February 11, 1976-
Barboza was Portuguese. He could not be admitted to the Mafia because of his heritage but he liked to hang around with Mafia folk. He was in trouble since his youth. He wrote a book about his life and at least one person has written about him. He was involved in some of the murders written about in this book.
The FBI and others overestimate Barboza’s murders. The Mob Museum did a list of the five most notorious mob hitmen. Barboza was listed as number 4. The top five are “Machine Gun” Jack McGurn; Abe “Kid Twist” Retes, Roy DeMeo, Joe “The Animal” Barboza, and Giovanni Brusca. But none of what these hitmen did compared to the New York Mafia gangsters like Anthony “Gaspipe” Casso who pleaded guilty to 14 mob murders and infamously made a deal with NYPD detective partners Louis Eppolito and Stephen Caracappa to pass information about mob rats to the crime family in exchange for a monthly $4,000 salary. The cops also moonlighted as hitmen for the Lucchese family, and were sentenced to life in prison in 2009 for being involved in a total of eight mob hits themselves. Considered one of the most violent bosses of the city’s five crime families, Casso is believed to have slain at least 36 people.
I do not buy it that Barbosa murdered many people. He was a brute and murderer but the number of his murders are far less than believed. He had his gang from East Boston. He turned state’s evidence and became an FBI cooperating witness. He was not an informant as some have said. He was under the control of the FBI and did as it instructed him. When he was done testifying against the Mafia in Boston, he was admitted into its witness protection program, given a new identity, and shipped out west to Santa Rosa, California.
It is hard to teach and old dog new tricks. All the FBI accomplished in moving this thug from one coast to the other was to relocate his criminal ways. Barboza would kill a man named Clay Wilson in California. Barboza and Wilson had some sort of a dispute. It may have involved a woman. It may have been over some trivial incident. He fired two shots into his head killing him in front of two women witnesses, one the victim’s wife. He so intimidated the women with his tale of being connected to the FBI and other gangsters that for a while they kept their mouths shut about the murder.
Boston U.S. Attorney Edward Harrington and the FBI agents Paul Rico and Dennis Condon flew from Boston to the West Coast to help him out of this jam. It is said these Boston authorities had to do this because he threatened to recant his testimony in the trials in Boston and tell the truth. They could not have him changing his testimony because of the ramifications it would bring about with motions for new trials and the like. The FBI likely knew Barboza’s testimony and allegations in the Deegan case and others were false but let him testify anyway. The Boston authorities were able to secure Barboza a light sentence of five years to life for the murder. Harrington, Rico and Condon continued their assistance by showing up at the parole board to recommend his release.
An inspector who worked for the District Attorney that was prosecuting Barboza for the Wilson murder said: “It was the damnedest thing I’ve ever been involved in. How in the hell do you get yourself in a position where the district attorney’s office is working with the Mafia and the public defender’s office is working with the FBI in a capital case?” The Feds in the Deegan trial having countenanced that Barbosa’s lying cost the people of the United States over a hundred million dollars. Imagine how much more it would have cost if he recanted all his testimony.
After his short-term imprisonment for the murder of Clay Wilson, Barboza changed his name to Joseph Donati. He moved to San Francisco. He became friendly with another minor hood from the Boston area, James Chalmas. When Gerry Angiulo was indicted, Chalmas testified he arranged with Angiulo to have Barboza hit. Angiulo sent J.R. Russo, a Mafia hitman, to San Francisco. He waited nearby Chalmas’s house one afternoon. As Barboza walked in broad daylight from the house to his car, Russo fired at him four times with a shotgun from a van. Barboza would die on the streets of San Francisco. Larry Baione was heard over an intercept that Russo murdered Barboza. He would plead guilty to doing it. Russo was sent to prison and ended up dying there.
Barboza’s life has been thoroughly looked into by others. He wrote a book himself with Hank Messick called “Barboza” that I found in the Somerville Library. It is behind the reference desk and must be read there. I learned a lot about it by reading Casey Sherman’s book “Animal.” To spell out all his crimes and intrigues is beyond these posts. He was one of the last people murdered in this time period in the gang wars. Those interested in more detail have other good sources like those just mentioned available.