Hours after the arrest of Matthew L. Guglielmetti Jr., 56, on a charge of conspiracy to distribute cocaine, the FBI and state police raid a New England Laborers office and a Cranston concrete company.
Journal Staff Writers
Friday, January 21, 2005
State and federal agents arrested a capo regime in the Patriarca crime family yesterday and also searched offices of the Laborers' International Union in Providence and a Cranston concrete company that has employed the mobster as well as the son of a top state judge.
Matthew L. Guglielmetti Jr., 56, was charged with conspiracy to distribute cocaine. The government accused Guglielmetti of agreeing to protect a major shipment of cocaine that was passing through Rhode Island en route to Canada.
According to an FBI affidavit, the drug case grew out of a larger undercover investigation in which an agent posing as a businessman operated a business with Guglielmetti, who was a silent partner.
Authorities declined comment on the ongoing investigation. But hours after Guglielmetti's arrest, FBI agents and Rhode Island State Police detectives armed with empty boxes and search warrants descended upon the offices of the New England Laborers in Providence and Capital City Concrete in Cranston.
The agents arrived shortly before noon at the Arthur E. Coia Building at 226 S. Main St., Providence, a red-brick building that holds office space for various operations of the New England regional operations of the Laborers.
A uniformed state trooper and Providence police officer barred reporters from entering. But inside, agents could be seen on the first floor, which includes the union's organizing department, and also going upstairs, which includes offices of the New England Laborers' Labor-Management Cooperation Trust.
Photographed from outside, a federal agent enters an elevator, as Trooper Jeffrey Clark stands watch in the lobby of the Arthur E. Coia Building in Providence during yesterday's raid.
Simultaneously, other law-enforcement officials arrived at Capital City Concrete at 108 Phenix Ave. in Cranston, a two-story white house converted into offices.
Guglielmetti worked for Capital City Concrete, which employs union construction workers, when the company helped build the parking garage for the planned new Kent County Courthouse over the past few years.
One of Guglielmetti's coworkers at Capital City Concrete was Albert E. DeRobbio II, the son of Chief District Court Judge Albert E. DeRobbio.
Until last year, the younger DeRobbio was a vice president of Capital City Concrete, which is owned by his wife, Lori Mason DeRobbio. He no longer works for the company and faces charges of assaulting his wife last summer; the couple is in the midst of a divorce marked by squabbling over assets, including the concrete company.
GUGLIELMETTI'S ARREST follows a scheme that the FBI says was hatched because the mobster needed some cash for Christmas.
According to an affidavit filed in federal court yesterday by FBI Special Agent Joseph Degnan, several FBI agents had been working undercover in Rhode Island and elsewhere, for an undisclosed period of time.
"During this undercover activity, an FBI undercover agent . . . was introduced to Guglielmetti," the affidavit said. "In his undercover role, [the agent] and Guglielmetti operated a business, with Guglielmetti as a silent partner. During the operation of this business, Guglielmetti received money from the business, including a share of the profits from laundering what Guglielmetti believed were drug proceeds through the undercover business."
Then, last November, the affidavit said, Guglielmetti met the undercover agent in Johnston and "indicated a need to make some money prior to Christmas."
The mobster and the agent discussed having Guglielmetti arrange protection for a large shipment of cocaine that would be passing through Rhode Island from the South, bound for Canada. They also discussed the possibility of laundering the proceeds once the cocaine was distributed.
On Dec. 6, according to the affidavit, Guglielmetti met with the agent again and agreed to a payment of $1,000 per kilo for "babysitting" 67 kilos of cocaine; they also discussed laundering at least half the proceeds once the cocaine was sold in Canada.
The affidavit said that the conversations were recorded on audiotape, and that some were also secretly videotaped.
At a subsequent meeting, on Dec. 13, Guglielmetti told the undercover agent that his "people" would guard the cocaine, and agreed that someone could come and pick up some of the cocaine for local distribution. However, the affidavit quotes Guglielmetti as saying, "I don't want people in and out of there . . . I don't want a guy walking in, taking three, running out, coming back, taking four . . . coming back, taking five, you might as well just hang a sign out and say we're doing drugs."
The cocaine shipment was due in Rhode Island this week, the affidavit said, and would be kept at a hotel. On Tuesday of this week, Guglielmetti arranged for two associates he had enlisted to guard the cocaine to meet two other undercover agents, posing as employees of the cocaine supplier, in Johnston.
Authorities did not say where in Johnston the meetings took place.
Later, between 4 and 5 p.m. on Tuesday, the affidavit said, the original undercover agent met Guglielmetti in Cranston and gave him a key to the hotel room where the cocaine was, and told the mobster to have his two men there by 6 p.m.
Shortly after 6 p.m., Guglielmetti's two associates -- who were not named, or arrested yesterday -- arrived at the designated room to find two undercover policemen and 67 kilos of cocaine in suitcases. The four men remained together for about five hours, during which time two more undercover agents came and took 18 kilos, purportedly for distribution in Central Falls.
During this time, the affidavit said, Guglielmetti was with the original undercover agent at another hotel. At 11 p.m., the agent called the hotel room with the cocaine and told one of the undercover agents that Guglielmetti's associates were done; Guglielmetti then talked to one of his associates by phone, and he and the other associate left.
