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Wiretap trips former Mafia figure

Gambling case could send freed inmate back to prison

Vincent M. Ferrara was released in May 2005 after serving nearly 16 years in a racketeering case, because federal Judge Mark L. Wolf found evidence of prosecutorial misconduct. Vincent M. Ferrara was released in May 2005 after serving nearly 16 years in a racketeering case, because federal Judge Mark L. Wolf found evidence of prosecutorial misconduct.
Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Shelley Murphy
Globe Staff / April 30, 2008

Former New England Mafia captain Vincent M. Ferrara said he felt vindicated three years ago when a judge found his federal racketeering conviction had been tainted by government misconduct and set him free after nearly 16 years behind bars.

The man who had been at the center of a bloody power struggle within the New England mob in the late 1980s scoffed at prosecutors' assertions that he would resume his place in the crime family, insisting he just wanted to lead a law-abiding life, spend time with his five children, and maybe open a restaurant.

But yesterday, authorities alleged that Ferrara was once again dabbling in underworld activities. Ferrara was charged with playing a role, albeit a minor one, in what has traditionally been the bread and butter of local organized crime: a gambling ring.

A Norfolk County grand jury indicted Ferrara, 59, of Boston's North End, on a single charge of conspiring to use a telephone for gambling purposes, based on calls police say he made to bookmakers last year that were tapped by Massachusetts State Police. A dozen other people were also indicted.

The misdemeanor charge against Ferrara carries up to a year in jail and a $2,000 fine. But Ferrara, who remains on federal probation, could be sent back to federal prison for up to three more years if a federal judge finds he violated the conditions of his release by committing a new crime.

"This work and these indictments have brought a substantial illegal gaming racket operating on the South Shore and in and around Boston to an end," Norfolk District Attorney William R. Keating said in announcing the charges late yesterday.

He credited the State Police Special Services Section, which targets organized crime, with uncovering gambling offenses that Ferrara and the others are accused of committing between last June and October. Police raided a number of undisclosed locations on Oct. 20 as part of the investigation, but the results of those searches are not yet public, Keating said.

State Police Colonel Mark Delaney said the agency is "committed to disrupting criminal organizations wherever and whenever they occur."

Ferrara could not be reached for comment last night.

Boston lawyer Martin G. Weinberg, who helped win freedom for Ferrara in the federal case, said: "Innocent people get charged with offenses they did not commit. Mr. Ferrara intends to vigorously defend himself against this misdemeanor allegation."

But one veteran investigator of organized crime said yesterday that it was not surprising that Ferrara would surface in a probe into illegal gambling, which has long been used by organized crime to generate revenue for other illegal activities.

"When people are drawn into organized crime over the years, they enjoy the notoriety that goes with it and the status," said retired Massachusetts State Police Colonel Thomas J. Foley.

"For most of them, that's the only life they know; and coming back on the street and all of a sudden trying to live a life that requires you to go out and get a job and work hard and not make a lot of money, from their perspective, is a real stretch for them," Foley said.

Ferrara, who served nearly 16 years in prison for racketeering, extortion, and gambling, was freed in May 2005 after US District Judge Mark L. Wolf cut several years off his sentence because of government misconduct.

The judge found that Assistant US Attorney Jeffrey Auerhahn had failed to tell defense lawyers in the early 1990s that a key witness had tried to recant an assertion that Ferrara ordered the 1985 slaying of Vincent "Jimmy" Limoli in the North End. Ferrara said he was innocent of Limoli's slaying, but he pleaded guilty in 1992 to murder, along with racketeering charges, under a deal that sent him to prison for 22 years, rather than go to trial and risk a conviction that could lead to life in prison. At Wolf's urging, the Massachusetts Board of Bar Overseers is reviewing Auerhahn's handling of Ferrara's case.

Ferrara has kept a fairly low profile, and yesterday marked the first time he was publicly linked to alleged wrongdoing since his release from prison. He has not been arrested yet but will be summonsed to court to face charges. No arraignment date has been set.

Shelley Murphy can be reached at shmurphy@globe.com.

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