Boston Gang Wars- Mafia Murders: Loan Sharks and Bookies

While the identity of the culprits behind these murders that follow is difficult to ascertain, the beneficiaries are not. It was the North End Mafia. The following group of murders occur during the time where the control of the North End criminal element was shifting from the old timers into the hands of the new generation. In 1963, the Boston Police attempted to determine who comprised the original founders of the Mafia in Boston. The police reported that the North End Mafia was formed after the murders of the two members of the Gustin gang by Joe Lombardo. After those murders, five Italian gangsters had a meeting. The five gangsters included Lombardo aka, Lombardi, Anthony Sandrelli, who was called “Tony Canadian,” Henry Selvitelli alias Henry Noyes, Theodore Fuccillo and Frank Cucchiara.

The five agreed to divide up the territory under Genaro “Jerry” Angiulo and his family. As the newly ordained leader of the Boston Mafia, Angiulo and his brothers sought to gain control over illegal gambling, shylocking, and loan sharking in the greater Boston area.  Boston Police Intelligence Chief, John T. Howland said gangland murders after Angiulo took control were performed as disciplinary measures for breaking the rules of the criminal enterprise rather than any struggle for power.

In late April 1960. Treasury Agents, referred to in the newspaper as “T Men” conducted a raid on eleven places and did 65 “inspections” on other locations. The chief of the T Men said that the evidence uncovered showed that as many as 500 people were involved in the Angiulo network. Notebooks taken listed “scores of persons apparently deeply involved in the operation of the syndicate . . ..”

Asked about the raids, Attorney General Edward J. McCormack, Jr. noted that gunmen hired by Angiulo gambling syndicates were responsible for eight murders in Massachusetts since December 1957.   No convictions occurred relating to these eight murders. He went on to say, “The main source of underworld power is money which is derived from illegal gaming.” He listed the people murdered: Thomas Sullivan, Paul Affanato, John F. Buccelli, Vincent Vazza, Philip Goldstein, Joseph DeMarco, Gaetano DiNicola and Edward Rothstein. We have already looked at the first three; now we can examine the last five murders along with two additional murders.

Boston Waterfront Murders- John F. (Fats) Buccelli

JOHN F. (FATS) BUCCELLI, 44              June 19, 1958

Buccelli had a record going back over the years including convictions for burglary, larceny, bookmaking and breaking and entering. In 1940, he was convicted of armed robbery and sentenced to five to seven-years in State Prison. On June 6, 1956, four days before Cameron’s murder, FBI agents and detectives from the Suffolk DA’s office searched a location at 617 Tremont Street, Boston. They found $57,000 ($500,000 today) hidden behind a false wall that they connected to the Brink’s robbery.

They arrested John F. “Fats” Buccelli, 44, and Edward “Wimpy” Bennett, 36. These arrests happened within 18 hours after the arrest in Baltimore of Jordan Perry, Jr.  Perry was arrested “as a suspect in the fabulous Brink’s robbery in Boston more than six years ago. A package of cash, $4,635 in $5 and $10 bills was found in Perry’s room. Police said it was the first of the Brink’s loot ever recovered.”

Buccelli would be convicted of receiving the Brink’s loot and sentenced in December, 1956 to two years in the house of corrections. After his arrest, the Suffolk County District Attorney, Garrett H. Byrne, argued for high bail because he had in his possession a list of phone calls between Buccelli and “a man whose name you ordinarily hear whispered but nobody wants to hear out loud – Raymond Patriarca.”

While in jail on September 5, 1957, Buccelli was indicted in New York along with 61 others for conspiracy to distribute narcotics as part of $20 million-a-year narcotic ring run by Harry Stromberg, aka Nig Rosen. He was closely linked with Mafia boss Frank Costello, the one-time head of the Luciano family and Myer Lansky known as the “Mobs Accountant”. The group was said “to represent the ‘top echelon’ in narcotics smuggling and distribution in the country.”  In March 1958 while he was still doing time for the burglary, he was tried in New York and convicted in April. He was sentenced to five years which was the maximum sentence. He appealed and was out on bail.

