Before Whitey Bulger became a big shot crime boss in Boston while feeding information to the FBI, Colombo mobster Gregory Scarpa was already using the Feds as his get-out-of-jail-free-card. He eventually manipulated the FBI in such a manner that he changed that card into a license to kill.
Five-time Emmy Award-winning author Peter Lance has done extensive research into Scarpa’s partnership with the FBI for his book Deal with the Devil: The FBI’s Secret Thirty-Year Relationship with a Mafia Killer, which is set for release on July 2. In this book he uncovers here-to-fore unknown details about Scarpa’s status and activities as FBI informant and uses cold hard facts to expose the mistakes made by those supposedly on the right side of the law.
Gangsters Inc. was granted an early interview with Lance before he embarks on a nation-wide promotion tour for his book.
QUESTION: Your latest book, Deal with the Devil, details the FBI’s use of mob capo Greg Scarpa Sr. as an informant and how that ‘partnership’ spiraled out of control. This is your first book covering the American Mafia, your other books focus on the war on terror. Could you explain to our readers what initially drew you to this mob story and why you decided to devote an entire book to it?
ANSWER: “Triple Cross,” the third book in my investigative trilogy on the FBI’s counter-terrorism failures in the years leading up to 9/11 and beyond contains a 32 page illustrated timeline. It can be downloaded here: http://www.scribd.com/doc/99379271/Triple-Cross-Illustrated-Timeline
The terrorism story focuses on Ramzi Yousef, the al Qaeda bomb maker responsible for both attacks on the World Trade Center – the 1993 bombing and 9/11. As noted in the timeline starting on page 12, I made a startling discovery in the course of my research: that for 11 months from March, 1996, through February of 1997 Gregory Scarpa Jr., the son of the most violent Mafia capo in history, began a sting operation for the FBI after he found himself in a jail cell in the MCC (Federal jail in Lower Manhattan) between Yousef and Abdul Hakim Murad, a Kuwaiti pilot trained in four U.S. flight schools who was to be the original pilot in the “hijack planes-turn-them-into-missiles” attack realized on 9/11.
I devoted half of my second terrorism book (Cover-Up in 2004) to the alleged “unholy alliance” between Scarpa Senior aka “The Grim Reaper” and his FBI contacting agent R. Lindley “Lin” DeVecchio, one of the most power Supervisory Special Agents in the FBI’s New York Office who ran two LCN squads: the Bonanno and the Colombo squads.
QUESTION: In your book you uncover quite a few mistakes made by the FBI and DeVecchio, some mistakes can simply be labeled breaking the law. The whole thing has a lot of similarities to the relationship between the FBI and Whitey Bulger no?
ANSWER: The alleged corrupt relationship between Greg Scarpa Sr., (photo right) a Top Echelon Criminal Informant (TECI) and his Bureau contacting agent Lin DeVecchio is quite similar to the proven corrupt relationship between James Whitey Bulger in Boston and his FBI handler John Connolly. Both Connelly and DeVecchio were highly decorated and renowned Mafia busters who were accused of leaking key intelligence to their TECI’s only to have them use that intel to commit multiple homicides.
Bulger is now on trial for 19 murders. In “Deal With The Devil” I document 26 murders committed by Scarpa Sr. directly or on his orders on DeVecchio’s watch from 1980-1992.
QUESTION: In “Deal With The Devil” you report that although the cases were similar there were also significant differences. What were they?
ANSWER: Unlike the Bulger case in which John Connolly’s own Supervisor John Morris testified against him after admitting he had accepted $7,000 in bribes from Bulger and Steven “The Rifelman” Flemmi, Connolly was vigorously prosecuted by state and federal authorities.
Lin DeVecchio refused to take a polygraph during his OPR and was granted immunity by the Justice Department not once, but twice (in 1995 and 1997). A move that was virtually unprecedented for an SSA during the courts of an OPR investigation.
QUESTION: You also reported that the U.S. Department of Justice went to extroardinary lengths in support of DeVecchio’s defense at his trial. What did they do?
ANSWER: During Lin’s trial on four counts of murder conspiracy in 2007 it was revealed that the DOJ was actually paying part of DeVecchio’s legal bill and prior to the trial, the Bureau of Prisons (a division of the Justice) moved Abdul Hakim Murad, a convicted al Qaeda terrorist, from the Supermax in Florence Colorado to the MCC (Federal jail in Lower Manhattan) and located him in a cell near Greg Scarpa Jr. who was to be another prominent witness against DeVecchio. Scarpa Jr. had conducted an 11-month sting in 1996-97 that led to Murad’s conviction. That unprecedented move was interpreted by critics as an attempt at witness tampering.
