The Enigma of Jerry Tillinghast

“The evil that men do lives after them;
The good is oft interred with their bones.”

William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar

On February 21, 2022, Gerald M. “Jerry” Tillinghast died of natural causes. Had one taken a bet as to his ultimate manner of death back when Jerry first gained notoriety in Rhode Island, natural causes would have been one of the least most likely choices.

His transformation from a tough kid from South Providence to a combat Marine in Vietnam to his association with organized crime did not lend itself to a non-violent death. Yet Jerry overcame all that stood in his way to survive seventy-five years, succumbing as we all will eventually to inevitable mortality.

If one were to read the news stories of his passing, one comes to see that two Jerry Tillinghast’s died that day.

There is the one forever identified as a “mob enforcer” and linked to crimes for which he was acquitted; and there is the one who was a brother, father, uncle, grandfather, and great-grandfather raising a family despite the limitations of his imprisonment and enjoying to this day their love and devotion.

This is not an attempt to excuse Jerry’s actions in the past. He has said it himself over and over, “I made my choices and I am living with the consequences.” This is an attempt to point out that injustices against anyone, no matter one’s opinion, are something antithetical to the American Justice system.

In the many articles about his passing, they identify him as one of the Bonded Vault Robbers. He was tried in that case and found not guilty. To paint him as a participant despite his acquittal is to make a mockery of the jury’s decision in this case.

He served his sentence, spending thirty-three years in prison for his conviction in the George Basmajian matter. That is how the system works. You do the crime, you do the time, and then you move on. But the prurient interest on anything mob-related is an indelible mark on his character that ignores our system of justice.

I had a ringside seat to witness the two Jerry Tillinghasts. The one I knew of and the one I came to know in authoring the book with him. During the research for the book, one of the most startling things I discovered was the injustice done to him in Vietnam. And I didn’t form this opinion because of what I learned about the case; I formed this opinion after talking with the former Marine JAG lawyer who defended Jerry during the trial in Vietnam.

When I spoke with this gentleman, he was now retired from an over fifty-year career in the law, including time as the Presiding Justice of the California Court of Appeals. To my astonishment, he remembered every detail of the case, despite the passage of time. He told me with certainty that the case against Jerry was one of the most blatant travesties of justice he had ever experienced, and it troubled him all his life.

That got me thinking about how it is often circumstances outside our control which channel us into paths we might never have otherwise chosen. If what happened to Jerry in Vietnam had not occurred, what might his choices have been?

There will be those who only see the Jerry Tillinghast of the headlines. They will gloss over his acquittal in the Bonded Vault case, claiming he “got away with it.” They will only see what they want to see because it somehow makes them feel better about themselves. There is nothing I can say that will change that.

There are also those who will ignore the reality of the terrible choices Jerry made that sent him down some dark pathways. Their affection blinds them for the Jerry Tillinghast they know. I can do nothing to change that either.

All I can say is that Jerry was more than a headline. He would be the first to tell you he made some terrible choices and lived to regret them. He would be the first to tell you there is no glamour, no honor, no respect in the mobster’s world. He would tell you to think otherwise is to fool yourself.

Jerry would tell you the one truth he knew better than anyone. When you make choices, you live with the consequences. No one forces you to do anything, the choice is always yours.

I have known, like many of you, of one Jerry Tillinghast. I am glad I got to know the other Jerry Tillinghast. He was one of the most memorable people I’ve ever met.

At War Against the Mob

It’s Just the Way It Was: Inside the War on the New England Mob and other stories

Order your copy in today! Available in print or Kindle version

In this remarkable new book, Joe Broadmeadow and Brendan Doherty take you inside the investigations, covert surveillances, and murky world of informants in the war against Organized Crime.

“Brendan Doherty & Joe Broadmeadow’s new book “ It’s Just the Way It Was ” is a gripping, in-depth, insider point of view from the lawman who saw it all. The Federal Hill politics of the street law & order, decided with the barrel of a gun, will never be told better… “
Joe Pantoliano
Ralphie Cifaretto from 
The Soprano’s. 

“It’s Just the Way it Was tells the inspiring story of a principled young man who resisted the pressure of delinquency, played a crucial role in dismantling the Rhode Island mob, and rose to lead one of the finest state police organizations in the country.”

