Feature Articles

August 1999


Murder, Deception, and Intrigue Inside New York’s Colombo Mafia Family

By J. R. de Szigethy

     They came under cover of night in the early hours of December 8, 1993 to the quiet middle-class neighborhood where NYPD Detective Joe Simone and his wife were raising their five children. On any day Simone would receive the final paperwork of his retirement package that would seal a 20-year career that had netted him 22 Police Department commendations. The last 5 years of Simone’s career had been spent on the elite Organized Crime Task Force, a select group of NYPD Detectives, FBI agents, and Federal Prosecutors whose goal was to bring down New York’s Five Italian Mafia Families; the Genovese, Gambino, Colombo, Luchese, and Bonnano. But the Task Force’s aims had been both aided and complicated by the internal war that erupted in 1991 between followers of imprisoned Colombo Godfather Carmine Persico and Underboss Vic Orena. At least 11 people – including an innocent bystander – had been murdered as a result of the war and now Detective Joe Simone was to become the latest victim of the chaos the war had created.

     Simone’s enemies surrounded his modest home in the suburbs of Staten Island and when the signal was given they stormed in and took Simone away, as his wife, kids, and parents helplessly looked on. With impunity did these men act, as they were not mobsters, but agents of the FBI. For many months Senior Task Force officials had known that the Mob had a mole somewhere on that Force that was feeding inside information to members of the Colombo Family. After a lengthy, internal investigation, some had decided that Simone was the mole and with the help of a Colombo Family murderer, an indictment was obtained.

     There was only one minor problem with the indictment of Detective Simone; the Feds had gotten the wrong man, and this mistake, among others, would eventually return to haunt the Task Force and it’s objectives. For Detective Simone, the final investigation of his career would be the most important of his life; to prove his innocence while at the same time uncovering the real mole who had devastated the hard work he and so many of his colleagues had dedicated their careers to. Yet this seasoned veteran, who thought, as many NYPD cops do, that he had seen it all, could not begin to guess where the trail of clearing his name would take him and his supporters.


     When the war for control of the Colombo Family broke out, members quickly chose sides; aligned with Victor Orena were, among others, "Wild Bill" Cutolo, "Big Sal" Miciotta, "Chips" de Costanza, and Dennis Pappas, an attorney who laundered Colombo Family money through his various businesses. Remaining loyal to Carmine Persico and his son "Allie Boy" were hitman/drug dealer Greg Scarpa, his young friend Larry Mazza, Carmine Sessa, and Johnny Pate, among others. By March 1993, the Organized Crime Task Force had an active investigation of Pappas on money laundering charges. However, Pappas would soon be approached by FBI agents seeking his help; not agents of the Task Force, but those of the Counter-Intelligence Division, whose responsibility is to protect America from our foreign enemies. Those agents and their counter-parts in the CIA had detected one of the most dangerous plots ever to be hatched against America, being carried out by top Iranian officials. It was a plot so simple, yet deadly that if successful, would plunge the United States into economic and social chaos for decades.

     The Counter-Intelligence agents had detected that key Iranian suspects in the plot had purchased a Manhattan building that was being renovated by an electrical contractor that Pappas worked for. Thus, it would be easy to use Pappas to plant electronic eavesdropping devices throughout the building before the Iranians even moved in. In the wake of the bombing of the World Trade Center, the Counter-Intelligence agents knew too well the enormous responsibility thrust upon them. Any and all options thus had to be considered to prove the culpability of those involved in the plot and stop it before it became a reality. The only question was: could a money launderer for the Colombo Family be trusted?

     There was yet another problem to be solved. The Iranian plot appeared to be an act of retaliation against the United States for the accidental shooting down by the U. S. Navy of an Iranian airliner in 1988. When, months later, Pan American Airlines Flight 103 was blown out of the skies above Lockerbie, Scotland, it was assumed by many in the government, as well as the Media, that this had been ordered by Iranian leader the Ayatollah Khomeini in retaliation for the earlier accidental attack. If then, the New York plot, years in the making, was the Iranian’s response of retaliation, who then was responsible for the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103?


     For those supporters of Detective Joe Simone, the problems with the investigation that led to his indictment were evident from it’s inception; it was claimed that in May, 1993 Salvatore "Big Sal" Miciotta, a 300 pound capo in the Colombo Family, approached two FBI agents with the offer to become a co-operating witness in order to escape prosecution from the various crimes he had committed over the years, including five murders. Incredibly, the two FBI agents in question would claim they did not file a written report on their successful recruitment of this high-ranking member of an organized crime Family. Not only is it standard procedure for agents to file such a report, it is also in the best interest of the agents involved, as citations and promotions in their career often result from such prized recruitments. Thus, what actually transpired during the first weeks of the flipping of Big Sal relies solely on the after-the-fact claims of the FBI agents involved.

