The state police say their break came nine months ago when leaders of a West Warwick-based racketeering enterprise decided they needed to “teach a lesson” and hurt someone who owed them money.
Their target, however, was a low-ranking associate of mobster Nicholas Pari, who has since died of natural causes. They felt it their duty to inform Pari in advance as a matter of criminal courtesy. Pari objected, and asked ranking members of the Patriarca crime family to intervene. They did, siding with Pari in getting the assault called off. But the little exchange alerted the police to an enterprise they knew little about.
Yesterday, in simultaneous raids at 25 locations in Rhode Island and one in Massachusetts, the state police, working with officers from West Warwick, Warwick, Cranston and Coventry, arrested 30 people they say were active conspirators in an organized criminal enterprise managed by Donald St. Germain, 54, of West Warwick, and Adolf “George” Eunis, 67, of South Kingstown, on a range of offenses, including racketeering, narcotics, extortion, bookmaking and firearms.
St. Germain, whose criminal record goes back 20 years and includes interstate highjacking and stolen goods, is being held without bail pending a hearing on Feb. 19. He asked for a public defender.
Eunis’ bail was set at $50,000, with surety, yesterday in District Court. Neither entered a plea, as felony charges are handled in Superior Court. A screening date of April 10 was set.
Yesterday afternoon, as court personnel discussed how to handle the influx of defendants being bused in for arraignment, friends and relatives perused a seven-page list of those arrested and the charges against them.
“Joe Montouri, they got,” commented one of the men. “They just shut West Warwick down,” said another of the men.
For the next hour, as the clerks divided the list into two, people chatted about the charges, those who had been arrested, and who knew whom. Friends waved at each other. Cell phones kept going off.
Shortly before 3 p.m. –– an hour after the scheduled time –– court personnel called the names of those defendants whose cases would be heard by District Court Judge Jeanne E. LaFazia. The rest would be handled by Judge Anthony Capraro next door, they said.
The defendants were brought out, in shackles, in groups of three.
Lt. Col. Stephen O’Donnell, second in command at the Rhode Island State Police, and Col. Brendan Doherty, the state police superintendent, credited the arrests to troopers and detectives who monitored more than a thousand phone conversations among members of the group, and to the work of an undercover state police detective, Christopher Zarrella, who managed to infiltrate the group. “It takes a lot of intestinal fortitude to do what he did,” O’Donnell said of Zarrella. “He’s a unique guy.”
In the wake of the aborted assault, in June 2008, Zarrella, a member of the intelligence unit, ingratiated himself with the two leaders and gradually gained their trust, O’Donnell said. Over the next several months he was seen as one of the regular members of the group, buying drugs and firearms and establishing himself as one of the guys.
With the information gathered by Zarrella, the state police obtained warrants to tap the phones of St. Germain and Eunis. The wiretaps, according to O’Donnell, helped show “a clear pattern” of an organized criminal enterprise operating out of St. Germain’s second-floor apartment at 47 Phenix Ave., in West Warwick.
“On a daily basis, numerous individuals in the organization would buy and sell marijuana” and various prescription drugs that were obtained illegally, O’Donnell said. “We also learned that they were managing partners in a gambling and loan-sharking operation.”
The police said that the two had enlisted, as part of their strong-arm operation, Terrell Walker, who in 1973 was charged with murdering a Boston police officer during a botched robbery of a pawn shop; witnesses recanted and the charge was reduced to manslaughter, for which he was sentenced to 18 to 20 years.
According to the state police, a decision to close in on the group was made a short time ago after St. Germain and Eunis decided they needed to deal harshly with Daniel Louth, 48, another individual who owed them a large amount of money.
They decided they would “teach him a lesson” and went to several people, including Zarrella, for help in tracking him down.
The assault, without Zarrella’s help, occurred Jan. 19 at a Shell station on Quaker Lane in Warwick. Michael Sherman, 35, and Michael Lillie, 33, both of West Warwick, carried out the assault, according to O’Donnell, with Jeremy Lavoie, 36, of West Warwick, as a lookout.
Louth –– who was brought in for arraignment yesterday with Eunis –– was held as a violator due to his extensive criminal record, which includes drug, extortion and bookmaking convictions. He faces racketeering, organized criminal gambling, bookmaking and drug charges.
Lillie and Sherman were ordered held without bail pending a hearing on Feb. 19.
At a news conference yesterday at state police headquarters , troopers displayed some of the items seized during yesterday’s early morning raids — including 2 pounds of marijuana, large quantities of prescription drugs, cell phones, scales, grinding tools and $10,000 cash.
Thanks to Richard C. Dujardin and Maria Armental
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