WORCESTER — The man frequently identified as a kingpin of organized crime in the Worcester area for much of the latter half of the past century and a highly decorated World War II combat veteran died yesterday at his city home. Carlo Mastrototaro, 89, of 40 Hancock Hill Drive, died peacefully surrounded by family members, according to his obituary.
In an interview earlier this year, Mr. Mastrototaro would only describe himself as a “retired businessman,” determinedly steering clear of specifying what he did before retiring.“Different things” was all he would say. Reminded that law enforcement officials and other sources had labeled him a powerful figure in the New England mob, he responded, “Not everything said about me is true.”
A Worcester native, Mr. Mastrototaro, for the most part, stayed out of local headlines. He owned several restaurants in the area over the years and occasional stories referred to arrests and convictions for, among other things, racketeering, wire fraud and gambling.
Thomas J. Foley, former superintendent of the Massachusetts State Police, said that Mr. Mastrototaro answered in the 1980s and '90s to the Genovese crime family in New York with the tacit approval of Raymond L.S. Patriarca of Providence, regarded as the head of the New England Mafia until his death in 1984.One of his convictions was in 1971 in Baltimore federal court after he was tried for aiding and abetting in the transportation of three stolen U.S. Treasury bills.
The man who stole the treasury bills, Boston and Providence mob figure Vincent “Big Vinnie” Teresa, testified against Mr. Mastrototaro in exchange for a reduced sentence.Two years later, Mr. Teresa wrote a tell-all book called “My Life in the Mafia,” in which he described Mr. Mastrototaro as “the boss of Worcester” and “the fourth most powerful boss in the current New England hierarchy of crime.”
There are numerous references in the book to Mr. Mastrototaro, some linking him to Mafia-backed casinos that operated in Haiti and pre-communist Cuba, as well as to Meyer Lansky, a notorious figure in mob annals who was regarded as a financial genius.Despite his testimony, which helped convict Mr. Mastrototaro, Mr. Teresa, who died in 1990 while in the federal witness protection program, had an obvious admiration for the Worcester resident. “…
He was as honest as they come in the mob when you dealt with him,” Mr. Teresa wrote. “If you had a cent and half coming from him, it didn't make a bit of difference if you didn't show up to collect for six months. When you got there, the money was there waiting for you.”Far less well-known about Mr. Mastrototaro was his distinguished record as a Marine serving in the Pacific during World War II.
That service earned him a Purple Heart and the Silver Star, the military's third-highest award for valor in the face of the enemy.In his later years, Mr. Mastrototaro spent time at the Leatherneck Lounge on Lake Avenue and on rare occasions, friends say, he would open up about his military service from 1939 to 1944.
The Silver Star, he confided, stemmed from fighting in the Mariana Islands in the fierce Battle of Saipan in June and July 1944. On watch late one night while others in his platoon were asleep in foxholes, he detected shadows from behind, yelled a warning to fellow Marines then jumped up and opened fire.He killed eight or nine Japanese on the perimeter of the platoon's camp.Mr. Mastrototaro and several others in his company were badly wounded by mortar fire a few weeks later in the Battle of Tinian, also in the Marianas.
He was evacuated to a hospital ship and later sent home with a medical discharge.His wounds, he told friends, actually saved his life. Much of his company was wiped out when they moved on to the Battle of Iwo Jima.Mr. Mastrototaro helped found the Marine Corps League chapter in Worcester and was a member of several veterans' organizations.