     Now a co-operating witness for the U. S. government, it was clear to Big Sal that if he could convict the person on the Task Force responsible for the leaks of information to the Mob, such a sensational conviction would result in his early release from prison. Big Sal told the FBI he knew who the mole was; NYPD Detective Joe Simone. According to Miciotta, Simone coached football with a fellow coach who was the nephew of a member of his gang, Armando "Chips" de Constanza, and that this relationship was how information made it’s way from the Task Force to the Mob. The FBI then came up with a plan which was pure and simple; have Miciotta wear a wire, order his subordinate Chips to join him in an attempt to bribe Simone, offer Simone a bribe, and get Simone’s reaction on tape.

     Often, Joe Simone would visit the home of Chips' nephew to go over football strategies of the teams their sons played on. On one evening in question Big Sal was waiting there at the coach’s house, along with uncle Chips. Long before Simone showed up, Big Sal had the FBI’s secret tape recorder running. At one point on the tape Miciotta announced his plan to bribe Simone and orders de Constanza for money as well. At that point however Chips says: "The guy’s not asking for anything; he don’t want any money!" Chips knew that Simone had months earlier turned down a bribe attempt and upon learning that Simone couldn’t be bought Miciotta turned off his tape recorder. Later, when Simone showed up Miciotta did not record what transpired as the FBI had instructed him to. Miciotta later claimed Simone took the money anyway, but could not prove it as he had chosen not to record what took place when Simone entered the room.

     Did the FBI believe Big Sal’s claim that Simone took the money? It they did, logic would suggest that if Simone would take one bribe he would take another, and to conclusively prove Simone’s guilt all that would be necessary was for Miciotta to go back to Simone and offer another bribe, but this time wearing a transmitter that would not allow Big Sal the option of turning the recorder off. There was a brig problem with this scenario, however; the FBI hoped to use Big Sal as a key prosecution witness in other Mob trials. If, on a second bribery attempt the tape showed Big Sal had lied about the first incident he had refused to record, then the Feds would lose the Simone case and an important Witness in the other trials as well. The FBI chose not to take such a risk; Big Sal was not sent back to Simone to offer another bribe and Simone’s indictment was thus obtained on the word of a Colombo Family loan shark and murderer.

     The news of Simone’s arrest stunned the close knit community in which he was regarded as a hero cop and popular coach. None of the parents of the kids Simone coached pulled their child off of his teams, but rather expressed their public support for Detective Simone and his family. Members of the news Media also came to Simone’s defense, clearly skeptical of the government’s suspect case against the beleaguered cop. Rumors of a ‘set-up’ bounced around New York, with comparisons being made between the Simone case and that of a similar set-up a decade earlier of another decorated cop, Lou Eppolito.

     Lou Eppolito was a legendary NYPD cop who by that time had retired and was pursuing a successful acting and writing career out West. Many years earlier, Eppolito had himself been falsely accused of being a mole for the Mob and was acquitted after a sensational NYPD Departmental trial. In his biography "MAFIA COP," Eppolito, the son of a Gambino Family capo detailed how he turned away from the ‘Family business’ to become a cop – and an honest one at that! Still, many of Eppolito’s supervisors were suspicious and had him thoroughly investigated for leaking information to a top Gambino Family figure. In his book, Eppolito noted the anti-Italian bias he claimed was evident during that investigation. Eppolito wrote: "Tellingly, according to an Internal Affairs report, all four suspects (in the Mob leak case) were detectives with Italian last names –Miciotta, Sasso, Furtado, and Eppolito."

     Detective Simone reached out to Eppolito for support, who offered comfort to Simone and his family as they sought to understand the tragedy that had befallen them. Then, incredibly, another Task Force co-operating ‘witness’ made a stunning accusation that made Miciotta’s claim against Simone pale by comparison; Anthony "Gaspipe" Casso, the Underboss of New York’s Luchese Mafia Family, told prosecutors he had hired Eppolito and his partner to carry out the murder of Gambino associate Eddie Lino, who was blown away by assassins on Coney Island in 1990. Lino had been one of the hitmen in the rubout of Gambino Godfather Paul Castellano and Gaspipe was claiming that his fellow Mobsters viewed Lino, a heroin addict, as ‘unstable’, thus the contract on his life that Casso had accepted.

