Bernard Kerik, The Feds, And The Mob
By James Ridgway de Szigethy
The revelations about 9/11 hero Bernard Kerik in the wake of his withdrawal as Nominee for Director of Homeland Security has stunned Americans nationwide, but none more so than New Yorkers who held such high esteem and affection for the larger-than-life ‘cop’s cop.’ The most troubling of the revelations were exposed in a series by the New York Daily News, which detailed Kerik’s taking of thousands of dollars from a Mobbed-up Informant for the Federal government. That man in question, Lawrence Ray, first showed up on the radar screen in a series by this reporter at AmericanMafia.com beginning in December, 2001, which revealed disturbing campaign finance irregularities of associates of then-New Jersey Senator Robert Torricelli.
Now Lawrence Ray is back in the news, now revealed to have been an Informant for the Feds. Exactly what role did Ray play in the downfall of an American Icon, and what role did the Mafia and the Feds play as well?
The story of Bernard Kerik and his associate Rudolph Giuliani is a complex, often troubling story of career law enforcement officers, organized crime syndicates, and drug dealers and their crooked co-horts in State and Federal government, all intertwined within the volatile New York political scene, in which much is not what it appears to be.
The single event that had the most impact on the professional lives of both Rudolph Giuliani and Bernard Kerik was the crack cocaine epidemic of the 1980s. During that time Giuliani was racking up one of the most impressive records in history as U. S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York. Giuliani utilized the racketeering statutes passed by Congress in 1970 to begin the systematic dismantling of the five New York Mafia families. Two such prosecutions by Giuliani were the “Commission Trial,” in which the Godfathers of all five families were indicted, and the “Pizza Connection” heroin trafficking case.
Giuliani’s success against the American Mafia had unforeseen consequences. As the traditional Mafia families began to be disrupted, the void that was created was filled by non-traditional organized crime syndicates. The most significant of these was the Cali drug cartel, which flooded the streets of America with crack cocaine. The ‘wholesalers’ of this drug were the Colombian lords who supplied the drugs, which along the Eastern seaboard were distributed by the ‘retailers,’ most of whom were immigrants from the Dominican Republic.
Law enforcement would soon discover that the Cali cartel operated much differently than the Italian Mafia. While the traditional Mafia operated by certain ‘rules,’ including edicts that members of law enforcement and the Media were not to be harmed, the Cali cartel had no such qualms about attacking a cop or a journalist. Manuel de Dios, who had taken on the Cali cartel in his writings at the newspaper El Diario, and other venues, was murdered by the cartel at a New York restaurant in 1992. Edward Byrne, a rookie cop, was assassinated in his patrol car in 1988 as he guarded a witness against the new drug gangs that terrorized New York. The new ethnic drug dealers also resorted to tactics such as falsely accusing cops of civil rights abuses, Police Officers Louis Delli-Pizzi and Michael O’Keefe being just two examples.
The events of October 18, 1988 would stun New Yorkers and have an enormous impact on the career paths of both Giuliani and Kerik. On that fateful day, in two separate, unrelated events, drug dealers in Manhattan murdered two New York City Police Officers, Christopher Hoban and Michael Buczek. Michael Buczek was just 24 years old when he was gunned down by three drug dealers in Washington Heights. Bernard Kerik was then a young Police Officer working the streets against the drug dealers who had taken over the neighborhoods. The three men who murdered Officer Buczek then fled back to their native Dominican Republic, which did not have an extradition treaty with the United States. Kerik vowed to Buczek’s distraught father that whatever it took he would dedicate his life to bringing the killers of Officer Buczek to Justice.
By the next year, the residents of New York were so fed up with the unprecedented crime wave that they were ready to vote into office a tough Prosecutor who promised to clean up New York. That man was Rudy Giuliani, who had already proven himself as an effective prosecutor against the Mafia. This did not escape the Cali drug cartel nor the Italian Mafia, and both were able to affect massive voter fraud in the election of 1989 that stole the election away from Giuliani. An additional 8,000 people would be murdered in New York City during the next four years.
In 1993, Giuliani ran a second time, and scores of New York City cops patrolled the election districts where tens of thousands of fraudulent votes had been cast four years earlier. Once Mayor, Giuliani began the transformation of New York City from one of the most dangerous in America to the “safest large city in America.” Giuliani affected this unprecedented change by bringing in the first of three tough, effective Police Commissioners, William Bratton.