The head of the narcotics ring, Nig Rosen, first got into the rackets in Philadelphia. When he was sentenced in the April 1958 trial with Buccelli, Judge Irving R. Kaufman claimed he was a strong-arm man for the executed racketeer Louis (Lepke) Buchalter who ran Murder, Inc.  He said “It is unfortunate that the statute does not permit me to impose a sentence beyond five years.” J. Edgar Hoover called Buchalter “the most dangerous criminal in the United States.”

Buccelli’s role in the group must have been significant. He received the same sentence as the ringleaders. Buccelli was well connected with the New York mob. It was believed he had connections to the Boston waterfront where they used the coal wharf as a drop off point for illegal narcotics.

As mentioned at his burglary sentencing, Buccelli was also connected with New England Mafia boss Raymond Patriarca. In one intercepted call, Patriarca complained that he had helped Buccelli and Wimpy Bennett out and they never reciprocated. FBI documents reported that Buccelli was running a part of the gambling operations along with Wimpy Bennett for Patriarca.

One report noted that Buccelli was “the Hub link” for the group. Another report noted, “Fats reportedly ‘lost’ $80,000 worth of opium” off a Boston wharf.  Other reports said that Buccelli’s indiscretions were blamed for the capture and conviction of all ring members. The last report was unlikely because the operation under Nig Rosen was a multi-year investigation mainly based in New York that had ended in 1955.

While Buccelli was out of business for 18 months while in jail after his arrest with the Brink’s money, Buccelli was unable to keep his fingers on top of things. During his jail time, operations continued and other men took Buccelli’s place. The need for Buccelli would have diminished substantially but the debts that he owed would still be in play.

On the Tuesday before his murder, Buccelli drove the 225 miles to New York City along with his ex-wife Elizabeth, a friend Jake Green, and a neighbor’s 6-year-old girl. This was before the Eisenhower highway system, so it was a long slow ride. They stayed overnight in New York City. They drove back on Wednesday, dropping Elizabeth off in Connecticut to visit relatives.

Buccelli’s history suggests he had a problem to straighten out. He most likely met with Johnny Earle and perhaps others. Earle was the connection between Boston and New York City.  Earle was described by the N.Y. Times “as a small-time waterfront hoodlum.” The police said Earle, age 38, was “a hanger-on among the big shots.” But Earle was more than that.

Whatever happened on that Tuesday night did not go well for some of the participants.  On Wednesday, while Earle stood at the entrance of a crowded West 57th Street cafeteria near Eight Avenue at 3:05 p.m., he was shot three times in the face. He was armed with a .38-caliber revolver with a silencer but never had a chance to use it. Earle was rushed to the hospital.  He died quickly. After Earle was murdered, the police held two union members, the vice president, and the business manager of Exhibition Employees Union, Local 829, a Genovese family run union, as material witnesses. Nothing ever came of it.

Buccelli, after dropping off his ex-wife in Connecticut, returned home to Brookline on Wednesday afternoon about the time Earle was murdered. He stayed there three hours. He then went for dinner over to a house of friends an hour away in Tewksbury. He left there about 12:30 a.m. telling his friends he was going straight home. He ended up back in Boston. His car was seen in the Boston theatre district bordering the Combat Zone at 2:15 a.m. on Tremont Street near Broadway. A half hour later, the police received a report of an accident near that location. A car had crashed into the back of a parked tractor-trailer truck. When they police arrived, they found Buccelli slumped over the steering wheel in his car. He had two bullets in the back of his head.

Johnny Earle was best friends with George Barone. Barone was a WWII hero who, while in the Navy, participated in five invasions and came home with a chest full of medals. After getting out of the Navy, Barone tried to go straight but an injury forced him to work on the waterfront and for a gang known the “Pistol Local.” Pistol Local got its name because of the manner in which they settled disputes. Barone stayed in the Pistol Local until he lost his waterfront job after beating up a guy.  Later Barone explained what he did after losing his job, “I became a gangster.”  He did this by hooking up with Johnny Earle. They formed a gang called the Jets.

