#13: Maurice "Pro" Lerner


In this episode, we tell the harrowing tale of Maurice "Pro" Lerner, who at one point was a professional minor league baseball player with bright prospects, who allegedly turned to a life of crime and became a hitman for the Patriarca Crime Family of New England, spending many years in prison after being convicted of murder.

Episode Transcript


Kelley said he cut down the carbine, put a handle on it, taped the stock together, and glued an eyelet into it “so a string or leather thong could be tied around it and it could be carried under the coat, out of sight.”

He also told of doctoring the shotgun for similar purposes.

He provided “double O” buckshot for the shotgun; he testified during four hours on the witness stand, because “they are the most effective shot at a short distance.”

“For what?,” asked Assistant Attorney General Richard J. Israel.

“For killing,” Kelley replied.

“Why did you seek protection?” he was asked by Israel.

“Because of the possibility that if I testified our lives would be in danger,” Kelley answered.

“From whom?” asked Israel.

“From this group,” Kelley answered, nodding in the direction of Patriarca and the other defendants.]


Hello everybody and welcome back to another episode of The Member’s Only Podcast. I am your host Jacob Stoops, and I’m a mob enthusiast and historian.

In case you didn’t notice, I’ve decided to change the moniker I use to describe myself at the beginning of each episode. Previously, I had labeled myself as a history buff (which I still am) and mob aficionado (which is where I’m really making a change). Don’t get me wrong, I still believe that I know way more than most about the mafia genre.

That being said, I’m finding through my research that although I know a lot, I’m barely scratching the surface on all there is to know. Each time I’ve done an episode, I’ve discovered a great deal about my subjects and their stories that I hadn’t been aware of previously. So I’m finding that in addition to educating my audience throughout my episodes, I’m also continually educating and re-educating myself while creating content for folks to enjoy and scrutinize.

So I now almost plan to consider each episode like a research project. And for this reason, I’m shifting my own moniker going forward from mob aficionada to mob enthusiast (because I have realized that I don’t know everything) and historian (because I’m doing a tremendous amount of research to document the history of the mafia in order to separate fact from fiction).

It’s a small thing I know, but it’s important to me to clarify that I’m more of a fact-gatherer evolving into a story-teller, and this channel is essentially my place to document my research and share that information from things I’ve learned, whether I knew about them originally or not.

And along that vein, today’s episode is going to fall into the category of something I wasn’t expecting to focus on until I was working through the research for the Raymond Patriarca episode. While digging through some old newspaper articles, I came across a story that I felt drawn to, and once I learned of this person’s story, I felt compelled to share it.

And today, we’re going to explore how the man who once had a blossoming career as a professional ballplayer became a vicious and respected mafia hitman.

Now before we get into the episode, I’d just like to remind you to please smash that subscribe button and turn on the bell to get notifications when I release a new episode.

To all my new followers, welcome and I looked forward to interacting with you!

To my existing followers, thank you for taking the time to watch and interact with my videos.

Now, for those in the New England area, I’m sure the story is well-known. However, for people who aren’t as in tune with the goings on of the New England mafia, maybe this story will be a new one. So without further adieu, let’s tell the story of a star ballplayer turned hitman.  

An Infamous Hit:

The year is 1968, Providence, Rhode Island.

A local bookmaker named Rudolph “Rudy” Marfeo had recently defied the local czar of Organized Crime, Raymond L.S. Patriarca. This was not wise considering Patriarca allegedly had Rudy’s brother Willie whacked very publicly just two years earlier.

Patriarca wanted Marfeo, “straightened out,” as soon as possible.

Whether Rudy Marfeo knew it or not, his days were numbered. If this fact was in the back of his mind or the forefront is unknown, but on April 20, 1968 he and his bodyguard Anthony Melei were observed shopping at Pannone’s Market on 282 Pocasset Avenue in Providence.

It was a pleasant if not cool Spring afternoon in Providence. The locals milled about, and neighborhood kids played in the streets, barely noticing the maroon Buick sedan that had come to a crawl in front of Pannone’s.

Suddenly, a wiry well-built man with a Halloween mask over his face emerged from the backseat of the Sedan, darting into the market with uncommon agility, a shotgun held in his large hands, and an armed and equally menacing accomplice trailing slightly behind.