     Was "Gaspipe," who had admitted to murdering 34 people, telling the truth? Only through the progression of the Colombo Family War Trials would the truth slowly emerge.


     On a cold December day in 1988, four employees of the U. S. government met in a lounge at London’s Heathrow Airport to share a drink or two. They were Matthew Gannon, a top CIA expert on the Arab world, two State Department employees, Daniel O’Connor and Ronald Lariviere, and U. S. Army Major Charles McKee, who at 6 feet 5 inches of height, had earned the nickname "Tiny" by his colleagues. Each man had an impressive resume built up over decades involving service to America, which had led them to their most recent – and extremely dangerous assignment; locate, with the goal of rescuing, the British and American hostages then being held in civil war-torn Lebanon. As is typical in covert operations, several of the players had code names by which they referred to one another without revealing, should conversations be intercepted, their true identities; "Tiny" was "Al Capone;" others were "Bonnie and Clyde" and "Dillinger." The Mafia monikers each adopted betrayed what each participant knew; that the terrorists they were targeting were far more dangerous than Italian Mobsters. The most painful example of this was the fate of William Buckley, the former CIA station chief of Beirut, who years earlier had been captured by Arab terrorists and brutally tortured for weeks until his body at last could take no more. There was no reason to believe the hostages were not also receiving the same treatment.

     Such was the world the four heroic officers would gladly leave behind for a few weeks as they and 255 others boarded Pan American Airlines Flight 103, bound for New York City. Among the passengers were 35 college kids from Syracuse University. After hours of weather delay the plane finally took off, but just 30 minutes into its flight the plane suddenly exploded, killing all 259 aboard, as well as 11 unsuspecting residents of the town of Lockerbie, Scotland, onto which the debris of the plane crashed down.

     The U. S. authorities immediately suspected sabotage, with the government of Iran the prime suspect. In a bizarre twist to the story, the tragedy of Pan Am 103 had been foretold in a just-released novel written by Salman Rushdie, "The Satanic Verses." The book’s opening paragraph tells of a plane exploding in mid-air, and of two of it’s passengers: "Just before dawn one winter’s morning, New Year’s Day or thereabouts, two real, full-grown men fell from a great height, twenty-nine thousand and two feet, towards the English Channel, without benefit of parachutes or wings, out of a clear sky."

     Two months after the Lockerbie tragedy, the Ayatollah Khomeini issued a ‘fatwah’ against Salman Rushdie, a religious edict targeting Rushdie for assassination, as it was perceived that his book had blasphemed Islam. Reaction by most countries was nearly universal, with most condemning the Ayatollah’s actions. Rushdie went into hiding and his ‘banned’ book received much more attention than it would have otherwise. The Ayatollah’s ‘fatwah’ against author Rushdie only cemented suspicion worldwide that the government of Iran was responsible for the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103. >


     The first troubled Colombo war trial began in June 1994. Alphonse "Allie Boy" Persico was charged with instigating the war but his attorney Barry Levin told the jury his client was in prison during the war and suggested it was started by capo Greg Scarpa, an FBI informant. Levin claimed the people the FBI would put on the Witness stand were vicious muderers, one of whom, Johnny Pate had told a government psychiatrist his dead grandmother came to him in a vision and urged him to commit suicide. "These are the individuals that carried out these murders," Levin told the jury. "They are treacherous. Their aim is to convict more people. They’re all trying to redeem their sentences!"

     To prove their case prosecutors called Big Sal Miciotta and Larry Mazza, who helped Greg Scarpa murder at least three people during the war. Mazza’s recruitment into the Colombo Family began in 1979, when he was 18 years old and working his way through college as a grocery delivery boy. One day Mazza made a delivery to a 30 year old housewife, Linda Scarpa, who was immediately attracted to the handsome young Italian. Mrs. Scarpa invited young Larry in and the two began a sordid sexual relationship. Usually, when a member of the Mob catches a young man in bed with his wife, that young man disappears off the face of the earth, but in this case Greg Scarpa took a fancy to his wife’s handsome lover, showering him with gifts of clothing and expensive jewelry. Scarpa even set young Larry up in business, loaning him $10,000 to buy a partnership in an auto body shop. Scarpa later murdered the owner of the shop, making young Larry the sole owner.

