BOSTON — A man who spent over a decade posing as a cattle rancher in Idaho was convicted Wednesday on a string of federal charges, including the attempted murder of a man who became the boss of the New England Mafia.
After a monthlong trial, Enrico Ponzo, 45, was convicted of racketeering conspiracy, murder conspiracy in aid of racketeering and a number of other charges including money laundering and extortion. One of the acts jurors found Ponzo committed under the racketeering conspiracy charge was the attempted killing of Francis "Cadillac Frank" Salemme. Ponzo, however, was acquitted of some of the acts, including two killings and four other attempted murders.
Prosecutors said Ponzo teamed up with a faction of mobsters that wanted to stop Salemme from becoming the boss of the Patriarca crime family, the New England branch of the Mafia. Ponzo was convicted of being one of the triggermen who shot at Salemme in 1989 as he walked into a pancake house in Saugus, north of Boston. Salemme survived the shooting.
Ponzo fled in 1994 and wasn't captured until 2011, when authorities found him in Marsing, Idaho, where he owned a handful of cows on a small ranch and neighbors knew him as Jay Shaw.
In opening statements to the jury last month, a prosecutor said Ponzo was an associate in the Patriarca family who participated in extortions, assaults and attempted murders while rival factions were vying for control of the organized crime group in the late 1980s and early '90s.
Prosecutors said Ponzo re-invented himself after he fled Massachusetts, first as a large-scale marijuana distributor in Arizona, then as a cattle rancher in Idaho.
Ponzo's lawyer, however, said he was not a made member or an associate of the Mafia. The defense also challenged the credibility of the government's witnesses, including mob figures who made deals with prosecutors for reduced sentences.
Ponzo's lawyer, John Cunha Jr., also told the jury that Ponzo left Massachusetts because he believed he was on a hit list created by a mobster whose son was shot to death.
Cunha said he plans to appeal.
"The jury worked hard. They obviously gave great care since they found him not guilty on a number of things as well as guilty on other things," he said. "Nevertheless, it's a disappointment."