As store employees and customers ducked out of the way, the armed men went to work catching Marfeo and his bodyguard Melei by surprise.


In a scene reminiscent of The Godfather, the recalcitrant bookmaker Marfeo took a direct hit in the chest from almost point blank range. He’d attempted to pull his gun out to defend himself, but the element of surprise and the athletic reflexes of the determined hitman, snuffed his efforts out quickly as the man crashed to the floor. His unused pistol crashed harmlessly to the floor beside his outstretched hand.

Before the first body hit the floor, the shooters were already taking aim at the bodyguard Melei as he tried in vain to duck out of the back of the store.


The hitmen had found their mark again, dropping Melei near a shelf of canned tomatoes—his face mangled by buckshot and his eyes transfixed in a glassy stare.

The killing was over in seconds, and the executioners quickly slipped away in the Buick which had been waiting out front.

As investigators examined the crime scene, neighborhood kids pressed their noses to the glass of the storefront in an effort to get a glimpse of the two corpses or the blood-stained floor.

Meanwhile, in a hotel a few miles away, the killers along with their co-conspirators celebrated a job well done. The men shook hands and the athletic shooter, who was aptly nicknamed “Pro,” reveled in a job well done, personally tallying his stats and boasting that he’d been first through the door as well as how his shots had been the ones to drop both targets.

“Pro’s” accomplices, a man alleged to have been powerful Patriarca crime family soldier (and future boss) Luigi “Baby Shacks” Manocchio and local hood John “Red” Kelley, relayed the message that “George”—code for Patriarca—was pleased.

The “Pro” in this story is a man named Maurice “Pro” Lerner, former professional baseball player turned vicious hitman for the Patriarca crime family. Maurice “Pro” Lerner has both the distinction of having played 8 seasons of professional baseball reaching as high as AA (he is the owner of a .308 career batting average), as well as standing as a co-defendant with none other than Raymond L.S. Patriarca himself for his role as the shooter in the 1968 Marfeo-Melei murder case.

And I’m sure you’re asking yourself. How does one go from a burgeoning professional baseball career to doing hits for the mob?

Well, this is the exact question we asked ourselves when studying information on Patriarca. And since this channel is primarily about uncovering obscure mafia stories, we felt compelled to share the short and murderous tale of the rise and fall of Maurice “Pro” Lerner.

This Guy’s One Helluva Hitter

Maurice Richard Lerner was born on December 20, 1935 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. His parents were Samuel and Doris Lerner.

He spent most of what he later described as “a happy childhood” growing up in a duplex on 87 Verndale Street in Brookline, Massachusetts in the 1940’s and early 50’s. According to sources, his father Samuel was a relatively small-time bookie.

His home was located two miles away from famous Fenway Park in Boston, which perhaps played a part in his love of baseball.

Standing 6 feet, 2 inches tall in high school, the lean and athletic Brookline prospect could always swing that bat well. He would bat .364 in his senior year of high school, attracting the attention of professional baseball scouts with his on-the-field prowess.

From the caption beneath his high school yearbook picture which read “Baseball, 2, 3, 4” and the famous nickname “Pro” it was clear that he loved the game. There is some debate on whether or not his nickname came from his standing as a ballplayer or the fact that he’d been called Little Professor as a child due to possessing a keen intellect that was slightly ahead of other kids his age.

In 1953, when Lerner was just 18 years old, he signed his first professional baseball contract with the Washington Senators. Upon signing he was sent in 1954 to the minors to play entry-level ball for the Erie Senators. This was no doubt a proud moment in his life, but after just 13 games and a miserable .167 batting average, Maurice left the team.

He would spend the next two years in the United States Marine Corps.

After his time with the military concluded, he returned to baseball in 1957 joining the Milwaukee Braves franchise as a second baseman for their minor-league affiliate, the Boise Braves out of Idaho. It’s at this stop where he enjoyed his first taste of professional success, batting .328 with 158 hits in just 127 games.

After his time with the Boise Braves, he was promoted and spent time in Yakima, Washington where he hit .348. He then moved onto the Pittsburgh Pirates organization where he hit .372 for the Wilson Tobs in North Carolina.

It’s in the Pittsburgh organization where he had his first real shot to make the big leagues as the front office reportedly considered him as a up and coming middle infielder who had the potential to step in if one of their stars at the time, Bill Mazeroski or Dick Groat, got injured.

