Raymond W. Ferritto (1929 − May 10, 2004), an Italian American mobster from Erie, Pennsylvania, is best known for the 1977 murder of Irish mob boss Danny Greene.
In the 1970s, Danny Greene began competing with the Cleveland crime family for control of union rackets, resulting in a violent mob war. During this period, there were almost 40 car bombings in Cleveland and eight failed attempts to kill Greene. Finally, Cleveland family bosses Jack "Jack White" Licavoli and Angelo "Big Ange" Lonardo contracted Ferritto to assassinate Greene.
Upon hearing of Ferritto’s arrest for the hit, Licavoli put out a hit contract on Ferritto. When Ferritto learned that the Cleveland family wanted him dead, he became a government witness and testified against his co-defendants in the 1978 trial.
Ferritto served less than four years in prison for both murders. Ray Ferritto left the Witness Protection Program after one year and continued to stay in Pennsylvania.
There is much more to the story: What's past is prologue. He met Susan around this time, the two fell in love and married. Susan wrote a book about Ray -- "Ferritto: An Assassin Scorned" -- and answered some questions for us, below:
1.) Ray is known as the man who killed “The Irishman” then turned informant---that is true. But not many people know why. What was his motive?
Ray was well known as a highly respected underworld figure and member of La Cosa Nostra since the forties. His focus was to someday become boss of his own territory. Over the years, he had proven himself as a loyal soldier and was regarded as a mobster who could get things done, no matter what the job was. During 1976, Cleveland mob wars raged on killing several high profile gangsters and over thirty separate bombings had put the city in a tailspin. In eight separate failed attempts, different Cleveland hit men tried to kill Irish mobster Danny Greene who was stepping on their turf. The bosses were getting desperate and turned to Ray for help.
A COSA NOSTRA NEWS EXCLUSIVE
So when the Cleveland bosses offered Ray a leadership position and his own territory in return for killing their enemy…the Irishman…he jumped at the opportunity. However, the bosses were secretly plotting Ray’s demise once he got that job done, all for the sake of keeping their territory. They intentionally set him up to take the fall on Danny Greene’s bombing death. But it would take the Feds to convince Ray that he too was on their hit list. He felt he had done the Cleveland bosses the biggest favor of their lives when no one else could, and now they wanted him dead.
Ray was looking at murder charges along with the death penalty. So it was a choice of who was going to kill him…the State of Ohio or the Cleveland mobsters. At that point, he was a man with nothing to lose. In essence, his associates had betrayed him at the highest level and this was his revenge.
2.) He singlehandedly brought down Licavoli and his outfit?
Well, he did the unthinkable and initiated one of the most notorious takedowns for the feds in mob history. He waged his own public battle by turning states evidence to destroy those who had ordered his death. Unfortunately, his method of revenge took on a life of its own when the bosses started turning against each other to save their own skins. “If the mob knew what they did when they killed Danny Greene or what they were going to start (when they betrayed Ray) they never would have done it,” said Pete Elliott, retired United States Marshall.
3.) Ray amazingly started his own family when he got out. How did he pull that off?
Well, after the trials, he refused the witness protection program and against the Feds advice, Ray returned home and picked up where he left off with prior business associates. He felt he could better protect himself on his own turf. He knew that he was just as capable of handling himself and the persons they would send in to kill him. Ray was a man of no fear and warned others to stay out of his way. Doing the unthinkable only seemed to earn him more respect from past associates when he hit the streets. Erie was wide open then. The older mobsters that were still hanging on to their territories now moved over for Ray and pretty much gave him some reign. He built it back up from there. Prior business ties and a multimillion dollar sports betting operation was his salvation. One thing you don’t do to the mob is cut the hand that feeds them, and Ray had been their moneymaker for years.
4.) Can you describe the night you met Ray?
We met at Orlando’s funeral Parlor in Erie. Ray had only been home a few months from his three year ordeal with the Danny Greene bombings when he found his business partner Bolo Dovishaw dead in the basement of his home. Bolo had been killed gangland style. Several days later, Ray and longtime friend and associate Cy Ciotti were at the funeral parlor when I walked in to pay my last respects to my old friend “Bolo”. Cy made the introductions and it was love at first site. I knew right then that Ray was going to be a big part of my life. Ray asked me if I would have dinner with him when this mess was over with. Jokingly, I said, “Sure kid, I can wait another two years till the feds clean this one up!” I left him with my phone number written in ink on his wrist. He phoned the following day and said, “I don’t think I can wait till the feds clean this one up…can I come over for coffee?” We were together ever since.
5.) What kind of man was he? How would you describe him to those who only saw the movie, TO KILL THE IRISHMAN?
Ray was a remarkable man and one of many faces. He was always respected by his associates in the criminal world and was equally respected by the real world. He was a man of his word and knew where his boundaries were. His laid back, quiet, polite reserved mannerisms and demeanor made him a likable charming character. And, oddly enough, when in the company of his business associates he was a hard and temperamental dangerous killer, skilled safecracker, loan shark and knew how to organize business for the mob. I can’t dismiss his human side as well. He was a grandfather, a father, a brother, an uncle, a husband who was a caring compassionate, loyal and loving individual when in our presence.
The actor Robert Davi who portrayed Ray in the movie, definitely captured his demeanor and the business side of Ray as well as. But the well documented story focused on the life and death of Danny Greene and left the audience with …what ever happened to his killer…Ferritto?
All they could say about Ray at the end of the movie was that he just got too big for his own pants. Really??? The audience had no idea that the murder of Greene was only the real start of the downfall of the Cleveland regime. And it angered me that Ray was labeled “A Turncoat” in the eyes of the public. The reality was that when you kill the legend, you become the legand.
6.) What made you write the book? And, what does it mean to you?
I felt the need to defend his memory and to give his side of this story. I cannot condone these actions but I wanted to give him some justification. After all…Ray is the only mob assassin to my knowledge that escaped the death penalty and execution by the mob for turning states evidence. Sure, he wasn’t the first or the last for that matter of those who did turn government witness. He is however, the only mobster who went on to become a boss. That in itself is the remarkable story and unheard of in the criminal world. Others that became informants are either incarcerated, dead or hiding in the witness protection program. The need to defend his memory far outweighed my silence. And in this I found the closure that I was so desperately seeking after his passing.
7.) Do you keep in touch with mafia ties?
Yes, I do. Contrary to the belief that when a mobster dies, all his family relationships are severed as well…or shunned as they say. My case has been different. Several have reached out to me over the years and I will respect their privacy at this time.
I will take the liberty of mentioning one in particular as I can relate to his emotional journey back in time. Attorney Dennis Walsh, son of Robert Walsh (Ex-cop turned gangster and longtime associate of Ray’s) recently wrote his own book, recounting some of his father’s war stories and most importantly the quest for justice in his own brother’s murder. The name of his book is “Nobody Walks.”