By Lauren Bennett
Born and raised in public housing in East Boston, Richard Mangone never imagined himself driving expensive cars or raking in millions upon millions of dollars, nor did he imagine himself running from the government and serving prison time. But he has done both, and he sat down with the Times-Free Press to share his story, which is also told in his new book “Busted: A Banker’s Run to Prison.”
Growing up, Mangone was one of eight children, and his mother worked at the NECCO candy factory to support her children. Growing up, Mangone said he never realized he was poor—it wasn’t until he was a teenager that he came to terms with the fact that his family was not well off. “It was an awakening, I hadn’t realized,” he said. “It wasn’t something I thought of. Nobody recognized the difference.”
Mangone joined the Air Force for four years, and served in Vietnam. He then decided he wanted to go to college for accounting. He said his interest in money and numbers didn’t really stem from his upbringing. “I always liked numbers, I always seemed to excel in it,” he said. He said that being a Vietnam veteran “really gave me direction and things I wanted to enjoy.”
He ended up settling into credit union management, and became the General Manager at Polaroid Employees’ Credit Union. He then started a credit union for the employees of The Digital Equipment Corporation, which ended up being one of the fastest-growing credit unions in the country. He also began working with businessmen on the Cape, founding the Barnstable Credit Union. He said it all started to become too mundane for him. “There really wasn’t much else to do; the day-to-day management gets to be very routine,” he said.
That’s when the greed factor started to come into play. With Mangone as the ringleader, the businessmen began using the Barnstable Credit Union and the Digital Employee’s Federal Credit Union for their own personal gains, causing large unpaid loans to trigger an investigation by the National Credit Union. Mangone was found guilty of conspiracy, money laundering, and fraud.
Instead of facing his jail sentence head-on, he decided to run. He even made it onto the FBI’s most wanted list.
“When you do things in darkness, it’s always going to come to the light,” Mangone said. “I didn’t think prison time was going to come to light. We never realized there was so much evil to it.”
Mangone said he should have known better, but “I couldn’t see myself spending the rest of my life in prison,” and cited his decisions as “immature” and “selfish.”
While on the run, he had a goal of making it to Birmingham, Alabama, as the city had rail and bus lines, as well as airplanes should he choose to flee the area. “It was a good central point,” he said. “I played it day-to-day, you can’t plan ahead.”
After about 18 months on the run, he started running out of money. He said it was at that point he knew he was in trouble. He said a televangelist helped him out of committing suicide, and then with the help of a priest in Tennessee, he turned himself in. Mangone was sentenced to 24 years without parole, and he entered Federal Correctional Institution Ray Brook in North Elba, New York in 1995, where he served 18 years.
Prison was “quite an eye-opener,” he said. He added, “the federal system is a lot better than the county jail.” He said that people in the federal system generally have a lot more freedom than those at other levels. Mangone was allowed to spend time at the library, but he said he never thought about escaping. However, his mother and previous wife died while he was in prison, and he wasn’t allowed to attend their funerals. “It was hard,” he said, but “the staff were fantastic; gave me a lot of support.”
After serving 18 of his 24 years, he lived for a year at a halfway house in Boston, and then lived and worked out of Canton.
After being released from prison, Mangone really focused on his faith, as he said the incident with the televangelist really changed his life for the better. “My mother was raised a Catholic, but I never really paid much attention to religion,” he said. “My religion was money and the love of it.” But that changed after serving time and he began focusing on Christianity instead.
Now, he thinks of money for what it is: a medium of exchange. He lives on his Social Security money, and shares a car with his wife Rosana, whom he married in 2015 after meeting on dating website Christian Mingle. He goes to church often, and holds bible studies at his home on Tuesday nights. “We pray and read the word,” he said. “We’re very devout Christians.”
“Once you realize what it causes you, you realize it’s not important,” he said of money and the situation. “I don’t need the fancy clothes and all that stuff.”
He said the credit unions are “pretty upset with me still,” as he let thousands of people down. He did, however, hear from a credit union manager in Mississippi who thanked him for sharing his story.
Now, he lives in Jamaica Plain with Rosana, and he volunteers for the US Probation Department talking to inmates about what to expect when they are released. He also talks at churches and recently got approval to talk to people at Altona Correctional Facilities. “It’s really a blessing to be able to go back in and share [my story],” he said.
His story can be found in more detail in his new book, which he describes as a “redemption story.” He also goes around giving talks at local libraries to help spread the word. “I wanted to tell my story of life after prison,” he said of the book. “No matter how bad we are, we have a chance to turn our lives around.”
The book was written three years ago, but he was unable to find a publisher, so he ended up self-publishing two months ago, and he said sales are doing well so far. He said the story really resonates with people in upstate New York, where he served his time. “We want to get the message out, there are a lot of people who go to prison,” he said, and a lot of them cannot find jobs when they get out. “We’re trying to give these folks some help and opportunities.”
On Nov. 4 at 6 p.m., Mangone will be speaking at the East Boston Library about his life and book.