But it’s around this time when things took a turn and Lerner would begin to draw the ire of the organizations he was playing for through a series of poor decisions and bad behavior.

During the 1959-1960 offseason, Lerner was playing winter ball down in Nicaragua. His bat was scolding hot—he was hitting close to .400 and having a great time, but his relationship with his manager and former big-leaguer Earl Torgeson was both hot and cold.

Torgeson had announced his intention to cut Lerner due to missed curfews as well as other transgressions. But before that could happen, Lerner and Torgeson got into it with some Cuban ballplayers after Lerner complained of receiving one too many brushback pitches. Torgeson got into a fistfight with a Cuban player after which he’d resign, while Lerner attacked both a Cuban pitcher and umpire, but kept on playing. And his bat stayed red hot.

According to Lerner’s winter ball teammate and future big-leaguer Frank Kostro, Lerner was the real deal. He would say, “I was hitting well over .300. But I wasn’t even close to the leading hitter — who was Maury Lerner.”

Returning to the United States around the 1960 time frame after winter ball had concluded, Lerner was riding high. He’d won a batting title down in Nicaragua, and he’d built a reputation as a goodif not uptightteammate despite his clashes with his former coach.

Legend also has it that he took one last chance to cause a little mischief. According to the book “Memories of Winter Ball” by Lou Hernández, Lerner actually smuggled a baby wildcat out of South America in a satchel after winter ball had concluded.

In addition to his personal prowess, Lerner also stood out amongst his teammates for his love of reading, as well as his approach to conditioning. According to his one-time teammate and future Yankees shortstop and General Manager Gene Michael, Lerner focused heavily on his diet as well as weight training at a time where almost nobody in baseball was focused on strength conditioning.

Additionally, Gene Michael remembered Lerner (even 50 years after playing with him) for his thoughts on baseball strategy, his approach to training (which Michael as a younger player hadn’t heard before), as well as how Lerner—who himself was a good fielder and line drive hitter—advocated for chopping down on the ball which caused higher bounces and allowed the batter additional time to beat out any throw at first.

According to Michael, “He was way ahead of us… Way ahead of us.”

It’s clear that Lerner was both physically gifted, but also took a mental approach to the game that, had he played his cards right, may have put him in prime position to become a manager, scout, or to work in a front office after his playing days were over.

Unfortunately for Lerner, that simply was not going to be in the cards. Though he had immense talent between the lines, he also had a nose for trouble. According to his family, he carried a very self-destructive fear of success. And when the opportunity he’d been building towards finally came after Pirates star Bill Mazeroski had gotten injured, Lerner ruined his chances of being called up to the big leagues by picking a fight with his manager.

As explained by Lerner’s son Glen, “One of his biggest regrets…Whenever he was going to get promoted, he would do something to undermine it. He didn’t know how to explain it.”

As you get into the early 1960’s, Lerner was in his mid-twenties. By this point, he’d played with 15 different teams. But sports is a young man’s game, and when you begin to get up in age by minor league baseball standards, your prospects (despite still being relatively young) begin to dim.

And this is where the lines begin to blur for Lerner in terms of his career prospects. He had to make a decision on whether he wanted to continue to pursue his professional baseball career, or whether he wanted to go in a different direction with his life.

Sliding Into a Life of Crime

As you get into 1961, Lerner was playing for the Macon Peaches out in Georgia.

While he was certainly a standout on that team, the team itself was filled with players on the back nine of their careers. According to his teammate Tony Bartirome, the team was “A bastard club. All on their way down.”

Unfortunately that bleak statement included “Pro” Lerner as well.

Even still, Baritrome remembers Lerner as being very well-mannered, “he was like a priest, almost,” though he would occasionally leave the team to attend to “personal matters.”

In those days, even major league professional baseball player salaries were far lower than they are today, which left many ballplayers—especially those toiling in the minors—looking for alternative sources of income.

As it relates to Maurice “Pro” Lerner, it’s true that personal matters may truly have just been personal matters, but more likely than not he was looking for a means to supplement his income. As it turns out, around the same timeframe Lerner was also conducting a tryout for his new vocation as an armed robber and career criminal—one that he would slide into head first.

In the Summer of 1961, Lerner was arrested in Boston for robbing a furniture store and sentenced to three years probation.

