Feature Articles

January 2004
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    MOB WAR!

    Part III
    Mob Murders Investigations Continue

    By J. R. de Szigethy

  •      A new Court ruling in a murder case involving the Colombo Family War of a decade ago has not curtailed investigations of the murders of at least 12 people that were the result of that war. Brooklyn Federal Judge Jack Weinstein has ruled against an Appeal by attorneys for Colombo Family members Vic Orena and Pasquale Amato after hearing testimony from Gregory Scarpa, Jr., who claimed his father, a drug dealer and hitman for the Colombo Family who was protected as an FBI Informant, framed the two rival Mobsters for a murder that Scarpa Sr. in fact committed. Scarpa Jr., who is serving Life for drug trafficking and other crimes, claimed that his father and his FBI handler planted guns at the home of Orena as part of the frame-up. Judge Weinstein ruled that the Court found Scarpa Jr. to be "not credible." The retired FBI agent in question, Lyndley De Vecchio, has denied any wrongdoing and his attorney has denounced Scarpa's claims as "scandalous and ridiculous." Had Judge Weinstein granted the two Colombo figures a new trial former agent De Vecchio would most likely have been compelled to testify in that retrial.

         Attorneys for Orena and Amato had previously argued that their Defense of the two men was hampered by the unwillingness of Federal authorities to release files containing information about the relationship between Greg Scarpa and agent De Vecchio. Much of that information was made available to attorneys in three later trials of men accused of taking part in the Colombo Family War murders. In each of those trials the Defendants were all acquitted and jurors expressed publicly their shock and outrage over the actions of agent De Vecchio. One of the acquitted, "Wild Bill" Cutolo, later vanished and is presumed murdered. Cutolo, a member of the rebel group that was loyal to the Orena faction, is believed by some in law enforcement to have been murdered on the orders of the faction led by imprisoned-for-life Colombo Godfather Carmine "The Snake" Persico and his son, now-imprisoned "Allie Boy" Persico.

         Federal Prosecutors in Brooklyn also lost a case in which a subordinate of De Vecchio's on the Organized Crime Task Force, NYPD Detective Joe Simone, was accused of leaking information to members of the Colombo Family. Detective Simone claimed he had been framed by criminals including "Big Sal" Miciotta, a violent Colombo Family Associate. The jurors in Detective Simone's trial took just two hours of deliberations to conclude that Simone was innocent and 10 of those jurors stood in the cold November rain outside the Brooklyn Courthouse to express their support of a man they were convinced was an honest cop who had been framed by government employees. "Big Sal" Miciotta was later detected in his lies and removed as a government witness. However, Miciotta was later able to redeem himself by ratting out a fellow 'rat' Anthony "Gaspipe" Casso, who was also detected by the Feds in schemes to frame several innocent people for crimes that they did not commit.

         One such case involved that of that of Gambino Family drug dealer Eddie Lino, who was murdered in broad daylight in Brooklyn in 1990. Lino was among those who participated in the 1985 assassination of Gambino Godfather Paul Castellano. That murder, which elevated John Gotti to head of the Family was not authorized by the "Commission" that oversees the American Mafia and it was believed by some that the murder of Lino was part of a plan by Genovese Godfather Vincent "Chin" Gigante to murder everyone involved in the Castellano hit.

         However, law enforcement soon began investigating the possibility that a member of New York's law enforcement community was involved in the hit on Lino. One New York newspaper reported that a witness to the shooting told police that he saw Lino's car pulled over by what appeared to be an unmarked law enforcement car with a portable flashing light atop. Another newspaper reported that a key piece of evidence found by authorities was a man's wristwatch that had either accidentally fallen from the arm of the shooter of Lino or was otherwise planted by the gunman.

         This story took a dramatic turn in 1994 when the Media revealed that Anthony "Gaspipe" Casso, a former Underboss of the Luchese Family had claimed that he farmed the Lino murder out to two decorated New York City cops, Lou Eppolito and Steve Caracappa. "Gaspipe" made the shocking claims once he was arrested and entered the Witness Protection Program, hoping to get a 'get-out-of-jail-free card' after pleading guilty to the murders of over 30 people, some of whom had no connection whatsoever to organized crime. Detectives Eppolito and Caracappa angrily denied Casso's allegations and Casso was eventually removed as a government witness after being detected in numerous lies. Eppolito, the author of his bio "Mafia Cop" is spending his retirement as an actor, most notably in films such as David Lynch's 'Lost Highway.'

         After Anthony Casso was discredited investigators began to pursue new theories as to the murder of Eddie Lino. One theory suggests Lino was murdered by a rival mobster from a different Mafia Family in a turf war over drug trafficking. Lino was both a heroin addict and pusher.

         Investigators have also taken a second look at the murders committed during the Colombo Family War, with a focus on those involving Greg Scarpa Sr., who died of AIDS in 1994. Some of Scarpa's crimes were committed with a co-conspirator named Larry Mazza, who currently resides in the Witness Protection Program. Mazza's road to becoming a 'made man' in the Colombo Family is an unusual and bizarre tale. Mazza was just a college kid when he met the Scarpa family while delivering groceries one day to Greg Scarpa's wife. Mrs. Scarpa was more interested in Mazza than the groceries and she invited the handsome young man into her home. Greg Scarpa was one of the most violent hitmen of his time, yet when he detected young Larry in an affair with his wife, Scarpa reacted in an unusual manner; the aging hitman showered young Larry with expensive gifts of clothing and jewelry and set him up in a business by callously murdering an associate.

         Once Larry Mazza agreed to become a co-operating witness for the Feds he detailed what he knew about some of the murders committed by Scarpa, such as the 1991 killing of Vinnie Fusaro, who was shot while stringing Christmas lights outside his Brooklyn home. However, the Feds have yet to establish who those co-conspirators of Scarpa's were in cases such as the murder of Nicholas "Nicky Black" Grancio, who was murdered while in an automobile stopped in Brooklyn in 1992. Like "Wild Bill" Cutolo, Grancio was a reputed corrupt Labor Union official.

         Investigators are also re-examining the 1995 murder of Greg Scarpa's son Joseph Schiro Scarpa, who was killed as he sat in a car in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn. Scarpa was murdered over a turf dispute involving drug dealers from the Gambino and Luchese Families. For some investigators, this case is an eerie reminder of the case of drug dealer Eddie Lino, who was murdered in Brooklyn just a few years earlier.

    To be continued

    Related stories:


    MOB WAR! Part Two: Anatomy of a Frame-up!

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