QUESTION: How else did they impact the trial?
ANSWER: At the time three of the special agents who had formerly accused DeVecchio of misconduct testified, they were monitored by two lawyers from Justice who sat in the empty jury box just a few feet away from them and repeatedly objected to questions from the D.A.. This had the effect of significantly diminishing their testimony.
QUESTION: But why is the Justice Department now so vigoursly prosecuting Whitey Bulger while giving DeVecchio a pass?
ANSWER: Other than embarrassment, there is no downside to the DOJ or the FBI in John Connelly’s convictions or in Bulger’s ongoing prosecution.
But Scarpa Sr. provided most of the probable cause in the Title III wiretaps used to convict the Mafia bosses in the Commission case – a prosecution that advanced Rudolph Giuliani’s political career. If Lin DeVecchio, Scarpa Sr.’s handler, had been convicted of a single murder, the consequences for the FBI and DOJ might have been catastrophic; with dozens of surviving mobsters demanding new trials or early release dates. They just couldn’t afford for that to happen.
QUESTION: In the “Deal with the Devil” between the FBI and Scarpa Sr., who do you think played who? Was Scarpa solely using and manipulating the FBI or was the FBI mostly using Scarpa and, if so, in which ways?
ANSWER: There is no question that Scarpa Sr. who was also known on the street as “The Mad Hatter” and “The Grim Reaper,” got the best out of the deal. One of the most fascinating aspects of what I found was just how brilliant this man was – an absolutely world class Machiavellian chess master who manipulated the Bureau contacting agents like Lin DeVecchio, senior FBI officials in D.C. from J. Edgar Hoover forward to the early 1990’s and virtually everybody above him in the Colombo crime family from the level of soldier to boss.
Either by literally killing them or supplying the Feds with enough dirt to get them indicted, Scarpa Sr. succeeded in eliminating anyone who was a threat to his longevity. If this man had gone straight he could have been the CEO of a major corporation.
QUESTION: In your book you mention your hopes for the future of Greg Scarpa Junior and Vic Orena. How do you view their chances of ever getting out or at even getting another shot in court? Why?
ANSWER: In the book I make an extremely compelling argument that Vic Orena Sr., the former acting boss of the Colombo family, who was Scarpa Sr.’s principal target in the third family “war’ from 1991-1993 is innocent of the murder of Tommy Ocera, a restaurateur, gambler and loan shark who was strangled to death with a piano wire and buried in a shallow grave in 1989.
I also argue that given his “substantial assistance” to the U.S. in his 11-month sting of Ramzi Yousef in 1996-97 and his help in helping the FBI find undiscovered explosives in the basement of the former home of convicted Oklahoma City bomber Terry Nichols in 2005, that Greg Jr. who has served more than 23 years (for crimes committed on his father’s orders while he was a TECI) should be released under Rule 5K1.1 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure which provide that inmates who help the government in that way can get their sentences reduced.
Whether either Orena or Scarpa Jr. see the light of day as free men will depend on the kind of impact “Deal With The Devil” receives and whether there is popular support for them.
QUESTION: Will DeVecchio ever face justice for his actions?
ANSWER: He can never be tried for the four homicides in the Brooklyn D.A.’s 2006 indictment because those charges were dismissed. I make the case in “Deal With The Devil,” that, at a minimum DeVecchio may have been guilty of criminally negligent homicide or manslaughter for the 26 murders committed by his confidential informant on his watch. But the statute of limitations on manslaughter in those cases has long since run.
Now that I’ve told the definitive story of the Scarpa-DeVecchio scandal, however, Lin may face a different kind of jury in the “court of public opinion.” Only he knows for sure just how far he may have crossed the line with Scarpa Sr. but in his 2011 biography “We’re Going to Win This Thing,” which I cite extensively in my book, he was not always forthcoming with the truth.
QUESTION: What struck me after reading Deal with the Devil were the countless innocent lives that were destroyed by the behavior of the FBI. The victims of mob violence, of terrorists, and of the cover-up that ensued to protect the FBI and uphold the big wins in court that sent dozens of mobsters to prison. What are your thoughts on that?
