Ponzo Scheme: Ah, the lure of the West.
There’s really not that much of a mob scene in Boston anymore. At least not that I’m aware of.
Some Boston hoods were swept up in the big January FBI round-up of East Coast members of La Cosa Nostra, the quaintly old-fashioned name for the Mafia. But for the most part, the only noise comes from the occasional supposed Whitey Bulger sighting. Whitey, the notorious, stone-killer head of Boston’s Irish mob, went on the lam in the mid-1990’s, having been tipped off by a pal the FBI that the long arm of the law was about to catch up with him. It still hasn’t caught up with Whitey, but John Connolly, the rogue FBI agent, is still doing time.
What with The Sopranos off the air, and a relative drought with respect to Boston mob-related news, I read with interest an article in The NY Times last week on Enrico Ponzo.
Ponzo was a local underling,
…part of a violent faction intent on ousting the bosses of the powerful Patriarca crime family in Boston in the early 1990s.
When a wide-ranging indictment came down against him and 14 others in 1997, Mr. Ponzo was charged with crimes that included attempted murder and extortion. But he was also listed as the target of a contract killing planned by one of the other defendants.
The attempted hit was on “Cadillac Frank” Salemme, now in the Witness Protection Program, but once a kingpin who had forged a strong working relationship with the aforementioned Whitey Bulger. (All those interlocking directorates…). Ponzo allegedly tried to gun Salemme down outside of an IHOP. (Guess Cadillac Frank wasn’t living particularly large that day.)
Fast forward a bit, and the son of another mob guy was killed after Ponzo “and another man left him to change a flat tire alone.” The bereaved father is the one the had the contract out on Ponzo.
Anyway, Ponzo was apparently not all that interested in a) getting arrested, b) getting whacked by a fellow hood. In fact, he’d disappeared a couple of years before the indictment was handed down.
He had heeded Horace Greeley’s still relevant call to “Go West, young man,” and high-tailed it to Marsing, Idaho – approximate population 900, if you don’t count the cattle and the prairie dogs. And apparently the kind of place you can skedaddle to and lay low, at least for a decade or so.
There, as Jeffrey John Shaw, he stood out for his Boston accent, his tender foot ways, and the fact that he wore “bib overalls and straw hats.” Which hadn’t been de rigueur in Marsing, Idaho since the Great Depression. Perhaps Ponzo, who’s now 42, was just reliving the time when he was a lad and painters’ overalls were de rigueur in Boston.
Anyway, I always assume the people in small towns are incredibly nosey privacy invaders of the first rank, but I guess, at least in some places out West, it’s kind of don’t ask, don’t tell. (Remember the TV show The Virginian, where – quite preposterously, to my way of thinking – no one ever asked The Virginian what his real name was. Hmmmmm. Guess I’m the nosey, privacy invader type, after all.)
Although Enrico Ponzo never did get to be a made man in Boston, in Marsing, Idaho, as The Times put it:
He became a remade man.
He kept a few cows, moved furniture, fixed computers, and managed the area’s irrigation system. He and his partner (pardner?), who came to Marsing with him, had two kids.
Not clear how the Feds found him after all these years, but it may have had something to do with those kids.
Ponzo and his ex-girlfriend are in a custody battle:
In court papers, Ms. [Cara Lyn] Pace complained about his drinking and “aggression,” saying she was “fearful for my life.”
“Jeff has little respect for the rules of law,” Ms. Pace wrote.
Pace claims that she never dimed Shaw/Ponzo, but we’ll see. When it comes to bitter custody battles…
In Marsing, meanwhile:
…investigators say they found 38 guns, $15,000 in cash and a 100-ounce bar of silver in Mr. Ponzo’s modest house. They also found dozens of books about changing identities.
Which is quite an interesting agglomeration. Wonder where money like that was coming from? $15K is a lot of moola in a hard-scrabble town like Marsing, one would imagine.
Now [Ponzo] is being extradited to Massachusetts. “I don’t know whether he really was a fugitive,” said Norman S. Zalkind, a Boston lawyer who represented Mr. Ponzo two decades ago. “If you look at the indictment, he was also one of the victims.”
But if you look at the indictment, he also tried to take out Cadillac Frank Salemme at the IHOP. And not that Cadillac Frank was/is any prize. Still…
Ponzo is apparently less sanguine about his prospects than Zalkind:
“I asked him, ‘It must be a weight off your chest that you don’t have to hide this anymore,’ ” said Kelly Verceles, a friend from Idaho who recently visited Mr. Ponzo while he was behind bars there. “He said, ‘Dude, I might be going to jail forever.’ ”
If jail doesn’t end up being forever, Ponzo’s friends in Idaho are eager to have him back.
After a stretch in Walpole State Prison, Marsing, Idaho, will probably look pretty darned good, even if I’m having a hard time figuring out how someone makes the transition from the mean streets of Boston to a pokey ranching town in Idaho.
Oh give me land, lots of land, and the starry skies above…don’t fence me in.
Personally, country living would scare the crap out of me. But maybe if you’ve been involved in a shoot ‘em up, and have had a contract put out on you, your nerves are a bit less jumpy than mine.