How a Mafia Mistress Caught Flack for Saving a Mob Boss's Life

Her name is Dr. Barbara Roberts, but she calls herself “The Doctor Broad.”

Her name is Dr. Barbara Roberts, but she calls herself “The Doctor Broad.”

"I was the first female adult cardiologist in the state of Rhode Island. About three years after arriving in Rhode Island, I was asked by his son to take care of the head of the New England Mafia, whose name was Raymond Patriarca," Roberts told

Roberts is telling her incredible story in her new book, “The Doctor Broad: A Mafia Love Story.”

“I never expected that I would fall in love with someone who would be sent to prison. I never expected that I would be taking care of a Mafia boss,” she said.

In the 1980s, the cardiologist saved a mafia boss's life, and that is where the story begins. 

"The Patriarca crime family was always in the news. And Raymond Sr. had testified in front of the commission that Robert Kennedy had been investigating organized crime, and I was asked to take care of him on the night he was arrested and taken to the Scituate police barracks," she said.

Trouble was, Roberts deemed him too sick to go to jail, and had to convince authorities of the same. 

"I thought I was just going to go in, introduce myself, check him over briefly, find someone who was okay and tell his son and his wife, "No, he's fine." But instead what I saw was a man who looked like he had one foot in the grave and the other on a banana peel."

Raymond Patriarca Sr. was a mobster from Providence, Rhode Island and the syndicate boss of The Patriarca Crime Family.

Its tentacles stretched throughout New England for more than 30 years. At one time, Rhode Island's Board of Public Safety called him public enemy #1.

By the time Roberts began caring for him in 1980, Patriarca Sr. had already been a diabetic for 40 years and had an amputated toe. 

He’d had severe heart disease since the 1960s.

"I was not a judge, I was not a lawyer, I was not a member of a jury. My job was to fight his severe disease with every tool in the medical armamentarium. I really didn't care whether he was innocent or guilty. My job was to keep him alive," Roberts said.

She did so, testifying numerous times that Patriarca was too frail to stand trial.

"And he had severe wasting from diabetic neuropathy, so he couldn't even cut his food, he couldn't button his shirt. He was utterly dependent on her for those activities of daily living. And he couldn't walk across a room this size without having angina."

Once the local media caught wind of the fact that Roberts was caring for Patriarca, she says it hurt her reputation and affected her personal life.

“I was arrested on a trumped up felony charge of breaking and entering. I was in the process of a very acrimonious custody battle with the father of my youngest child, whom I had never married. But he was still suing me for common law divorce, palimony and custody of our four year old daughter on the grounds that I was an unfit mother. "

Her time caring for Patriarca Sr. got a bit more complicated when a chance lunch meeting led her to fall in love with with Louis Manocchio.

"Within a few weeks, we were lovers. But it had to be very secret, and very clandestine, because the believability of my testimony on Raymond's health would have been impaired, if not destroyed, if it became public knowledge that I was having an affair with the alleged number three man in the Mafia at that time."

Known as "Baby Shacks" or “Baby Shanks," Luigi Manocchio had a criminal record dating back to the 1940s. In 1969, he was indicted for conspiracy in two murders.

After being on the run in Europe for most of the ‘70s, Manocchio surrendered to authorities and plead guilty to lesser charges. He was sentenced to 30 months in jail. His conviction was overturned.

“Well, he tried to make it clear to me that he was a different man than he was before he went away. He said, ‘I realized in those years I spent in France that the people I grew up thinking were heroes, were tough guys. They weren't heroes or tough guys, they were crazy.’”

One day while dating Manocchio, Roberts decided to take a walk at a cemetery in her neighborhood that would change her life.

“And a man jumped out from behind a gravestone wearing just a ski mask and sneakers and started beating me. I screamed and I was terrified and all I could think of was ‘My poor children, my poor children. I'm all they have and now I'm going to be killed.’”

Roberts fought back.  An elderly couple walking by heard her screams and the guy ran off. 

It was the second time she says she would survive a sexual assault. The first, she says, happened in college. 

"It was very traumatic and I think part of writing this book was a way to work through some of that trauma. It was very cathartic,” Roberts said. 

"When I finished the first draft of this book many years ago now, I cried. I burst into tears and I don't cry easily. I think I survived because I made a conscious decision to survive. I said, "I'm going to survive. I'm not going to let any of this destroy me."

Roberts started writing the book in the year 2000. 17 years later, an invitation to the Crimetown podcast would snag her a literary agent.

"That was the first time I spoke publicly about my affair with Louis, and within the first 24 hours of my episode dropping, it was downloaded over 400,000 times. And since season one of Crimetown, that whole series, season one has been downloaded 50 million times around the world."

Now telling her story, the staunch feminist, activist, mother and grandmother who broke a barrier, isn't afraid of any backlash from the mafia. 

“I told Raymond Jr, because his father was long dead, that this is what I wanted to do. And he said, ‘Barbara, I know how good you were to my father. I know how you loved him. I'm sure you're not going to write anything that is harmful to him.’ And I told Luis what I wanted to do and he's a very private person, but he said, ‘Whatever you want to do is fine with me.’”

Nowadays, Roberts is teaching and enjoying life with her husband, Joe, who she says was overwhelmed when he read the book.

"You know when he first started reading the book, he started to cry because he's an emotional Italian and it just hurt him so much to relive the things that I had told him about that I had experienced in the past. But he's very happy and the book actually ends when I meet him."

 As for how she came up with that title, "The Doctor Broad," it involved a guy she used to date, the press, and a simple phone call.

 "And Johnny said, 'Hey Vinny, remember that doctor broad you used to go out with, she's the old man doctor now.'" And I thought that was hilarious because to me a broad was a woman with large breasts and small frontal lobes and I had just the opposite. Well at least I'm sure about the breast part of the equation,” Roberts laughed.