Posted on July 6, 2009
Copyright © www.gangstersinc.nl
We at Gangsters Inc are honored to present to you an interview with Sandra Harmon, the author of Mafia Son – The Scarpa Mob Family, the FBI, and a story of betrayal. The book tells the story of Gregory Scarpa Jr. A man who was taught about mob life by his father, Colombo capo Gregory Scarpa Sr. Scarpa Sr. played an important role during the Colombo war of the 1990s, while also being an informant for the FBI. Mafia Son reveals the true story behind the dealings Scarpa Sr. and Jr. had with the FBI, while also giving insight into the lives of the Scarpa family and crew members.
: Miss Harmon thank you so much for giving us this opportunity.Sandra Harmon
: Thanks for featuring me and my book on your web site. I appreciate it very much.David Amoruso
: Mafia Son is not your first book, but it is your first book about the mob. How did you become involved in this story and when did you think “I am going to write a book about this”?Sandra Harmon
: Before I wrote MAFIA SON, I knew nothing about crime. My first book was A GIRL LIKE ME, which was about my own life, then ELVIS AND ME, a giant best seller about Elvis and Priscilla Presley, GETTING TO I DO, about finding and keeping a successful relationship and the sequel, STAYING MARRIED AND LOVING IT, about making marriage work. I am also a successful television writer/producer and a relationship coach.
I never even considered writing a book about “the mob” until after I saw Linda Schiro, Greg Scarpa, Sr’s long time mistress, on “America’s Most Wanted”, crying about their dead son, Joey Schiro, and attempting to help capture Vinny Rizzuto, his “friend” and murderer. She was part moll and part mom. Soon we were meeting and she was telling me about mafia life.
I soon became intrigued by the twisted and sometimes tragic tale of the Scarpa mob family, including the fact that starting in the 1960’s, Greg Sr, was not only a cold blooded mafia murderer so addicted to violence that he was nicknamed “The Grim Reaper” but also a top echelon informant, working intimately with his FBI handlers – including the much publicized agent Lin DeVecchio – who protected him and granted him a virtual license to kill. It was Greg Jr., who, working for J. Edgar Hoover in 1968, went down to Mississippi, accompanied by seventeen year old Linda (he left his wife at home) brutalized a Ku Klux Klan member, and learned where the bodies of the three civil rights workers were buried.
I was also amazed to learn that Greg Sr., as macho a guy as ever lived, allowed Linda to bring a young man, Larry Mazza, into their bed for over fifteen years, and inexplicably made Mazza into his right hand man.
Finally, I learned that Greg Jr, his first born son, in jail at MCC in Manhattan awaiting trial, furnished the feds with detailed intelligence on what would eventually result in the 9/11 attacks, and for his efforts was ignored and sentenced to forty-years-to-life in isolation at the notorious ADMAX.
It was at that point that I decided I had to write a book about the culture of corruption and injustice that I had uncovered.DA
: Was it a difficult process? I can imagine you had to read up on the Colombo Family, the FBI, and the mob in New York in general.Sandra Harmon
: It was the most difficult task I have ever undertaken and from start to finish, MAFIA SON took me four years to write. Not only did I have to learn everything there was to know about the Colombo Crime family, the FBI and the five mob families in New York, I had to investigate in minute detail, the entire Scarpa family, their lives, loves, crimes, money making schemes, and murders, and the time line of everything, including Greg Sr’s corrupt relationships with his first FBI handler, Anthony Villano, and more specifically, his last, Lin DeVecchio, whom he called his “girlfriend”.
Then, in part because of an affidavit I submitted to the Brooklyn District Attorney, regarding what I had learned about the Patrick Porco murder from Linda Schiro, in which I recall her telling me that on DeVecchio’s strong advice, Greg Sr. had his son Joey Schiro murder his best friend, Patrick, Brooklyn D.A. Hynes indicted DeVecchio for four counts of murder.
Incredibly (to me), my “confidential” affidavit was leaked to the press, and I was reading about myself in The New York Post. All hell broke loose and suddenly, without realizing what I had gotten myself into, I was smack in middle of a murder trial of a highly respected FBI agent. This led to my being threatened by mafia types, intimidated by former FBI agents, ridiculed in local newspapers for lacking the journalist credentials of a “real crime writer,” denigrated in cyberspace (with the greatest venom generated on a web site known as the “Friends of Lin DeVecchio),and denounced in book by former undercover agent Joe Pistone.