Vincent “Chin” Gigante

The Jets were in a continuous war with the Irish and other Italian gangs over the control of the West Side of N.Y City rackets. The Jets’ reputation for brute force increased to the point where they attracted the attention of the Genovese Crime Family, considered the savviest of the city’s five Mafia groups. The Genovese Crime Family, was headed by Vito Genovese who took over after Frank Costello decided to retire after being ambushed and wounded in the forehead by a bullet outside his New York apartment. Costello was shot by Vincent “Chin” Gigante, one of Genovese’s lieutenants, who would later become the boss. Gigante would be known later on for parading through Greenwich Village in his torn bathrobe mumbling to himself in an attempt to look crazy so he would not have to go to trial on RICO charges.

Genovese reached out for Barone and Earle seeking to have them associate with his family. They gladly came under his wing. Earle and Barone met personally with Genovese and did him several favors. Barone said Vito was particularly fond of Earle who had done time with his lieutenant, Gigante.

Genovese’s fondness for Earle only could go so far. The Jets were having a problem among themselves that appeared to be over some money issues. It may have related to the Boston loss of $80,000 ($740,000 in 2021 dollars) of narcotics. The story that went around at the time was that other members of the Jets blamed Johnny Earle for the loss and were upset with him so they hired “a profligate killer named K.O. Konigsberg to take out Earle.”

Harold “K.O.” Konigsberg was called “the most dangerous uncaged killer on the East Coast.” He was described as an “animal on the leash” for the Mafia. “All they had to do was unsnap the leash and he’d kill for the fun of it.” After Earle was killed, Genovese angrily broke off all contact with the Jets and Barone.

Earle and Buccelli’s murders appear obviously connected. Konigsberg boldly shot Earle in broad daylight, something you would expect from him and something he admitted doing. Konigsberg would later say that Barone gave him the gun to do the job. Barone denied we have Konigsberg the gun, saying Johnny Earle was his best friend.

It seems logical to assume that Konigsberg would not stop the killing at Earle. If Earle were to die, so would the guy from Boston, Buccelli, need to die.  Barone was primarily responsible for the lost narcotics.

Buccelli would not have known about Earle’s murder on Wednesday night when he returned to Boston. Buccelli went into a joint, stayed for a bit, then left, and got into his car probably with Konigsberg holding a gun on him. Buccelli got in behind the wheel; Konigsberg got in the rear seat behind him. He slowly started to move the car down the street. As he did, he was shot by K.O. Konisberg. The car crashed into the rear of the tractor trailer. The site of the murder was close to the place Buccelli and Bennett were arrested with the Brink’s cash.

The days before his murder Buccelli was hustling around desperately trying to raise money. He must have known or believed the Jets were upset at the loss of money.  He went to Affanato with whom it is probable he left his money when he was going to jail. He probably went to others looking for money. Buccelli brought what he had to Earle. Probably it was not enough so their death warrant was signed.

William Cameron was involved with Johnny Earle. Cameron was shot in the same manner as Buccelli.  Cameron and Buccelli were shot by the same caliber weapon. Were the slugs ever compared by ballistics? I have no answer to that.

The waterfront, longshoreman and narcotics are the threads that connects these murders. Wimpy Bennett’s early involvement here takes us beyond this time as does the murder of Tommy Sullivan by the Hughes brothers. The waterfront would prove to have other shootings connected with it but those murders would come later. The other gangsters murders in Boston between 1956 and Labor Day 1961 involved the Mafia.

Boston Gang Wars- Waterfront Murders – Paul Affanato

PAUL AFFANATO, 50                                                                                                                                                                                              June 8, 1958

A little less than six months after Sullivan’s murder on June 8, 1958, , 50, was found murdered in a fourth-floor apartment at 52 Columbia Road. Dorchester, where he had lived for two years. Affanato a small-time hoodlum who hung around the bars in the South End had a criminal record dating back thirty years including offenses for gambling and “wife beating.” Affanato, like Sullivan was a former boxer. Unlike Sullivan, his record showed he was connected to illegal narcotics.