Col. Rick Fuentes, ret.
NJ State Police
(Served as Superintendent of NJSP for 16 years)

Book signings:
October 11th   Barrington Books Retold, Cranston, RI  6:00 p.m.

October 17th   MCTs Tavern, Cumberland, RI 5:00 p.m.

October 19th   Brewed Awakenings, 60 South County Commons, Wakefield, RI 10:00 a.m.

It’s Just the Way It Was: Inside the War on the New England Mob

Here is why you should buy this book…

“Brendan Doherty & Joe Broadmeadow’s new book “ It’s just the way it was “ a gripping in-depth, insider point of view from the lawman who saw it all. The Federal Hill politics of the street law & order were decided with the barrel of a gun,  will never be told better… “

Joe Pantoliano

(Ralphie Cifaretto in The Sopranos)

Here’s where…

At War Against The Mob

In It’s Just the Way It Was: Inside the War on the New England Mob and other stories, Joe Broadmeadow and Brendan Doherty take you inside the investigations, covert surveillances, and murky world of informants in the war against Organized Crime.

Order your copy today!

“Brendan Doherty & Joe Broadmeadow’s new book “ It’s Just the Way It Was ”  is a gripping in-depth, insider point of view from the lawman who saw it all. The Federal Hill politics of the street law & order, decided with the barrel of a gun, will never be told better…”

Joe  Pantoliano
Ralphie Cifaretto from 

Book Signings

October 11th   Barrington Books Retold, Cranston, RI  6:00 p.m

October 17th   MCTs Tavern, Cumberland, RI 5:00 p.m.

Read an excerpt

Excerpt “It’s Just the Way It Was: Inside the War on the New England Mob and other stories”

Read an except from the upcoming book by Joe Broadmeadow and Brendan Doherty. Go inside with investigators who infiltrated the mob. Sit with the detectives as they monitor wiretaps. Come face to face with some of the most notorious mobsters who stalked the streets of Providence, Boston, and New York.

Release Date October 9, 2019 JEBWizard Publishing

Pre-order the Kindle version here, before the release date price increase.

Chapter 3 Grundy’s Gym

In 1978, Brendan walked in the door of Grundy’s Gym in Central Falls, Rhode Island. The experience here would have a lifelong impact on Brendan. Something he could never imagine when he first went in.

It was a real boxing gym, not a studio with mirrors where guys hit the bag and brag to girls that they’re fighters. Like most hard-core boxing gyms, it didn’t have the luxury of a quality cleaning service.

Pungent sweat, punctuated by the snap of leather on leather, engulfed you. Grunts, groans, and the shouts of trainers added to the mix. Marinated in the blood, sweat, and tears from years of boxers chasing glory, the building held the echoes of dreams, despair, and determination.

It was where the thrill of victory rarely interrupted the agony of defeat. Most guys were just happy to survive. It was all part of the less glamorous reality of the boxing world.

Old fight promotion posters and pictures of boxers covered the walls. Fighters who never made it to the main bout yet showed enough heart to earn a place on that wall. Making the wall was an accomplishment, perhaps their only one, but here it meant something.

Dried blood stains covered the floor of the ring, known as the canvas, serving as reminders of bouts that went beyond sparring. There was no Rocky-style soundtrack to underscore the punishing pain. The dingy walls, gray shades of age, echoed and amplified the sounds. It wasn’t music, but it held a certain charm to those immersed in the sport. The only color, besides the boxing trunks, was the purplish-red splotches on bruised bodies.

This place was the real deal.

The owner, Bob Grundy, who later became like an uncle to Brendan, was a character out of central casting for a tough guy movie. He was a Marine Raider in World War II, fighting in the extended operation on Guadalcanal, considered the turning point of the war in the Pacific. He came up the hard way, born and raised in a one-room, cold-water flat in the Darlington section of Pawtucket, Rhode Island.

He worked hard, opened his own construction company, and did well. He was a generous man who gave back to his community. He started his gym after the Notre Dame Boxing Club closed. Bob understood the gym was the only thing between jail and the streets for some young men.