ANSWER: The FBI is one of the most important and powerful law enforcement agencies in the world, but it seems impervious to improvement of significant change. If you read that timeline from “Triple Cross” and go back and read all three books in my counter-terrorism trilogy you will be absolutely stunned and how many times the FBI dropped the ball in the 12 years leading up to the 9/11 attacks. I prove that they could have prevented the 1993 bombing and in doing so and wrapping up Ramzi Yousef back then, since he was the architect of the 9/11 plot there’s little doubt that the Twin Towers would be standing today if they had taken the right action.
QUESTION: I know that one of your central contentions is that the FBI’s obsession over going after the Mafia, caused them to take their eye off the counterterrorism ball. Can you elaborate?
ANSWER: I’ll refer your readers to a piece I wrote in November, 2006 for The Huffington Post. It’s called “Al Qaeda and The Mob: How The FBI Blew It On 9/11.” In it I describe how the FBI was onto Sphinx Trading, a mailbox and check cashing story in Jersey City, New Jersey as early as 1991. Patrick Fitzgerald and Andrew McCarthy but Waleed A. Noor, the co-incorporator of Sphinx in a list of 172 un-indicted co-conspirators in the 1995 “Day of Terror” case which focused on a fiendish al Qaeda plot to blow up the bridges & tunnels into Manhattan, the U.N. and 26 Federal Plaza the building that houses the FBI’s New York Office.
Believe it or not, in the summer of 2001 just months before the attacks of 9/11, Because al-Midhar and al-Hazmi, two of the muscle hijackers who flew AA #77 into the Pentagon on 9/11, not only had mailboxes at Sphinx but they got the fake IDs they used to board that flight from Mohammed El-Attriss, Sphinx’s co-founder and partner in Sphinx with Waleed al Noor.
All the FBI had to do was devote a fraction of the manpower and resources they’d spent for years monitoring John Gotti’s Ravenite Social Club to a surveillance of Sphinx Trading and they would have been in the middle of Ramzi Yousef’s “planes operation” which was executed by his uncle Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) on 9/11.
QUESTION: I understand that when it came to those two attacks on the World Trade Center, you were vindicated on one of your central findings published in your first book “1000 Years for Revenge.”
ANSWER: Yes. In April of 2010 the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, amended the superseding indictment of Yousef for the 1993 bombing to include KSM for 9/11.
This happened after the 9/11 Commission, before which I testified, concluded falsely that the 1993 bombing was carried out by a loosely organized group of Sunni Islamist unconnected to al Qaeda. Other top Feds like Patrick Fitzgerald questioned al Qaeda’s connection to the ’93 bombing as late as 2005. But five years later Fitzgerald’s own former office, the SDNY finally did what they should have done years before and formally connected Yousef and his uncle KSM to both attacks on the WTC.
QUESTION: What needs to change at the FBI in order to stop these incidents from happening again?
ANSWER: First the mindset that the Bureau can do no wrong. Last week Charles Savage and Michael Schmidt of the New York Times published a brilliant piece in which they examined every one of the shootings by FBI agents dating back to 1993 including about 70 people who were fatally show and another 80 who were wounded and in all 150 instances the FBI insisted that they were without fault.
But that’s just the most recent example of the “Bureau can do no wrong” policy. In “Deal With The Devil” I reported that nearly 12 years after 9/11 the FBI which has 5,000 agents assigned to counter-terrorism has just over 100 agents (and 340 full and part time support staff) fluent in the languages used most frequently by terrorists: “Arabic, Farsi and Urdu.” That represents less than two per cent. How in God’s name can the FBI be expected to be an effective threat prevention agency that that long after the deadliest terror attack in U.S. history, committed by al Qaeda operatives who spoke Arabic and/or Urdu can they expect to thwart the next plot.
And the fact that the Bureau had been warned by the Russian government to vet Tamerlan Tsarnaev in 2008 and clearly failed to fully vet him, is proof positive of the damage that can be done and will be done in the future if the Bureau doesn’t get better at this job.
The only way that will happen is if there is a public outcry and the first step for the public is to get educated. I’ve now devoted four books to a detailed audit of the FBI’s counter-terrorism and organized crime track record. I ask your readers to read my books – starting with “Deal With The Devil” and then go back to my 9/11 trilogy beginning with “1000 Years for Revenge,” then “Cover-Up” and “Triple Cross.” I believe they will find my revelations shocking in a page-turning way and they’ll come away with a blueprint for change at the FBI.
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