Yesterday morning, Guglielmetti met with the agent in Johnston to receive payment. Instead, he was arrested.
At 2:45 p.m. yesterday, a handcuffed Guglielmetti was led into a federal courtroom for an initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge David Martin. Clad in a dark sweater, blue jeans and new white running shoes, Guglielmetti stood calmly beside his lawyer, John M. Cicilline, as the judge summarized the charge against him and asked him if he understood.
"Yes, sir," he said softly.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Kenneth P. Madden argued that Guglielmetti is a flight risk and danger to the community, and should be denied bail. He faces a prison term of 10 years to life, if convicted.
"The strength of the evidence against the defendant is great," Madden argued. "He dealt with an undercover agent -- in fact, several undercover agents were involved -- and all of their conversations were audiotaped, and some were videotaped.
Martin ordered Guglielmetti held without bail at the Wyatt Detention Center in Central Falls. He scheduled a preliminary hearing for next Friday.
GUGLIELMETTI HAS been a prominent figure in the Rhode Island underworld for decades. In 1991, he pleaded guilty to federal racketeering conspiracy charges in Hartford, Conn., and was sentenced to nearly five years in prison.
While Guglielmetti pleaded guilty, seven others, including mob underboss Nicholas L. Bianco, went to trial. During the trial, evidence surfaced that Bianco had sent Guglielmetti to a Ramada Inn in Mystic, Conn., to meet with mobsters from the Hartford-Springfield area.
As part of the plea, Guglielmetti admitted that, on Oct. 29, 1989, he crossed state lines -- traveling from Rhode Island to Massachusetts -- to attend a Mafia induction ceremony in Medford, Mass.
The ceremony was a watershed moment. The FBI was able to record several prominent New England mobsters, including Vincent Federico, Bobby DeLuca and Gaetano Milano, having their fingers pricked and swearing blood oaths to the Providence-based Patriarca crime family.
DeLuca, of Lincoln, later rose to become a ranking member of the crime family.
Also among those attending the ceremony were former crime boss Raymond J. "Junior" Patriarca. Charges stemming from the undercover operation sent Patriarca to prison for almost nine years.
One of the mobsters, Biagio DiGiacomo, was recorded saying, "We get in alive in this organization, and the only way we are gonna get out is dead. No matter what. It's no hope. No Jesus. No Madonna. Nobody can help us if we ever give up this secret to anybody, this thing cannot be exposed."
In the mid-'90s, Guglielmetti was released from a federal prison in Sandstone, Minn., and returned to Rhode Island. He remained under the watchful eye of law enforcement as he worked jobs as a construction laborer.
On July 3, 1997, Guglielmetti was treated for two stab wounds at Memorial Hospital of Rhode Island in Pawtucket. He was "very courteous" to the police, but he refused to provide them with any information other than his address and telephone number.
Guglielmetti also surfaced on law-enforcement tape recordings in a 2003 federal racketeering and extortion case in Boston. A Massachusetts State Police affidavit identified Guglielmetti as a Rhode Island capo in the Patriarca crime family and Luigi "Baby Shacks" Manocchio, of Providence, as the boss.
The affidavit went on to describe Guglielmetti's alleged role in helping to collect a mob gambling debt in New Hampshire and in trying to mediate a dispute among mob soldiers in Massachusetts. In one recorded conversation quoted in the affidavit, Guglielmetti commiserates with two of the Massachusetts wise guys about how their rivals are "throwing fish around" in an apparent death threat reminiscent of the Godfather movies.
"I went with a broad I had a fish in my door step inside the entry way," says one Massachusetts mobster.
"That's HBO," responds Guglielmetti.
"That's the Sopranos," echoes another wise guy.
In another recorded conversation, the affidavit said, Guglielmetti lamented that some Mafia members were being promoted simply for their long years of service.
"So now, I mean it's like, ah, a whore in the neighborhood, you know you stand here long enough we'll use her," said Guglielmetti.
Guglielmetti was not charged in that case. But prior to the indictment, Massachusetts and Rhode Island state police did stop by the construction site of the new Kent County Courthouse parking garage, where Guglielmetti was working for Capital City Concrete, to notify him that he had been picked up on the court-authorized recordings.
DURING GUGLIELMETTI'S brief court appearance yesterday afternoon, FBI agents and state police detectives continued their searches of the Laborers and Capital Concrete offices for records pertaining to the larger investigation.
A secretary for Armand E. Sabitoni, the Laborers' general secretary-treasurer and the Laborers' New England regional manager, said that Sabitoni was traveling and not available.
Dominick Ruggerio, administrator of the New England Laborers' Labor-Management Cooperation Trust and a state senator from Providence, could not be reached for comment. According to a union Web site, the trust's mission includes "creating long-term working relationships between contractors and the New England Laborers."
The law firm of Coia & Lepore, which is also in the Arthur E. Coia Building and has close ties to the Laborers, issued a statement saying that its offices had not been searched.
Meanwhile, nobody was available at Capital City Concrete in Cranston. Late in the afternoon, when a reporter called the company's office, a state police officer answered the phone. He said that Lori DeRobbio was not there.
With staff reports from John Freidah.
Bill Malinowski can be reached at (401) 277-7019, or bmalinow [at] projo.com. Mike Stanton can be reached at (401) 277-7724, or mstanton [at] projo.com