Richie the Boot Boiardo was one of the most iconic and feared mafioso to ever operate out of New Jersey. An almost mythical figure in the underworld, Boiardo got his start during the early years of Prohibition in the 1920s. He was a wild man and not somebody to be trifled with.
Remember that this was before the formation of the nationally governed Cosa Nostra. It was a time when the Sicilian Mafia was but one small piece of the overall underworld mosaic in this country.
Those early years in northern New Jersey saw gang wars between many varied groups, among them Jewish gangsters such as Abner (Longy) Zwillman, a contingent of Arthur Flegenheimer who was better known as “Dutch Schultz”, many other independent Irish gangs, as well as splintered Italian gangs and hoodlums that would later join together and become part of Cosa Nostra such as Gerardo (Jerry) Catena, Quarico (Willie Moore) Moretti, Nicolo (Nicky Dell) Delmore, and Angelo (Gyp the Blood) DeCarlo.
But of all the notorious early hoodlums and rough and tumble gangsters who would operate on the streets of Newark and other northern New Jersey towns and areas, arguably none would become more notorious or dangerous than Richie the Boot Bioardo, or “Diamond Richie” as he was sometimes also called because of the flashy jewelry and huge diamond-encrusted belt buckle he sported around town.
Born on December 8, 1890, back in Naples, Italy, he was raised in the little town of Marigliano in the Campania province. Legend has it that he was an orphan raised in an Italian Catholic orphanage until he later immigrated to the United States as a young adult in 1910.
He was immediately drawn to the streets of New York and New Jersey, a place that he felt quite comfortable in since all his life he had been banged around and truly knew no home life or loving parents of his own.
By the mid-1910s, he was already a fledgling hoodlum and street criminal active in burglaries, armed robberies, and other such mayhem.
By the beginning of alcohol Prohibition in 1920, Boiardo was well poised to capitalize on The Volstead Act, a largely failed nationwide law enacted to deny a desiring populous of one of the most enjoyable pastimes they ever had, the consumption of alcoholic beverages.
This ridiculous law would make millionaires out of many a previously impoverished hoodlum and help give rise to the greatest criminal organization this country has ever known, Cosa Nostra. It would now make “racketeers” and “gangsters” out of previously categorized street “hoodlums”.