Feature Articles

June 2006

License to Kill:

Greg Scarpa and the FBI

By James Ridgway de Szigethy

Part Two: Gangsters With Badges
* * *

     The woman most responsible for the Grand Jury proceedings that led to the indictment of retired FBI agent Lindley DeVecchio on 4 Mafia murder charges was herself nearly murdered by an unknown assailant who beat and strangled the diminutive mother of three. The attack came in the early hours of June 16th at a Brooklyn bayside parking lot, where the investigator had been lured by a man posing as an anonymous member of law enforcement. Soccer mom Angela Clemente, who has made a gutsy stand against the American Mafia and FBI corruption, was found semi-conscious by passersby and rushed to a local hospital. While doctors examined the fresh bruises and hand marks around her neck, Clemente suffered a seizure. Fearing her children might also be in danger, Clemente fled the hospital as soon as she was able to walk and has now taken her family into hiding.

     Stunned investigators in both law enforcement and the Media are now wondering if Clemente�s assailant was a member of the Mafia, the FBI, or both.

     This latest saga in the twisted tale of an FBI Informant who had a license to kill began on May 22, when Clemente fired off a sensational letter to U. S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez. Clemente wrote: "This letter is a formal written notification addressing several very serious allegations of witness tampering, harassment, intimidation, and purposefully misleading statements that are intended to result in detrimental consequences for the intended targets of this egregious behavior. These actions are being taken on behalf of a former FBI Supervisory Special Lindley DeVecchio and through his former FBI colleagues in support of this retired agent."

     In her letter, Clemente details examples of what are standard techniques of unethical private investigators, alleging that the retired agents approached witnesses and their associates brandishing a gun and their former FBI Badge, intimidations and threats over the telephone, and dirty tricks played with a target�s place of employment that, in one case, she claims, led to the witness losing their job.

     "This will not be tolerated!" Clemente declared to the nation�s highest-ranking law enforcement officer.

     Clemente ended the letter by noting a copy had been forwarded to members of Congress who have spent years investigating cases of FBI corruption and cover-up, as well as the office of the District Attorney in Brooklyn who indicted DeVecchio on the 4 Mafia murder charges. DeVecchio has pleaded not guilty to those charges.

     A copy of Clemente�s letter also made it�s way to free-lance reporter Angela Mosconi, one of four New York journalists who have reported the most on the case of Greg Scarpa and DeVecchio for over a decade. The Daily News ran Mosconi�s sensational story on May 29, but noted that DeVecchio�s lawyer categorically denied such events were occurring.

     A week later, the New York Post reported the allegations of the Prosecutor in the DeVecchio case, Michael Vecchione, in regards to the alleged intimidation and threats against a Florida witness in this case. That person is likely Larry Mazza, the protégé of Greg Scarpa and lover of his wife, who served 10 years in prison for the murders he committed during the bloody Colombo Family War of the early 1990s.

     After the assault on Clemente, the New York Post revealed there was evidence that background checks were performed on Clemente in the weeks prior to her attack, information that is usually available only to members of law enforcement or private investigators, many of whom are retired cops or FBI agents.

     Violence against or involving women is not uncommon among members of the Persico faction of the Colombo Family, despite a standard Mafia protocol that protects females involved with "made" members and precludes them from being made participants in crimes. On September 25, 1984, Greg Scarpa lured a young woman, Mary Bari, a girlfriend of "Allie Boy" Persico�s, to Scarpa�s Brooklyn Social Club under the guise of offering Ms. Bari employment as a waitress. Instead, it was a set-up; once inside, Scarpa and accomplices, including his son, Greg Scarpa, Jr. wrestled young Bari to the floor, whereupon she was shot several times in the head with a handgun. Scarpa and crew then discarded Ms. Bari�s body as if it was trash.

     Brooklyn Prosecutors allege that agent DeVecchio supplied information to Scarpa indicating that Ms. Bari was providing information to the FBI in regards to "Allie Boy." At the time, Persico was on the lam, hiding out in Florida, and Scarpa was believed to fear that her co-operation with the FBI could lead the authorities to his whereabouts.

     Further evidence of Scarpa�s treatment of women would be revealed in a written Decision by a Federal Court of Appeals, which concluded that Scarpa had committed "numerous murders and attempted murders, not to mention his unrealized plans to murder Ambrosino's mother and his own daughter-in-law."

     The Court�s reference was to Joseph "Joey Brains" Ambrosino, a member of the Persico faction who �flipped� shortly after the war broke out. Ambrosino himself violated Mafia protocol in 1989 when he directed his wife to gather up all of the guns in their house and plant them on the porch of a neighbor, fearing the cops were about to search their home. This violation, however, was a far cry from Scarpa�s plot to murder Ambrosino�s mother in order to send a message to other wiseguys that becoming a co-operating witness would have dire repercussions. This was, of course, hypocritical on Scarpa�s part, given that he himself was a government informant. Also hypocritical was Scarpa�s plot to murder his daughter-in-law for using some of the very drugs that Scarpa and his two sons were trafficking throughout New York.

