THE G-MAN AND THE HIT MAN

New York­er, Decem­ber 12, 1996

A REPORTER AT LARGE  Gre­go­ry Scarpa, Sr., was a mafioso with a pen­chant for bru­tal­i­ty, extor­tion, and mur­der. So what was he doing on the F.B.I.‘s pay­roll?
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BY FREDRIC DANNEN

IN 1991, the Colom­bo crime fam­i­ly in Brook­lyn went to war with itself: a rebel fac­tion tried to seize con­trol of the fam­i­ly from its boss, Carmine Per­si­co, who was serv­ing life in jail. Gre­go­ry Scarpa, Sr., a sixty-three-year-old mob­ster, imme­di­ate­ly took com­mand of the armed fac­tion loy­al to Per­si­co. Scarpa was seri­ous­ly ill: as the result of a blood trans­fu­sion, he was H.I.V.-positive. His body had shriv­elled from a mus­cu­lar two hun­dred and twenty-five pounds to a gaunt one-fifty, his stom­ach had been removed dur­ing surgery, and he digest­ed his food with pancreatic-enzyme pills. Yet Scarpa, a mul­ti­ple mur­der­er, hadn’t slowed down. Dur­ing the sev­en months that the shoot­ing war last­ed, he could be seen dri­ving with his troops along Avenue U, in Brook­lyn, scout­ing out the social clubs and bars where mem­bers of the ene­my fac­tion were like­ly to be found. Some­times he drove past the rebels’ hous­es, and one night he sur­prised a rebel who stood on a lad­der, with his back turned, hang­ing Christ­mas lights on his house. Scarpa rolled down his car win­dow, stuck out his rifle, and picked the man off with three shots. Then he paged his con­sigliere with the satan­ic code 666, to sig­ni­fy a fresh kill.
     By the time the war end­ed, in June, 1992, ten peo­ple had died, includ­ing an inno­cent man of eigh­teen who was shot acci­den­tal­ly at a Brook­lyn bagel shop. Ten more peo­ple had been wound­ed, among them a fifteen-year-old bystander, who was shot in the head. By far the most vio­lent par­tic­i­pant in the war was Scarpa: he mur­dered four peo­ple and wound­ed two.
     At the Man­hat­tan office of the F.B.I., squads had been in place since the eight­ies to inves­ti­gate all five New York Mafia fam­i­lies. The super­vi­sor of the squad for the Colom­bo and Bonan­no fam­i­lies was R. Lind­ley DeVec­chio, a dap­per, curly-haired man of aver­age height, with a mus­tache, whom friends and col­leagues called Lin. He was a well-liked vet­er­an who had been with the Bureau since the J. Edgar Hoover era, and he had come up through the New York office as an old­er col­league of Louis Freeh, the cur­rent F.B.I. direc­tor. The Colom­bo war pre­sent­ed a unique chal­lenge to DeVec­chio. The F.B.I. had a duty to try to pre­vent vio­lence of every type, even among crim­i­nals. If it could learn, per­haps from an infor­mant, when and where a hit team was to be mobi­lized, the shoot­ers could be inter­cept­ed in the act. DeVec­chio did, in fact, have an infor­mant inside the Per­si­co fac­tion of the Colom­bo fam­i­ly. That infor­mant, how­ev­er, was hard­ly like­ly to divul­ge the activ­i­ties of the faction’s hit team, for the sim­ple rea­son that he was its leader—Gregory Scarpa him­self.
     Scarpa had had a secret rela­tion­ship with the F.B.I. since the ear­ly nineteen-sixties, though for two extend­ed peri­ods he had been “closed,” which is to say that he and the Bureau had had a falling out, and no agent was autho­rized to make con­tact with him. In 1980, DeVec­chio had tak­en the ini­tia­tive to seek out Scarpa, win back his good graces, and reopen him for the first time in five years. It had been a spec­tac­u­lar career move. Scarpa was no ordi­nary infor­mant; he was clas­si­fied as a T.E., for “top ech­e­lon,” source. DeVec­chio was pro­mot­ed to squad super­vi­sor in 1983. Large­ly because of his work with Scarpa—and with a sec­ond, uniden­ti­fied mob­ster, it was said—DeVecchio became one of the Bureau’s most admired experts on deal­ing with infor­mants, and was accord­ed the hon­or of being asked to teach infor­mant devel­op­ment to recruits at the F.B.I.’s train­ing acad­e­my, in Quan­ti­co, Vir­ginia.