 Bob charged no one for membership. The gym was free if you comported yourself like a gentleman. It was an exciting mix of characters, including ex-cons, pro fighters, cops, and con men.

If Grundy’s gym was the real deal, the authenticity came from Bob Grundy. Bob’s son, Peter, a football star at Bishop Feehan who later became one hell of a fighter, introduced Brendan to the place…



October 11, 2019 6:00 p.m.
Barrington Books Retold
Garden City
Cranston, RI

October 17, 2019 5:00 p.m.
McTs Tavern
940 Mendon Rd.
Cumberland, RI

The Story Behind the Story

On May 10th, a new and remarkable book is set for release. UnMade: Honor Loyalty Redemption by Robert Walason and Joe Broadmeadow is not your typical Mob crime story. It is unlike anything you’ve ever read before. Available now for pre-order in Kindle and in print on release date from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and local bookstores.

A story unlike anything you’ve ever read

On May 18th, DePasquale Square, Providence, RI 5-9pm meet the authors, Robert Walason and Joe Broadmeadow and grab a signed copy of this compelling story.

This is a small glimpse into the book and the troubling tale it tells…

Imagine you are 6 years old, trembling beneath your bed, desperately looking for the one reassuring presence who can save you from your rampaging father. Your aunts and uncles will rescue you again. They will come, standing between you and the raging man who seeks to destroy your innocence.

And you will know them not by their faces, or their voices…but by their ankles. The saviors arrive and the reassuring sight of their ankles bring you hope…

Imagine you are 12 years old on Christmas Eve. Inside, all around you, families wait in quiet anticipation for the celebrations of Christmas. Trees adorned with decorations stand watch over wrapped presents waiting silently for the laughs and giggles of children, young and old.

But for you, there are no presents, no decorations, no Christmas feast. On this Christmas Eve you are alone, cold, and abandoned. Tossed from your home by your father with no one to turn to. Wandering the streets of Providence, wearing pajamas, sneakers, and a thin jacket, looking for a way to survive.

You will spend a silent night in a dark, dank basement in the Providence projects sleeping in an abandoned cardboard box.

Imagine you are 16 years old, sentenced to adult prison. Your reputation for brutal violence draws attention from Organized Crime who lure you in and groom you to be one of them, becoming the “family” you so desperately seek. Years of working as an enforcer for the mob follow, more prison time, and narrow escapes from serious convictions.

Imagine you are being targeted, pursued, and shot by a would-be assassin. Running until you can run no more, you collapse against a car. No longer able to move, or escape. Your blood pours out as the pain bores in.

Imagine the gunman places the barrel of the gun against your forehead, smiles, and pulls the trigger. Click, the gun does not fire. Click, again. And you realize it is not your time to die. Summoning the strength you thought had abandoned you, you lunge at the gunman, chasing him away.

Imagine you survive the horrific damage to your body by that 9mm bullet. You know what you must do and how you will do it, in your own way. All the while knowing no one leaves a mob crew except by disappearing into prison, the Witness Protection program, or giving up breathing.

Imagine confronting the man who now heads Organized Crime in New England, a man unaccustomed to being told anything he did not want to hear, and telling him that letting you leave the life was best for all concerned.

And he agrees.

For Robert “Bobby” Walason, this was not imagination, this was his life, and this is his story. A story of abandonment, desperation, rebirth, and redemption.

UnMade: Honor Loyalty Redemption

By Robert Walason and Joe Broadmeadow

Available in eBook and print on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and bookstores everywhere.

Excerpt: UnMade Honor Loyalty Redemption

In the 1970s, Olneyville was a desolate neighborhood of rundown, multiple family homes and small manufacturing shops, which sat in a valley across an overpass that ran above the Route Ten connector to I-95.

It was a short walk from the Italian, Federal Hill section of Providence. No emblems on street signs showing demarcation points, nothing separated one neighborhood from the other, yet it needed none. The intersection of Atwells and Harris Avenue was the boundary. Along Atwells, up on the Hill, sat cafes, restaurants, salumerias, social clubs, laundromats, pastry and veal shops, live poultry markets. All part of the fiefdom, the unofficial headquarters of one of the most feared of all Mafia Don’s, Raymond L. S. Patriarca.