Then a few months later, Lerner and an accomplice were arrested by Brookline police while in the midst of robbing an acquaintance. The pair were charged with conspiracy to commit armed robbery as well as carrying a firearm without a permit.

When questioned by police, Lerner allegedly lied which left the authorities with a fairly unfavorable impression of the professional ballplayer. According to his son Glen, “I know the Brookline police were not fond of him. A Jewish troublemaker would not be well looked upon by an Irish police force.”

Even despite his dalliances into criminality, Lerner continued to pursue his professional career and dream of one day making the bigs. By 1962, he’d bounced around again and was playing for the Raleigh Capitals, a minor league affiliate within the Washington Senators organization. That season he hit .308 and even added a bit of power to his game, slamming a career-best 8 home runs. So it’s clear that despite his fading prospects, “Pro” Lerner could still hit.

A teammate on that Raleigh team (and future big leaguer) John Kennedy years later would recall just how fixated Lerner was on honing his craft as a hitter. “He couldn’t care less about anything but hit, hit, hit,” Kennedy stated to beat writer Dan Berry in a 2016 New York Times article featuring details from Lerner’s life.

There was also an empathetic side to Lerner. Kennedy remembered how one time Lerner convinced a homeless man who regularly hung out outside of Devereux Meadow ballpark in Raleigh onto the team bus, hid him from the team’s manager, and supplied him with enough beer to last the benefactor an entire day. According to Kennedy when discussing this act of kindness, “As far as I’m concerned, he was a helluva guy.”

But at the same time, he was also caught passing bad checks in Tennessee, stealing televisions sets from hotels near Fenway Park, and hustling some Harvard University frat boys at pool.

So clearly, he’d started living his life with one foot in legitimate society while dipping his toe into the criminal lifestyle, and it was clear that he was beginning to see a future career path more with the latter than the former.

Around 1962 or 1963, Lerner began hanging around a pair of very well-known criminal figures in the New England underworld, notorious armed robbers John “Red” Kelley and George William “Billy A” Agisotelis.

At the time, the duo were the prime suspects in a notorious Plymouth, Massachusetts robbery in which they allegedly disguised themselves as police officers, then commandeered a United States Postal Service mail truck, making off with $1.5 million in cold hard cash in the process.

But Lerner wasn’t quite ready to call it quits on his baseball career just yet. In 1963, he was still holding on to his last glimmers of hope while playing for the York White Roses, a Senators affiliate in Pennsylvania.

But a .250 batting average (far below his standards) across just 28 games was perhaps the figurative nail in the coffin of his career as a professional ballplayer.

Though there was no formal announcement or press release from the team, Lerner was on the outs with the team. According to the New York Times, an internal F.B.I. document from that time stated the following:

“Joseph McKenney, Director of Publicity, American Baseball League, and Joseph Cronin, President of the American League, after reviewing records, advised Maurice Lerner is presently on the suspended list of the York, Pennsylvania, Baseball Team subject to moving up to a higher classification.

Cronin stated that being on the suspended list indicates either Lerner did not report to the York team or was suspended while there for some infraction of the club’s training regulations.”

So after 10 years of working his way through the minors reaching as high as AA several times, “Pro” Lerner unofficially hung up his spikes. His career stats according to Baseball-Reference.com were as follows: 511 hits, 85 doubles, 20 triples, 24 home runs, 226 RBI’s, 60 stolen bases, and a career batting average of .308 while playing for a total of 21 different teams. So to say he bounced around was an understatement, but still he managed to put together solid if not unspectacular numbers during his time in the minors.

It’s at this time where he dives head first into criminality, regularly begins showing up on police reports, and begins to hone his reputation as a criminal capable of making scores and also adept at violence as well—be it with a gun or bat.

He was known to put his skills as a ballplayer to good use while collecting money. In fact, as his reputation and penchant for violence grew, he was infamously said to have taken a swing at the head of the man who had the misfortune of answering the doorbell Lerner had rung.

And this is where he got the attention of the Patriarca Crime Family who began putting his talents as an enforcer to work on a regular basis.

When people crossed the Patriarca family, it was often Lerner and his friend “Red” Kelley who were sent to straighten things out. Sometimes this meant giving a beating, but more often than not it meant to make people disappear.

