Richard Boiardo (December 8, 1890–1984) also known as "Richard Boiardo", "Diamond Richie" and "Richie the Boot", was a legendary and powerful capo of the Genovese crime family who ran mob operations in the Newark, New Jersey area.
Born in Naples, Italy, Boiardo's family immigrated to the Newark area in 1910. His first criminal activity involved bookmaking while he worked as a milkman. Boiardo eventually controlled criminal activities in the First Ward section of Newark. During the Prohibition era, Boiardo fought with Jewish mobster Abner "Longy" Zwillman for control of criminal rackets in Newark. Despite this animosity, the two mobsters were brought together in a sit-down allegedly orchestrated by Lucky Luciano and made peace with each other. Sometime later, Boiardo was ambushed and seriously wounded with 12 buckshot pellet wounds. At the time, the press suspected Zwillman was responsible, but later, evidence pointed to the members of another rival gang led by the Mazzocchi brothers, whom the Boot subsequently had murdered.
In the 1930s, Boiardo became a made man, or full member of the new Luciano crime family established by Lucky Luciano. In 1957, this family became the Genovese family under boss Vito Genovese. With Zwillman's death in 1959, Boiardo became the undisputed mob boss of Newark. Like a feudal lord, gang kingpin Ruggiero "Richie the Boot" Boiardo reigned in splendor, and wanted the world to know it. Boiardo reportedly earned the nickname "the Boot" because of his profession as a bootlegger, while newspapers claimed he earned the moniker because he was known to brutally kick and stomp on his foes, sometimes to death.
In his prime, Boiardo had a reputation of being a violent bruiser who fashioned himself after Al Capone and who sported a diamond belt buckle that earned him the nickname “Diamond Ritchie”. Mr. Boiardo became part of mob lore when a soldier in his crew was overheard on an illegal FBI bug reminiscing about how the boot hit an enemy in the head with a hammer.
Boiardo was heavily involved in the diamond trade prior to his increasingly powerful role in many facets of organized crime. He provided Joe Dimaggio with his engagement ring to Dorothy Arnold, his first wife, according to Dimaggio's biography "A Hero's Life": "Around Newark Joe would show up... Amid the cascading grapes at Vittorio's Castle, which Richie himself had built as his palace, which he owned and which he ran...The point was no one could show Joe D. a better time than Don Ruggiero Boiardo, no one who could bring to bear such splendid resources for making Joe D. his friend, an honored guest and ornament to the operation. There was sure no one else with a safe containing drawers of precious cut stones- mostly diamonds (Richie's Favorite), no one else who knew Joe was thinking of marriage, who could take Joe from his table at the Castle, back to the office and throw open the safe and say "Take any one you want Joe. For the ring. Whatever you like".
He had been on of the true celebrities of prohibition-era NJ. Portrayed by the authorities as the reigning patriarch of organized crime in NJ until his death, Boiardo had risen from immigrant stonemason to become one of the most powerful and feared members of the state’s organized crime power structure. Boiardo lived on a sprawling estate in Livingston, New Jersey. In a 1970's Life magazine photo spread, the mansion was described as "Transylvanian traditional." Beyond the amenities one would expect to find on such an estate. A familiar figure in Newark politics, who as local ward leader mingled freely with both the prominent and notorious, Boiardo had slipped from public view when the Addonizio case propelled him and his son back into the limelight. In 1969, Hugh Addonizio a former 7 term Congressman who had been touted by those in the know as a potential candidate for governor of New Jersey, was completing his second term as mayor of the state’s largest city and preparing for a third run for that office. Amid the background of a heated mayoral campaign that as to mark the last hurrah for the old line white power structure in the increasingly black dominated city of Newark, Addonizio and 14 other persons were indicted by a federal grand jury on extortion-conspiracy charges that tied Addonozio to reputed mafia Boss Anthony Boiardo, known as "Tony Boy", the son of the flamboyant gang lord Richie the Boot. Addonozio was subsequently convicted and sentenced to 10 years in a federal prison.
But beyond exposing the corruption of Addonozio and his cohorts, the prosecution of the former Newark mayor had served another purpose. It made something of a household name of Richie the Boot and Tony Boy, and reawakened public awareness of the role of the mafia in New Jersey. The public attention was heightened when the press began publicizing stories about Boiardo’s fortress like home and the goings-ons rumored to have taken place there. The estate was featured in a double page spread in life magazine, which described the home, aptly enough, as designed in “Transylvanian traditional.” For along the dark drive leading up to the main house was a collection of statuary: likenesses of the entire Boiardo family, their busts and name plates arrayed on pilasters surrounding the padrone of the dynasty, a youthful Richie the Boot, outfitted in formal riding wear, sitting astride a prancing white stallion.
Boiardo also owned residences in Havana, Cuba, and Florida where he had majority gambling interests in the early hotel/casinos and also reportedly received a small monthly share of the skimmed profits off Las Vegas casinos.
Later years and Death
Anthony Boiardo adopted a more sedate and business like image than his once-boisterous father, Tony Boy was reputedly fronting for underworld forays into the world of legitimate business. He marked the first transitions into state run enterprise including Gas & Electric, highway and infrastructure development.
He may have been the oldest mafioso the law ever tried to bring to trial on organized crime charges. At 89, the state had indicted him in the "Great Mob Trial", an operation instigated by the state of New Jersey to prove the existence of an organized crime network. Richie the Boot was faced with a variety of charges—including racketeering, extortion and murder conspiracy—but was released because, it was ruled, his health was too poor for him to stand trial. Richie the Boot told the court he just wanted "St. Peter to bring me to heaven." So the white-haired, hobbled mob boss went back behind the walls of his 30-room estate in Livingston, where he continued for another four years to conduct much of his business from a small vegetable spread that bore the sign: "Godfather's Garden." And authorities kept calling him the patriarch of organized crime in New Jersey.
Boiardo died in New Jersey in 1984 of natural causes aged 94.
A Biography on Boiardo entitled: In the Godfather Garden: The Long Life and Times of Richie "the Boot" Boiardo - by Richard M. Linnett, was published by Rutgers University Press in March 2013.