     In 1986 Scarpa contracted AIDS, allegedly from the donation of blood from an attractive bodybuilder on his crew named Paul Mele, who would later die of the disease. Scarpa himself would succumb to AIDS in June of 1994, but two days before his death he gave Allie Boy’s attorney two sworn affidavits that stated that Persico did not instigate the Colombo Family war. In his opening arguments Levin promised the jurors that Scarpa would "clear Persico from the grave!" He was right; the jury cleared Allie Boy of all charges and he walked out of Court a free man. Meanwhile, someone firebombed the Pate family home on Staten Island, in apparent retaliation for Johnny Pate’s testifying against Persico.

     With Allie Boy’s acquittal members of the Media began to take a look into the life of Greg Scarpa. The New York Daily News revealed that Scarpa had been involved in one of the most infamous criminal cases in our nation’s history, when three civil rights workers were murdered in Mississippi in 1964. FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover had the young and vigorous Scarpa, already a valued FBI informant whom Hoover had taken a personal interest in, flown to Mississippi where he placed the barrel of an FBI revolver into the mouth of a KKK member and threatened to blow his brains out unless he revealed the location of the bodies of the three missing men. The Klansman complied with Scarpa’s death threat, the bodies were recovered, and seven locals were eventually convicted for violating the worker’s civil rights. Exactly how confirmed-bachelor Hoover repaid his debt of gratitude to young Scarpa has not yet been revealed.

     The next revelation about Scarpa came when the Daily News obtained FBI documents which showed Organized Crime Task Force Chief Lynn de Vecchio had given Scarpa information to help him track down four rival mobsters, one of whom Scarpa killed. The allegations came from none other than Larry Mazza, who told the FBI that Scarpa regularly received phone calls from a law enforcement source he nicknamed "The Girlfriend." Testimony by both mobsters and FBI agents alike would later establish that de Vecchio was in fact the person Scarpa had dubbed "The Girlfriend."

     Thus, as the trial of NYPD Detective Joe Simone got underway in the Fall of 1994, attorney John Patten had ample evidence that serious impropriety was going on within the Organized Crime Task Force. Patten suggested to the jury that it was FBI agent de Vecchio, not Detective Simone, who was responsible for the leaks of information to the Mob. Perhaps the most dramatic part of the trial came when Patten, in a stroke of attention to detail worthy of Perry Mason, scrutinized the physical condition of documents the FBI submitted which they claimed supported their allegation that Joe Simone had taken money from the Mob. Patten noted that the holes left on the documents from a stapler did not match up – that one of the pages had been replaced with another AFTER Detective Simone’s arrest. One juror told the press their verdict was unanimous and immediate, and after just two hours of deliberations, Joe Simone heard the jury’s decision; not guilty on all charges. Ten of the twelve jurors stood outside the Courthouse in the cold October rain to meet with and console Joe Simone and his family. His wife in tears, Simone told the press: "I was always a good cop and did my job well."


     In 1989, Congressman James Traficant Jr. of Ohio called a bizarre press conference, at which he claimed that a rogue CIA operation had allowed the bomb to be smuggled onboard Pan Am Flight 103. Traficant and his sources claimed that a Syrian drug ring, in cahoots with the Iranian government, had utilized this operation to carry out this horrific mass murder. Traficant claimed there was a massive cover-up of the facts by the U. S. government and wanted all relevant information released to the public.

     Eventually, Traficant and his theory would be discredited, and Traficant’s own association with Mafia figures would be scrutinized. In 1980, Traficant accepted a $163,000 bribe from the Mafia when he ran for Sheriff of Mahoning County. He was put on Federal bribery charges in 1983 but was acquitted, after which he successfully ran for Congress. Once elected, Traficant hired an associate of the Pittsburgh Mafia Family, Charles O’Nesti, to run his Youngstown Congressional office. O’Nesti worked for Traficant AND the Pittsburgh Mafia Family for the next 13 years. Eventually, O’Nesti and his Pittsburgh Mob boss Lenny Strollo would plead guilty to racketeering charges, while another former Traficant employee, Sheriff Philip Chance, was convicted on bribery charges similar to those Traficant had once faced. The investigations of Traficant’s Mafia associates continue.