     The mere act of flirting with the wife of Allie Boy Persico would cost Michael Devine, a Staten Island nightclub owner, his life. Devine was murdered in 1992 by an associate of Allie Boy�s who sought to curry favor with Persico by doing so.

     The assault against Angela Clemente occurred as the hard-nosed investigator was pursuing evidence in the case of two men murdered on Long Island in 1992, pastry shop owner John Minerva and his bodyguard Michael Imbergamo. Three members of the Colombo Family, Joseph P. Russo; Anthony Russo; and Joseph Monteleone, Sr., would eventually be convicted of these murders. However, in recent years, evidence has emerged to suggest that Greg Scarpa was responsible for the murders and framed the three men as part of his plot to become Acting Underboss of the Colombo Family. Evidence has also emerged that Scarpa framed Vic Orena and Pasquale Amato for the 1989 murder of Colombo associate Thomas Ocera.

     According to a written Decision by the U. S. Court of Appeals, Joseph and Anthony Russo were captains within the Persico faction when the war erupted, with Monteleone being a member of their crew. Minerva had allegedly switched his allegiance from the Persico faction to the Orena faction, and the Russos and Monteleone had him killed. Questions as to whether this actually was what occurred emerged when an internal FBI document was obtained by Defense attorneys in another Colombo War trial, which revealed that Scarpa was in fact an FBI Informant and that Scarpa had "lied about or misrepresented his own involvement in several murders, which he either attributed to the "Persico faction" - without identifying himself as the member of the faction responsible for the murders - or falsely attributed to someone else."

     The Court Decision went on to reveal: "Prosecutors also disclosed information - although, according to the district court, it was "produced more slowly," - regarding a potentially improper relationship that had developed between Scarpa and his FBI contact, Special Agent R. Lindley DeVecchio. It was ultimately revealed that, during Scarpa's years as an Informant, DeVecchio may have given Scarpa highly sensitive information that would have helped Scarpa to wage war against the Orena faction and avoid arrest for his own criminal activities, as well as to avert the arrest of his associates and his son for their criminal acts."

     Perhaps the most damaging finding of the Appeals Court was the following: "In particular, the Court was concerned with "the Scarpa 209s" in which Scarpa blames other members of the Persico faction for murders he indisputably committed." "The court believed that sufficient doubt was cast upon the jury's verdict to require a new trial because "the fact that Scarpa lied to the FBI about some of his murderous activities gives rise to the inference that he lied about this one as well." "It seems clear that the district court did not rely on the Scarpa 209s merely as evidence that Scarpa was not generally credible and that any statements attributed to him should be viewed with skepticism, but as evidence that he was in the particular habit of blaming others for murders he had committed. In other words, in the view of the district court, Scarpa's lies to the FBI about murders actually committed by him give rise to a direct inference that he may have lied to his co-conspirators about the Minerva/Imbergamo murders, and that he may have committed those murders himself."

     The ease with which associates of the Mafia and their crooked co-horts in law enforcement can frame someone for a murder they did not commit is to be found in several disturbing cases brought to light in recent years. In December, 2001 Congress offered a public apology to Boston residents Joseph Salvati and Peter Limone, who spent 30 years in prison after having been framed by the FBI for a murder they had no part of. Key evidence examined were documents prepared by FBI Agent Paul Rico that revealed the names of the real murderers in that case, documents illegally kept by the FBI from the accused as being "exculpatory." Congressman Christopher Shays publicly admonished agent Rico thus: "I think you should be sent to jail!" Agent Paul Rico died while awaiting trial for his role in the murder of Roger Wheeler, the owner of the World Jai Alai gambling venture in Florida.

     Rico�s colleague, retired FBI agent John Connolly, is currently serving a 10-year prison sentence after being convicted on charges of racketeering and Obstruction of Justice in regards to his actions protecting FBI Informants/organized crime figures who were part of Boston�s "Winter Hill Gang" run by fugitive "Whitey" Bulger. Connolly was also convicted of a scheme to frame a decorated Boston police officer of fabricating evidence against Bulger and hitman Steven "The Rifleman" Flemmi. In 2005, Connolly was charged with the First Degree murder of World Jai Alai President John Callahan, who in 1982 was found dead in the trunk of his car with a dime on his chest, a Mafia warning to it�s members not to "drop a dime" on associates by �snitching� to law enforcement.

     The Salvati and Limone case also is similar to the case of Martin Taccetta of New Jersey, who was convicted for the 1984 murder of a Mafia associate. A secret 1991 FBI memo revealed that the FBI knew that Taccetta was not at the murder scene, �exculpatory evidence� the FBI unlawfully withheld from him at his trial. The FBI has still not turned over all documents relevant to this case and Taccetta still remains in a Federal prison for a crime the FBI says he did not commit.