The South End had some real seedy places at this time. It jutted up against Boston’s Combat Zone.  It was surrounded by South Boston, Roxbury and the Fenway area. Back in the fifties much of it was in disrepair. The South End had the elevated train running through it that cast its shadow on Washington Street and made the many bars underneath it look too dreary to think of even entering. It would change drastically over the years but back then it was a run-down place with many boarded-up houses.

I was familiar with the South End having attended my first two years of high school there. Prior to that, I spent several years as an altar bo

y at the South End Jesuit Church, perhaps the nicest Catholic Church in Boston, the Immaculate Conception. It had a magnificent upstairs where celebratory masses were held; and more modest downstairs with a main altar and other alters off to each side. Brother Earhart would give us twenty-five cents for assisting the priests at mass in the morning before we headed off to school.

The dreariest part of serving as an altar boy was assisting during a funeral mass downstairs for one of the many homeless people. Few other people would attend the service. The mass would move quickly. The pine casket carried out as quickly as it came in. The death of Paul Affanato made me recall these quick, sparsely attended services because I could find little information about him or his death.

A few months prior to his death on January 7, 1958, the Boston police received an anonymous letter which sent them to Affanato’s apartment. The letter accused him of dealing in narcotics. His apartment was searched, no narcotics were found but a bank book showing $16,000 (2022 equivalent $143,000) in deposits was discovered along with keys that appeared to belong to safe deposit boxes. He was arrested but quickly released. That was a lot of money for a guy with a criminal record living in a back apartment in a four-story multi-family brick building on Colombia Road in Dorchester. It points to the illegal drug dealing.

When his body was discovered, he had been bound at his ankles with a necktie and gagged with a heavy towel knotted over his mouth. He had gunshot flesh wound on his belly. It was reported he had “been tortured with a knife before being shot by a .32 caliber bullet in the left temple” at close quarters.  He had $14,000 (2022 equivalent $124,000) in his bank account at the time of his murder. The police surmised that the culprits who did this were looking for some information that Affanato possessed. I would suggest the information was related to the money or drugs which he was holding.

What give the drug supposition some support is Affanato was reported to be connected to Johnny Earle and John “Fats” Buccelli in the South End. He and Buccelli hung out at the same South End spots.  The talk on the street had Buccelli leaving a large sum of money for safekeeping with a friend while he was doing his two-year sentence at Deer Island after being convicted for possession of the Brink’s money. He was released on May 19, 1958. It was rumored that he was running into trouble collecting it.

We will never know but Affanato could very well have been holding both money and drugs for Buccelli. Perhaps Buccelli approached him and wanted them back. Affanato may have balked at the request. The unmistakable thread running through these murders was Buccelli, illegal narcotics, and the waterfront. We do know that twenty days after Buccelli was released from prison, Affanato was murdered; and a month after his release, eleven days after Affanato’s murder, Buccelli himself was murdered.

Boston Gang Wars- Waterfront Murders – Thomas Sullivan

THOMAS SULLIVAN, 39                                                    December 22, 1957   

Tommy Sullivan was from South Boston. He lived with his 82-year-old mother on the first floor of a duplex at 660 East Fifth Street. He had been an amateur fighter with a winning record in his 20 fights prior to going into the Navy during WWII. He was discharged in 1945. He became a professional boxer in the light heavy weight division. He had a large following from South Boston being known for his brawling style and verbosity in the ring. His two ten round fights with Al “Red” Priest from Cambridge which he lost by a split decision were considered the most sensational fights in the Boston area at the time. His first fight with Red set a Boston Garden box office record of $59,000.  The second fight brought a record purse and nearly sold-out Boston Garden’s capacity of 13,909 when over 13,000 raucous fans showed up.

Sullivan posed for a group of kids just before one of his fights with Red Priest. In one photograph taken by Paul Maguire of the Boston Globe on December 15, 1946, Sullivan was shown with six kids from South Boston at the South Boston Boys Club. I was one of them. I am the kid with the glasses. Along with me were my two cousins Jimmy, to my left, and Roger Concannon, in front of Jimmy with the gloves.