     DeVec­chio told his stu­dents that when it came to build­ing a rap­port with an infor­mant, train­ing alone was no sub­sti­tute for hav­ing the right per­son­al­i­ty. He was a nat­u­ral him­self, even if his upbringing—he is a native of Fres­no, Cal­i­for­nia, and the son of a dec­o­rat­ed Army colonel buried at Arling­ton Nation­al Cemetery—could not account for it. DeVec­chio had become a flashy dresser: at work, he wore a gold bracelet, silk pock­et squares, and shirts with mono­grams. He was also an avid gun col­lec­tor. He had learned the moves and the jar­gon of mafiosi on the streets of New York, and he was proud of it. “I’ve spent vir­tu­al­ly twenty-nine years of my life talk­ing to wise guys,” he said recent­ly. “You either know how to talk to them or you don’t. Many a com­pe­tent agent doesn’t have the street sense.” DeVec­chio, who has a coarse sense of humor, recalled that his stan­dard open­ing remark to the stu­dents was “I have two col­lege degrees, and my vocab­u­lary has degen­er­at­ed to four-letter words, and if that both­ers you—fuck you!
     Even agents with the keen­est street sense might have found it intim­i­dat­ing to deal with Scarpa, an impos­ing man with a deep voice, who once said of him­self, “The sign of my birth is Tau­rus, which is a bull,” and who, in a wire­tapped con­ver­sa­tion dur­ing the eight­ies, con­vinc­ing­ly made pro­nounce­ments such as “I don’t have my mon­ey by Thurs­day, I’ll put him right in the fuck­ing hos­pi­tal.” What­ev­er chem­istry exist­ed between him and Lin DeVec­chio, it was strong. Infor­mants are sup­posed to be han­dled by two agents at a time, and the Bureau dis­cour­aged any­one of super­vi­so­ry rank from oper­at­ing an infor­mant. Those guide­li­nes were waived for DeVec­chio because, he insist­ed, that was how Scarpa want­ed it—there was no oth­er agent he trust­ed. For more than a decade, DeVec­chio was almost always unac­com­pa­nied when he met with Scarpa—at an apart­ment rent­ed by the F.B.I. or in a hotel room, or at some oth­er pre­arranged loca­tion. Some­times DeVec­chio deliv­ered cash to Scarpa. The two men left each oth­er phone mes­sages as “Mr. Del­lo,” their shared code name, and spoke fre­quent­ly via a spe­cial tele­phone at the F.B.I. build­ing called the hel­lo line, which could not be traced. F.B.I. reports show that dur­ing the sev­en months of the Colom­bo war they met or spoke, on the aver­age, at least every ten days.
     Dur­ing the war, DeVec­chio main­tained that Scarpa was not an active par­tic­i­pant, but some younger agents were hear­ing repeat­ed reports to the con­trary. They were alarmed. In 1980, the Depart­ment of Jus­tice had issued detailed guide­li­nes: if an infor­mant was sus­pect­ed of involve­ment in any “seri­ous act of vio­lence,” the super­vi­sor in charge was required to con­sid­er clos­ing him and tar­get­ing him for arrest. While it was under­stand­able that DeVec­chio might be reluc­tant to close a top-echelon informant—particularly some­one who had helped make his career—that seem­ing reluc­tance put him at odds with some of his own agents. Even­tu­al­ly, four of them report­ed to the Bureau that, in an appar­ent effort to pro­tect Scarpa not mere­ly from arrest but from his ene­mies in the Mob, DeVec­chio had leaked sen­si­tive, con­fi­den­tial infor­ma­tion to him. One agent has alleged that DeVec­chio became com­pro­mised to the point of help­ing Scarpa locate peo­ple that Scarpa want­ed to kill.