I was also the recipient of endless hang-ups for months at a time, warned that in all likelihood my phone line was tapped, and that certain terrorist factions – through contacts in federal custody – had gained access to my address and phone number; as a result I was encouraged to “watch my back” at all times, although I never quite knew how to do that.DA
: Greg Scarpa Jr. is one of your most important sources. Could you tell us a bit about who he is and how you communicated with him?Sandra Harmon
: Gregory Scarpa Jr. the oldest of Greg Sr’s six children was a promising young athlete who worshipped his ruthless and manipulative father, and was slowly drawn into his dark world. He became mafia capo and worked for his father, until the late eighties, when Scarpa Sr. who had contracted the HIV Aids virus from a donation of blood for a transfusion from one of his crew members, was faced with arrest. He asked Greg Jr. to leave his wife and children, and take the fall for him. Sr. told Jr. that he and DeVecchio would see to it that he got no more than two years, to be served a prison near to his family. Greg Jr. believed him...
However, after a trial wherein the government painted Jr. as the kingpin of the Scarpa operation, instead of Sr., Greg Jr. got twenty years and was put into a Federal prison far from his Brooklyn neighborhood. There, while serving out his sentence, he beat up a mafia boss who had learned that Greg Sr. was an informant. A contract was put out on Greg Jr’s life and he was transferred to MCC in New York for safety. There he was indicted on superseding charges and put into a cell next to Ramzi Yousef. It was while he was awaiting his new trial that he made the deal with the Feds, to gather information from Yousef in exchange for a downward sentence. For the next year, Greg Jr. managed to get close to Yousef and gave the government the most important intelligence ever gathered pre 9/ll but his desperate warnings went unheeded, he was denied a downward sentence (although a plea bargain would have gotten him out in 17 years), and he was sent away for life to ADMAX, the most secure federal prison in the country, where he is kept in his cell 23 hours a day.
After I read FBI 302’s and other documents which proved that Greg Jr. intelligence was rock solid, I wrote to him and told him I would try to find him a pro bono lawyer to help him. I was not successful. For a year I approached many criminal attorneys’ famous and otherwise and nobody would take the case pro bono. So, I decided to write a book. Greg Jr. was eager to cooperate and began sending me hundreds of handwritten pages about his life, starting when he was a small boy and up to the present. His story and the story of his father and the FBI. We became good friends. I worried about him, fought for him and all during the time I was writing the book, I was also working to try to bring Greg Jr’s case to the attention of the public, the press, and the government, and still attempting to get him an attorney – all to no avail.
The only thing he didn’t write about were the murders he himself committed. Instead, he lied to me and told me as the son of a mafia big shot, he had a special dispensation from the mob so that he wouldn’t have to get blood on his hands. Naively, I believed him. (I found out the truth, more than two years later, during the DeVecchio trial)
Because all correspondence to and from prisoners are read before they go out or come in, most of our letters to one another went through a middle man, an attorney. The mail between an inmate and his or her attorney is privileged and cannot be opened by prison guards.DA
: Scarpa Jr. still is incarcerated at Florence ADMAX. When did you last hear from him? What does he think of your book and the publicity it has caused?Sandra Harmon
: Yes. Greg Jr. is still at Florence, ADMAX where he believes he will be until the day he is murdered.
I last heard from him right before the book was published. I sent him the cover, the copy and many of the blurbs from famous crime book authors praising the book. I can’t send him the book itself because the prison won’t allow him to have it. But after he got what I could send, he wrote back that he loved it all – it was perfect – and he couldn’t believe that I actually wrote and published the book. I also heard from one of his children who liked it very much.DA
: Linda Schiro was Gregory Scarpa Sr. girlfriend and an important figure in this story. What did she think of your book?Sandra Harmon
: I don’t know. I never personally heard from her about it.DA
: What struck me after reading your book is that it paints a very dubious picture of the FBI. In your book you write about people connected to Lin DeVecchio threatening you. Did any FBI agents that are still active come out in support of your story/book?Sandra Harmon
: Are you kidding? FBI agents stick together, forever.DA
: You point out that the FBI refuses to acknowledge Scarpa Jr. as a credible witness because it could jeopardize the trials against Colombo Family mobsters that had already been won. While doing research for your book, what did you find with regards to reasons behind the importance of mob trials for the FBI? (I ask because they decided to ignore Scarpa Jr. information regarding terrorist threats.)Sandra Harmon
: At that time, in the late 90’s, getting rid of the Mafia on RICO charges were what the Federal prosecutors in New York were about. Terrorists were not high on their list. Greg Jr. not only testified about Ramsey Yousef, he also testified about DeVecchio and his sordid relationship with Greg Sr., and since DeVecchio had helped make many of the cases that the Feds were indicting, they didn’t want the jury to hear anything bad about him. The result was that they made certain the jury believed that Greg jr. was lying.