     Although Detective Simone had been acquitted of all charges, the fight to clear his name was not yet over. Simone’s attorney John Patten knew that the FBI would likely put enormous pressure on the NYPD to put Simone on Departmental Trial so he could be fired and denied his pension. Before that trial, however, would come more Colombo wartrials which would reveal even more shocking information about what was going on in the Organized Crime Task Force. One was the racketeering murder trial of William "Wild Bill" Cutolo and 6 members of his crew. Big Sal Miciotta testified under cross examination that FBI agents, including Lynn de Vecchio gave him permission to continue his loan sharking and extortion rackets while he worked secretly for the FBI. Miciotta also admitted he viciously assaulted a young man in training to become a Priest and loaned his brother $10,000 which he used to buy 150 pounds of marijuana while working for the FBI. The defendants in the case claimed they were only acting in self-defense against a renegade FBI informant/Mafia hitman, Greg Scarpa, and his FBI handler, Lynn de Vecchio. As in the Simone trial the jurors did not believe Miciotta and acquitted all defendants on murder and weapons charges.

     The New York Times then joined the chorus of those questioning the relationship between hitman Greg Scarpa and the FBI. The Times noted that "from 1950 to1985 Scarpa was arrested 10 times on charges like carrying an unlicensed gun, assault, fencing hijacked liquor, heading bookmaking and loan sharking rings and trying to bribe police officers. His scrapes with the law included charges in 1974 that he was a major conspirator in the theft of $4 million in stocks and bonds and in 1985 that he was behind a plot to counterfeit credit cards." The result of all of this was that Scarpa spent a total of 30 days in jail.

     Yet another expose in The New Yorker Magazine revealed the following quote from an FBI agent regarding Scarpa: "I had a discussion with (an FBI agent) that made me think that Scarpa thought he had a license to kill!" That same New Yorker investigation revealed a darker side to agent de Vecchio’s personality; de Vecchio had many years earlier crafted for himself an alter-ego he named Tony DeAngelo, a Mafia hitman. In 1983 de Vecchio got his chance to act out his fantasy when he received a report that a rogue government agent, Ed Wilson, was scouting for a hitman to murder two prosecutors and several witnesses in his weapons trafficking case. De Vecchio eagerly accepted the assignment to be introduced to Wilson as "Tony DeAngelo, Mafia hitman." Affecting the manner and speech of associates such as Greg Scarpa, de Vecchio was able to convince Wilson that he was the real thing. When, days later, Wilson’s son gave "DeAngelo" a $10,000 payment for these contract killings, prosecutors had enough evidence to convict Wilson on charges of attempted murder.

     Still another expose appeared at this time, in which New York Post columnist Jack Newfield, perhaps best known for his book "Only in America" about Cleveland mob associate Don King, published a lengthy, detailed, and scathing report on the various crimes committed by FBI agents years earlier in their set up of Colombo associate "Sonny" Franzese for a bank robbery which the evidence convincingly showed he did not commit. One disturbing aspect of this case was revealed years later when Michael Gillen, the prosecutor made a startling confession to Sidney Zion, the New York Times reporter who covered the trial; "Gillen admitted to me that he intentionally went drinking with me one night in the hotel bar to keep me distracted while two FBI agents broke into my car and photographed my notes and files."

     Newfield’s exhaustive report revealed the unmistakable vendetta then-FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover undertook in his efforts to put Franzese away. One of the participants in the set-up of Franzese would later claim that an FBI agent told him, "Hoover would give his left nut for Sonny Franzese!" What makes this case all the more remarkable was Hoover’s outrageous claim for many years that the "Mafia" did not exist! Thus, it was rare for Hoover to send the full force of the FBI after a member of the Mob, and Hoover’s reason for singling out Franzese has never been adequately explained. Had Franzese confided in Scarpa, perhaps he could have learned what was necessary to avoid, or in Scarpa’s case, co-exist with, Hoover and the FBI.

     While the press in New York was having a field day uncovering the sordid history of the Colombo Family, the Feds had quietly re-assessed the status of co-operating witness Big Sal Miciotta. Citing a pattern of lies, criminal conduct and inadequate co-operation, Big Sal was dropped from the Witness Protection Program. For his allegations against Joe Simone and the Cutolo crew, the U. S. taxpayers paid Big Sal $94,000.

     Desperately needing government witnesses to replace Miciotta in the next round of Colombo trials, the Feds made a plea bargain with a father and son, Anthony and Christopher Liberatore, who in 1991 shot six times an innocent bystander, 18 year old Matteo Speranza, who worked at a Brooklyn bagel shop. The Liberatore’s pleaded guilty to the murder of the young man and were placed in the Witness Protection Program. They initially received $8,000 of taxpayer money to help move their family to their new secret location, where they will join them once their prison sentence is complete.