     Then there is the case of Barry Gibbs, a New York man convicted for the 1986 murder of 27-year-old Virginia Robertson. In March, 2005, agents of the Drug Enforcement Administration raided the Las Vegas home of "Mafia Cop" Lou Eppolito after his arrest on several counts of Mafia murder and drug trafficking. Inside Eppolito�s home, the DEA found evidence that Eppolito, while a cop in Brooklyn, framed Gibbs for the murder of Robertson, who since his arrest has maintained his innocence. Gibbs� conviction was overturned and Eppolito and his partner in crime Steven Caracappa were convicted on all charges in the Courtroom of Federal Judge Jack Weinstein. One of those counts was the murder of Bruno Facciola, whose body was found stuffed inside the trunk of a car with a dead canary stuffed inside his mouth, another Mafia warning to it�s members to not �snitch� to law enforcement. At the sentencing of the Mafia Cops, Gibbs stood up and yelled his angry diatribe at Eppolito, to the ovation of most of those present for the proceedings as Gibbs was escorted out of the Courtroom by Court Officers.

     Gibbs is not the only man to enter the Courtroom of Judge Weinstein who claimed he was framed for murder. Weinstein presided over the 1992 trial of Victor Orena and Pasquale Amato for the murder of Thomas Ocera. Testifying as a Prosecution Witness was FBI agent Lindley DeVecchio, head of the Colombo squad of the joint FBI-NYPD Organized Crime Task Force. Orena had claimed since his arrest that he had been framed, and that guns found under the porch of a friend linked to Ocera�s murder had been planted there as part of the frame up.

     What Orena nor his attorneys did not know was that hidden inside agent DeVecchio�s FBI personnel file were the facts surrounding his 1975 arrest in Maryland by agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms on weapons trafficking charges. For most members of law enforcement caught in such a crime, that would have been the end of their career. However, DeVecchio also had in his personnel file glowing tributes from the late J. Edgar Hoover, the demented criminal who ran the FBI for decades, utilizing his agents to blackmail U. S. Presidents, while at the same time taking the preposterous position that the Mafia did not exist. Hoover may have been dead, but his influence in the Bureau lived on, and DeVecchio got a slap on the wrist and continued his career within the FBI.

     Hoover certainly knew the Mafia existed in 1964, when he ordered a handsome young killer for the Colombo Family, Greg Scarpa, to travel to Mississippi with an FBI agent to solve the case of three missing civil rights workers from the Congress of Racial Equality. Hoover did so under pressure from his boss, Attorney General Robert Kennedy, who, ironically would become one of the most successful Prosecutors of the Mafia in U. S. history. Scarpa placed the barrel of an FBI agent�s service revolver in the mouth of a kidnapped member of the Ku Klux Klan and threatened to blow his brains out if he did not reveal what he knew about the 3 missing men. The Klansman complied and the bodies of the three civil rights activists were recovered.

     From that moment on, Greg Scarpa literally possessed a "license to kill," protected by the FBI for the rest of his life as he trafficked drugs, bribed members of law enforcement, ran loan sharking and gambling operations, committed credit card fraud, stole goods, and murdered rivals with impunity.

     One of Scarpa�s original �handlers� was FBI agent Anthony Villano, who after his retirement wrote his memoirs, BRICK AGENT. Just one example of the apparent �quid pro quo� arrangement between Scarpa and the FBI is detailed in the following: when a mobster associate of Scarpa�s was arrested and offered to give up Scarpa in crimes they had committed, not knowing that his partner in crime was an FBI Informant, Villano protected Scarpa by warning Scarpa�s partner that the Colombo Family would kidnap his daughter if he ratted out Scarpa. That man died in prison; Scarpa remained free.

     Lindley DeVecchio reactivated Scarpa as an FBI Informant in 1980, under the condition that he alone would handle the notorious hitman. After just 3 years of interacting with the Mafia hitman Scarpa, DeVecchio was able to effectively impersonate a Mafia hitman himself. That chance came in 1983, when a rogue Intelligence Officer, Ed Wilson, was behind bars on - ironically - weapons trafficking charges. Soon, Wilson met "Tony DeAngelo," Mafia hitman. So convincing was "Tony" that Wilson agreed to pay him cash to murder 2 of the Prosecutors handling his case. "Tony," of course, was agent DeVecchio, and Wilson was convicted for solicitation of murder.

     Ironically, today Ed Wilson is a free man, his weapons conviction having been overturned because Prosecutors withheld "exculpatory evidence" during his trial.