Sullivan gave up fighting in 1949 after a win. He said he did not want to get hurt doing it. He figured he had made decent money. He was known as a good kid and a churchgoer. Like a lot of guys with little education, he went to work as a longshoreman at the Boston docks.

On December 22, 1957, Sullivan, after working a day shift, went home to eat.  At 6:30 p.m.,   he left his house. He walked out his front door and then turned right down the street. He was returning to his job having been called to do a second shift at the Army base. As he passed the front of Hawes Cemetery less than a hundred yards from his house, a black sedan with four men approached and stopped aside him. Sullivan paused. Sullivan may even have stepped off the curb and taken a step or two toward the car. As he did a volley of bullets came from the car. Three shots hit him in the head and two in the shoulders. He collapsed and fell. He was found lying dead in the gutter.

The initial theory the police worked on was that he was killed for speaking out against the leaders of the New York International Longshoreman’s Union. That very well could have been influenced by the 1954 movie On the Waterfront where Terry Malloy (played by Marlon Brando) was a boxer who worked on the docks.  Brando had one of the most iconic movie quotes during that performance when he responded to the union boss told him to throw a fight: “You don’t understand! I could’ve had class. I could’ve been a contender. I could’ve been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am.”

The problem with the initial police theory resides in the fact that no evidence was ever produced to show he was clashing with the union leaders. The union leaders weer deep with mafia connection and in New York.  It is hard to contemplate how a guy in Boston could make trouble for the Mafia controlled union guys in New York City. There were disputes on the Boston waterfront over who would run the show in Boston but those disputes did not seem to relate to New York.

The best evidence the police had was that the men waiting in a car outside his house knew what he was doing that day. They knew he had completed his day shift, that he had gone home to eat, where he lived, and when he would be returning for the evening shift. The police did not have much to go on.

Later, some would come up with the theory that was echoed by most of the authors who wrote about his murder.  They claimed that he had a fight with Edward “Punchy” McLaughlin, another ex-professional boxer in early December 1956. It was said that Sullivan was bothered by the McLaughlin gang extorting one of his friends.  Sullivan ran into Punchy in a barroom, complained to Punchy, and a brawl ensued. Punchy came out on the short end of the fight and allegedly crawled under a car to stop Sullivan from continuing the thrashing.

I suppose that would give Punchy a good reason for shooting Sullivan. It did not take much to aggravate the McLaughlins. But what most militates against the McLaughlins being involved in Sullivan’s murder is that the barroom fight happened a year earlier and not the month in which Sullivan was murdered as some maintain. Irish hoodlums do not wait a year to revenge a beating, especially the McLaughlins. When George McLaughlin was badly beaten up by Buddy McLean, the McLaughlins were attempting to put dynamite in McLean’ car the next month.

Another theory was that Sullivan’s murder had a connection with the war between the McLaughlin Gang and the powerful Patriarca crime family. That theory does not hold water at all. The wars involving the McLaughlins and other Boston gangs did not happen until 1961. Moreover, Sullivan from Southie and would have had nothing to do with the McLaughlins gang from Charlestown.

Another theory is that Sullivan’s killer was Harold Hannon. Hannon was later murdered in the ensuing Irish Mob wars. It is true that Hannon was friendly with the McLaughlins and at one time chauffeured them around. The initial problem is Hannon was not known as one of their hit men. A bigger problem is that Hannon was in State Prison doing a 9 to 15-year sentence for armed robbery at the time.

According to one newspaper report, Sullivan was killed because he and William Cameron were associates on the waterfront. It presumed that because Sullivan had been seen with Cameron who was “a narcotics suspect in 1951” in a past arrest in Charlestown.  However, Sullivan and Cameron being seen together by itself would not be indicative of much since both worked as longshoremen. Plus, Cameron had been murdered a year-and-a-half earlier making any connection between the two rather attenuated.

Sullivan’s murder remains unsolved. One could suggest that his murderers were out of New York City and involved in the illegal narcotics business. Did Sullivan discover the NYC mafia’s illegal narcotics operation and told those involved to shut it down? Isthe Boston Police suggestion that it had something to do with New York City gangsters correct? Sullivan was not a gangster but he may have been bothering some gangsters. Perhaps somehow John “Fats” Buccelli fits into all of this? Perhaps Sullivan stumbled into a position where he knew too much about the narcotics and had to be silenced.