In January of 1965, a local hood named Robert Rasmussen was found in Wilmington, Massachusetts with a .38 caliber bullet in the back of his head. Informants would later claim that Rasmussen made the mistake of trying to extort money from Kelley, who then lured the man to Lerner’s apartment on the promise of a major score, where the two men killed him. He was found by police lying dead in a snowbank nearly nude.

In June of 1965, then 28-year-old Lerner was arrested as he sat in his friend “Red” Kelley’s car on a fugitive for justice charge stemming from a warrant dating back to his 1962 charge in Tennessee for passing bad checks totalling $140. Noone could explain the three year delay in serving the warrant on Lerner.

It has also been alleged by mob informer Vincent “Fat Vinnie” Teresa, that when the CIA, and mob bosses like Patriarca among others wanted to assassinate Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, they allegedly handpicked Lerner for the job. Whether that’s true or not we may never know, but to have your name tied in with a major contract like that just goes to show what a rising star “Pro” was at the time.

In another case of pure viciousness, there was also the story of the murder of Tommy Richards, a member of “Red” Kelley’s crew. Richards had vanished just before he was to go on trial for the 1962 mail heist in Plymouth. It is alleged that Kelley crew felt that Richards might not be able to hold up on the stand and may implicate Kelley and his associates. So Lerner was brought in to handle business.

According to statements later made by an associate to Kelley’s lawyer at the time, F. Lee Bailey, Lerner shot Richards in the head as the man pleaded for his life saying, “I never did anything to hurt any of you guys.”

When Bailey asked his client Kelley about Tommy’s whereabouts just before the trial, he recalled Kelley saying, “Well, Tommy won’t be joining us.”

Aftermath of the Marfeo-Melei Hit

Circling back to the violent beginning of this episode, it was a brisk Providence evening in April 1968, and Lerner along with another masked accomplice has just left two marks—the renegade bookmaker Rudolph “Rudy” Marfeo, 42, and his bodyguard Anthony Melei, 26—lying dead in a pool of blood inside Pannone’s Market.

Curious onlookers as well as potential witnesses were reluctant to furnish investigators with any information that might help them bring the perpetrators to justice. They knew this was a mob hit, and they also knew that if they kept their mouths shut and stuck to the unwritten code that no harm would come to them.

“I didn’t see nothing, I didn’t hear nothing,” was the response given to reporters by the owner of a small store within close proximity of Pannone’s.

Yet another onlooker suggested, “You want information? Call 411,” to an inquiring Providence Journal reporter.

The authorities knew too that it was a mob rubout, they just couldn’t prove it. Just after the murders, they stated to the press, “There’s every indication it was a gangland killing.”

They also had a pretty good hunch that the order came down from none other than Raymond L.S. Patriarca, the mafia Don of Providence, Rhode Island and one of the most respected figures within organized crime in the entire country.

As I covered at great length in my last episode, Patriarca controlled (or granted access to) much of the organized criminal activity in New England, and it was common knowledge that nothing got done in Providence without his express permission.

Patriarca would often be seen sitting outside of his base of operations, the Coin-O-Matric, in Federal Hill, watching the FBI while they surveilled him in return.

And in the case of the Marfeo-Melei hit (as with many others), months passed without any solid leads to tie in Patriarca, Lerner, or any of the other co-conspirators.

But that was about to change.

In the late 1960’s, the Patriarca family was under siege as the FBI succeeded in turning several  family-connected associates into informants.

First there was Joseph “The Animal” Barboza who would tie Patriarca into murder conspiracy charges for a 1966 on Rudy Marfeo’s brother, Willie, and then would again target crime family members in the murder of local hood Teddy Deegan.

And then in 1969, the FBI succeeded in turning another criminal into an informant. Unfortunately for both Patriarca and Lerner, this time the rat was Maurice Lerner’s close friend and mentor, John “Red” Kelley.

Kelley had recently been fingered for his part in a $524,000 Brinks armored robbery, and rather than face the music he flipped and started giving information to the Feds in exchange for leniency and a place in the Witness Protection Program.

Kelley immediately fingered his supposed friend “Pro” Lerner as the primary shooter in the Marfeo-Melei murders, as well as tje other conspirators including the boss himself Ray Patriarca, along with his soldier Luigi “Baby Shacks” Manocchio.

