Human remains discovered at mob dig site in RI

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – The FBI says its agents have recovered human remains from behind a mill building where the victim of a mob slaying is believed to have been buried 23 years ago.

“Earlier this afternoon, the FBI Boston Division’s Evidence Response Team, with assistance from the Providence Police Department and Rhode Island State Police recovered human remains buried in the back of the property at 715 Branch Avenue, Providence, RI,” Special Agent in Charge Harold Shaw said in a statement Thursday afternoon.

“The remains were turned over to the Rhode Island Office of the State Medical Examiners for testing and DNA analysis,” he said.

Shaw said FBI officials will remain on scene until they have “completed processing the location where the remains were located.”

It is unclear yet if the remains are those of Boston businessman Steven DiSarro, who is believed to have been murdered by the mob in 1993.

Investigators have been digging behind the mill buildings at 715 and 725 Branch Ave. since Tuesday. Agents have been searching there for the remains of Steven DiSarro, of Westwood, Mass., who went missing and was allegedly killed by the mob in 1993.

Both 715 and 725 Branch Ave. are both owned by William Ricci who has been identified by federal prosecutors as a mob associate.

A Target 12 review of records from Providence City Hall reveal 725 Branch Ave. was purchased by Ricci’s family the year before DiSarro vanished.

The Branch Avenue mill building was bought by “RSS Realty Trust, Inc.” on Dec. 1, 1992, according to deed records. The president of the company – which is now called Branch Realty, Inc. – is listed as William Ricci. He was recently snared in a federal drug case and has reached a plea deal with prosecutors.

Since 1992, when the Ricci family purchased the property from a textile company that went into receivership, they have owned the building under three different corporation names.

Various members of the Ricci family have been listed as presidents of RSS Realty Trust throughout the years, according to the paperwork. They changed the name of the company in 1999.

In Providence federal court filings, prosecutors identified Ricci as a mob associate with close ties to former Patriarca crime family capo regime Robert “Bobby” DeLuca. Investigators have said DeLuca had strong ties to another former boss, Francis “Cadillac Frank” Salemme.

Salemme was indicted by a federal grand jury in 2004 for obstruction of justice over the gangland slaying of DiSarro. Salemme and his son had an interest in a South Boston nightclub, “The Channel,” which DiSarro managed.

In the 2004 indictment, the U.S. Attorney’s office in Boston wrote: “Salemme also assisted in burying Steven DiSarro’s body to prevent its discovery.”

A 2003 U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency report said FBI informant Stephen “The Rifleman” Flemmi claimed DeLuca was also present at the burial of DiSarro.

Salemme eventually pleaded guilty to the obstruction of justice charges and was given a five-year sentence. He denied taking part in DiSarro’s murder.

His attorney, Steven Boozang, declined to comment when reached by phone.

In August Ricci was charged in a federal drug case, accused of taking part in a scheme to grow marijuana inside the mill building at 725 Branch Ave. He eventually cut a deal with prosecutors and had two of three counts dismissed in exchange for pleading guilty.

Ricci will be sentenced on May 26. Eight other defendants are charged in the case.

Ricci’s case has not been officially tied to the FBI dig behind his mill building. A spokesperson for the Rhode Island U.S. Attorney Peter Neronha declined comment.

Ricci’s attorney, Michael Lepizzera, also declined to comment for this story.

Tim White ( twhite@wpri.com ) is the Target 12 investigative reporter for WPRI 12 and Fox Providence. Follow him on Twitter: @TimWhiteRI

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