     In ear­ly 1994, DeVec­chio was placed under inves­ti­ga­tion, but in the mean­time he was nei­ther dis­charged nor put on admin­is­tra­tive leave. Instead, he was moved off his squad to anoth­er super­vi­so­ry position—as the F.B.I.’s drug-enforcement coor­di­na­tor for the entire North­east­ern Unit­ed States, with unre­strict­ed access to clas­si­fied doc­u­ments. He con­tin­ued to hold that job after he informed the Bureau in a sworn state­ment that he was not amenable to a vol­un­tary poly­graph exam­i­na­tion, and, incred­i­bly, even after invok­ing his Fifth Amend­ment priv­i­lege and refus­ing to tes­ti­fy about his con­duct as an F.B.I. super­vi­sor at a hear­ing last May. No F.B.I. official—not even Louis Freeh or the New York chief, James Kallstrom—would com­ment on why a man being inves­ti­gat­ed for leak­ing infor­ma­tion was kept in a post requir­ing top-security clear­ance. Dou­glas Grover, DeVecchio’s lawyer, says it is because the Bureau had always under­stood what DeVec­chio was doing to pro­tect a valu­able infor­mant, and had approved of his actions. “What­ev­er Lin did, he did it as an agent of the insti­tu­tion, both lit­er­al­ly and fig­u­ra­tive­ly, act­ing on behalf of the F.B.I.,” Grover says.

 

THE con­fi­den­tial infor­mant has been a sta­ple of the F.B.I. for decades; J. Edgar Hoover exhort­ed agents to devel­op at least four such infor­mants a year. Unlike coop­er­at­ing witnesses—criminals who have been caught and have agreed to tes­ti­fy in exchange for leniency—confidential infor­mants are not expect­ed to take the wit­ness stand. They func­tion as under­cov­er agents. From infor­mants, the Bureau learns what phones to tap and what meet­ings to sub­ject to sur­veil­lance. The top-echelon infor­mant is that rare source high enough in a crim­i­nal enter­prise to provide what the Bureau calls “sin­gu­lar” infor­ma­tion, such as a detailed orga­ni­za­tion chart of the enter­prise. Doc­u­ments made pub­lic as a result of the inves­ti­ga­tion of DeVec­chio show that Scarpa peri­od­i­cal­ly sup­plied infor­ma­tion of this kind. On one occa­sion, for instance, he gave up the names of three peo­ple pro­posed for mem­ber­ship in the Colom­bo family—including one who had been spon­sored by Scarpa him­self.
     Crim­i­nal infor­mants are often essen­tial for mak­ing cas­es, and courts have long upheld the legal­i­ty of their use. How­ev­er, because they are prac­tic­ing crim­i­nals they must be han­dled with extreme care, so that, in the words of the Jus­tice Depart­ment guide­li­nes, “the gov­ern­ment itself does not become a vio­la­tor of the law.” The F.B.I. has repeat­ed­ly been accused of over­pro­tect­ing its crim­i­nal sources. In 1985, fed­er­al pros­e­cu­tors, unaware that the Team­sters boss Jack­ie Presser was a top-echelon F.B.I. infor­mant, sought an indict­ment again­st him for putting two ghost employ­ees on the pay­roll. The fol­low­ing year, three Cleve­land F.B.I. agents were inves­ti­gat­ed for hav­ing blocked the indict­ment, alleged­ly by invent­ing an ali­bi for Presser. Dur­ing an inter­nal inquiry, one of those agents, Robert Friedrick, admit­ted to his role in cre­at­ing the pho­ny ali­bi. His state­ment was ruled inad­mis­si­ble, how­ev­er, and obstruc­tion charges again­st him were dis­missed; the oth­er agents were nev­er charged.