     In May, 1995 Vic and John Orena, steel company executive Thomas Petrizzo, and four associates went on trial on murder conspiracy charges relating to the Colombo Family war. In her opening arguments Assistant U. S. Attorney Ellen Corcella admitted to the jury that FBI agent Lynn de Vecchio had an unusual relationship with crime boss Greg Scarpa and leaked confidential information to him. Defense attorneys argued that their clients were only acting in self-defense against a renegade FBI agent and his Mafia hitman friend. FBI agent Howard Leadbetter testified that he and agents Chris Favo and Jeffrey Tomlinson reported to their superiors that Lynn 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. Colombo capo Carmine Sessa told the Court he too knew that de Vecchio was giving information to Scarpa.

     While the trial was in progress, more damaging information was revealed in the Media. The New York Daily News reported that "on Feb. 27, 1991 reputed Colombo gangster Carmine Imbriale was arrested on fraud and drug charges, agreeing immediately to cooperate with the Feds. That same day de Vecchio let Scarpa know Imbriale was cooperating, the Feds believe. The Imbriale incident is disturbing for two reasons. First, de Vecchio effectively sentenced Imbriale to death by letting the Mob know he was an informant. Second, the Feds left Scarpa out on the street despite information from Imbriale that Scarpa had bragged about participating in the attempted murder of reputed gangster Joel (Waverly) Cacace."

     One of the more interesting exchanges during the Orena trial took place in the absence of the Jury. Defense attorney Gerald Shargel was cross-examining Carmine Sessa about a taped conversation between Sessa and FBI agent Tomlinson he hoped the Judge would allow into evidence. On the tape, Sessa, then in the Witness Protection Program calls Tomlinson to express his concern that another member of the Program, "Gaspipe" Casso, was telling the Feds a different story than Sessa had about the murder of a man named Vinnie, an associate of the Russian Mob. Sessa was concerned because he knew if he was caught lying he could be kicked out of the Witness Protection Program and could thus be prosecuted in New Jersey for one of the murders he committed, a crime for which he could receive the death penalty. On the tape, Tomlinson tells Sessa "I’ll take care of it!" and Sessa is reassured. Sessa’s concerns on the FBI tape clearly showed that someone –either Carmine Sessa or "Gaspipe" Casso – was lying to the Feds.

     When the jurors in the Orena trial entered into deliberation they set a legal precedent by asking the Judge for evidence not entered at trial. The document in question was Lynn de Vecchio’s written report of conversations he had with Greg Scarpa at his home during the Colombo Family war. Judge Edward Korman and the Defense attorneys did not even know such a document existed. Nor did the jurors; they just ASSUMED such a document existed and asked the Judge to provide it. Under questioning from Judge Korman, red-faced prosecutors conceded the document in question did in fact exist. In that document de Vecchio wrote that Scarpa told him that there was no Colombo Family war – that shots fired at him weeks earlier were the result of a case of mistaken identity. Faced with the prospect of a mis-trial for the withholding of exculpatory evidence, Judge Korman had no choice but to turn over to the jury a document that had not been introduced at trial. That document cemented the suspicions of the jurors that the FBI, not Allie Boy Persico, nor the Cutolo crew, nor the Orena faction had instigated the Colombo Family war.

     The jurors acquitted all defendants on all charges and demanded of the Prosecutors why it was de Vecchio had not been indicted for murder. "They all believed there was a cover-up, and many jurors wondered how come de Vecchio wasn’t indicted," said defense attorney James La Rossa. 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!" Another juror told Newsday that it was apparent that de Vecchio and Scarpa had started the Colombo Family war. "It was a bit scary that the FBI was feeding information to someone so deadly. It was (Scarpa) who made it seem a war was going on!"

     One of the saddest moments in New York Federal Court in recent memory occurred in the trial of Louis Malpeso, Joseph Amato, and Robert Gallagher. Chris Liberatore matter-of-factly and without remorse testified how he shot innocent bystander Matteo Speranza twice in the face. Seated in the Courtroom, Matteo’s father could not control his anguish any longer. He stood, crying out "My God, why did you do this? You bastard, you killed my son!" Jurors and spectators alike were moved to tears by the anguished cry of the poor immigrant. The only one in court who remained emotionless was Liberatore, who testified at the Orena faction trial, "There’s only one alternative in organized crime; you just kill each other. Whoever kills the most, wins!"

     In this case, the Feds won, securing convictions against all the defendants. However, Liberatore and his father expect soon to be walking the streets of America again as a result of testifying for the Federal government. Young Matteo’s father simply could not understand why the U. S. government made a deal with the two men who pulled the trigger and executed his son, instead of the men who drove the getaway car. Mr. Speranza has since relocated his family to Canada.


