A convicted killer and reputed street boss in the Colombo crime family who lived in Somerville wants a federal judge to throw out his guilty plea in a sweeping racketeering indictment, claiming that someone forged his signature on the plea agreement.
Writing from a federal prison in North Carolina, Ralph F. DeLeo, 70, this week filed a strongly worded motion to vacate the plea, records show. He is slated for release in October 2025, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons.
He said in the filing, made public on Thursday, that “an unknown officer of the court affixed a forged signature to the plea agreement and introduced it to the court” as the defendant’s.
Neither DeLeo’s lawyer at sentencing, held last year in US District Court in Boston, nor a spokeswoman for US Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz could immediately be reached for comment.
In the filing, DeLeo bristled at what he described as a “fraud upon the court.”
He said the “extraordinary circumstances stated in the affidavit and here in this motion has eviscerated the defendants [sic] Fifth Amendment rights,” adding that he wants to scrap the plea and the agreement and obtain “such other and further relief.”
DeLeo pleaded guilty in November to racketeering and weapons charges. Prosecutors said he ran a criminal enterprise known as the DeLeo crew, which engaged in cocaine and marijuana dealing, extortion, and loan sharking. His team operated in Massachusetts, Arkansas, Florida, and New York, according to authorities.
He received a 235-month sentence, with credit for the previous three years he had already spent behind bars.
In 1977, DeLeo was serving a 25- to 40-year sentence in the state prison at Walpole for kidnapping and armed robbery when he escaped while being treated at the Lemuel Shattuck Hospital in Jamaica Plain.
He was later captured in a bank robbery case in Ohio and struck a deal with prosecutors. He confessed that he was the triggerman who fatally shot a Columbus doctor, Walter Bond, on Oct. 31, 1977, at the behest of another doctor and later testified against that physician.
DeLeo was sentenced to 15 years to life for the slaying, but in 1991, Governor Richard F. Celeste of Ohio granted DeLeo clemency for his crimes in the Buckeye State. Authorities returned to him to Massachusetts to finish his earlier sentence, and he was released in 1997.
DeLeo said at his November sentencing that he received a commutation from Celeste because he “accepted responsibility for my actions and freed an innocent party,” and he also accused a federal agent of threatening to have him killed in prison, according to a transcript.
“I ask the court to consider my age, health, and [the agent’s] threats to have me killed in prison and his actions in furtherance of that threat against my life ... in determining the Court’s sentence,” DeLeo said at the time. “Thank you for your time and indulgence.”
Assistant US Attorney Timothy E. Moran laid into the mobster during the hearing, describing him as a man capable of wreaking havoc, the transcripts shows.
“I think it’s safe to say of the defendants who are regularly brought in this court, Mr. DeLeo has to be among the most dangerous both on a personal basis and organizationally,” Moran said. “The ... arsenal of weapons and criminal history, frankly, speak for themselves. They describe a person who was both capable and equipped for great violence, and it would be hard to exaggerate that.”
As part of his new motion on the plea, DeLeo included multiple court documents that contained his signature, including the alleged forgery.
“Plea bargain agreements are contractual in nature and are to be construed accordingly,” he wrote.
A judge will consider DeLeo’s motion at a later time.