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Friday, May 8, 2015

Notorious New England mobster dead at 75

Gerard T. Ouimette, a notorious mobster who terrorized New England for more than two decades, died Saturday night at a medium-security federal prison in Butner, North Carolina.
Ouimette, 75, had heart and other health problems at the prison where he spent the past 19 years. Kevin Ouimette Lynch said his uncle was diagnosed with lung cancer about 10 days ago and died in his sleep.
Lynch said that Ouimette spent 46 years locked up in the Adult Correctional Institutions in Cranston and some of the toughest federal prisons in the nation, including the Lewisburg Penitentiary in Pennsylvania and Marion, a super-maximum prison in Illinois.
On April 16, 1979, the FBI produced a document about Ouimette and his known background as the leader of a non-Italian faction of organized crime figures:
"Subject OUIMETTE controls a large group of criminals known as the OUIMETTE faction, whose criminal activities include gambling, loansharking, extortion and property violations such as major hijackings, robberies and burglaries. Although not Italian, OUIMETTE enjoys the same stature as lieutenants under RAYMOND L.S. PATRIARCA, who controls organized crime (OC) in the Boston and New England area."
The document also said that the federal authorities suspected that Ouimette was responsible "for seven or eight gangland-style murders." Despite the FBI document, Ouimette was never convicted of murder, although his name regularly popped up as a prime suspect in gangland slayings in Rhode Island and across the Northeast.
In 1996, Ouimette became the first convicted felon in New England to get sentenced to life in federal prison without parole under the "three strikes" federal statute. At the time, he was just the fourth federal prisoner in the nation to receive the maximum punishment.
In Rhode Island, Ouimette ran the North State Wing of the ACI's maximum security prison in the 1970s, state police said then.
On Aug. 16, 1977, Charles "The Ghost" Kennedy and Tony Fiore, another member of Ouimette's gang who hijacked trucks and participated in major heists and armored car robberies, were driving to Boston.
Kennedy said they were listening to the radio and the big news of the day was that Elvis Presley had died in Memphis. A secondary report, Kennedy said, was that there was an active warrant for his arrest for smuggling liquor into the ACI. They spent several days hanging out on Cape Cod, he said.
Kennedy said the 46-ounce cans were filled with J&B Scotch and 151-proof rum, but they were leaking as they arrived at the state prison. He returned home to his apartment and surrendered to state police detectives.
Once a week, Kennedy said he would stop by maximum security with $500 to $600 worth of booze, marijuana, canned hams, cold cuts, cheese and Italian bread for Ouimette and his gang. The corrections officers asked no questions, Kennedy said, as he walked past the guard desk with the boxes. Kennedy said the guards delivered the food to the mobster's cell on the first floor.
Ouimette and his crew had lobster dinners catered to them at the ACI, according to state police. One time, William Kunstler, the renowned civil rights lawyer from New York, joined them for a feast.
A photo of the dinner published in The Providence Journal had this note: "This extraordinary photograph of a lavish mob dinner inside the maximum security unit of the Adult Correctional Institutions was taken sometime in the 1970s. It's unclear who shot the photo, how the food was brought inside the prison, or why radical civil rights lawyer William Kunstler was allowed to travel unescorted inside the prison."
Ouimette also had a close relationship with the late John Gotti, who rose to become boss of the Gambino crime family in New York City. Gotti used to visit Ouimette in the ACI.
Oftentimes, Kennedy said recently, Ouimette and his mob pals would walk to an attorney's meeting room on the second floor of the prison with Styrofoam cups and get drunk on the smuggled booze. Others living on the cellblock were Ouimette's brother, Johnny Ouimette; Chuckie Flynn, a mobster from Lowell, Mass.; and convicted killers Ronnie Sweet and Maurice "Pro" Lerner, who was once a major league baseball prospect from Massachusetts.
Another time, Ouimette had his 5-year-old son smuggled into the prison for a sleepover, state police said.
Around 1980, Kennedy said he had a falling out with Ouimette. The mobster put together a hit squad to kill him, Kennedy said.
"'You want to be your own [expletive] guy," Ouimette said, according to Kennedy. "'Let's see how long you last.'"
Brian Andrews, a Rhode Island State police detective assigned to the Intelligence Unit that investigated organized crime, warned Kennedy that Ouimette was upset with him. "They are going to get you," he said.
Andrews said he pulled Kennedy over one day and photographed his left hand. He was wearing three gold rings, including one with diamonds. The jewelry was worth about $20,000.
Andrews was blunt with Kennedy.
"When you're dead, we can identify you quickly," he said. "They're going to kill you."
Around that same time, Vincent Vespia, a state police detective, said that Ouimette had a contract out to kill him.
Kennedy and Vespia were not harmed.
During the 1996 trial on extortion charges that sent him away for life, Ouimette was an intimidating presence in federal court. Several strippers from the Satin Doll strip club in Providence were called to testify about threats he made to David Duxbury, a mob associate, and others in the club.
Ouimette rose from his chair during the testimony. The strippers were so fearful that they started sobbing and refused to look at the mobster.
Ouimette, a career criminal who refused to cooperate with the police, had been fighting his last conviction in an effort to get out of prison. Lynch said his uncle's body will be returned to Rhode Island for a funeral and burial.


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