A young doctor suddenly finds herself caring for a sickly old man named Raymond Patriarca. As she grows closer to her new patient, she’s drawn into the underworld in more ways than one.

For more information about this episode, and a full list of credits, visit crimetownshow.com.

Show transcript

NEWSCASTER: First thing in the morning, security was heavy. And a large crowd of the curious gathered outside the courthouse to watch as Patriarca arrived.

MARC SMERLING: It was 1981 and the Rhode Island State Police had built a new case against the 73-year-old mob boss…Raymond Patriarca.

NEWSCASTER: He looked terrible. Eyes closed, oxygen tubes in his nose, and intravenous medication being poured into him as he was carried up the steps of the building and into court…

MARC: In the courtroom, Patriarca lay on a stretcher with a towel wrapped around his head. He was accused of ordering the hits on two wiseguys more than fifteen years earlier.  One of them was shot in the head. The other was beaten to death.  His bones were found in a shallow grave.

KANE: His reputation in this community is alarming. His criminal record reaches back to 1926 and involves multiple convictions for murder on both the state and federal levels.

MARC: Patriarca’s lawyer, Jack Cicilline, told the judge that his client had a weak heart and was too sick to stand trial.

JACK CICILLINE: If he’s put through a number of these other proceedings that are scheduled and his condition hasn’t changed there is a great likelihood that he will suffer the sudden death syndrome that the doctors have talked about.

MARC: But the prosecution was skeptical.

PENA: He seems to get ill every time there is an indictment about to issue against him. So I’m not — I don’t have any real medical analysis as to whether or not he’s capable to stand trial.

MARC: But there was someone in the courtroom that day who could speak to Patriarca’s condition. She’s there in the news footage, a young doctor sitting by the old man’s side, whispering in his ear.

It was Patriarca’s cardiologist, Dr. Barbara Roberts.

BARBARA WALTERS: I had him hooked up to a cardiac monitor and during the preliminary testimony, I could see changes in his EKG. That his heart was not getting enough blood supply. And I said Raymond are you having angina? And he said yes. So I said Jack, I gotta get him to a hospital.

ANNOUNCER: Patriarca was then taken back to Miriam Hospital. Now that the

arraignment is over, Patriarca is no longer under arrest and he can go home. Some say to stage a miraculous recovery. Others say to die.

MS: Prosecutors had spent decades trying to bring the aging mob boss to justice. This But was he really knocking on death’s door? Or was he faking his illness to dodge a murder charge?

ZAC STUART-PONTIER: On today’s episode, we talk to the only person who knows for sure — Patriarca’s cardiologist, Dr. Barbara Roberts.

BARBARA: As a result of taking care of Raymond, I wound up being the cardiologist to many of what I like to call the AOCFs, alleged organized crime figures. And not to my face but behind my back, they used to refer to me as the Doctor Broad.

ZAC: The Doctor Broad. Life, death…and a mafia love story. I’m Zac Stuart-Pontier…   

MARC: And I’m Marc Smerling.

Welcome to Crimetown.

MARC: It’s hard to overstate how improbable it was that Barbara Roberts wound up the doctor for a mob boss.

BARBARA: My parents were members of what was called the Catholic Workers

Movement. And they and friends of theirs bought 52 acres of land. And they were really into having very large families and being very very catholic and being poor. And we were.

MARC: All of those things.

BARBARA: All of those things

MARC: So, Barbara got out. She won a scholarship to a boarding school and it was there that she decided to become a doctor. In medical school, she got married and had a child.

BARBARA: And I remember when I had my daughter, I was a sophomore in medical school. I took a week out of class and went back to school. And one of the professors took me aside and he said, “I just want you to know that I don’t think you have any business being in medical school. You have a young child. Your place is at home with your daughter.”

MARC: Barbara says her husband felt the same way. The marriage didn’t work out. She finished medical school, and struck out on her own, finding a sense of purpose in political causes.

BARBARA: See this picture of me up here? That’s me speaking at the last mass anti-war demonstration on the grounds of the Washington, Monument — 1973.  was very active in the women’s movement, in the anti-war movement.

MARC: You were a rebel.

BARBARA: I was a rebel yeah, from the word go.

MARC: Dr. Roberts eventually moved to Rhode Island, becoming the first female cardiologist in the state.  And when she needed a lawyer, a friend recommended Jack…  as in Jack Cicilline… Raymond Patriarca’s lawyer.  

One night she was meeting with Jack in his office on Federal Hill, when one of Patriarca’s men burst through the door.

