United States District Court, D. Massachusetts
MICHELLE O'NEILL, individually and as administrator of the estate of Michael Romano Jr.; DARLENE ROMANO, as administrator of the estate of Michael Romano Jr.; MICHAEL O'NEILL; and MICHAYLA O'NEILL, Plaintiffs,
UNITED STATES of AMERICA, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER ON DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO
DENNIS SAYLOR IV UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
another civil action arising out of the relationship between
the Federal Bureau of Investigation and organized crime
leaders in Boston in the 1980s and 1990s. Plaintiffs are the
widow, two children, and estate administrator of Michael
Romano Jr., a member of the Carrozza faction of La Casa
Nostra. Romano Jr. was murdered by individuals affiliated
with Francis “Cadillac Frank” Salemme in 1994.
Romano Jr. was mistaken for a rival Mafia leader, Enrico
Ponzo, and shot at close range while changing a flat tire.
Plaintiffs allege that Mark Rossetti, a mob leader aligned
with Salemme who was also an FBI informant, had ordered the
hit on Ponzo.
have brought suit against the United States under the under
the Federal Tort Claims Act (“FTCA”), 28 U.S.C.
§ 2671, et seq., for failure to prevent the
murder. The United States has moved to dismiss the complaint
for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction and failure to state
a claim. It contends that because a private person would not
have owed a duty to Romano Jr. to control the actions of Mark
Rossetti, the United States has not waived its sovereign
immunity under the FTCA. It further contends that the claims
are barred by the statute of limitations.
following reasons, the motion to dismiss for lack of
subject-matter jurisdiction will be granted. Because the
Court concludes that sovereign immunity has not been waived,
it will not reach the limitations issue, and the motion to
dismiss for failure to state a claim will be denied as moot.
facts are set forth as described in the complaint and public
Infighting in the New England Mafia
Nostra, also known as the Mafia, is a “notorious crime
syndicate.” United States v. DeCologero, 364
F.3d 12, 17 (1st Cir. 2004). During much of the second half
of the 20th century, the New England branch of the Mafia, the
Patriarca crime family, was led by Raymond Patriarca Sr.
Id. After Patriarca Sr.'s death in 1984, his son
Raymond Patriarca Jr. took over operations. Id. By
1990, Patriarca Jr.'s heir-apparent was Francis Salemme,
better known as “Cadillac Frank” Salemme.
Id. However, a faction of the Patriarca family, led
by Robert Carrozza, Joseph Russo, and Vincent Ferrarra (the
“Carrozza faction”), began challenging Patriarca
Jr.'s leadership. United States v. Marino, 277
F.3d 11, 19 (1st Cir. 2002).
1991, Salemme became the leader of the Patriarca family.
Id. The Carrozza faction challenged Salemme and his
faction, and various individuals on both sides of the
conflict were murdered. Id. Sometime in
early-to-mid-1994, members of the Carrozza faction, including
Michael Romano Sr. (Michael Romano Jr.'s father), Enrico
Ponzo, and others, plotted to kill certain members of the
Salemme faction, including Mark Rossetti. Id. at 20.
Romano Sr.'s son, Michael Romano Jr., was also a
“Carrozza stalwart.” Id. Around that
time, the two sides met in a “peace” meeting but
negotiations fell through. Id.
Involvement of the Irish Mob
“The Rifleman” Flemmi was also a long-time
“fixture in Boston's organized crime
hierarchy.” United States v. Flemmi, 225 F.3d
78, 81 (1st Cir. 2000). Flemmi and Whitey Bulger were leaders
of the Irish Mob in Boston, the Winter Hill Gang.
Id. Flemmi did extensive business with La Casa
Nostra, and was a close associate of Salemme. Id.;
United States v. Salemme, 91 F.Supp.2d 141, 176 (D.
Mass. 1999). However, beginning in the 1960s, Flemmi and
Bulger began cooperating with the FBI. Flemmi, 225
F.3d at 81. By 1967, both men were “top-echelon
informants, ” helping government officials investigate
and eventually prosecute major Mafia figures. Id.
The Murder of Michael Romano Jr.
September 1, 1994, Michael Romano Jr., then 20 years old, was
murdered by Salemme faction members David Clark, Joseph
Souza, and Stephen Rossetti. (Def. Ex. B, Luisi Tr. at
151-53). Romano Jr. was shot at close range while
changing a flat tire in Everett. He had been mistakenly
identified as Ponzo, the intended target of the shooting.
(Am. Compl. ¶ 10).
complaint alleges that Mark Rossetti, a FBI informant, sought
to kill Ponzo to help the Salemme faction take control of
Mafia operations in the Boston area. (Id.
¶¶ 12-13). After the murder of his son, Romano Sr.
called Salemme faction member Robert Luisi Jr. and stated
“I thought we were going to leave the kids out of
this.” (Def. Ex. B, Luisi Tr. at 147-54).
after Romano Jr.'s murder, the Carrozza faction met at
the Northgate Mall to determine the responsible party.
Marino, 277 F.3d at 20. Speculation initially
focused on Ponzo himself and Salemme faction members Joseph
Cirame, Clark, Souza, Lonnie Hilson, and Salemme.
Id. To retaliate for the murder, the Carrozza
faction developed a “hit list.” Id.
Carrozza faction members twice attempted to kill Cirame;
opened fire on Stephen Rossetti; and attempted to murder
Salemme. Id. Romano Sr. personally shot and killed
FBI Corruption is Revealed
1995, Flemmi and various Mafia members, along with Salemme,
were arrested on RICO charges. Rakes v. United
States, 442 F.3d 7, 14 (1st Cir. 2006). Flemmi's
Winter Hill colleague, Bulger, escaped before being arrested.
Id. The media began investigating allegations of FBI
wrongdoing, particularly by Special Agent John Connolly.
Id. Judge Wolf of this district held a 10-month
hearing into the FBI's connections with the Irish Mob,
culminating in an opinion detailing corruption in the FBI.
See generally Salemme, 91 F.Supp.2d 141. The opinion
suggested that Bulger and Flemmi may have “received
numerous benefits from the FBI . . . including protection
from prosecution [and] access to the names of informants who
were themselves providing information to the FBI . . .
.” McIntyre v. United States, 367 F.3d 38, 40
(1st Cir. 2004).
Michael Romano Sr.'s Accusation
February 29, 2000, Michael Romano Sr. was sentenced to a term
of 252 months' imprisonment for conspiracy to commit
murder in aid of racketeering and other related charges.
See United States v. Carrozza et al.,
97-cr-40009-NMG, Docket No. 1112. At sentencing, Romano Sr.
made the following statements:
[Judge Wolf] found out that the Justice Department and the
FBI allowed Stephen Flemmi and Whitey Bulger to operate their
illegal organized crime gang with their partner, as ...