(BOSTON) — For more than a decade, Jeffrey John Shaw was seen as an eccentric man amongst his neighbors in the cattle community of Marsing, Idaho — a rancher with a thick Boston accent trying to blend in by wearing bib overalls and a straw hat.
During his time as an Idaho rancher, the raven-haired, goateed man raised cows and two kids and became trusted enough to run the town’s irrigation system, according to court records.
But in February 2011, as he was set to purchase hay for his 12-acre ranch, police swooped in and exposed the rancher as a wanted mobster on the lam for 17 years.
In a Boston federal courtroom on Monday, the goatee was gone and so were the overalls. And a jury was picked for the trial for Shaw under his real name: Enrico Ponzo.
Ponzo, prosecutors said, was no cattle rancher. In fact, he is suspected, according to federal charges, of slaughtering men as a feared Mafia enforcer for the powerful Patriarca Crime Family, which in the 1990s, ran all of the New England rackets from Hanover Street in Boston to Atwells Avenue in Providence, R.I.
Prosecutors said Ponzo was part of a particularly violent faction desperate to oust the family’s bosses to take control of the family and was willing to commit murder in order to win that bloody internecine struggle for power.
“Defendant Enrico M. Ponzo and his co-conspirators utilized violence and the threat of violence to further their aims, and committed murders and attempted murders to remove competitors and avenge acts committed by their rivals,” prosecutors said in court records.
Ponzo had been missing since 1994, just after his crime family rivals took out a contract hit on his life and missed, authorities said, shooting instead an innocent victim, Michael Romano, as he changed a tire at a Kentucky Fried Chicken outside of Boston. After that, Ponzo vanished.
In 1997, Ponzo was listed alongside 14 other mob associates as part of a sweeping federal indictment charging them with a plethora of murders — including the shooting of Frances “Cadillac Frank” Salemme.
It was one of the most storied hit attempts in Boston’s history. Salemme was ambushed and shot as he left a pancake house on Route 1 in Saugus but survived and eventually became the New England crime family boss.
Among the witnesses for the government, according to court records, are Michael Romano Sr. — whose son was shot in a case of mistaken identity by the hitmen gunning for Ponzo — and Mark Rossetti, who was unmasked as a longtime FBI informant during his state trial on drug and racketeering charges last year.
Rossetti is suspected of killing the younger Romano while working as an FBI informant, authorities said. After the Romano hit in 1994, his sidekick David Clark shot and killed Massachusetts State Trooper Mark Charbonnier, according to South Boston Congressman Stephen Lynch and state prosecutors. The Rossetti case led Lynch to file federal legislation for the FBI to change the way it handles FBI informants.
The Ponzo trial comes just months after the trial of James “Whitey” Bulger, the notorious Boston mobster who worked alongside the FBI to take down members of the Patriarca family — some of whom are expected to testify in this trial.
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