     In the mid 1980s, a Federal Prosecutor, Rudolph Giuliani, mounted the most aggressive assault on the Mafia in New York City history. Among Giuliani�s cases was "The Commission" trial, in which the Godfathers of all five New York Mafia families were indicted. Carmine "The Snake" Persico, Godfather of the Colombo Family, was convicted and sent away for life. That event left his son Allie Boy Acting Boss of the Colombo Family.

     A war for control of the Colombo Family would erupt in the early 1990s, which eventually would leave at least 12 people dead. The conventional wisdom at the time among law enforcement and media circles was that Victor Orena and his associates were attempting to take over the Family. However, since that time, evidence has emerged to suggest that the war was started by Greg Scarpa in his own demented plan to take control of the Family.

     This plot began in earnest in 1989, when, the new theory goes, Scarpa had Thomas Ocera murdered and framed Orena and Amato for the murder. Greg Scarpa Jr. would eventually testify that his younger brother Joey Schiro planted the guns under the porch of Orena�s friend, and that his father and his handler, agent DeVecchio were involved in the plot. That testimony came in a 2004 Hearing before Judge Weinstein seeking a new trial. Weinstein, however, determined that Scarpa Jr. was "not credible" and refused to overturn the convictions.

     Originally, the theory for Orena�s motive for killing Ocera was the belief that Ocera was hiding tribute money due the Colombo Family from the extortion of a private company. Interestingly, among the 4 counts of murder currently facing DeVecchio is that of Joseph DeDomenico, who was shot to death on September 17, 1987. DeVecchio is alleged to have learned, through his work on the Organized Crime Task Force, that DeDomenico, a member of Scarpa�s crew, was hiding tribute money due Scarpa by engaging in burglaries that he did not disclose to his crew boss.

     Jurors in other trials arising from the Colombo Family War were convinced that DeVecchio had helped Scarpa commit murder, and said so publicly after acquitting several Colombo Family members during trials in the mid 1990s. One juror told the Media specifically that it was Scarpa who had started the war.

     While these events were unfolding, agent DeVecchio was the subject of a two-year investigation by the Justice Department�s Office for Professional Responsibility. That office eventually concluded that prosecution of DeVecchio was not warranted. DeVecchio retired with his Pension and then moved to live a new life in Florida.

     That would have been the end of this story had not Angela Clemente found her new calling in life. For decades, Greg Scarpa - who died of AIDS in 1994 - had possessed a �license to kill.� So had, Clemente determined, agent DeVecchio.

     At his arraignment, the Courtroom in Brooklyn State Court was packed with dozens of current and former FBI agents who are adamant in their support of their beleaguered former colleague. The group has a website, The Friends of Lin DeVecchio Trust, which takes an aggressive, pro-active defense of the former agent. Some of the most respected agents in recent FBI history, in fact, are part of this group.

     While DeVecchio faces claims from several that he was involved in framing them for crimes, DeVecchio�s FBI supporters insist that HE is the victim of a frame-up. At the website, DeVecchio�s supporters try to dismiss the charges against the former FBI agent as the cumulative effort of several people who are said to be motivated by book deals, including Prosecutor Michael Vecchione. DeVecchio, his supporters maintain, is the victim of conspiracy theorists, some of whom are aided and abetted by supporters of Victor Orena. Singled out for scrutiny are Angela Clemente and Peter Lance, the author of the best-seller COVER-UP: What the Government is Still Hiding About the War on Terror. That book deals extensively with the evidence regarding DeVecchio and his alleged crimes.

     While it is true that Angela Clemente is not a licensed private investigator, Peter Lance, former chief Investigative Correspondent for ABC News, has won numerous awards over the years for his investigative reporting, including 5 Emmys, and has a Masters Degree in Journalism from the prestigious Columbia Graduate School and a law Degree from Fordham University. Lance�s background also includes a stint as a Trial Prep Assistant in the Manhattan District Attorney�s Office.

     In the final analysis, DeVecchio�s Fate may be determined by whose conspiracy theories his jury believes; those that have DeVecchio a victim, or those that have DeVecchio a partner in crime with the murderous hitman Greg Scarpa.

     Regardless whose conspiracy theories one chooses to believe, the simple fact of the matter is that the sordid story of FBI Informant/Mafia hitman Greg Scarpa is a tale that is populated with dead bodies going back decades. Fortunately for Angela Clemente, her's is not one of them.

To be continued

Related Features by this author:

License to Kill: Greg Scarpa and the FBI
Part One: Reversal of Fortune

Secrets of the Private Eyes

Part III: Mob Murders Investigations Continue

Crime Scene - World Trade Center

Additional sources:

"The G-Man and the Hit Man,"
by Fredric Dannen, The New Yorker, 12-16-1996

U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals
August Term, 1997 (Argued: March 6, 1998 Decided: June 3, 1998)
Docket Nos. 97-1174, -1175, -1176


James Ridgway de Szigethy can be reached at

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