     The F.B.I. had helped keep Presser on the street, but Presser, unlike Greg Scarpa, had nev­er shown a pen­chant for vio­lence. Scarpa had oth­er qual­i­ties that made him a dan­ger­ous choice for infor­mant: he was shrewd, and he had a proven abil­i­ty to bend peo­ple to his will. “Greg was a true Machi­avel­li,” Louis Dia­mond, a for­mer attor­ney of his, says. “He was the pup­peteer. He lived to manip­u­late peo­ple again­st peo­ple.” Dia­mond adds that Scarpa was “one of the bet­ter gin-rummy play­ers,” and that the game showed off his “bril­liance” and “abil­i­ty to focus and plan.” For thir­ty years, he adds, “Greg was able to keep the gov­ern­ment on the schneider”—a cardplayer’s term for pre­vent­ing your oppo­nent from scor­ing a point.
     Scarpa was first offi­cial­ly opened by the F.B.I. on March 20, 1962, reput­ed­ly after agents seized him out­side New York State for an armed rob­bery. It is not hard to see how his long rela­tion­ship with the Bureau worked to his ben­e­fit. Accord­ing to an asso­ciate, he “hat­ed doing time,” and, unlike most Mob fig­ures, he seemed nev­er to go to jail. Dur­ing his three decades as an infor­mant, his only incar­cer­a­tion, at Rik­ers Island for brib­ing two police­men, was thir­ty days in 1978—one of the years in which he was closed by the F.B.I. He had pre­vi­ous­ly been arrest­ed for book­mak­ing, assault with a lead pipe (twice), hijack­ing a tractor-trailer load­ed with J. & B. Scotch, pos­ses­sion of stolen mail, and inter­state trans­porta­tion of stolen bonds. In each instance, the charges were dis­missed.
     Scarpa’s abil­i­ty to stay out of jail did not go unno­ticed by his Mob asso­ciates, and peri­od­i­cal­ly there were rumors that he was a snitch. But every­one in the fam­i­ly knew that the gov­ern­ment did not ally itself with killers, and, as one asso­ciate point­ed out about Scarpa, “He was crazy. He killed a lot. He was nuts.” Lou Dia­mond adds, “Greg was an absolute­ly fear­less man who enjoyed killing, and enjoyed vengeance. And enjoyed the sub­tle­ty. He would smile at a guy, take him out to din­ner, and blow his brains out.” After Scarpa became sick, he pro­posed that some­one get him a wheel­chair and roll him into a room­ful of ene­mies with a machine gun hid­den under his blan­ket. His asso­ciates gave him nick­names: the Mad Hat­ter, the Grim Reaper, Gen­er­al Schwarzkopf.
     By the start of the Colom­bo war, Scarpa had mur­dered no few­er than eight peo­ple, and prob­a­bly many more. One of his vic­tims, accord­ing to a gov­ern­ment doc­u­ment, was a Man­hat­tan doc­tor named Eli Sck­ol­nick. In the late sev­en­ties, Sck­ol­nick lost his license to prac­tice med­i­cine and trans­ferred title to a lucra­tive abor­tion clin­ic to a nurse who was on inti­mate terms with Scarpa. In the ear­ly eight­ies, Scarpa put a stop to Sckolnick’s demands for mon­ey from the clin­ic by obtain­ing his address in Forest Hills and killing him. In 1984, it is alleged, Mary Bari, a young wom­an who was thought to know the where­abouts of a Colom­bo fugi­tive, was lured to a bar on the pre­text of a job offer, was shot by Scarpa, and was tossed, dead, into the trunk of a car.