He told a lurid story of how Patriarca’s lieutenant Luigi “Baby Shacks” Manocchio had specifically recruited Lerner due to his reputation for controlled violence, and how in turn Lerner had brought Kelley on board for his meticulous attention to detail when it came to developing escape plans.

Kelley further shared how they scouted the daily movements of their two unsuspecting victims, how they discovered that it was Marfeo’s custom to shop for groceries in that market on Saturday afternoons, and how after the hit the shooters met with Manocchio at a hotel a few miles away to congratulate them on a job well done.

As a result of this information, FBI agents arrested Lerner at the Brookline, Massachusetts apartment he shared with his wife and children early one morning. The Feds would find a pump-action shotgun as well as a fully-loaded .45-caliber pistol. The FBI would also discover that Lerner had converted his basement into a shooting range where Lerner would practice his marksmanship.

So it seems that “Pro” had put the same level of rigor into his training as a hitman as he did when he was still playing professional baseball. Except that it was no longer baseballs that he was hitting.

Whether this viciousness was always inside of him or whether it manifested when he began his foray into the criminal lifestyle may never be known. But what’s clear is that at some point Maurice “Pro” Lerner transformed from what most people around him considered to be a genuinely decent guy into a feared killer and deadly force within the New England underworld.

According to investigators, Kelley had confided to them that Lerner was “bright, courageous, and homicidal,” and quite possibly “the most dangerous man he had known in his 25 years of criminal activities.”

Another federal informant, one Richard Chicofsky, felt he could speak more freely after Lerner’s arrest saying, “that bastard Lerner got what he deserved.”

When asked to clarify, Chicofsky replied that “Lerner was a sadistic killer and that he got his kicks from watching people bleed,” and told of the time that Lerner had bragged about killing Billy Aggie (Agisotelis) with a .45 while he and Aggie held a casual conversation in an automobile.

Chicofsky would go on to say that he “feels a lot better now that Lerner is off the streets because when Lerner was around, he was never really sure when Lerner might decide to ‘plank’ him.”

Now I’m not here to say whether what each of these informants said was truthful or not, but whether you believe it or not it’s clear that by this point Lerner had the respect of the Patriarca family but was also gaining a nasty reputation for himself amongst some of his peers in the criminal underworld.

In 1969, Maurice “Pro” Lerner, Raymond L.S. Patriarca, Robert Fairbrothers, and John Rossi were arrested and charged with murder conspiracy. Patriarca and another accomplice Rudolph Sciarra were charged also with accessory to murder and conspiracy. Additionally, their other confederate, Luigi “Baby Shacks” Manocchio, would also be arrested and released on bail, after which he went on the lam to both France, Venezuela, possibly Aruba, and later New York City (and wouldn’t surrender to police until 1979 after which he served 30 months in prison).

The men would go on trial in 1970.

As I’d referenced in the Patriarca biography, this trial was riddled with theatrics likely perpetrated by the Patriarca family in an effort to knock the trial off course, delay proceedings, and change the sentiments of the public and the jury. One of the defendants screamed at the prosecutor of the case, “I’ll get you, you bastard. I’ll see tears running down your face before this is over,” after which he punched a wooden door, breaking his hand in the process.

In a more sordid tale, it is alleged that an unknown person or persons kidnapped one of the prosecution’s key witnesses, and shuttled them off to a secret location, where this witness was asked to testify against everyone except Patriarca and Lerner. As this particular witness left the stand, a relative of one of the defendant’s allegedly threatened her life.

What became clear during the trial was that Lerner was the most likely to be left holding the bag. As a small-time criminal and hitman, and a Jewish one at that, he was far more expendable than Patriarca, the Italian crime boss.

After deliberating for 3 days, a jury convicted Maurice “Pro” Lerner, along with Patriarca, Fairbrothers, Rossi, and Sciarra of conspiracy to murder, while also convicting Lerner of 1st-degree murder.

For the conspiracy charges, Patriarca, Lerner, Fairbrothers, Rossi, and Sciarra would be sentenced to 10 years. Unfortunately for Lerner, at just 34 years of age, the judge in this case also handed him two life sentences to be served consecutively. The jury was unable to reach a verdict for the other defendants.