One of the first actions taken by Giuliani and Bratton was the denial of a permit for the John Gotti gang to hold their annual ‘street fair’ outside their headquarters in Queens, which always culminated with an enormous and illegal fireworks display. While this may to some seem insignificant, this and other similar actions by the Giuliani Administration set the tone for the criminal element in New York that it was no longer ‘business as usual’ with organized crime syndicates.
As the Italian Mafia declined in power and influence, the Cali cartel grew in power, which included their bribing of State and Federal members of law enforcement. Bernard Kerik was one who would soon discover how pervasive the Cali cartel’s influence was as he sought to bring Justice to those who murdered Officer Buczek. Toward this end, Officer Kerik teamed up with a sympathetic politician, Guy Molinari, the former Congressman from Staten Island who was then serving as President of the Borough. Molinari utilized his influence in Congress in efforts to create political pressure within Washington to coerce the Dominican Republic to turn over the murderers of Buczek. A deal was eventually struck regarding one of the murderers, but the Cali cartel, who by this time had murdered journalist Manuel de Dios, could not afford to have triggerman Daniel Mirambeaux returned to the United States to face trial. Mirambeaux imply knew too much about how the Cartel had corrupted members of law enforcement and politicians in New York. Thus, Mirambeaux “committed suicide” by hurling himself down several flights of stairs while in police custody and with his hands cuffed behind him.
Things then went from bad to worse for Kerik and Molinari. The “Feds” in the office of the U. S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York then launched an investigation of Molinari, who had championed a member of law enforcement falsely accused of civil rights violations by drug dealers who belonged to the Cali cartel. The Feds tried to convince a government Informant to wear a wire on Molinari and convince him to offer her a job in exchange for information she had provided on the Cali cartel and their corruption of New York officials. The woman refused and reported the attempted set-up to Molinari. Other New York residents also went to Molinari claiming similar intimidation by the Feds to set-up the Borough President. The female Informant in question later proved her credibility by working for the Feds in another State in successful prosecutions of drug trafficking syndicates.
A furious Molinari took this story to the Media, and in April, 1995 the New York Post ran the story: “Guy Molinari Fumes: FBI Tried to Set Me Up!” “It’s outrageous!” Molinari said. “If they will do this to me, an elected official, I hate to think what they might do to a member of the general public!”
The attempt by the Feds to set-up Borough President Molinari would be just the first of several corruption scandals to emerge in the 1990s regarding the Feds in the Eastern District and their protection of drug dealers. During this time, an internal war erupted within the Colombo Mafia Family in Brooklyn. Before the war was over at least 11 people were dead, including an innocent bystander. Three Federal trials that resulted from this Mob war would be de-railed because of the FBI’s improper relationship with Greg Scarpa, a drug dealer and hitman for the Colombo Family who had been protected for decades by the FBI because of his status as an FBI Informant.
The first troubled Colombo war trial began in June 1994. Alphonse "Allie Boy" Persico was acquitted of charges he instigated the war - from prison - after Greg Scarpa, on his deathbed due to AIDS, issued a sworn Affidavit that exonerated him.
In the second Colombo War Trial, William "Wild Bill" Cutolo and 6 members of his crew faced racketeering murder charges. "Big Sal" Miciotta testified under cross examination that while ‘protected’ as an FBI Informant he continued his loan sharking and extortion rackets, as well as trafficking drugs. The defendants in the case claimed they were only acting in self-defense against a renegade FBI informant/Mafia hitman, Greg Scarpa. Cutolo and the members of his crew were acquitted.
The New York Times then joined the chorus of those questioning the relationship between Scarpa and the FBI. The Times noted that during his 35-year life of crime and 10 arrests Scarpa had spent only a total of 30 days in jail.
In May, 1995 the Third Colombo War trial began. Vic and John Orena, steel company executive Thomas Petrizzo, and four associates faced murder conspiracy charges. In her opening arguments Assistant U. S. Attorney Ellen Corcella admitted to the jury that FBI agent de Vecchio had an unusual relationship with drug dealer Greg Scarpa and leaked confidential information to him. FBI agent Howard Leadbetter testified that he and agents Chris Favo and Jeffrey Tomlinson reported to their superiors that de Vecchio had tried to obstruct a probe of Scarpa. Favo told the Court that he was convinced de Vecchio had committed crimes by leaking information to Scarpa.