Here’s an example:
Powell's Books - Convictions: A Prosecutor's Battles against Mafia Killers, Drug Kingpins, and Enron Thieves by John Kroger
In the prologue, above, of a 2008 book by newly elected Oregon Attorney General John Kroger, he talks about when he was a Federal Prosecutor who was prosecuting Greg Scarpa, Jr. and to prove what lengths he would go to in order to get a conviction, to secure his own future, writes the following:
"Late in the trial Scarpa took the stand and told the jury that the United States government had authorized his life of crime: that the FBI was corrupt, that he and his hitman father had been on the government informant payroll for years, and that he had worked as an FBI antiterrorism spy, complete with a miniature camera. When I cross-examined Scarpa, I ignored these stories completely, hoping the jury would conclude they were bizarre and irrelevant fantasies. Actually, many of Scarpa’s allegations were true."
Yet another public servant who ignored Greg Jr's intelligence in order to make a conviction. Does he know or care that Greg's intelligence might have averted 9/11?DA
: Are you planning to continue researching the FBI or Mafia for a future project?Sandra Harmon
: No. It is too ugly a world for me to inhabit again and it is not always easy to tell the good guys from the bad guys.DA
: During the trial of Lin DeVecchio you were called to testify. Could you tell us a bit about that?Sandra Harmon
: I must be the only person in the world who has never seen “Law and Order. Not knowing the word “discovery”, during the D.A.’s investigation, I had amassed so much information about Scarpa Sr. and DeVecchio that I began sending everything I had to two Assistant District Attorney’s who were investigating the case. To my shock and amazement, they ultimately had to turn over everything I gave them to the defense and I was called as a witness for both the prosecution and the defense.
Not only was I aghast, as I had promised to cover the trial for the book, and now I could not because I wasn’t allowed in the courtroom except to testify, I was forced to hire a first amendment attorney to represent my journalistic first amendment rights and first amendment attorneys, especially when they are as good as mine was, are very costly. And the publisher, St. Martins Press, refused to pick up the attorneys tab.
I ultimately testified before the judge in a pretrial hearing, whereupon I decided to quell my anxiety by pretending I was a guest on a television talk show. Although I had never testified in a court of law, I had gone on many talk shows and even shot a pilot for my own show, The Love Judge. It was actually a cool experience and I believe I deflected the defense attorney’s pointed questions in a variety of interesting and humorous ways. I could tell the judge thought so too.
I was scheduled to appear a the trial as a witness for both sides – a hostile witness for the defense, however, shortly after the trial began, and Linda Schiro, the principal witness for the prosecution was testifying about the four murders DeVecchio had colluded in, Tom Robbins, a respected journalist for the Village Voice, stopped the trial cold by bringing in a tape that had been made ten years earlier, when Capeci and Robbins, two journalists who were interviewing Linda for a book, had recorded her saying that DeVecchio had nothing to do with three of the four murder. Had Linda lost all credibility? The District Attorney obviously thought so. The trial was halted, I no longer had to testify and Linda was investigated for perjury, Most importantly, DeVecchio walked.DA
: Tom Robbins and Jerry Capeci also became active participants in the trial. What did you think of their behavior?Sandra Harmon
: I have mixed feelings. It is difficult for me not to believe they knew exactly what was on the tapes they had, and if so, they should have given them to the District Attorney, much earlier and not grandstanded mid trial. I have spoken to both of them separately and they vehemently disagree with me. On the other hand, the D.A. could have continued the trial because there was one more murder everyone agreed that DeVecchio was responsible for – Patrick Porco – the young man murdered by Joey Schiro, which I had written about in y affidavit to the D.A.DA
: Do you think the truth behind the Scarpa/FBI relationship will ever be revealed?Sandra Harmon
: It is been revealed by me and others through the years but nobody seems to care. When he was investigated by his own guys, the FBI, he came though with flying colors.A few questions from readers of the Gangsters Inc. website:Paul-Chafs wants to know
: Why didn’t father and son Scarpa enter the witness protection program when they had the chance?Sandra Harmon
: I don’t know that they had the chance, or the choice. Greg Sr. was very sick with HIV and died in a hospital prison. Greg was indicted on RICO charges and went to prison. He made a downward sentence deal and was screwed by the government.Don would like to know
: What kind of feelings do you have for these people (the Scarpas, mobsters in general)? Do you have any respect for them?Sandra Harmon
: I feel no respect for the Scarpa’s and/or mobsters in general. I feel fear and disgust. Had I not gotten to know Greg Jr. through years of letters, I would have passed him off as a monster. And maybe to many of you, he is. But to me, I see a man who for the most part, has done monstrous things.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere” and that is really the theme of my book.David Amoruso
: Sandra Harmon, thank you for this interview.
You can read more about the book and author at www.mafiason.com