BARBARA: Matty Gugliametti came running into the office all you know in a frenzy saying the state police just arrested Raymond and took him to the Scituate police barracks. And they were very concerned about his health.

MARC: Dr. Roberts stood by as the lawyer and the mobster tried to figure out what to do next. Then they turned to her…

BARBARA: So, they said we’re trying to get in touch with his cardiologist and we can’t reach him. So they were sort of looking at me very expectantly. And I said well, if you want I’ll go up to the state police barracks and check him.

I felt like I was about to go on stage in some long-running broadway show with no idea what my lines were.

VINNY VESPIA: So all of a sudden Jack Cicilline comes in along with Doctor Barbara Roberts.

MARC: This is Detective Vinny Vespia.  He arrested Raymond Patriarca for the murder of those two wiseguys you heard about at the top of the show. And he was there at the state police barracks when the mob lawyer and the mob doctor showed up.

VESPIA: Cicilline says I want to see my client. Barbara Roberts says I want to see my patient.

BARBARA: And when I first walk in the room, I took one look at him and thought oh my god, he’s tiny. But I said, Mr. Patriarca, I’m Dr. Barbara Roberts. Can I take a listen to you? He said, yes so I listened to his lungs and listened to his heart and I checked his pulse and his pulse was extremely erratic. He was sweaty. He was blue-ish gray. He was clearly in some discomfort.

And I thought was holy shit, he looks like he’s going to have a cardiac arrest any minute and I’ll never be able to resuscitate him here. I said, this man needs to be hospitalized…

MARC: The cops wanted to keep Patriarca locked up. But they had no choice but to follow the doctors orders.  Again, Detective Vespia.

VESPIA: After Raymond was escorted away, I said, it’s all over. It’s all over. You’ll never see this man in court. No, you’ll never see him go to trial.

BARBARA: Raymond and I got in the back of state police cruiser with a rifle-toting guard next to us and we drove off through the night from Scituate to the Miriam Hospital.

BARBARA: The resident when he realized who he was taking care of looked like a deer in headlights. He was quite a bit frightened, but we got Raymond stabilized and I went home…

So that’s how it began.

MARC: Dr. Roberts took up a new cause. She became Raymond Patriarca’s full-time cardiologist.

BARBARA: Ordinarily, when I discharged someone from the hospital I schedule an office appointment within a week or two. I thought to myself, they’re gonna say well if he’s well enough to travel to her office, he’s well enough to travel to court. So I told him I’m gonna come and make house calls.

He lived in a very modest ranch house in Johnston with his second wife, Rita O’Toole Patriarca. And Rita would make lunch for us and sometimes I would bring Megan, my youngest, and she called him uncle Raymond.

MARC: But being a mob boss’s doctor attracted a lot of… unwanted attention… from the press and from others.

BARBARA: I mean, I had the FBI come to my office. And I got very angry — I said look, you guys. You know that I’m totally opposed to violence. You have a file on me from when I was active in the anti-war movement. I would never, ever wish violence on anybody.

ZAC: Did you ever think about whether or not he had done the thing he was charged with while you were keeping him out of…

BARBARA: I always wanted to stand up for the underdog. And in this situation, Raymond was the underdog. He had the whole might of the government against him, wanting to take this frail old guy with one foot in the grave and the other on a banana peel and stick him in prison. I mean, I saw a very different side of him. I saw a very sick man who felt persecuted… with some reason. I’m not saying that he was an angel. But it wasn’t my job to decide his guilt or innocence.

MARC: You understand though that to some people, it seemed like he was just trying to avoid prosecution?

BARBARA: He was trying to avoid prosecution. I think he knew in his heart that if he went on trial it would kill him. And I firmly believe that. Because he was very emotional about it. And he felt very bad that I was put through a lot of grief because I was standing up for him. He said to me at one point, I couldn’t love you more if you were my own daughter.

MARC: Barbara Roberts, the mob doctor was now also a mob daughter. And soon…she would become something else: a mob mistress.

That’s coming up, after the break.

[BREAK]

MARC: Welcome back. Dr. Roberts’s friendship with Raymond Patriarca all started when she met with her lawyer — Jack Cicilline. And later, Jack introduced her to someone new.

BARBARA: By this time Jack and I had become very close friends. I met him at his office and we went down the street to a restaurant at DePasquale Square called the Forum.  