Perhaps, but there is another theory that is much simpler and closer to home. On July 17, 1959, a little more than 18 months after Sullivan’s murder, Francis X. Ahearn, mentioned again later, was shot twice in the head on Columbus Avenue in Boston. He lived. He identified his shooter as Stephen Hughes, also mentioned later, a stone-cold killer and longshoreman. It was said Ahearn’s shooting had some connection to Sullivan’s murder.

Ahearn, in December 1965. made a statement in court that Ahearn was pressured to sign a paper that would have put the ex-convicts in control of the docks. He opposed signing. Sullivan also would have likely opposed having the gangsters take over, too. Sullivan was not a guy to tangle with and was probably a leader in his opposition.  Shooting him would have been one of the only ways to get him out of the way.

Trying to pin the murder on the McLaughlins is lazy and easy. But like a broken clock, maybe the McLaughlin theorists are right but for the wrong reasons. The murder had nothing to do with Sullivan beating up Punchy or Harold Hannon. It did have everything to do with the McLaughlin Gang of which Stephen Hughes was a member, all of them gangsters, and their attempt to take over the waterfront. Most likely it was Hughes and his brother who murdered Sullivan because he was the leader of the opposition to them.

Boston Gang Wars- Waterfront Murders II

Happy New Year!


William Cameron, 49, a long-time criminal with a record going back to when he was fifteen years old secured the hideout for two of the alleged Brinks robbers, Richardson and Faherty. Cameron’s record included about 25 arrests and some time in prison. Described as a “strapping six-footer,” he worked as a longshoreman. Earlier in the day that Faherty and Richardson were arrested, Cameron got into a brawl with a waterfront longshoreman. The longshoreman had accused Cameron of talking to FBI agents.

A month and three days later on June 19, 1956, at 1:40 a.m. Boston police received a call telling them there was a guy bleeding in a car behind the Fargo Building in South Boston. Arriving there they found Cameron “slumped on the floor, his head and shoulders resting on the right front seat and against the front door of his 1964 Cadillac sedan.” They believed he was slain while in the driver’s seat. He had two bullets in his head from a .38 caliber.  The bullets were fired at close range. Cameron’s car was registered to Frank J. Sciarappa. Later, when interviewed by police, Sciarappa said he did Cameron a favor by registering the car in his own name because of Cameron’s criminal record. Sciarappa was a roommate of Leo Lowry who was found murdered on September 1964 but otherwise was not involved.

Cameron’s wife said the Cemeron received a call about midnight. Cameron then told her he was going to the Fargo Building to give a guy whose car was stuck there a push. The Fargo building was a little over four miles or around ten minutes from where they lived on Geneva Avenue in Dorchester. A few minutes later his wife said a stranger arrived at the door. Her husband left with him.  That would be the last time she saw her husband alive.

Cameron got into his own car and drove off. His car was seen arriving at the Fargo Building. He was not driving it. Somewhere between getting into his car outside his house and the Fargo Building he was shot in the head. The Boston police immediately were convinced he was shot somewhere else. They assumed he was killed elsewhere because two Navy security guards were on duty 100 feet from where the car was found. The Navy guards said they heard no shots. A silencer also would have prevented them from hearing. Fortunately, better evidence helps put together the crime.

Fargo building

Boston police found two witnesses who saw Cameron’s car being driven to the spot where the police discovered it. When it arrived, the car did not have its headlights on. They said the car was driven by a man who got out as soon as it stopped and ran from it. A moment later, a two-toned car came onto the scene. A man got out of the car. He walked over to Cameron’s car, peered in, and returned to his car. He then jumped back into his car and drove off in the direction that the first driver had fled.

This matter presented a real mystery. Why did his car end up at the Fargo Building? He said he was going there to give a person a push. Before he got there, he was murdered. Why then, was his car then driven on to the Fargo Building rather than parking the car some other place?