Despite this evidence, De Vecchio was not charged with leaking information to the Mafia. Instead, De Vecchio’s subordinate on the Task Force, NYPD Detective Joe Simone, was indicted on those charges. It took the jury in his case just two hours to agree that Simone was not the Mob’s source of information on the Task Force. 10 of the 12 jurors stood outside the Federal Courthouse in the cold, November rain to offer their support to Detective Simone and his family. Simone’s attorney claimed that “Big Sal” Miciotta had set up his client and Miciotta was eventually removed from the Witness Protection Program once he was detected committing Perjury.
The jurors in the Orena trial acquitted all defendants on all charges and demanded of the Prosecutors why it was de Vecchio had not been indicted. "They all believed there was a cover-up, and many jurors wondered how come de Vecchio wasn’t indicted," defense attorney James La Rossa told reporters. Defense attorney Jerry Shargel told the New York Post: "The jurors were all just absolutely shocked by the testimony about the relationship between de Vecchio and Scarpa!" "The evidence against de Vecchio was far stronger than the evidence against the defendants on trial!" Juror #186 told the New York Daily News, "Something like this really knocks the credibility of the FBI!" Juror Nancy Wenz stated: "If the FBI’s like this, Society is really in trouble!"
On May 15, 1996 the New York Post stunned readers with the revelation that agent de Vecchio still had access to classified documents, despite the Court testimony of his own agents that he had given secret information to the Mob. The information became public as part of attorney Gerald Shargel’s efforts to win a new trial for Victor Orena, Sr., the jailed former head of the Colombo Family. When at last Shargel got his chance to cross-examine de Vecchio during the Appeal hearing, de Vecchio repeatedly invoked his right under the Fifth Amendment against self-incrimination.
In February 1997 de Vecchio again testified in a hearing for a new trial for Orena, but this time under a grant of Immunity, which required him to answer all questions. While being questioned by Defense attorneys, de Vecchio responded dozens of times with the answer, "I don’t recall!" At the beginning of the hearing, the New York Post ran a shocking story regarding how de Vecchio was caught illegally trafficking guns in the State of Maryland back in 1975. When questioned about this transaction, de Vecchio claimed at the Orena hearing that he did not know that his transporting guns across State lines and selling them without a license was illegal. The FBI and authorities in Maryland decided at the time not to prosecute de Vecchio, who had in his personnel file glowing reports about his performance signed by the late FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover.
As these scandals of the Feds in Brooklyn were slowly being uncovered in the Colombo Family war trials, Bernard Kerik and Guy Molinari continued their lobbying efforts to have the murderers of Officer Buczek returned to the United States. In 1996, the Feds in Brooklyn opened an investigation into a stock “pump and dump” scam being run by various associates of the Colombo and Gambino Mafia families. The Feds utilized the services of a new Informant, Lawrence Ray, who had a casual relationship with a man named Frank DiTommaso, who, with his brother, owned a waste management company called Interstate Industrial. Frank DiTommaso was also an acquaintance of Guy Molinari and Bernard Kerik.
During the next three years, Ray developed a close friendship with Bernard Kerik, while at the same time providing information to the Feds about the Mafia stock scam. While DiTommaso was not impressed with Ray, he eventually, at Kerik’s urging, hired Ray at $100,000 a year to provide lobbying services and also hired Kerik’s brother as well. By 1998, Ray had become so close to Kerik that he served as Best Man at his Wedding. Kerik by this time had been promoted by Giuliani as Commissioner of the Corrections Department. The Daily News reported that Ray lavished thousands of dollars worth of gifts upon his pal Kerik, donations that Kerik did not report as required by city guidelines.
While this relationship was developing, Commissioner Kerik was strengthening his bond with Mayor Giuliani. William Bratton’s successor as Police Commissioner, Howard Safir, was not enjoying the reputation that Bratton had established. Police Department scandals such as the brutal assault on Haitian immigrant Abner Louima and the shooting of unarmed immigrant Amadou Diallo had created a hostile environment within various communities of New York City. As the time approached for Howard Safir to retire, Giuliani increasingly viewed Kerik as his next Police Commissioner.
By 2000, Interstate Industrial and Lawrence Ray had captured the attention of this reporter. In March, 2000, Lawrence Ray was indicted by the Eastern District of New York for his very minor participation in a Mafia ‘pump and dump’ stock scam. This indictment marked the first time that the name “Lawrence Ray” appeared in the public domain. Here is the first excerpt regarding Lawrence Ray written by this reporter in the feature: “In the Money: Senator Robert Torricelli and His Campaign Contributors” published at AmericanMafia.com in December, 2001:
“In response to the growing investigations of Torricelli campaign financiers, Torricelli founded in 2000 a separate Legal Defense Fund. . . . According to FEC documents, waste management contractors Frank and Peter DiTommaso also contributed $10,000 to this fund. This gift is even more generous given the statement issued by a spokesperson for the Senator, who says Torricelli does not even know these two men. At the time of the donations, the DiTommaso brothers, owners of Interstate Industrial Corporation, were the subjects of a Federal, New York City, and New Jersey Casino Control Commission investigation into allegations of ties to the Mafia.