     Scarpa was born in Brook­lyn on May 28, 1928. He appears to have been drawn into the Colom­bo family—then called the Pro­faci family—by his old­er broth­er, Sal­va­tore, who died in a shoot­ing in 1987. In the ear­ly fifties, Scarpa mar­ried Con­nie For­rest; they had one daugh­ter and three sons, includ­ing Gre­go­ry, Jr., who fol­lowed his father into the Mafia. By the time Scarpa sep­a­rat­ed from his wife, around 1973, he had had anoth­er son with a long­time girl­friend, Lin­da Schi­ro. Mean­while, though he con­tin­ued to live with Schi­ro, and had nev­er divorced For­rest, he mar­ried Lili Dajani, a Palestinian-Israeli beau­ty queen, in 1975, in Las Veg­as. Around 1978, Schi­ro began see­ing a deliv­ery boy named Lar­ry Maz­za; Scarpa per­mit­ted their love affair to con­tin­ue, and, in the mean­time, he induct­ed Maz­za into his crew.
     A num­ber of crew­men answered to Scarpa’s author­i­ty, but DeVec­chio says that Scarpa nev­er assumed the for­mal title of cap­tain. He was what mafiosi call “a good earn­er.” His income came from loan-sharking, book­mak­ing, the sale of mar­i­jua­na and cocaine, secu­ri­ties and credit-card fraud, oper­at­ing an auto-theft ring, and oth­er forms of lar­ce­ny. Simul­ta­ne­ous­ly, he received mon­ey from the gov­ern­ment: two hun­dred and fifty-three dol­lars a mon­th in Social Secu­ri­ty, and a total of at least a hun­dred and fifty thou­sand dol­lars in untaxed income—informant fees—from the F.B.I.
     His ear­ly use by the Bureau went far beyond infor­mant, and may have per­suad­ed him that his violence—at least, when it was direct­ed toward oth­er bad guys—had the government’s tac­it approval. In the six­ties, J. Edgar Hoover was crit­i­cized for the Bureau’s fail­ure to pro­tect the civil rights of blacks in the Deep South. Con­se­quent­ly, the F.B.I. resort­ed to extreme mea­sures in its war on the Ku Klux Klan. On Jan­u­ary 10, 1966, the day after Ver­non Dah­mer, a black farmer and mer­chant in For­rest Coun­ty, Mis­sis­sip­pi, agreed to make his gro­cery store avail­able as a place for blacks to pay poll tax, Klans­men set his house on fire, fatal­ly sear­ing his lungs and bad­ly burn­ing his ten-year-old daugh­ter. Attor­ney Gen­er­al Nicholas Katzen­bach promised to com­mit “the full resources of the Jus­tice Depart­ment” to catch­ing the per­pe­tra­tors. On Jan­u­ary 21st, the Jack­son, Mis­sis­sip­pi, office of the F.B.I. called the New York office and, as record­ed in an inter­nal memo, request­ed the use of infor­mant NY-3461—Gregory Scarpa—for a spe­cial assign­ment.
     One of the imme­di­ate sus­pects in the Dah­mer homi­cide was Lawrence Byrd, the own­er of Byrd’s Radio & TV Ser­vice in Lau­rel, Mis­sis­sip­pi, who held the post of sen­a­tor in the Klan. One evening in late Jan­u­ary, at around nine o’clock, as Byrd was about to close his shop, Scarpa and an F.B.I. agent agreed to buy a tele­vi­sion from Byrd and asked him to help car­ry it to a car parked out­side. Byrd was pistol-whipped, shoved into the back seat, forced to lie down, and dri­ven, he believed, to Camp Shel­by, a mil­i­tary base built on rural Mis­sis­sip­pi swamp­land. There Scarpa beat a con­fes­sion out of him. “Lawrence was a tough guy—a big, raw­boned coun­try boy—but he was beat up so bad he was nev­er the same after that,” says W. O. (Chet) Dil­lard, the local dis­trict attor­ney, who vis­it­ed Byrd in the hos­pi­tal imme­di­ate­ly after the kid­nap­ping. Byrd implored Dil­lard not to inves­ti­gate the mat­ter, and in ear­ly March he signed a twenty-two-page con­fes­sion pre­pared by the F.B.I., in which he incul­pat­ed him­self and sev­en oth­er Klans­men. He got ten years for arson, and died ear­ly last year, hav­ing nev­er learned that his bru­tal inter­roga­tor was a New York mafioso.

