Friday, May 27, 2011

Saugus Goodfella Becomes Idaho Cowboy

A Mafia hitman named Enrico Ponzo – seen on the left in the photo above - was recently discovered living as a rancher in Idaho. Don't get too excited though. The place was hardly any Southfork. He had exactly 12 acres and 12 cows. To give you an idea of how much land that is, consider that 12 acres is less than 2 percent of a square mile. This is the kind of micro-ranch that my wife’s cousin has in Texas, where he raises a tiny herd of bulls for the rodeo market. I helped feed the hulking little devils one drunken Christmas evening. Hemmed in by a maze of rickety fencing and pickup trucks the size of cabin cruisers, I offered to them what appeared to be giant gerbil pellets. Each of them could have gored me to death with a toss of his head, I surmised. Having a hitman as a neighbor is similar, I would imagine. One moment they may be as cuddly as all get-out, and then their mood turns…

The 42-year old Ponzo had been indicted in 1997, along with 14 other men, of numerous federal charges. These included racketeering, conspiracy, murder and attempted murder. During a gang war in 1989, Ponzo and his pals had murdered three other hoods and tried to whack at least seven more. He was allegedly one of a group of masked gunmen who had assaulted “Cadillac Frank” Salemme, the head of the Patriarca family of the New England Cosa Nostra, at a Saugus IHOP. By 1994, however, Ponzo had skipped town to escape drug charges, and nobody had seen his butt since.

It must have been hard to top such an impressively active youth, but Enrico tried. He fulfilled the American Dream of owning a ranch in The West. He became a well-liked resident of Marsing, Idaho, calling himself Jeffrey John Shaw (“Jay” for short) and traipsing around in “bib overalls and a straw hat”. This idyll, which sounds like an episode of Crime Story morphing into Green Acres, came to an end this spring – and very possibly for reasons of sentiment. It turns out he was engaged in a custody battle for the children he'd had with his estranged girlfriend. As the battle heated up, he began to take risks by asserting his false identity in court documents and whatnot, and that may have drawn the notice of the Feds. This is one lesson that any Anti-Hero of Classic Noir could have taught him. Never Get Emotionally Involved – especially when you're on the lam.

His newfound friends said he was a great guy, always ready to fix your computer or to get jiggy in front of a Wii screen. The quality of his friends makes you wonder though. After he was arrested, several of those same buddies were themselves arrested for "using a jackhammer to break through the foundation of Mr. Ponzo’s house, then using a blowtorch to open a steel safe beneath the floor and stealing more than $100,000 in cash, as well as gold and other valuables."

Enrico Ponzo (Boston Globe)
Fugitive wanted for attempted Saugus mob murder arrested in Idaho (Wicked Local News)
Enrico Ponzo Captured (Huffington Post)
While the mystery of who Enrico Ponzo is has been solved, other questions remain (Idaho Statesman)
An Ardent Friend Forever; Then Came the Theft Charges (New York Times)
Idaho Rancher Revealed as Gangster From Boston (New York Times)

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