     In June, 1995 Greg Scarpa Jr. assaulted Luchese Family Godfather Vittorio Amuso at the federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana, after Amuso had chided, "Your father was a rat! You should be ashamed!" Despite Amuso’s incarceration, he still maintains his position as head of the Luchese family and a seat on the Mob’s governing body "The Commission." As such, all five Families put out contracts on the life of young Scarpa, who was serving a 20-year sentence for drug trafficking. To keep him alive, the government transferred Scarpa to solitary confinement at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan, where he would face additional charges of murder and racketeering. By then, Federal authorities had admitted that his father had used his position as an FBI informant to further his and his sons’ criminal activities.

     Scarpa was placed in a cell adjacent to international terrorist Ramzi Yousef, who was being held while awaiting trial for being the mastermind in the bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993. Scarpa would later claim at his racketeering and murder trial that he was recruited by the FBI to spy on Yousef, photographing diagrams Yousef showed to him with a secret, miniature camera. Scarpa would also claim he told the FBI about a terrorist plot he learned of from Yousef against a Prosecutor and Federal Judge. The jury convicted Scarpa on racketeering, loan sharking, gambling, and murder conspiracy charges, but acquitted him on five murder counts.


     On Sunday, February 18, 1996, the New York Daily News stunned America with a sensational story of a plot by Iranians to detonate a conventional bomb above New York containing nuclear waste, an event that would render a large part of Manhattan and surrounding areas un-inhabitable for decades. Such an event would have produced mass panic throughout America, requiring the evacuation of the financial district of New York, one result being the collapse of the stock market and the nation’s banking system. The Daily News got the story from Colombo Family money launderer Dennis Pappas, who said he was asked in 1993 by agents of FBI Counter-Intelligence to help them bug a building purchased by the Iranians involved in the plot. Pappas said that at first he agreed, then later backed out of the plan, fearing the Iranians would harm his family.

     Pappas was arrested in July, 1995 and charged with being the "financial consigliere" of the Colombo Mafia Family. Despite his never having been arrested nor charged with a violent crime, Pappas was denied bail. The Judge in his case then placed him under a gag order "for reasons of National security." Before the gag order was imposed, Pappas had complained about his treatment to reporters at the Daily News, who were able to independently corroborate key claims about his story. The Editors of that newspaper then had a tough decision to make; to sit on a story involving national security and international terrorism, or to run with it. They made the decision that many would not, but one consequence of their decision was that it caused journalists to take a second look at theories as to who was responsible for the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103.

     Dennis Pappas was held for over two years before he went to trial, the longest such detention without bail in U. S. history for someone accused of non-violent crimes. The Prosecution admitted in Court documents that Pappas had in fact been recruited for a "national security project," but would say little else. While his attorney tried to portray Pappas as a victim of the FBI, it was perceived by some following his case that he had compromised an important investigation of international terrorists, and in doing so had betrayed his country. Pappas would later accept a plea bargain in his money laundering case.


     On May 15, 1996 the New York Post stunned readers with the revelation that Lynn 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 hearing to determine whether Orena would receive a new trial, 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. 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. De Vecchio had demanded that the purchaser of the guns, who was in actuality an undercover agent of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, pay him in cash for the weapons. 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.

     The Judge in the Orena Appeal would later unseal documents which showed de Vecchio’s informant Greg Scarpa had been an FBI informant since 1961, that he had in fact worked for the FBI on civil rights cases in the South during the troubled 60s, and that Scarpa had received at least $158,000 of tax-payer money for the information he sold to the FBI. It was also revealed that in 1981 Scarpa demanded – and received – an agreement that he have only one handler in the FBI, not two as is required by Bureau policy. Scarpa’s lone handler since that time until his death was "The Girlfriend," Lynn de Vecchio.

     Also unsealed by the Judge was a 28 page statement de Vecchio made to investigators in which he claimed he never gave any information to Scarpa and the only things he ever received from Scarpa was a bottle of wine, a tray of lasagna, and a Cabbage Patch doll.