 

LIN DEVECCHIO plain­ly has a fas­ci­na­tion with mob­sters, and dur­ing two inter­views con­duct­ed for this account he made no attempt to hide it. He did not sim­ply describe the wise guys he has known but mim­ic­ked them, down to their Brook­lyn accents. He recalled a time when a fellow-agent intro­duced him­self to an organized-crime fig­ure stiffly, with a flash of his badge, “and the guy says to him, ‘So whad­dya want me to do—shit in my pants?’” DeVec­chio laughed. His bad-guy imi­ta­tions some­times had an edge; at one point, he said he hoped that he would like this arti­cle, so that “I don’t have to come look­ing for you some dark night.”
     DeVec­chio spoke enthu­si­as­ti­cal­ly about how Mob fig­ures had edu­cat­ed him to their way of look­ing at things. “It’s a for­eign cul­ture to most of us,” he said. “And you have to— ‘Respect’ is not the word, but you have to at least admire a guy who lives in an envi­ron­ment where every day he’s look­ing over his shoul­der. Scarpa used to tell me, ‘I’d be called to meet­ings, and I’d leave my watch and valu­ables at home—I didn’t know if I was com­ing back.’ To sur­vive in that milieu takes a spe­cial kind of per­son.” After a pause, he added, “That doesn’t mean Lin DeVec­chio con­dones that way of life.”
     One thing that seemed to inter­est DeVec­chio about organized-crime fig­ures was their abil­i­ty to kill in cold blood, and he went on, “I’ve asked a cou­ple of wise guys about that, and they say the first cou­ple of times it’s hard but after that it’s no big deal.” He per­son­al­ly found that unfath­omable, he said, but the mob­sters taught him how “to talk, to act, as a true killer does”—a facil­i­ty he used in under­cov­er work. He cre­at­ed an alter­na­tive iden­ti­ty for himself—a hit man named Tony DeAngelo—and used it to good effect on a num­ber of occa­sions. In 1983, a for­mer C.I.A. agent, Edwin Wilson, in pris­on await­ing tri­al for ille­gal­ly ship­ping weapons to Libya, was scout­ing for some­one he could hire to mur­der two fed­er­al pros­e­cu­tors and sev­er­al poten­tial wit­ness­es. A fellow-inmate tipped off the author­i­ties and then agreed to present DeVec­chio to Wilson, in a vis­i­tors’ room, as DeAn­gelo, the hit man. Days lat­er, Wilson arranged for his son Erik to pay DeVecchio—unwittingly, it appeared—close to ten thou­sand dol­lars in a hotel men’s room. Wilson was con­vict­ed of attempt­ed mur­der.
     DeVec­chio, who is in his mid-fifties, is a hus­band and par­ent; he asked that no oth­er details of his home life be dis­closed. He spoke freely, how­ev­er, about his late father, the Army colonel, who, as a finance offi­cer, aid­ed the Ital­ian gov­ern­ment in that country’s post­war recon­struc­tion. By the time DeVec­chio was eigh­teen, he had lived in Italy, Japan, and Bermu­da and in sev­er­al Amer­i­can cities. He got an under­grad­u­ate degree in polit­i­cal sci­ence at George Wash­ing­ton Uni­ver­si­ty, and, in 1963, was about to accept a full com­mis­sion in the mil­i­tary when the F.B.I. offered him a job as a clerk—an entree into becom­ing an agent.
In March, 1966, hav­ing com­plet­ed his agent train­ing and passed an oblig­a­tory per­son­al inspec­tion by Hoover, DeVec­chio was post­ed to upstate New York. He worked on rou­tine crimes, such as bank rob­bery and car theft. In April, 1967, he was trans­ferred to the New York City office, which was then on East Sixty-ninth Street; from that time for­ward, he spe­cial­ized in orga­nized crime. In less than a year, DeVec­chio says, “I had my first infor­mant under my belt.” He also set about earn­ing a master’s degree in crim­i­nal jus­tice from Long Island Uni­ver­si­ty.