So we walked into The Forum and a man I presumed was the manager came over and shook Jack’s hand and said welcome to the forum then Jack said hi Louis, I’d like you meet Doctor Barbara Roberts. Barbara — this is Louis Manacchio.

Alarm bells went off in my head instantly because I’m thinking to myself, I wonder if this is the Louis Monacchio who just recently returned to Rhode Island after being on the lam for 10 years…

MARC: Back in the 1960s, Luigi “Louis” Manocchio was accused of providing the weapons that killed a bookie and his bodyguard.  You might remember them from our first episode as Rudy Marfeo and Anthony Melei.

After Manocchio was indicted, he went on the lam. He used his time wisely. He took up skiing, read the classics, and taught himself French. Then, his lawyer struck a deal.

Now… he was back in Providence, managing a restaurant, while awaiting trial.

BARBARA: And he just had an aura about him. He just had a sort of very dignified old world charm.

There was just an instant attraction that I felt and I was pretty sure he felt it also.

MARC: How did you know?

BARBARA: How did I know? Mainly because he kept coming over and talking to us. And then he asked—after we finished eating he asked Jack if he could give me a tour of the restaurant so Jack said sure, so Louis took me all over the restaurant and up to the upstairs room and and he introduced me to all the staff and he said I hope you’ll come back and eat here often.

And when we left the restaurant, I turned to Jack and said is he the one Baby Shanks? And Jack said, yes he is and I think you made a big impression. (laughs)

MARC: Jack Cicilline… the mafia matchmaker…

Dr. Roberts wanted to see Louis again. She needed an excuse. So, she called some friends.

BARBARA: Ginny and Patty and Rita. And I said I met this really attractive older man last week. He’s a manager at the Forum up on Federal Hill. Would you guys come to lunch with me there this Friday? So the three of us went back to the forum a week after I had met Louis.

And we had lunch and again he was very attentive and when it came time to pay the bill he wouldn’t let us pay, he said no this is my treat… ladies. And I hope you come back any time. And I couldn’t stop thinking about him.

At some point during that period we had started talking about sailing and I had a sailboat in those days, a J-30 sailboat. And Louis and I went sailing.

Finally I said to him, Louis what do you want of me? And he reared back as if he was insulted and said what do I want from you and I said that’s not what I asked I said what do you want of me and he smiled and he said oh yeah I get the difference. Well, I’d like to get to know you better. I’d like to hold your hand and have you hold mine.

And that night after dinner, Louis and I became lovers.

And he told me what he would and wouldn’t do sexually. And if you watch The Sopranos you know at least among the older alleged crime figures, there’s a certain sexual activity that they don’t participate in. And I said to Louis, well, I could care less, I’m more or less a meat in potatoes women myself. (laughs)

MARC: You had a friendship too?

BARBARA: Yes, he admired me for what I was doing to help Raymond. I mean there were some, there were some people who were very cruel to my children, like my oldest daughter one of her classmates said……if my father could get that close to Raymond Patriarca he would be killing him not trying to keep I’m alive. You know things that were very hurtful for my children.

So, I was very dependent on Louis. He tried to help me in any way he could. He insisted that I bring the children up every night and eat at the Forum. He said you have enough on your plate without having to cook dinner. But at the same time we had to keep our affair secret. And if it came out that I was not only now the mob doctor, but a mob mistress, it would make my testimony about Raymond’s health almost worthless.

MARC: Did you ever mention this relationship to Raymond?

BARBARA: I think he probably knew about it, but we didn’t discuss it. Not until a couple of years later when Louis was on trial.

MARC: After years of jockeying by the lawyers, Louis’ deal with the prosecutors had fallen apart. He finally went on trial for his role in the murders of Marfeo and Melei. And to bolster their case, prosecutors were trying to prove that he got his orders from Raymond Patriarca.

BARBARA: One of the things that the prosecution decided to do was to depose Raymond Sr. about his relationship to Lewis.

So one day during Louis’s trial, Jack told me that I had to be in court in case I had to testify about Raymond’s medical condition. So I was pacing up and down outside the courtroom. And all of sudden Louis turned a corner and he saw me and it was like we looked at each other and he immediately turned around and went the other direction…but I think if anybody had seen the look we exchanged at that time they would have known.

MARC: You were right in the middle

BARBARA: I was right in the middle. It was a friggin’ nightmare.

MARC: The judge finally ruled that Raymond sr. didn’t have to come to court and give a deposition but they could take a deposition from him at his house.

TARICANI: He was deposed at his house in Johnston. And all the press found out about it.