     In the late 1980s, a group of intelligence operatives began to plot the bombing of an American airline. The time of year chosen was that of the holiday season, around Christmas and Chanukah, when millions of Americans would be celebrating the traditions common to their Judeo-Christian heritage. As England was the hated enemy of the plotters as well as America, it was decided that the bomb would be placed on an American airliner headed towards the U. S. after taking off from London’s Heathrow airport. Thus, the passengers of the doomed flight would also likely include many from England travelling to the United States for the holidays. It was also decided that a timing device would trigger the bomb, so that the plane would explode hundreds of miles out across the frigid Atlantic Ocean. Such an explosion over those waters would make it likely that many of the bodies of the victims would never be found, and thus the grieving families of the victims would never be allowed the opportunity to give their loved ones a decent burial. Exploding the plane over the Atlantic would have one other advantage for the murderers; little of the plane would be recovered, and those small fragments of the bomb itself and other evidence would never be found.

     The plotters wanted it that way, as they knew the likely suspect in the bombing would be the government of Iran. Fate, however, would intervene; bad weather forced a delay in the departure of the targeted plane, and the timing device continued its tick down as the plane sat on the runway at Heathrow Airport. When finally the plane took off, the bomb exploded while the plane was still over land, where most of it would be recovered. Thus, the families of the victims were able to recover the bodies of their loved ones. And, also, fragments of the bomb, plane, and other evidence were available to be recovered and examined. Agents of the FBI were able to trace some of those fragments back to the island of Malta and two agents of Muamar Qadaffy, the dictator of Libya, whose infant adopted daughter was killed by a U. S. air raid on Tripoli in 1986. The almost perfect mass-murder plot thus had one minor flaw, and the two Libyans were indicted for the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103.


     Lynn de Vecchio was never charged with a crime and retired from the FBI with his pension. At last report, he was working as a private detective.

     Joe Simone was convicted in his NYPD Departmental trial for failing to report a bribery attempt and was fired from the NYPD. His attorneys are continuing to Appeal his termination.

     "Big Sal" Miciotta, who was kicked out of the Witness Protection Program for lying on the Witness stand during the Colombo trials, got a second chance at a ‘get-out-of-jail-free card’ when he ratted out Anthony "Gaspipe" Casso, who was bribing Corrections officers to smuggle illegal contraband, including heroin, to himself and other criminals. Gaspipe, who with 34 admitted murders is one of the most prolific murderers in U. S. history, was removed from the Witness Protection Program and will spend the rest of his life in prison. For his efforts in exposing Gaspipe’s crimes, Big Sal Miciotta is expected to be released into the communities of America this year.

     Retired Detective Lou Eppolito and his partner Steve Caracappa were never charged for the murder of Eddie Lino. Eppolito continues his career as an actor and writer, with many new projects currently under development.

     In February 1999 Allie Boy Persico was arrested in Florida on weapons charges, which are a violation of his Parole. Persico is facing 10 years in prison on this latest charge.

     "Wild Bill" Cutolo disappeared soon after Allie Boy’s arrest, and is presumed murdered.

     Both the Media and the Justice Department are currently conducting an investigation of two former FBI agents and their actions with members of the Boston Mafia Family. As in the de Vecchio/Scarpa case, the conduct between FBI agents and their Mafia informants is the issue.

     James Traficant has not announced whether he will testify on behalf of the two Libyans set to go on trial next February for the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103. With the conviction of his former Congressional Aide Charles O’Nesti and the conviction of his former Deputy Philip Chance, Traficant’s political future is in question.

     The CIA and FBI heroes who helped foil the Iranian plot will likely never have their personal stories publicly told, but such is the nature of those who anonymously risk their lives to protect America. They know who they are, and what service they gave to our country.

     In May 1999 the Sunday Times of London revealed that the British government had determined years ago that the plot to bomb Pan Am Flight 103 was ordered by Libyan dictator Muamar Qadaffy and was solely carried out by his agents. Despite this knowledge, the Times reported that government officials were proceeding with the lifting of economic sanctions against Libya in exchange for turning over for trial the two Libyan spies indicted for the bombing. The report provoked angry reaction from political figures in London as well as among survivors of the victims. Ironically, the mystery of the Pan Am bombing had been solved as early as 1992, when investigative journalist Mark Perry published his book "Eclipse." In that book Perry analyzed the conflicting evidence and concluded it was solely a Libyan operation.

     While the anger and frustration of those loved ones of the victims of Pan Am Flight 103 is understandable, there must be some comfort in at last knowing who was responsible for this act of terrorism. Whether or not those responsible are brought to Justice, remains to be seen. Still, at long last, it is finally known who was responsible for what happened on that cold, Winter’s day in 1988, when 259 innocent souls marched single file into an airplane that would lift them up above the Earth, and into Eternity.

© 1999

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