     DeVec­chio found a kin­dred spir­it and men­tor on the organized-crime squad in Manhattan—an agent thir­teen years his senior named Antho­ny Vil­lano. “Tony had a very good way with wise guys,” DeVec­chio says. “I learned a lot of things by watch­ing Tony.” Vil­lano, who died of heart fail­ure in 1988, was an unortho­dox agent—a tough Brook­lynite, who once nar­row­ly avoid­ed arrest in a bar­room brawl. He oper­at­ed a num­ber of infor­mants, and one of them was Greg Scarpa. (DeVec­chio says he learned this only after Vil­lano quit the Bureau, in 1973.)
     Vil­lano left behind a blunt mem­oir of his F.B.I. career, writ­ten in 1977 with the author Ger­ald Astor and enti­tled “Brick Agent.” (In Hoover’s time, a street agent for the F.B.I. was said to be “on the bricks.”) Astor says that two pseu­do­ny­mous peo­ple in the book are actu­al­ly Scarpa. The book recounts that Scarpa had had his first rift with the Bureau before Vil­lano ever met him: he believed that the F.B.I. had welshed on a fifteen-hundred-dollar pay­ment owed him for his work in the Deep South. Vil­lano wrote that after find­ing Scarpa’s name in the closed-informant file he got him the mon­ey but was unable to win his coop­er­a­tion until he impressed the mob­ster, who was built like “an ox,” by arm-wrestling him to a stand­off.
     Vil­lano, who referred to devel­op­ing a crim­i­nal infor­mant as “get­ting mar­ried,” came to regard Scarpa as “a friend,” and repeat­ed­ly bent, or even broke, the law on his behalf. Often when Scarpa’s infor­ma­tion led to the recov­ery of stolen mer­chan­dise, Vil­lano col­lect­ed siz­able reward mon­ey for him from insur­ance com­pa­nies; and once, to make an ille­gal sports bet, Vil­lano used Scarpa as his book­ie. A more sig­nif­i­cant episode occurred when a crim­i­nal who could impli­cate Scarpa in acts of lar­ce­ny offered to coop­er­ate with the Bureau: Vil­lano silenced the man by invent­ing the fic­tion that the Colom­bo fam­i­ly planned to kid­nap his daugh­ter if he talked. The man died in pris­on.
     Although Scarpa tipped off the Bureau to a num­ber of major heists, Vil­lano wrote that all the time he him­self worked with Scarpa “I had to reas­sure myself that our rela­tion­ship was not the ulti­mate per­ver­sion of the whole law enforce­ment idea. In my mind, what we did was jus­ti­fied on the grounds of the great­est good.” Not every­one in the Bureau agreed. “I had a dis­cus­sion with Tony that made me think that Scarpa thought he had a license to kill,” one agent, now retired, recalls. “Around 1970, an infor­mant for the Drug Enforce­ment Admin­is­tra­tion got blown away, and the D.E.A. heard that Scarpa was the trig­ger­man. They want­ed to inter­ro­gate Scarpa, and Tony did a tap dance to obstruct their inves­ti­ga­tion. Scarpa was not arrest­ed or charged with that mur­der.”

 

     SCARPA was closed in 1975, two years after Vil­lano left the Bureau. DeVec­chio came across Scarpa’s name in the closed-informant file, just as his ex-colleague had done, and in 1980 he got per­mis­sion to try to reopen him. He says that he first called Vil­lano for advice but can’t now remem­ber what he was told. One day that year, DeVec­chio dressed casu­al­ly, drove to Scarpa’s res­i­dence, on Avenue J, in Brook­lyn, and wait­ed until Scarpa left the house alone. “I got out of the car and intro­duced myself,” he recalls. “I said, ‘I know you by reputation—you have a good rep­u­ta­tion on the street.’ I flat­tered him. I told him I worked the Colom­bo fam­i­ly, and I said, ‘I’m not look­ing for any­thing now, but one of the­se days I could use your help.’” Scarpa pro­vid­ed a phone num­ber. A few days lat­er, the two men went for a dri­ve, and Scarpa explained why he’d been closed: he had had a shout­ing match with the assis­tant direc­tor of the F.B.I.’s New York office over what he ter­med a bro­ken promise. “Scarpa said the guy was not a gen­tle­man,” DeVec­chio recalls. “I just played dumb.”