MARC: Jim Taricani was a local TV reporter at the time.

TARICANI: So we show up and we’re at the end of the driveway and the house must have been a hundred feet from where we were. And all of a sudden there was this loud screaming voice and it was Raymond.

BARBARA: So we were in the den at their house in Johnston, and Raymond was sworn in. He was dressed in his pajamas. His feet were up, he was in a recliner with his feet on an ottoman. Jack allowed Raymond to  answer to his name. But when the prosecutor began to question him about his relations with others — including Louis — Raymond didn’t say anything. And I was looking at him and he wasn’t saying anything but he was becoming more and more agitated — you could just tell by looking at him.

And suddenly he just erupted in this rage. And everyone in the room jumped. And he started screaming, “You’re trying to kill me. You won’t be happy until I’m dead. You won’t leave me alone until I’m dead. You want me in jail or dead and you won’t stop until it happens. This is persecution. Spittle was flying out of his mouth. And then he collapsed in tears. And he could barely breath. He was struggling to breathe. And the judge was visibly shaken by this point. And Rita came into the room furious screaming, “Are you happy now? Are you all happy now? Does this make you feel good doing this to a sick old man?”

I hooked him up to a cardiac monitor and it showed clear cut signs that his heart was starved for oxygen. I gave him more nitro but he was writhing with chest pain. And then I finally just said, that’s it. This deposition is over. I’m calling rescue and I’m taking him to the hospital.

TARICANI: Whatever he was asked, it didn’t sit well with him.

MARC: Outside, Jim Taricani, the reporter, watched as an ambulance pulled up and took Patriarca and Dr. Roberts away.  

TARICANI: She always showed up at the right time to get Raymond out of a jam.

MARC: Maybe… or was Barbara just a pawn in Patriarca’s endless game with law enforcement?  

Back in 1963, on an FBI wiretap, Patriarca advises an accused felon to “fake a heart attack” to get his trial postponed, so he can avoida punitive judge.

Clearly, fake attacks are an old Patriarca ruse, and for the first time, Barbara saw it.

BARBARA: It was all I could do not to smile because I realized that Raymond had outfoxed the prosecution.

MARC: They were never able to connect Dr. Roberts’ lover… with her patient.  But a few weeks later, Barbara got a phone call from Louis’s brother.

BARBARA: And the minute I answered the phone,  I knew immediately that Louis had been convicted and I started screaming no, no, no. And I was hysterical.

I mean I was in agony, in agony. I had lost my lover, I had lost my best friend, I had lost my protector. In many ways it was worse than if he had died cuz if he had died he wouldn’t be suffering but I knew how fastidious he was about his clothing and personal hygiene and food and the thought of him confined to a cell, it was just a form of torture.

MARC: Yeah, and how long did he get?

BARBARA: He was convicted to two consecutive life terms plus 10 years. He would not be eligible for parole until he was 86.

MARC: For Dr. Roberts, Patriarca was the only person who knew what she was going through. They took comfort in each other and the knowledge that they were in it together.

BARBARA: So I decided one Sunday that I wanted us all to go to the coast guard

house and he didn’t wanna go and I said Raymond I think one trip to a restaurant with your cardiologist and your wife and your daughter-in-law and my daughter Megan, it’s not gonna be enough for them to say you’re well enough to stand trial.

So we drove down from Johnston and Megan was about four-years-old at the time. And we had a lovely lunch at the coast guard house. And on the way back Megan decides we all have to sing Old McDonald had a farm. And we all had to take turns, so I was like Old McDonald had a farmm e-i-e-i-o, and on his farm he had some…and every time it was Raymond’s turn to come up with animal he was finding it harder and harder to think of new animals and Megan got impatient and said, come on uncle Raymond it’s your turn! And I got such a kick of the four year old bossing around the boss. He got a big kick out of it too.

I got a call from Jack that Raymond had been taken to the Rhode Island hospital emergency room in cardiac arrest so I went tearing over there. And when I got to the emergency room the emergency room doctors and him hooked up to a cardiac monitor…

So I said to the ER doc, get a me a temporary pacemaker he needs temporary pacemaker. And he said you can’t do that you don’t have privileges here and I said well then get a cardiologist down here right away cuz this man is gonna die without a pacemaker but it took them another five minutes or so to get a cardiologist down there and they put a pacemaker in but we couldn’t get him back.

You always feel sad when you lose a patient, no matter how old they are. And this was a patient that I had become very close to emotionally. On the other hand I knew at least I wouldn’t be in the spotlight so much anymore — which is what I wanted.  

