(WPRI) – Robert DeLuca used three nicknames for someone during cryptic conversation recorded while he was in prison, and none of them were flattering.
“The Pumpkin.” “The Midget.” “Fatso.”
In court, the mystery man was identified by a single name: “David.”
All four names refer to the same person: Wayne David Collins, a bail bondsman who was a close friend of the late Providence Police Col. Urbano Prignano.
The conversations were played in federal court in Boston on Thursday in the trial against former Mafia don Francis “Cadillac Frank” Salemme and codefendant Paul Weadick.
Salemme, 84, and Weadick, 62, are accused of killing Boston nightclub owner and Providence native Steven DiSarro in 1993. They have pleaded not guilty.
DeLuca, 72, an admitted mob captain, was on the stand for a third day of testimony in the trial, and was cross-examined by Mark Shea, an attorney for Weadick.
At the time of the recorded conversations, DeLuca was being held in the Plymouth County jail after being arrested in 2016 for lying to federal agents about what he knew of the murder. He is now one of the star witnesses for prosecutors in their case against Salemme and Weadick.
In the recording, Joe DeLuca, recounting what they are going to tell investigators, says “it will be a real mess if we bring up ‘The Pumpkin.’”
“We’ll see what happens,” Robert DeLuca responds.
In another call, Robert DeLuca tells his brother he is struggling to remember some details of the night they coordinated to dispose of DiSarro’s body.
“I’ve been trying to think, and think, and think about the car and I can’t,” Robert DeLuca said.
His brother tells him not to worry about the nitty-gritty details, because he was the one who met with Frank Salemme that night to retrieve the body. (Joe DeLuca testified to those details earlier in the trial.)
“You know what the key is? Me and him,” Joe DeLuca said on the call. “That’s what the midget told me.”
Collins became a public name in Rhode Island during the 2002 federal investigation against former Mayor Vincent “Buddy” Cianci. According to court records, investigators said Collins provided at leat one police officer with answers for the Providence Police sergeants’ exam. The federal investigation never led to any criminal charges, but resulted in sweeping changes at the department. Prignano died in 2017.
Collins, who operates a bail-bondsman operation in Florida, declined to comment when reached by phone.
“At this time, unfortunately, I have no comment due to the fact I have to respect the integrity of the trial,” Collins said. “I have to respect the judicial process and let the jury decide what the facts are.”
Shea was using the calls to ask DeLuca if he was coordinating testimony with his brother.
DeLuca appeared to be well aware the calls were being recorded, warning his brother at one point, “Let’s not talk too much.”
In another call, DeLuca acknowledged his testimony would be valuable to prosecutors, telling his brother he will be able testify that Salemme told him who was involved in the murder.
“I’m the one they are going to need the most because I’m the one he told who was there,” DeLuca said in the recording. “’The other guy’ walked in, but I’m going to corroborate his testimony.”
“The other guy” was a reference to notorious Boston mobster Stephen “The Rifleman” Flemmi, who prosecutors have said walked in on the murder of DiSarro at Salemme’s home in Sharon, Massachusetts.
Shea questioned DeLuca about whether he and his brother were trying to manufacture facts to enhance his value on the stand in an effort to get leniency. DeLuca is scheduled to be sentenced in June.
At one point, DeLuca lamented to his brother that he might not get much leniency for his cooperation.
“I testify in the DiSarro case, are they going to give me a little [expletive] credit for it?” he said on the recording.
In court, he testified that he said that because he was worried about his long criminal history.
“I don’t think I’m going to get much [leniency] after what I’ve done,” he said.