Feature Articles

January 2004
read Part I


Part II
Anatomy of a Frame-up

By J. R. de Szigethy

     Repercussions continue to plague law enforcement officials a full decade after the bloody Colombo Family War which left at least 11 people dead. In a dramatic proceeding in Brooklyn Federal Court a convicted mobster has made stunning allegations about his deceased father and a retired FBI agent. Gregory Scarpa Jr. now alleges that his father, Gregory Scarpa Sr., a hitman for the Colombo Family who also worked as an FBI Informant, and his handler, retired FBI agent R. Lyndley de Vecchio, framed the acting Boss of the Colombo Family, Victor Orena, for a murder that Scarpa actually committed. Scarpa Jr. says this was just one of several murders his father committed with the help of agent De Vecchio. An attorney for De Vecchio called Scarpa's allegations "scandalous and ridiculous."

      The relationship between Scarpa and De Vecchio precluded the Feds in Brooklyn from obtaining convictions in 3 sensational trials of Colombo associates caught up in the internal struggle between supporters of "Allie Boy" Persico and the man who was Acting Boss of the Family while Allie Boy was in prison, Victor Orena. Orena, however, was convicted of the murder of his associate Thomas Ocera before the troubling information about De Vecchio and Scarpa had surfaced. FBI agents who worked with De Vecchio had accused the agent of leaking information to Scarpa, some of which Scarpa then used to attempt to kill rival mobsters.

      In 1997 De Vecchio was granted immunity to testify in a hearing Appealing the conviction of Orena. De Vecchio had previously invoked his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination as authorities attempted to determine if the agent had broken any laws with Scarpa. During the hearing, De Vecchio stated "I don't recall" over 4 dozen times in response to questions by attorneys for Orena. Attorney Gerald Shargel presented evidence backing Orena's claim that guns found at his residence had been planted by Scarpa. The guns found by the FBI under Orena's house had no fingerprints on them and the bag they were inserted to was immaculate.

      The Orena Appeal was made even more interesting by the disclosure by Al Guart of the New York Post who reported that De Vecchio had been caught selling illegal guns in 1975 in Maryland. Neither the authorities in New York nor Maryland prosecuted De Vecchio over the gun running. During the Orena hearing De Vecchio claimed he didn't know what he was doing was against the law. Despite the evidence presented by Shargel, the Judge in the case denied a new trial for Orena.

      Agent De Vecchio was never charged with a crime and retired from the FBI. Greg Scarpa Sr. died of AIDS in 1994. Scarpa is suspected to have participated in up to a dozen murders, including Colombo war casualties Vinnie Fusaro and Nicholas "Nicky Black" Grancio.

      Claims of frame-ups involving the Colombo Family are nothing new. In 1994 Jack Newfield of the New York Post published a story in which he presented convincing evidence that Colombo mob figure "Sonny" Franzese was framed by the FBI for a role in a series of bank robberies Franzese was in no way involved in. Former NYPD Detective Joe Simone claimed after his 1993 arrest for being the Mob's mole on the Organized Crime Task Force that he had been framed by, among others, "Big Sal" Miciotta, a Colombo Associate. Simone was acquitted and Miciotta was eventually removed from the Witness Protection Program once it was proved he had committed Perjury. Miciotta, however, eventually received a reduced sentence after giving evidence against Luchese Underboss "Gaspipe" Casso, who was also removed from the Witness Protection Program once detected in lies. Casso, who has admitted to the murders of 34 people, caused a sensation when he accused two decorated New York City cops of murdering Gambino Family drug dealer Eddie Lino.

      Was Victor Orena framed, as Gregory Scarpa Jr. is claiming, or is agent De Vecchio the one who is being framed? Scarpa has in fact a motive to falsely accuse agent De Vecchio, and that reason is self-preservation. In 1995 the Daily News reported that Gregory Scarpa Jr. had beaten Luchese Boss Vittorio Amuso after he had chided him for his father having been a "rat" - an FBI Informant. The Five Families then put out an open contract on Scarpa's life and he was removed to the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan while awaiting trial on murder and racketeering charges. Once convicted, Scarpa tried to convince the Judge to give him a reduced sentence for his alleged spying within the MCC on terrorist Ramzi Yousef, who was involved in the first plot against the World Trade Center. The Judge was unimpressed with Scarpa's claims and gave him a 40-year sentence.

      Because of the contracts out on him, Scarpa is kept away from other prisoners. The only way he can get the Mob to remove the contracts is to take an action that would help members of the Mafia. Helping Orena obtain a new trial might be just the motivation for Scarpa to come forward to "get the truth out."

One way or the other, someone in this story is the victim of a frame-up; the only question is who?

To be continued

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