Trial underway for Marsing rancher accused of trying to kill mob boss

Left to right, Enrico Ponzo, a.k.a. Jay Shaw and his longtime friend Kelly Verceles.

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by Jamie Grey

Bio | Email | Follow: @KTVBJamieGrey

KTVB.COM

Posted on October 14, 2013 at 10:43 PM

Updated Tuesday, Oct 15 at 6:57 AM

MARSING, Idaho -- More than two years after an alleged mob associate was found hiding out in Idaho, he's now on trial in Boston federal court for attempting to murder a rival mob boss. With the trial now a week underway, his neighbors are again talking about the man they thought they knew.

"People who know me say, that guy that you know, he's in the news again!" neighbor Jessie Jackson said.

The man known as 'Jay Shaw'

Near his farm west of Marsing, neighbors knew the now-accused man as "Jay Shaw", a friendly, responsible farmer who was from the east coast and a bit wet behind the ears when it came to ranching and farming.

"We taught him how to build a fence. I taught him how to raise cattle. He was a city kid when I knew him. He was a kid when I knew him," Jackson said.

Jackson says she and Shaw were the first ones to build in their area. She remembers him trying (unsuccessfully) to plant young trees around his home.

"There was no water there yet, nothing going on, and he planted all these trees. He's trying to water them with a bucket, and he thought once a week is good. Well, you know how hot it gets here in the summertime! He lost all of them little trees," Jackson said.

Shaw gave other last names, didn't fit in

Another neighbor says Shaw "dressed differently", wearing clothes that he thought were what farmers would wear, but were obviously out of place.

That same neighbor says Shaw initially introduced himself with a different last name. When the neighbor went to write him a check to buy some farm supplies, Shaw gave him that last name, which confused the neighbor. But he said when people come in, he didn't care about a person's past so much as how they were as a person now.

Many neighbors knew Shaw was from the east coast, so said they just assumed he was a bit different from average Idahoans.

Who is 'Enrico Ponzo'?

Everything changed when the feds arrested 'Jay Shaw' in early 2011, saying his name was really Enrico Ponzo, and he was a violent associate of the New England Mafia.

The charges he faces in Boston federal court are serious, including that he attempted to kill a Mafia leader known as "Cadillac Frank".

Inside Ponzo's home were dozens of guns, ammo, money, fake ID's and a practical library of books about hiding. Some of that, Ponzo said belonged to his former common law wife who'd moved away with their children.

"It was like watching a bad show like CSI crime scene or something on television," Jackson recalls of the arrest and investigation.

Another twist: Ponzo's friend charged, then found dead

An Idaho friend of Ponzo, Kelly Verceles, told KTVB back in 2011 that he'd do anything for Ponzo, or Shaw, as he'd known him. Verceles said he was like family to him.

A few months later, Verceles was accused with two others of helping steal $162,000 in cash and gold from Ponzo's home. Verceles said he wasn't stealing from Ponzo, but was doing the right thing by digging up a safe in the basement.

"Enrico Ponzo is and always will be my best friend," said Verceles. "My testimony at my trial will show and prove that my actions did not betray my friend, or conspire to betray him in any way."

He said he was also in fear at the time and was looking forward to explaining himself in court.

"My actions were actually to protect myself, to get it out of where I was staying, so I could sleep at night, not knowing who else knew about it or anything like that," said Verceles.

The following February, Owyhee County deputies found Verceles dead in Ponzo's home. The coroner later found he died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.

Trial in Boston expected to take weeks

After everything, neighbors say it's still hard to believe what happened, and they say the trial has brought conversations in the town coffee shop back to Ponzo. Some, like Jackson, don't see how prosecutors will be able to prove such an old case.

"I think everything I've read about is too old, either dead, gone. How are they going to prove anything? Everything they talk about, there's nothing to confirm any of it," Jackson said.

Prosecutors say Ponzo was part of a group trying to seize control of the New England Mafia, engaging in a number of criminal acts involving things from guns to drugs to murder plots.

But Ponzo's attorney is saying he wasn't a member of the Mafia and challenged the credibility of government witnesses, because some are mob figures who cut deals with prosecutors.

According to an Associated Press article, Ponzo's attorney said went on the run because he "believed he was on a hit list created by a mobster whose son was shot to death while changing a flat tire".

Neighbor: 'I would like for Jay Shaw to come home. Not an Enrico.'

Jackson says this is all bringing up mixed emotions: Wanting her friendly neighbor back but not wanting any trouble.

"I would like Jay Shaw to come home," Jackson said. "I would like to see him with his family back. I know that's all he talks about is his kids. That's got to be tough on those kids. That really breaks my heart."

According to local newspaper reporters in the Boston federal court, the trial is expected to take up to six weeks. Ponzo faces up to life in prison.

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