spend more time in New York with his girl.

Joey wants realistic masks that will make him look black and when the FBI gets them for him Joey expresses happiness. On October 6, 2015, Joey tells UC-1 that he plans to break into Target’s office at 12:15 am and wait for him. and then shoot him. Joey is told Target won’t be in New York over the 10th weekend but will be back on the 17th. Joey still wants UC-1 to get him a room and car so he can  go to N.Y. on the 10th. Alves, the affiant, said Joey wanted to go there to do surveillance; I’d suggest Joey was looking to have another nice weekend with his girl at the FBI’s expense.

There’s no entrapment here because of Joey’s predisposition. But the whole plan seems to be that of the FBI. Dumb Joey with his big gruff and bluff talk while he was probably downing a few beers and balls has put himself back in the clinker trying to scam UC-1 out of a couple of trips to NY city.

Joe’s a dirtball and it’s good he’ll be locked up.  But I wonder if he would have done anything other than talk big? Too bad the FBI didn’t play out the string a little more. Is the reason it didn’t because it knew it was the booze talking and not Joey?

[I wrote this prior to seeing Howie Carr had another take on Joey.]


  1. I had a fantastic childhood in Somerville! The fifties were great. We didn’t have much but we were free to roam and explore the tracks! Parents didn’t really play a big part once we were outside and we liked being outside….till those street lights came on!!! There were toddlers playing outside and we older kids looked after our younger brothers and sisters and cousins…wish I could do it again…silly old man

    • Vincent:

      That was the type of childhood I had in Southie and then in Savin Hill. The door opened in the morning and you were out on the streets all day long – if not in school – doing whatever you wanted. The parents were working or at home but never checking on us. I guess we all had he universal “times up” when the street lights came on. My grandson asked me what I had for lunch. I don’t remember going home for lunch but I may have but it would have only been to a peanut and jelly sandwich and then back out again. I suppose as the second oldest of six kids my mom was happy having one less to bother with.

      You mention looking out for the younger brothers. That was something that just happened. The older kids who would pick on them – if they could because some of the younger ones were tougher than the older ones – wouldn’t do so because they knew they’d have to deal with the older brother. Plus, just like we hung in groups, gangs, so did the younger kids.

      Nice times looking back. Seeing my grand kids and how little of that life they had makes me realize what has gone out of America. With the name you have I assume you are Italian. I have one keen memory being in my friend Bobby Romboli’s house. We were in the living room – normally we never got beyond the kitchen – I guess we were talking and Bobby’s mother came around with a tray with some crackers and other things on it. Being Irish I knew nothing about olives. On the tray was what looked like a nice piece of chocolate candy. I picked it up and put it in my mouth. I almost collapsed when I tasted it. I thought I had been poisoned. Imagine expecting the taste of chocolate but biting into a black olive that you never tasted before. I kept it in my mouth suffering for the rest of the time there and kept it in my memory forever.

      It’s nice to read that what was happening in Somerville when we were young was the same as in Dorchester.

  2. My uncle was a part time enforcer for winter hill in the 50s 60s and seventies. Joeys was his second home. A scary guy. He never spoke to us kids. Mean alcoholic! Tried to drown my aunt in a bathtub! My cousins saved her and he became an AA fanatic but was still mean! But he never touched my aunt again. His sons threatened to kill him!
    He never let his kids get involved in anything dirty. Through his connections he got all of the boys on the Somerville payroll. Occasionally no show jobs…one is scarred but the other two are fine family men with successful children mostly all still in Somerville! This is still a little unsettling just talking about it. My mother never liked it when my father took us to see his sister and nephews. She only went on Christmas. And it was just a few blocks. My aunt always worried something from the past would bite them. He committed crimes and was a witness as well. She claims he saw Rocco driving the car for the Mclaughlin hit. Although he only knew who dunnit from talk. My aunt said she finally stopped worrying when her husband became demented. Probably Korsakoffs Syndrome. Didn’t stop drinking soon enough. But in his dementia he became a sweetheart. He’s long gone but my aunt is still in Somerville living in the same house she raised her family in only now it’s a lot bigger….the family! At ninety she still drives!

  3. Matt- Reminds me of the Newburgh 4 case. Classic example of terrorist dopes being led on by the FBI, except these 4 low level morons were street corner bums. Newburgh Sting was an eye opening Documentary Matt i know you would enjoy. It speaks directly to what you are speaking about with FBI tactics and shady games. It is actually mindblowing how dumb people are played by the Federal Gov.

    • Doubting:

      The Newburgh case is just one of many set ups by the FBI of people incapable of committing the type of crime they would eventually be accused of planning but for the help of the FBI. The problem with all of it is that while the FBI is setting up dopes, it is not paying attention to the real terrorists like the Tsarnaevs. That is the reason why we have to stay on their case.

  4. Matt- This story needs a chapter 1, like how did this guy get tied up with the fbi. This is some low hanging fruit, Christ i can only imagine how this guy got linked up with being asked to kill another Federal Agent. That kind of scenario would seem like months of dealing with Joe the genius, They need to lay out the whole background. How much money did they waste on this case arresting 1 guy?? Seems like an awful pricey investigation for 1 guy to be playing grab ass in NY all paid expenses.

    • Doubting:

      That’s what I tried to figure out is how does the FBI develop a relationship with Joey. The affidavit, filed by an FBI guy who wasn’t part of the deal, starts in the middle of the relationship. It wold be nice to reel it back to the beginning but perhaps they haven’t figured out what story they want to tell about it. They gave him two grand; they paid for his drinks and NY City adventures; and Joey, with all his faults was about to scam them for another weekend. It is the FBI trick play at work used with dopes especially terrorist dopes: plant someone in with him/them; give them crazy ideas; give them the material to carry out the ideas; and then arrest them with the material they were just provided. The FBI should have on its Most Wanted posters a statement saying it is on the lookout for dupes and dopes to lure them into big crimes which they could not possibly gotten involved in without the FBI help.

  5. Joey is certainly a doofus thug. But really, is this a federal case? I think that stupid criminals should be left to local PDs. So please Mr. (and Ms.) FBI, let’s go after dangerous terrorists, not mentally ill ISIS wannabes who possess no firearms or explosives. Also, Whitey Bulger is in jail. The case is over. Stop living in the past. Free Catherine Greig! (When she finishes her already onerous prison sentence.)

    • Dan:

      As Niall pointed out. With the FBI it is all about statistics. Terrorists are not easy to find and arrest. Doofi are. So they set the trap and they get a quick plea and a letter of commendation.

  6. Thanks again for another interesting article and speaking of the mclaughlins from charlestown was Wimpy Bennett and his brother Walter originally part of their gang before changing sides to the Somerville crowd?

    So who killed the Hughes brothers of Charlestown during the mob war with the Winter Hill Gang?

    • David:

      Bennetts were always part of Roxbury. When the Somerville/Charlestown war first began the people from Roxbury were on all sides of it since it was not their thing and they knew guys in each of the groups. It was only later on that Roxbury went with Winter Hill.

      According to Martorano Stevie Hughes was providing protection to Sammy Lindenbaum when Flemmi and Salemme took they both out. Brian Halloran and some of Howie’s guys killed Connie Hughes.Salemme in his deposition admitted taking out Stevie Hughes after getting Raymond’s permission.

  7. the FBI lives on stats, this one counts as much as convicting a mob guy.