Bonnie Shelton 7BOISE --
For 17 years, Enrico Ponzo lived as a fugitive. The Boston native was wanted by the FBI for his association with the New England mafia and the attempted killing of a rival mobster.
Then in 2011, a break in the case. A phone tip led federal agents to a ranch outside Marsing.
Neighbors knew the man who lived there as Jay Shaw. In reality, the family man and cattle rancher was Ponzo, living a new life under a false
He was arrested and brought back to Massachusetts to face federal charges.
Fast forward to 2016. The 47-year-old has been incarcerated for the last five years in several states. He's currently awaiting sentencing for a federal firearms violation he pleaded guilty to in Boise, stemming from the search of his Marsing home.
For the first time since the story made national headlines, we're hearing about Ponzo's criminal past and his life in Idaho from the man himself.
Ponzo agreed to an exclusive interview with KTVB from the Ada County Jail.
"All my friends in Idaho call me Jay, but uh my real name is Rico," Ponzo said from behind the glass.
Even as a maximum security prisoner in handcuffs, Ponzo can't help but smile when talking about Idaho and the Marsing ranch he called home for more than a decade.
"I could have went anywhere in the country basically except the east coast, and I chose Idaho because it's a great family environment and where I wanted to raise my children," he said. "Seeing the wine country and all that. It was so beautiful."
But while living as Jay Shaw in Owyhee County, Ponzo was harboring a huge secret. After leaving Boston in 1994, he was indicted for his association with a New England crime family. Ponzo was also accused of trying to kill a rival mobster in 1989, Francis "Cadillac Frank" Salemme.
"Were you involved with the mafia at any time? Did you know Cadillac Frank?," KTVB's Bonnie Shelton asked Ponzo during the jailhouse interview.
"Well, I can't really talk about it, but you know it was a different time back then," he replied. "A different type of community that I grew up in. Back there, those people were like the sheriff in Ada County or Owyhee County, and that's basically the way things were when I was growing up."
Ponzo describes his criminal past in Boston as "youthful stuff" adding, "I'm not the same person as 25 years ago. Who is?"
In the 1997 indictment, Ponzo and Vincent Marino were named as the triggermen who shot at "Cadillac Frank" as he walked into an International House of Pancakes.
That man is a much different person than the one his Marsing neighbors grew to know.
Jay Shaw raised cattle and raised his two children along the Snake River. Ponzo calls it the happiest time of his life.
But it all came to an end in 2011 when federal agents came to arrest him. Ponzo says the phone tip was traced back to his ex-wife. He wasn't surprised.
"She told me she was going to turn me in," said Ponzo. "She basically said you know, you better run, and I said well I can't. I love my children. You know, I can't leave my children.".
A son and a daughter that Ponzo says he hasn't been able to speak to in three years.
"That's the saddest part of all this," he told KTVB.
When federal agents searched Ponzo's Marsing home, they found more than 30 weapons, mostly assault rifles. They also found an assortment of identification cards from different states with different names. Plus, they found hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of cash.
We asked Ponzo about that.
"This is stuff I'm still going to court on so I'd rather not really speak about it, but basically I was Jay Shaw the whole time I was in Idaho," he said in response.
In addition to being charged with attempted murder in connection to the shooting of "Cadillac Frank," Ponzo also faced drug and gun charges in Boston. He went to trial in 2013.
Prosecutors argued Ponzo fled the state to avoid prosecution.
"Why did you leave and flee?" Shelton asked.
"People tried to kill me," Ponzo replied with a laugh. "I had to leave you know, and uh it was the best thing I ever did."
Ponzo says he was not involved in the attempted murder of "Cadillac Frank."
"Absolutely not. I had nothing to do with it," he said.
During his trial, several New England mafia members testified against Ponzo.
A jury eventually found Ponzo responsible for the attempted murder, as well as racketeering, and dealing cocaine and marijuana.
"When you're convicted of things like attempted murder, racketeering, do you admit to those things? Is that something that you acknowledge yes, happened in my past?" Shelton asked.
"No, I feel I'm innocent," said Ponzo. "I did sell some medical marijuana in Arizona, but I have to say that that is true but the other stuff was mostly make believe," he added.
At his 2014 sentencing, the judge called Ponzo a "career criminal" and sentenced him to 28 years in prison.
"I tried to tell them I was a changed person, and he didn't take that," he said.
The 47-year-old is appealing his Boston convictions and as he did in his Boston sentencing, he plans to represent himself during his upcoming sentencing in Idaho.
Ponzo says he does law work during his free time behind bars.
"I've been researching law for quite a while, and uh it interests me, and I think it's to my benefit, you know," said Ponzo. "I think I can do as good of a job as an attorney."
He told KTVB if and when he gets out of prison, he'd like to come back to Idaho.
"I might be pretty old. Hopefully it will be sooner than later," he added.
During our interview, Ponzo was adamant he's not violent or dangerous, but records obtained from the Ada County Sheriff's Office paint a different picture.
After filing an information request following KTVB's in-person interview at the jail, we learned Ponzo has been disciplined for dozens of behavior violations over the last several months.
A spokesperson for the sheriff's office says on January 30, he punched a jail deputy in the head as he was being searched for illegal contraband.
We're also told he's threatened other inmates with violence, and he's threatened deputies in the past.
The Ada County Sheriff's Office says Ponzo has had 74 write-ups for failure to follow jail rules since September 2014.
Ponzo is scheduled to be sentenced in Boise on the federal firearms violation in April. He could face up to 10 more years in prison.