Here’s what I suggest happened. The plan was for Cameron to be ambushed at the Fargo by the guys in the two-toned car. On the way to the Fargo building, Camerson learned or said something that made the other pause.  Best guess. The call Cameron received had nothing to do with giving a guy a push. He was asked to come along to assist in some criminal plan. Cameron got into the driver’s seat of his car, the stranger in the passenger seat. We will see later that Fats Buccelli died pretty much the same way.

Whoever called him and came to his house under these circumstances had to be a guy Cameron trusted. Was it his good friend Johnny Earle? Johnny Earle was the narcotics runner between the New York City waterfront gangsters and Boston. He was believed to be the narcotics pick up man. He and Cameron were considered “great friends.”

Cameron knew he had been accused of being an FBI informant and some people were unhappy with him. He would not have left with a someone he did not know well. His murder was never solved. It would be natural to assume it had something to do with the arrest of Richardson and Faherty and the belief that he gave up their location. Whatever it was, Cameron should have known his days were numbered having been fingered as an FBI informant.

In June 1958, two years after Cameron’s death it was disclosed that a 20-million dollar narcotics ring operating out of New York City was using the coal wharf in Boston to drop off their narcotics. If true, Cameron would have known Earle’s business. How likely is it that the New York City gangsters running this operation would let a guy live who knew about it and had been identified as an FBI informant? Not very.

Boston Gang Wars- Waterfront Murders I

WILLIAM CAMERON,  49                                                   June 10, 1956

On June 10, 1956, after receiving a phone call, the Boston Police found William Cameron murdered.  I decided to start with William Cameron because his murder both links to the Boston gang past and looks forward.   Four murders in the next two years appear to be connected to William Cameron’s murder. William Cameron’s murder also looks back to January 17, 1950, the date of one of the most notorious crimes in Boston, the Brink’s Robbery in Boston’s North End.

Captain Marvel Mask

The Brink’s Robbery was the greatest heist in the country up to that time.  A group of eight men in Captain Marvel masks and peacoats stole about $1.3 million in cash and $1.5 million in checks, money orders and other securities from the supposedly impenetrable Brink’s building.  The Brinks robbery headlined the nation’s news for weeks even before the Brink’s company offered an amazing $100,000 reward.

This heist went unsolved for years. Joseph “Specs” O’Keefe one of the robbers, left town immediately after the robbery, leaving behind his cut of the money stolen. He got jammed up in Pennsylvania for a different robbery and did some time there. When he came back to Boston, Specs wanted his share of the haul. He became a pest and bothered the others for his cut. None of his former pals wanted to deal with him so they decided to hire a hit man to murder him. They reached out to Elmer “Trigger” Burke, a hit man from Hell’s Kitchen, New York who took the job.  According to police, Burke drove up to Boston and opened fire on O’Keefe with a machine gun from a moving car.  Burke only managed to wound O’Keefe.

Police Outside the Brink’s Vault

The FBI made several visits with Joseph “Specs” O’Keefe while he was recovering from gunshot wounds in the hospital. The constant pressure broke O’Keefe. On January 6, 1956, O’Keefe admitted his role in the robbery and implicated eight other men. Six of them were captured on that same day. Two remained at large.

A little over four months later, on May 16, 1956, the FBI raided the hideout of the last two accomplices who Specs had fingered, Thomas F. “Sandy” Richardson and James J. Faherty. Richardson and Faherty were able to stay well hidden because Thomas Ballou helped them out by securing food and other items.  We will learn more about Thomas Ballou later.

Elmer “Trigger” Burke

Richardson and Faherty were arrested. They would be brought to trial in the fall of that year, convicted, and sentenced to prison for life. Back in those days, the courts moved cases through the process expeditiously and did not look kindly on big time burglars. Richardson and Faherty would be paroled after serving fifteen years in 1971.  Ballou was indicted for “harboring, concealing and maintaining and assisting” them while they were hiding out. He was never brought to trial on those charges.

After Richardson and Faherty arrests, the first thought of the criminals in Boston was who tipped off the FBI about their hideout. Who would have known they were hiding out in that location? The person who secured the apartment for them where they were holed up obviously knew.