Cadillac Frank was unlucky in his foray into the black market art scene, Boston mob boss couldn’t find buyers for Gardner museum art, sources say


April 9, 2022 – Former New England mobster don Francis (Cadillac Frank) Salemme tried to arrange the sale of the stolen masterpieces from the famous Isabella Stewart Gardner museum heist, but never found a taker due to his lack of knowledge of the black market rare art world, according to three different sources.

Two armed assailants dressed as Boston police officers broke into the private museum near historic Fenway Park on March 18, 1990 and walked away with 13 valuable works of art worth half a billion dollars. The loot included paintings by Rembrandt, Vermeer and Manet. Authorities believe the two burglars belonged to the Boston wing of the New England Patriarca family. No arrests were ever made in this case and the artwork is still missing.

Swashbuckling Cadillac Frank Salemme became New England’s mob boss in the coming months, after surviving a shooting war launched by a rebel force within Boston’s Patriarca faction, believed to be linked directly or by proxy the Gardner Museum robbery. Salemme, a native of Beantowner, was aligned with the crime family’s Providence group and the South Boston Irish Mafia. Upon seizing power in December 1990, with backing from New York’s Gambino and Colombo crime families, Cadillac Frank demanded access to the paintings stolen from the Gardner Museum, the sources say, and immediately began trying to push the paintings to people he thought could find sellers.

Boston mob trooper Robert (Bobby D) Donati, a prime suspect in the robbery, was murdered in September 1991, allegedly on Salemme’s orders. Donati belonged to the Boston faction of the Patriarcas which had opposed Salemme’s rise to the post of boss and had tried to kill him in an ambush staged at an international pancake house in the summer of 1989. Due to his naivety to move stolen artwork, Cadillac Frank never found a way to profit from the paintings in the Gardner Museum and eventually “lost track” of the work after fleeing town as a fugitive amid the 1990s.

Salemme was eventually apprehended in Florida in August 1995 and convicted of federal racketeering. He made a deal with the government in late 1999, committed nine gang homicides, and agreed to testify against a dirty FBI agent, earning him a trip to the Witness Protection Program. His lack of sincerity with the FBI and US Attorney’s Office led to him being removed from the program six years ago and put on trial for a murder he neglected to inform the government of when he began cooperating. for two decades.


According to sources, at least some of the paintings in the Gardner Museum were in the possession of a gang squad from Dorchester under Salemme led by Carmello (The Auto Man) Merlino. Merlino’s crew was headquartered outside the TRC Electric Auto Repair Shop and engaged in armed robbery, stolen cars, gambling, loan sharking, and drug rackets. Salemme, according to sources and a Massachusetts State Police document from the 1990s, assigned his consigliere Charles (Charlie Q-Ball) Quintina as a liaison with Merlino’s team regarding the paintings.

Some investigators believe the entire Gardner Museum heist was planned in the back room of TRC Electric Auto. The FBI caught Merlino on numerous threads talking about the theft and having the paintings “on ice”. Merlino died behind bars in 2005 of natural causes.

Robert (Bobby Boost) Guarente, a member of Merlino’s crew, was in possession of two of the paintings, possibly more, in the early 2000s and allegedly gave them to another member of Merlino’s crew, Robert ( Bobby the cook) Gentile, in the parking lot of a Portland, Maine diner in the years before his death from cancer in 2004. Guarente is a suspect in the 1991 gangland murder of Merlino’s crew member James (Irish Jimmy) Marks – the FBI links the hits of Marks and Bobby Donati, along with at least two others, to the fallout from the Gardner Museum heist.

After Salemme went to prison, Guarente and Gentile linked up with the Bruno-Scarfo crime family in Philadelphia and the FBI believe a collection of paintings passed through Philadelphia’s Rittenhouse Square art district for sale in 2002, but never sold. Guarente bragged to a Philadelphia mob capo about having had access to the paintings when a television report aired about the flight while the pair were vacationing in Florida.

Gentile was surprised with a handwritten list of stolen art and accompanying black market values ​​for each piece. He died of respiratory failure last fall at age 85.

Today, 88-year-old Cadillac Frank is serving life in prison for ordering the 1993 murder of nightclub owner Stevie DiSarro. Salemme and DiSarro were co-owners of a South Boston rock club turned topless bar and had a falling out over Cadillac Frank’s belief that DiSarro was stealing and talking to Feds.


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