License to Kill:Greg Scarpa and the FBI
By J. R. de Szigethy
The "Commission" of the Godfathers of New York City’s five Mafia families allegedly took a vote on whether to sanction the assassination of Rudolph Giuliani, according to an FBI report made public in the Brooklyn murder trial of retired FBI agent Lindley DeVecchio. That bombshell allegation has been among the many sensational developments to arise in the long-delayed trial of DeVecchio, who is charged in State Court of leaking information to Colombo Family hitman/FBI Informant Greg Scarpa. The report, written by DeVecchio in 1987 alleged that Scarpa told him that the vote had been made a year earlier, when Giuliani, then the U. S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, prosecuted the Godfathers in the landmark "Commission trial." That trial resulted in the conviction of 3 of the Godfathers; Colombo Boss Carmine "The Snake" Persico, Luchese Boss Anthony "Tony Ducks" Corallo, and Genovese Boss Anthony "Fat Tony" Salerno. Gambino Family Godfather Paul Castellano was murdered by John Gotti before the trial began and the Bonanno Godfather Philip Rastelli’s case was severed into a separate trial.
According to DeVecchio’s report, Gambino Godfather John Gotti and Carmine Persico lobbied Salerno’s successor Vincent "Chin" Gigante, Anthony Corallo, and Philip Rastelli to sanction the murder of Giuliani. Those three Godfathers allegedly nixed the murder plot, according to the information DeVecchio reported came from his high-echelon Informant Greg Scarpa. While this story provided front-page fodder for New York tabloid newspapers, several seasoned Mafia observers expressed skepticism that the story was true. Among them was attorney Ron Kuby, who expressed his doubts on his top-rated ‘Curtis and Kuby’ radio program. This was significant given that Kuby himself was the target of an alleged assassination plot led by former Gambino Underboss Sammy "The Bull" Gravano. Kuby had earned the wrath of Gravano by filing a lawsuit against Gravano under New York State’s ‘Son of Sam’ legislation which allows the victims of criminals and their families to seize profits from books published by criminals.
DeVecchio’s report attributed to Scarpa has flaws that are both inconsistent with law enforcement theories and Mafia protocol. One regards the matter of Vincent Gigante, whom it has always been believed by many in law enforcement to have sought the murder of Gotti given that Gotti did not have sanction from "The Commission" to murder Godfather Castellano. Gigante’s very life, as well as that of other Godfathers, thus could depend on not letting stand the unprecedented decision Gotti made to murder a Godfather without permission. Gotti narrowly escaped death in 1986 when a bomb placed under his car was detonated, killing instead his driver Frank DeCicco, one of those involved in the murder of Godfather Castellano. Thus, Gigante’s alleged decision to acknowledge Gotti as Godfather by ‘voting’ on Gotti’s and Persico’s request to kill Giuliani just a few months after the DeCicco murder does not seem likely.
The story of the alleged plot against Giuliani accomplishes two things; for one, it serves to underscore the importance of maintaining Scarpa ‘in place’ within the Mafia so that his information can continue to flow to the FBI. In practical terms this development meant that top law enforcement figures would be encouraged to go to extraordinary lengths to block Scarpa from arrest for any of the crimes he had been committing since the 1960s, murder, drug trafficking, and loan sharking among them. By extension, the warning that Scarpa had communicated to Giuliani also elevated the status of Scarpa’s lone handler at the FBI, agent DeVecchio.
Whether the story is true or not, Scarpa’s warning regarding Giuliani was payback on DeVecchio’s part for Giuliani’s role in an event that brought the G-Man and Giuliani together back in the 1970s. That event was the arrest of agent DeVecchio by agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms in the State of Maryland for selling guns without a license. It would take the passage of three decades before the New York Times would reveal that it was a young attorney for the Justice Department, Rudolph Giuliani, who in 1976 intervened and convinced Federal Prosecutors to drop the charges against DeVecchio, who had several favorable reports in his personnel file signed by the late FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover.
In 1980 DeVecchio hooked up with another favorite of Hoover’s, Greg Scarpa. DeVecchio was able to re-activate Scarpa as an FBI Informant with only himself as Scarpa’s single ‘control agent,’ despite FBI protocol that required two such agents to handle members of the American Mafia. The New Yorker Magazine would later reveal that Scarpa had been an FBI Informant since the early 1960s, when he helped J. Edgar Hoover solve the case of three missing civil rights activists murdered in Mississippi. The New York Times would later report that despite Scarpa’s rap sheet of 10 arrests over 4 decades on charges including unlicensed weapons possession, assault, gambling and attempts to bribe police officers, as well as theft of stocks and bonds, the result of his lifetime of crime was that Scarpa had only spent 30 days in jail. Evidently, in exchange for Scarpa’s helping Hoover back in the 1960s, Greg Scarpa was literally given a ‘license to kill.’
Giuliani’s and DeVecchio’s career would intersect again in 1983, when Giuliani accepted his own demotion as Deputy Attorney General in the Reagan Administration to become the U. S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York. Three years into his professional relationship with hitman Greg Scarpa, DeVecchio was able that year to convincingly impersonate a Mafia hitman in a sting conducted by the Southern District. DeVecchio’s target was a retired Intelligence Community Officer, Ed Wilson. Wilson had earned the wrath of the law enforcement community by smuggling thousands of pounds of C-4 plastic explosives to the government of Libyan Dictator Muammar al-Qaddafi. Languishing in a Federal Detention Center in New York, Wilson received a jailhouse introduction to a man who claimed he was a Mafia hitman. That ‘hitman’ was in fact agent DeVecchio, who convinced Wilson that he would murder a Federal Prosecutor in exchange for a down payment of several thousand dollars. So convincing was DeVecchio in the role of a Mafia hitman that Wilson took the bait and was convicted on murder solicitation charges. Wilson spent over 20 years in prison until he was released due to Prosecutorial misconduct in his weapons trafficking trial.
