Associated Press

Reputed Mobster Pleads Guilty

Associated Press Writer

BOSTON (AP) -- Wearing a gray suit and a smile, reputed New England mob boss Francis "Cadillac Frank'' Salemme took the witness stand in federal court on Thursday and surrendered his four-year-long fight against the government.

Salemme pleaded guilty to more than a dozen counts of racketeering, loansharking and extortion -- a list so lengthy that it took Judge Mark Wolf nearly 45 minutes to finish.

Although the massive indictment had charged Salemme with the 1967 killings of mob associate Richard Grasso, rival bookmaker Edward "Wimpy'' Bennett and his brothers William and Walter, the murder charges will be dismissed or suppressed, Wolf said.

Salemme's change of plea was spurred by frustrations with fighting a case alongside Stephen "The Rifleman'' Flemmi, who worked as an FBI informant for three decades while conducting mob business, Salemme's attorney said. "Essentially he was tired of sitting next to Steve Flemmi,'' said defense attorney Anthony Cardinale. "He spent 17 years in jail because of Flemmi's treachery, then when he got out he got shot because of Flemmi's treachery.''

Salemme, who spent much of the 1970s and 1980s in prison for a car bomb attack on an attorney, faces 10 to 14 years in prison. With time served, Salemme, 66, could be out in less than five years, Cardinale said.

U.S. Attorney Donald Stern called the agreement "appropriate'' and issued a warning to anyone aspiring to take Salemme's place. "Salemme's plea is only the latest reminder that the occupational hazards of being a mafia boss include the prospect of substantial prison time,'' Stern said in a statement.

Earlier hearings in the case revealed that Flemmi and fugitive co-defendant James J. "Whitey'' Bulger informed on Salemme and other mob rivals.

Salemme, who was shot by rivals outside a pancake house a decade ago, claims federal agents with whom Flemmi worked knew about the plot on his life, but did nothing to stop it.

Salemme is not obliged to cooperate with authorities as part of the plea, Cardinale said.

Copyright 1999 Associated Press. All rights reserved.


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