Updated news on the Gambino, Genovese, Bonanno, Lucchese and Colombo Organized Crime Families of New York City.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

New England mafia soldier dies quietly in his bed

The funeral home death notice for Ralphie “Chong” Lamattina made the 94-year-old gangster seem like a lovable old geezer.

“The red roses on his casket,” it read, “represent his love for his mother Rose, his love for his family, and his love of the ponies!”

He also loved the Mafia, which he worked for most of his life.

“He was born across the street from where he died,” the notice continued. “For all his life he stayed almost exclusively on Hanover Street and in the North End.”

Well, except for the years he spent in state prison after pleading guilty to being an accessory after the fact in the 1966 gangland hits of two of Joe Barboza’s hoods in Chong’s bucket-of-blood club on Commercial Street. And then, of course, there were those years he spent as a fugitive in Italy after being indicted by the feds in 1984.

He returned a decade or so later to tell a federal judge he had never heard of the Mafia and served another five years or so in federal prison under the Bureau of Prisons number 20747-038 before finally being released in 2000.

But other than those brief interludes, I guess Ralphie Chong did spend most of his life “In Town,” as they used to say.

The fact that his passing this month went almost totally unnoticed shows just how much everything has changed in Boston.

The night Ralphie Chong died, I got a call from a perplexed editor on the Herald city desk.

“Some guy who seemed to know what he was talking about just called and said an old-time gangster just died, but the name didn’t seem right — Ralphie Chong.”

He got that moniker because his eyes supposedly somehow looked Asian.

Mostly he was known as one of Larry Baione’s crew. He used to hang out with Larry in his “club” on North Margin Street, and that’s where the feds recorded many of his pensees — like about the night the boys murdered Barboza’s two hoods, Tash Bratsos and Tommy DePrisco.

Violating all Mob protocol about never beginning a sentence with the words, “Remember when ...” Ralphie Chong asked his boss, “Remember when we did that work in, in, in the Nite Lite?”

Larry, always the perfectionist, critiqued the hit.

“It shouldn’t have happened inside the joint,” he said. “Once they get on the sidewalk, crack them and bleep them and walk away.”

Ralphie Chong was also there with Larry the night in 1981 when Baione lectured a dirtball who’d stolen money from the Winter Hill Gang that he’d have to pay them back.

“Maybe you don’t understand,” Baione sternly told him, as Ralphie Chong nodded and the FBI rolled tape. “We’re the Hill and the Hill is us and we cannot tolerate them getting bleeped.”

The G-men were ecstatic. They finally had proof that the two gangs, the Mafia and Winter Hill, had merged. It was the lecture that launched dozens of indictments.

Baione died in a prison hospital, and his soldier outlived him by 20 years, dying apparently in his own bed. They even had a wake for Ralphie Chong.

“It was the loneliest wake you ever saw,” said someone who knows.

But then, he’d outlived almost everyone, including his brother, “Joe Black.” Baione’s old social club is now a doggie day care center. They call it the Dogfather.

“He was proud of his Sicilian heritage,” Ralphie Chong’s death notice said, “and devoted to his family.”

That’s one way of putting it.



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