When gang-banging, street criminals thought about edging out of their Olneyville neighborhood, and moving toward the Hill, the thought was a fleeting one. Patriarca deplored all street crime, unless, of course, he ordered it. Bad for business, it brought unwanted attention from the police. Olneyville gangsters stayed in Olneyville; it was safer.

One day, a blond-headed, blue-eyed scary guy, who scared very scary guys, crossed that bridge. Back then, Bobby Walason understood it would be suicidal to challenge the supreme power, it was far more sensible to join it.
This story casts a light onto the ebb and flow of a dark side of American society, a look at the forces that play havoc with lives that go adrift on the streets of all our cities.

As a child, Bobby held out against cruelty no boy should ever endure. Thrown from his own house at the age of twelve, he lived in a cardboard box and survived. Though the word survived is a stretch.

As an adolescent, there were turnstiles of reform schools, escapes, and then, even though he was underage, the adult correctional institution, known as the ACI. A prison for adult criminals where he was misdiagnosed, beaten by guards, and fought extraordinary battles holding his own against overwhelming numbers. Finally, they wrapped him in canvas and chains and shot him full of Thorazine—a drug he was allergic to.

As a young adult, there was little thought of a future, he lived hour to hour. Adrift in a world where no one would notice if he lived or died, he found a harbor of refuge in an even darker place.

A career path tailor-made for Bobby Walason as custom fitting as the expensive clothes he would soon come to wear. He became an enforcer in a Mafia crew. A manic-depressive Bipolar Type I enforcer for the mob.

A very scary guy who scared very scary guys.

Pre-order today Click Here

Debunking the Myth of the Mob

(Also published as a column in the Providence Journal

Many Americans have a macabre fascination with Organized Crime, the mob, or the Mafia depending on your preference. Rhode Islanders cling to the myth of Organized Crime like the memory of their first love. They’ve forgotten the pain of loss, clutching the pasteurized reminisces of infatuation. The mesmerizing allure of benevolent mob figures ruling the streets of Providence is a fallacy disproven by reality.


For a time in Rhode Island, two governments ran the state. One was elected by the voters. The other was a shadow government, unelected but more powerful, controlled by the mob under the leadership of Raymond L.S. Patriarca.

One ran for office every two years. The only limitation on Patriarca’s rule was mortality. Yet the organization continued after his death.

The constancy of change has taken its toll on the mob. The bodies dug up today are skeletons buried decades ago. The gunfire on the streets of the city is between rival gang members. Loosely affiliated drug distribution rings, lacking the organization of “this thing of ours,” now rule the streets.

But Rhode Island misses its first love, longing for a return to their days of self-deception. The mob has always been a promise more gorgeous than its realization, but many did not care.

The most telling sign of Rhode Island’s misplaced affection is the continuing fascination with the Mafia and the persistent myth of what they were.

Hollywood painted a noble veneer on the Mafia and gave us The Godfather, Goodfellas, and the Sopranos. They wrapped murder, extortion, hijacking, and loan sharking with catchy phrases and comic banter, making them appear legitimate.

People believed they were safer living under the ‘protection’ of the Mafia, ignoring their corrupting the courts, the cops, and government. Because they could leave their doors unlocked, they accepted paying more taxes because of mob-controlled contracts for construction, trash collection, and myriad other services.

The workingman on the way home could stop at the local bar and wager his family’s future on horse races whose outcome the mob dictated.

And people were okay with that.

When the money wasn’t there to cover the bet, the leg breakers came.

And they were okay with that.

When the mob ran a successful publicity campaign hiding their involvement in drugs, then flooded the country with heroin produced in mob-run laboratories or facilitated the rise of the cocaine business, people were okay with that.

Today’s Mafia may be diminished, but they are not dead. They’ve evolved like a malignant tumor sending out tentacles into new areas of society. They’ve branched out into new scams; gas tax fraud, online gambling, and wind power subsidies fraud while maintaining their hold on many labor unions.

The targets may have changed, the tactics have not. We can learn from the past once we strip away the fallacy of honor and respect.

The recent show, Crimetown ( Season 1), unmasked the reach of corruption by the mob when it laid bare the infiltration of city departments and personnel under the Cianci administration.

