The Martorano brothers were friendly with some of the Roxbury Italian gang. Yet they were not an intricate part of this group of Roxbury gangsters who were allied closely over the years with Wimpy Bennett’s Gang, such as Steve Flemmi and Vincent “Jimmy the Bear” Flemmi, and Frank Salemme. I’ll call Vincent Flemmi by the name he was known among his fellow gangsters, Jimmy Flemmi. The Martoranos grew up in Milton which is a far cry the streets of Roxbury or the South End where the Flemmis and Salemme were raised. John may have spent the bulk of his time in that area in his early twenties but that did not make up for not having spent time there as a youngster when close relationships are formed.
John got to know the others because his father’s joints in Boston, where John and his brother Jimmy worked helping their father, were hangouts for a lot of local gangsters. They were also places where the Mafia guys gathered at times. Their father was quite close with Ralph Lamattina who was listed as one of the people who made up Patriarca Crime Family. One chart has him as “Ralph Lamattino alias Ching Chang, Ralph Chong.” In his book John Martorano says about Basin Street South that “through the ‘60s, the club kept changing hands, going back and forth between the Martoranos and the Lamattinas.”
John wrote about the night he murdered Herbert Smith and the two Black teenagers. He told how Steve Flemmi got beaten up at the club: “Smith was a big guy so he grabbed Stevie’s arms while Rocco [Lamattina] and [John] Cincotti worked him over. And of course, Stevie is humiliated, but he can’t do nothing about the two Mafia guys. . .. “ At times, John was closer to the Mafia members than any others.
In the Roxbury gang there was Steve Flemmi. He was an FBI informant for FBI Agent Paul Rico. The FBI books list him as beginning on November 17, 1965, but most likely he became one much earlier in time. I say that because the FBI informant books often show one thing and what exists in reality is another thing. Steve Flemmi would be listed as not being an informant when he continued to be one; James “Whitey” Bulger would be listed as one at a time when he was not one.
There were the rumors about who was an FBI informant. Some were used to justify murders. Both Wimpy Bennett and Buddy McLean were said to be informants. Without access to the FBI files, we cannot determine it one way or the other. All you can do is look at what happened to people associated with the alleged informant to see if things happened to them that cannot be explained unless you introduce the idea a person is an informant.
With Wimpy and Buddy, it does not appear to be the case that they were informants because it is hard to see where they received any protection from the FBI. If Wimpy were, then he could certainly have told the FBI where he got the Brink’s cash. If Buddy were, then he would not have gone through three trials in federal court. But in the upside-down world of dealing with the FBI, there is no way to be certain one way or the other. One way to tell is if the person admitted he was an informant. In 1997, Steve Flemmi would admit to Judge Mark Wolf that he had been an informant – something Whitey Bulger always denied.
Frank Salemme, another Roxbury guy, was a licensed electrician. He was always a Mafia wannabe, but his mother was Irish which put a black spot on him. He eventually would become a “made man” and take over the local Mafia after Raymond Patriarca Junior was incarcerated. That happened at a time the Patriarca crime family had been fairly well decimated and the doors had swung open to admit less qualified hoodlums.
The Roxbury Gang’s Italian heritage did give it a close connection with the Patriarca/Angiulo Mafia group. Raymond L. S. Patriarca, the big boss, would often be advised of their plans and his judgment would be deferred to in situations involving certain aspects of the business, such as murdering people.
Salemme ran semi-legitimate businesses like automobile repair garages in partnership with George Kaufman. Kaufman would later become the liaison for the Jewish bookmakers to the other gangster groups. Kaufman was mostly in the background. He was used by John Martorano as his Boston contact during his 16-year flight to avoid prosecution. He was used by Flemmi to store weapons at his house.
In dealing with the murders committed by the Roxbury group, the invisible hand of the Mafia will be involved in some manner.