As the 1980s progressed, Rudolph Giuliani began to secure one of the most successful records of the prosecution of organized crime in American history. As his Republican predecessor Thomas Dewey had done decades earlier, Giuliani’s success as a tough, anti-crime Prosecutor launched him on a road that has the White House as it’s ultimate destination. Agent DeVecchio’s star also was on the ascent, in large part due to his access to information provided by hitman Greg Scarpa.
DeVecchio’s problems arose from an internal struggle for power within the Colombo Family that was a result in part of the conviction of Godfather Carmine Persico in the Commission trial. From 1989 to 1992, a Mob War broke out between a faction of Colombos loyal to Persico who were pitted against those loyal to Acting Boss Vic Orena. By 1994 the war was over and the Prosecutions regarding that war began in Brooklyn Federal Court. However, in three separate Mafia trials, jurors failed to convict the Defendants as a result of the emerging information about the relationship between agent DeVecchio and his murderous Informant Greg Scarpa. Some jurors, as well as FBI agents, demanded an investigation into whether DeVecchio leaked to Scarpa confidential law enforcement information that facilitated Scarpa in the murders of several people. No charges were filed against agent DeVecchio and he retired from the Bureau with his government Pension.
While the story never quite died away, by the dawn of this decade a new investigation of Scarpa and DeVecchio was launched by an unlikely pair of Forensic Intelligence Analysts, Dr. Stephen Dresch and his colleague Angela Clemente. After years of investigation, those two analysts turned their findings over to the U. S. House of Representatives Government Reform Committee, which had been holding hearings on FBI corruption scandals. From there, the evidence was forwarded to the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office, which, after it’s own investigation, brought the evidence before a Grand Jury. Agent DeVecchio was indicted in 2006 on Four Counts of assisting hitman Greg Scarpa in the murders of four people, one a young woman, Mary Bari.
After months of pre-trial hearings and delays, the trial finally began with Agent DeVecchio waiving his right to a trial by a jury of his peers and opting for the Judge in the case, Gustin Reichbach, to act as both Judge and Jury in deciding his Fate. Thus far, the Prosecution has failed, in the opinions of many trial observers, to establish the chain of custody of privileged information from DeVecchio to Scarpa that is the heart of the case. Scarpa’s closest associate, former hitman Larry Mazza, not only failed to conclusively link DeVecchio to any of the murders alleged in his indictment, but Defense attorneys were skillful in their efforts to discredit him. Mazza’s trademark bursting into tears on the Witness Stand, which he perpetrated in Federal Courtrooms a decade ago, was revealed by Defense attorneys to be an act on his part, as revealed by tape recorded conversations with his father in prison.
DeVecchio’s defense is that he has been framed by Larry Mazza’s former lover Linda Schiro, the common-law wife of hitman Greg Scarpa, who has pursued a book deal on her life story for the past 10 years in negotiations with several journalists, none of which have come to fruition. DeVecchio’s lawyers allege that Schiro’s story has changed over time and that she is part of a conspiracy by many to frame DeVecchio in order to secure a book deal and/or vacate convictions of Colombo mobsters convicted for their roles in the bloody Colombo Family War.
While agent DeVecchio can take some comfort in what appears to be the inability thus far of the Prosecutors to make their case, the new allegations regarding the alleged plot to assassinate Rudolph Giuliani introduces a new element to this sordid saga; that of politics. Ever since it became evident that Giuliani was seeking the Presidency, his political enemies have sought to damage his image by linking him in Media reports to those associates of his who have gotten into trouble with the law. The most notable of these has been former Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik, whom, with Giuliani, had become national heroes on 9/11. After Giuliani left office as "America’s Mayor," Giuliani lobbied the Bush Administration to nominate Kerik as Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, a nomination Kerik withdrew from when questions arose as to the legal status of a woman Kerik hired as a Nanny to his young children. The story escalated when Kerik pleaded guilty to two misdemeanors regarding his acceptance of free renovations of his home by a company alleged to have ties to the Gambino Family. The two owners of that company, Frank and Peter DiTommaso, were indicted over a year ago on a single count of Perjury regarding those renovations. Their trial in Bronx State Court has inexplicably been delayed again and again, with the next trial date set for December. By then, Kerik should know if the Feds in the Southern District are going to charge him with taking bribes in the form of the renovations in exchange for allegedly trying to influence investigations by New York City of the company in question, Interstate Industrial.
In regards to the DeVecchio trial, while the allegations regarding the ‘vote’ by the Commission in regards to a murder contract against Giuliani is highly suspect, there have been other plots against Giuliani by other members of organized crime, both here and abroad, which have been thoroughly substantiated. Media reports of those plots, as well as the new one alleged in the DeVecchio trial, have been used by Giuliani’s supporters in the Media to bolster his image as a tough, aggressive crime buster, an attribute many crime-weary Americans are likely to respond favorably to as the months proceed towards the Presidential elections now a year away. However, should agent DeVecchio be convicted, it’s likely that Giuliani’s enemies will attempt to focus on Giuliani’s prior associations with that G-Man to taint his image, as has been the case with former Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik.
Thus, the high drama playing out in Brooklyn State Court of a retired FBI agent accused of being compromised by the Mob is of interest to more than just those Americans who are fascinated by the saga of the American Mafia.
To be continued
Related Features by this author:
License to Kill: Greg Scarpa and the FBI
License to Kill: Greg Scarpa and the FBI
License to Kill: Greg Scarpa and the FBI
License to Kill: Greg Scarpa and the FBI
Mob War! Part Three: Mob Murders Investigations Continue
J. R. de Szigethy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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