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Saturday, April 28, 2018

Officials investigate suspicious fire linked to witness set to testify against turncoat New England boss

Frank Salemme (mugshot).jpg
State fire officials are investigating an out-of-control car blaze earlier this month outside a Hull restaurant owned by the brother of a man set to testify in the ongoing trial of Francis “Cadillac Frank” Salemme, an admitted killer who was once the head of the New England Mafia.
Officials are still trying to determine the cause of the April 17 fire outside the Pizza Box restaurant and have not said whether it could have been aimed at the owner, Peter Booras, who was once pushed out of his ownership of The Channel – in the 1980s, a renowned Boston music club – by Salemme and his associates. Booras’ brother, Harry Booras, is scheduled to testify in Salemme’s federal murder trial, which started with jury selection on Wednesday.
Jennifer Mieth, a spokeswoman for the state’s Department of Fire Services, said this week that investigators do not know what started the fire at 14 Nantasket Ave. or whether it was set. The fire was reported at about 4:30 a.m. and spread to three cars parked near the pizza shop.
The Booras brothers are the former owners of the venerable Fort Point nightclub The Channel, which played a key role in Boston’s punk and heavy metal scenes in its 1980s heyday before falling into Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 1990. Nationally known acts such as the B-52s, The Ramones, Spinal Tap and James Brown played at the venue.
As the club was nearing a sale, prosecutors say, the brothers were forced out by Frank Salemme and his associates, including a real estate developer and night club operator who prosecutors say Salemme’s late son subsequently killed after their relationship soured. The remains of that man, Steven DiSarro, were discovered buried behind a mill in Providence, R.I., in March 2016, leading police to arrest the now 84-year-old Salemme on a charge of murdering a witness.
Federal prosecutors say Salemme and DiSarro began working together in the late 1980s when Salemme, fresh out of prison, was working to get illegal video poker machines into bars and restaurants in central Massachusetts, where he was already extorting bookmakers and loan sharks. By 1990, prosecutors say DiSarro was working out a deal with the Booras brothers to buy The Channel, with Salemme – by then the boss of the New England Mafia – as a secret owner.
Harry Booras is expected to testify in the coming weeks that he and his brother had agreed to allow DiSarro to manage the club while he worked out financing to buy it, but later realized that they were losing control of the venue. Prosecutors say there were several “violent confrontations” between the Booras brothers and Salemme’s son, Frank Salemme Jr., before the club was eventually sold to DiSarro in a bankruptcy auction.
Prosecutors say that not long after the sale, the Salemmes began to turn on DiSarro as he came under law enforcement scrutiny for his involvement in The Channel as well as bank fraud allegations stemming from his real estate business. The prosecution’s star witness in Salemme’s trial, convicted gangster and former FBI informant Stephen “The Rifleman” Flemmi, is expected to testify that Salemme told him he was worried that DiSarro would not “stand up” and could cooperate with authorities investigating Salemme Jr.
Prosecutors say DiSarro left his home on May, 10, 1993, and was driven to a house in Sharon where he was strangled to death by Salemme Jr. as his father, who was then living in Stoughton, watched. Flemmi has told authorities that he happened to walk in as DiSarro was being killed.
Prosecutors say DiSarro’s body was driven to Rhode Island and buried in a pit behind a Providence mill, where it remained until being discovered in March 2016. By then, Salemme Jr. was dead and the elder Salemme was in witness protection after testifying against corrupt FBI Agent John Connolly.
After DiSarro’s body was discovered, prosecutors say Salemme drained his bank account and took off without telling the witness-protection program. He was tracked to Connecticut and arrested.
Peter Booras did not return calls this week.
Salemme, who headed the Patriarca crime family in the early 1990s, admitted participating in eight gangland slayings during the 1960s, but because he was granted immunity for cooperating with prosecutors, he could not be charged in those killings. He was convicted of racketeering in 1999 and was sentenced to five years in prison for lying to prosecutors in the plea negotiations.
Salemme went into the witness protection program while he was a cooperating witness during the prosecution of Boston gangster James “Whitey” Bulger and former FBI Agent John Connolly Jr., Bulger’s handler while he worked as an informant.
The charge against Salemme – murder of a federal witness – carries a maximum sentence of death or life in prison.



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