MARC: It was a relief.

BARBARA: It was a relief in some ways.

ARCHIVAL:  Raymond L.S. Patriarca, a man of contradictions who ran organized crime in New England for 40 years, was laid to rest today. In ‘61 I was sick with a heart condition and I still got the heart condition. It’s nothing but a bunch of hoodwink that you people have been giving me for a long time. The funeral of Patriarca, termed private event by his family, saw spectators starting to gather shortly after 8 o’clock this morning across from the Berarducci funeral home on Broadway in Providence’s Federal Hill section.

ALBERT BERADUCCI: It was a huge crowd of people. Huge crowd of people I’m talking about hundreds… hundreds of people…  

MARC: This is Albert Berarducci.  He worked at his family’s business, the Berarducci Funeral Home. And he remembers the people who came to pay their respects on July 14,
1984.

BERADUCCI: 98 percent of the people, were the people who lived on Federal Hill. They lived in the tenement houses, the multi families, on the side streets. They were the people… who got the oil for the cold winter’s night…they were the people that he bought toys for for Christmas. Their hearts were broken for a good man. He was a good man.  

There’s two sides to every story… they’ll vilify, he’s been vilified…and maybe rightfully so, I don’t know his business. I only know him as the man, as the person.  

MARC: For the first time in nearly fifty years, Federal Hill was no longer Patriarca’s domain.

His death reverberated throughout New England. It triggered a struggle for control of the crime family that bore his name. And for people like Albert Berarducci, Providence would never be the same.

BERARDUCCI:  He was the last connection to that era…that era. When Raymond died, it was the end and when I say the end, it was the end. It was the end. And he was the last of the dons.

MARC: And now, all of Patriarca’s friends…the Wiseguys and bookies…the crooked cops and the dirty politicians…

They no longer had their powerful patron to protect them.

ZAC: Next time on Crimetown: one of Patriarca’s old friends goes down hard. The chief justice of the Rhode Island supreme court.

“I’m not wearing a robe, sir! I admit to being a criminal. Well, thank God for that.

I am a criminal. Well you’re wearing a mask!”

MARC: Crimetown is me, Marc Smerling, and Zac Stuart-Pontier.

We are produced by Drew Nelles, Kaitlin Roberts, Austin Mitchell, and Mike Plunkett. Our associate producer is Laura Sim.

We’re edited by Alex Blumberg and Caitlin Kenney.

Fact-checking by Mick Rouse.

This episode of Crimetown was mixed, sound designed, and scored by Haley Shaw.

Additional mixing by Matthew Boll, Martin Peralta and Enoch Kim.

Additional sound design by Robin Shore at Silver Sound.

Casting by Shelly Shenoy.

Featuring performances by Shelly Shenoy, Brian Silliman, Tarcisio Longobardi.

And introducing…. Piper Yang.

Archival Courtesy of Rhode Island’s  WPRI Channel 12 and WJAR Channel 10.

Our title track is “Run To Your Mama” by Goat.

Torna A. Surriento is performed by Pandora Mandolin Trio, from the soundtrack to the documentary, Italian Americans and Federal Hill. Produced by Jonathan D. Raben

Original music by John Kusiak, Kenny Kusiak, Jon Ivans, Edwin and Bienart.

Our credit music last week should have been credited to the Tills. Sorry about that.

Our ad music is by Matthew Boll.

Our digital editor is Rob Szypko. Our design director is Ale Lariu.

Alex Blumberg is The Podfather.  He’s a meat and potatoes kind of guy.

This season of Crimetown is dedicated to the memory of Bill Malinowski.

Thanks to the Providence Journal, Providence Public Library, Julia Heymans, Emily Wiedemann, Kate Wells, Lisa Newby, Tim White, Mary Murphy, and everyone who shared their stories with us.

For a full list of credits, and for bonus content from this episode, visit our website at crimetownshow.com.

You can find us on Twitter @crimetown, and on Facebook and Instagram @crimetownshow.

And if you’re enjoying Crimetown, please leave us a rating and review on iTunes. It really helps others find out about the show. Thanks.

Providence is a special place, and we’re honored to tell a part of its story.

Nothing, all I know is what I’ve ever read in the papers. And to be honest with you, believe half of what you read, because it’s just like this fuckin’ show. Half of it’s true, half of it is fucking billshit. Okay, and let me tell you what I’m telling you. I don’t bullshit.

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