In an upcoming book, Choices: You Make ‘em You Own ‘em, ( Jerry Tillinghast, one of the most recognized names of the Patriarca era, unmasks the reality of life within organized crime and the cost to us all.

I wrote the book with Jerry to understand the realities of how people follow such a path. I discovered much I did not expect. A troubling aspect of those years is how even well-intentioned efforts to curtail the mob can subvert the course of Justice.

Rhode Island’s misplaced affection for organized crime cost the people of Rhode Island. It is time to put it into perspective. To recognize that the reality of the mob is masked by misconception and willful self-deception.

Choices: You Make ’em You Own ’em

A story forty years in the making is about to be told. Writing this book with Jerry Tillinghast was an unexpected journey into the murky myth of organized crime. It is a story that will anger some, sadden others, but enlighten most about a long-held misconception of  La Cosa Nostra, “this thing of ours.”

CHOICES_3D_1080-150Click here to order your copy today.

From the back cover:

In a remarkably personal and intimate story, Jerry Tillinghast talks about his life and the choices he made.
Battling alongside his brothers on the streets of Providence. Enlisting in the United States Marine Corps, fighting in Vietnam, and becoming a victim of the politics of that war. Returning to Providence as an angry young man and his choice to hang with the wise guys.
The cost of his reputation as a “feared mob enforcer” and the effect on his family. Meeting Raymond L.S. Patriarca, the notorious head of New England Organized Crime family, and how he came to embrace him as a father figure.
He reveals the inside story of the two of the most infamous cases in Rhode Island history; BondedVault and the George Basmajian Homicide.
Jerry was found not guilty after the Bonded Vault trial, but his luck ran out with the Basmajian murder. Convicted with Jerry was his brother, Harold Tillinghast. Since the moment of their arrest, Jerry has said just one thing.
Harold wasn’t in the car.
Jerry Tillinghast, a featured character on the Crimetown podcast, one of the most downloaded podcasts in the world, tells his life story with honesty and emotion. Setting the record straight after forty years of silence.
Silent no more…

Excerpt from Choices: You Make ’em You Own ’em

Release Date: November 1, 2018.

The wait is almost over. The long-anticipated story, told by Jerry Tillinghast about his life, choices, and living with the consequences of those decisions, is soon to be released. Jerry reveals the truth behind the myth of organized crime and the highs and lows of the life as only someone who lived it can.

CHOICES_3D_1080-150An excerpt from the opening pages;

The stolen car made its way along the side streets of Cranston, Rhode Island onto Interstate 95 south. Cloudy and drizzly, the winds of November cast a pall over the night. Three men, two in the front seat one in the back, came together for a single purpose that evening.

One knew it was a deadly deception.

As the car sped up, other vehicles followed behind. Three undercover police units, two driven by detectives from the Rhode Island State Police and one by an FBI agent.

The stolen car took the Airport Connector exit in Warwick towards T.F. Green Airport. The police surveillance team followed behind. As the stolen car negotiated the corner, the cops lost sight of the car. The snow fence along the roadside momentarily blocked the view. Different today than it was in 1978, the curving off-ramp put cars right onto Post Road. The police regained sight of the of the vehicle as it waited at the red light.

Just two men, both in the front seat, were now visible in the car. Uncertain if the third man had been dropped off, and concerned they may have been spotted, the police watched the vehicle turn onto Post Road and then down a side street into an industrial area. They backed off and waited.

After several minutes, the cops moved into the area to locate the car.

It didn’t take long.

Two investigators approached the car, noticing the windows were steaming up. As they peered inside, they saw George Basmajian, the primary object of their surveillance, lying on the back seat, dead or dying from bullet wounds to the head and chest. The medical examiner would later count nine bullet wounds, several of which were likely fatal.

Nine shots were a guarantee of fatality.

No one else was around the area. The other men vanished into the night. The cops knew who they needed to look for and headed out to find them.

And this is where the story diverges. But to understand the differences and perspective, we must return to the beginning. To go back to the routes of involvement of those connected to this case through their early choices and associations with organized crime…

Order the ebook for Kindle today before the price goes up on release date. Click to order here and sign up here for notifications of book signings and the book release party.