According to a Department of Justice memorandum, “It was generally agreed among the FBI, Strike Force Attorneys, and the Rhode Island Attorney General that [the] conviction of Patriarca … in this matter would deal a death blow to the Rhode Island LCN,” and that “the conviction of Maurice R. ‘Pro’ Lerner will remove from the scene one of the most vicious and affective killers in New England.”

Patriarca would later be exonerated in 1972 of charges due to holes in John “Red” Kelley’s testimony.

It was said that in his stay at a Boston prison during the trial, Lerner took comfort in visits made by a Boston rabbi, but after the verdict Lerner sent word to the rabbi that he could discontinue his visits.

The hard-hitting slugger whose life had once held such promise had thrown it all away.

To quote A Bronx Tale, “the saddest thing in life is wasted talent.”

From “Pro” to Prison Life

After the trial, Lerner served his time at Rhode Island State Prison where he rubbed shoulders with the likes of Gerard “The Frenchman” Ouimette who was an influential associate of the Patrarca family and who controlled much of the prison.

It’s said that behind bars, Lerner was a model inmate. For keeping his mouth shut during the trial and taking his punishment like a man, it’s said that Lerner was afforded a fair degree of respect. But rather than embrace the prison culture, he kept to himself and stayed out of trouble.

According to a New York Times article, Lerner was said to have second highest I.Q. in the prison, and still look fanatical pride in both his fitness and education. He conformed fully to all prison rules and by all accounts was a model inmate.

Brian Andrews, a former detective commander for the Rhode Island State Police, described Lerner as follows: “A disciplined guy; the coldest, hardest guy there. And Pro wouldn’t talk. Sometimes he’d look at you and wouldn’t even answer you.”

In 1980, Lerner rescued a corrections officer who was being choked with a cord by another inmate, subduing the attacker and escorting the injured officer to the infirmary. For this, he received a formal commendation in his prison file, applauding him for a “heroic action.”

According to feared career criminal Gerald Tillinghast who served time with Lerner, “Take organized crime away, or any kind of crimes like that. If you was to know him, you would never equate him with that. Never. When you get to know him? Very charismatic — if he likes you. Very seldom you’d get him laughing.”

Lerner would serve 18 years of his two life sentences. However, in 1988, he’d finally get a legal victory. It turns out that his former mentor, John “Red” Kelley with the help of corrupt FBI agent Paul Rico, had perjured himself during the trial.

“Red” Kelley would later confess that he’d embellished certain parts of his testimony. According to Kelley, he’d told the truth regarding how the hit went down and Lerner’s role as the primary shooter, but embellished some of the details including how the shooters had met with Patriarca to plan the double homicide—a meeting which never actually happened.

As a result, the Rhode Island Supreme Court overturned Lerner’s murder conviction. In the days before Christmas 1988, Maurice “Pro” Lerner plead no contest to murder and conspiracy, was given credit for time served, and at age 53 walked away a free man.

Moving to Las Vegas, Lerner lived out the rest of his life in peace, dying in September of 2013 at the age of 78.

Final Thoughts & Closing

That’s it for this episode! It certainly was a bit of a different episode, but a really compelling story nonetheless that I really want to share with my channel.

I’d like to give a shoutout to Dan Berry’s 2016 New York Times article which I used as my primary source and then supplemented with supporting documentation. I’d encourage everyone to pop on over and read that (the link will be in the description and on my website).

Next episode, we’ll be exploring an infamous story involving Joey Gallo and Neil Dellacroce after which we’ll be covering some of the mob’s lesser-known families around the country.

Before you go, please don’t forget to Subscribe so that you can continue to enjoy my content as it’s released and if you have any thoughts please leave them in the comments on YouTube or write us a review on Apple. Lastly, feel free to check out our website at www.membersonlypodcast.com, or follow me on Twitter or Facebook.

Until next time, gratzie!

Online Sources:

Books & Other Sources:

  • Hernández, Lou (2011). The rise of the Latin American baseball leagues, 1947-1961 : Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Puerto Rico, and Venezuela. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Co. p. 92
  • Teresa, Vincent (1973). My life in the Mafia. New York: Doubleday. pp. 71
Jacob Stoops, the host of The Gangland History Podcast

Jacob Stoops

Host of the Gangland History Podcast

This podcast sits at the intersection of my life-long love for history, my love of mob movies, my now decades-long fascination with the Mafia, as well as my passion for content creation.