The City investigation was prompted by a $30 million contract sought by the DiTommaso brothers’ business to assist in the closing of the Fresh Kills landfill on Staten Island, an illegal Mob-controlled landfill that was only closed after the election of former Mafia Prosecutor Rudolph Giuliani as Mayor of New York. The City as a result of their investigation canceled the $30 million contract.
The Federal investigation of the DiTommaso brothers concerned their purchase of a Staten Island waste station controlled by Edward Garafola, who is married to the sister of former Gambino Family Underboss Sammy "The Bull" Gravano. Garafola was indicted in March 2000 along with Lawrence Ray, an executive of the DiTommaso brothers’ Interstate Industrial Corporation, and Daniel Persico, nephew of Colombo Family Godfather Carmine "The Snake" Persico, on Federal charges involving a $40 million stock ‘pump and dump’ scam. Interstate Industrial Corporation was also denied a contract by the New Jersey Casino Control Commission in 2000 to perform work on an Atlantic City gambling casino.
Federal Election Commission records also show that Frank DiTommaso contributed $1,000 to the Torricelli campaign on March 26, 1999 and that DiTommaso Family members made several other $1,000 contributions that year. The DiTommaso brothers have denied they have ties to the Mafia and their integrity has been publicly vouched for by Staten Island Borough President Guy Molinari.”
In the year after this first report, the allegations regarding Torricelli were picked up by the ‘mainstream Media’ once Torricelli was under a Federal probe while at the same time running for re-election to the Senate. Torricelli was never charged with a crime although the revelations about his campaign finances prompted him to quit his Senate re-election bid.
Former Commissioner Kerik quit his bid to be Director of Homeland Security shortly after being informed by the New York Daily News and New York Times that both newspapers were looking into his finances, including his dealings with Lawrence Ray.
Much has happened between the time Ray was indicted in 2000 and his surfacing in the Kerik matter. First, Kerik distanced himself from Ray once he was indicted. It is not yet clear at what point Kerik learned that Ray, while funneling thousands of dollars to him, was at the same time an Informant for the Feds in Brooklyn providing information about the Mafia. This must have caused considerable concern for Kerik given that this was the same office that tried to set up Guy Molinari.
On 9/11, Bernard Kerik became a national hero, along with Mayor Giuliani, because of his steady and effective leadership at a time of unprecedented chaos. However, long before he became a national hero, Kerik was a man revered by those whose paths he has crossed in New York. After over a decade of relentless lobbying, Kerik and Molinari were at last able to affect the extradition of the two men involved in the murder of Police Officer Michael Buczek. Police Commissioner Kerik personally handcuffed one of the suspects upon his arrival in the United States. Both men were found guilty and sentenced to 25 years to Life in prison.
Despite the various allegations about the conduct of Bernard Kerik, those who know him best, including former Mayor Giuliani, are adamant that Kerik is a good, decent, and honest man. The monies Kerik accepted from Federal Informant Lawrence Ray were taken in the form of checks, which leaves a paper trail. Ray, who has never previously spoken to the Media, did not hesitate to display those cancelled checks to the New York Daily News once Kerik’s nomination was in trouble. As troubling as this is to some, had this money been in exchange for official actions on his part as Commissioner, such acceptance of funds could be construed as bribes. Experience has shown that crooked officials do not take checks as gifts - they insist on cash. Despite the hostile actions by some Feds regarding Kerik and his associate Guy Molinari, Bernard Kerik has not been charged with a crime.
Police Officer Michael Buczek is remembered by a baseball field in his name in Washington Heights, and by the Michael Buczek Foundation, chaired by fellow former narcotics Officer Bernard Kerik.
Related stories by this author:
‘In the Money: Senator Robert Torricelli and His Campaign Contributors’
‘The American Mafia’s Worst Nightmare’
‘Crime Scene - World Trade Center’
‘Mob War: Murder, Deception and Intrigue Inside New York’s Colombo Mafia Family’
J. R. de Szigethy
James Ridgway de Szigethy can be reached at Jamesmanhattan@hotmail.com.
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