     DeVec­chio con­tin­ued to meet with Scarpa for the next eleven and a half years. He acknowl­edges that he found Scarpa “very per­son­able,” and that he accept­ed a few small gifts from him—a bot­tle of wine, a pan of lasag­na, and, in the ear­ly eight­ies, a Cab­bage Patch doll for a friend’s niece. “We got along,” he says. He does not char­ac­ter­ize Scarpa as hav­ing been a friend, how­ev­er, nor does he dis­tin­guish him from the oth­er top-echelon infor­mants he worked with in the course of his career—five in all.
     Although his squad had over­sight of both the Colom­bo and the Bonan­no fam­i­lies from the late eight­ies on, DeVec­chio says he had no knowl­edge until 1992, after the Colom­bo war had end­ed, that Scarpa was a mul­ti­ple mur­der­er. But he does say, “The infor­ma­tion we had for years and years on Scarpa was that he was a tough oppo­nent on the street. He was a vicious, tough man. But, you know, when you talk to any organized-crime mem­ber you can almost take it to the bank that he’s killed some­body.”
     DeVec­chio says he nev­er knew why Scarpa chose to coop­er­ate with the F.B.I. “I think part of his moti­va­tion was he thought there was a quid pro quo—that I could be of some help to him some­time, one hand wash­ing the oth­er.” He adds, “I think that’s illu­so­ry.” Ear­lier, he said, “A smart wise guy will talk to law enforce­ment in hopes—in hopes, not because it’s gonna happen—that he’ll derive some ben­e­fit from it. What does that mean? Does that mean a pass? He may think that. I’ll tell you right now, I told Scarpa, as I did all my oth­er T.E. infor­mants, ‘If you screw up, I’m not gonna help you out.’” The most he could ever do for an infor­mant who’d been arrest­ed, he says, was make his infor­mant sta­tus known to the pros­e­cu­tion and the judge.
     In prac­ti­cal terms, how­ev­er, this could amount to a pass. In 1985, the Secret Ser­vice, unaware that Scarpa was any­thing oth­er than a mob­ster sus­pect­ed of deal­ing in coun­ter­feit cred­it cards, sent an under­cov­er agent to his prin­ci­pal hang­out, the Wimpy Boys Ath­let­ic Club, in Brook­lyn, where the agent sold Scarpa three hun­dred blank Mas­ter­Card and Visa cards. Scarpa was indict­ed the fol­low­ing year by the Brook­lyn Orga­nized Crime Strike Force, and he agreed to plead guilty. In July, 1986, the strike force sent the judge a lengthy let­ter detail­ing Scarpa’s crim­i­nal his­to­ry and pen­chant for vio­lence, and urged that he be jailed and fined sub­stan­tial­ly. Then, with the per­mis­sion of F.B.I. offi­cials in Wash­ing­ton, DeVec­chio con­ferred with mem­bers of the strike force, and he and Scarpa met with the judge. Scarpa drew a ten-thousand-dollar fine and five years’ pro­ba­tion.

 

IN August, 1986, while Scarpa was await­ing the out­come of the credit-card case, he devel­oped bleed­ing ulcers and was admit­ted to Vic­to­ry Memo­ri­al Hos­pi­tal, in Brook­lyn. When med­ica­tion failed to stop the bleed­ing, he was told he would need trans­fu­sions. Scarpa did not want any of the hospital’s blood in his veins—in the words of one of his attor­neys, “Greg could nev­er be accused of being racial­ly liberal”—and he asked Lin­da Schi­ro to round up as many friends and rel­a­tives as she could. By the next day, almost thir­ty peo­ple had come to the hos­pi­tal, and blood from some of them was admin­is­tered to Scarpa with­out hav­ing been screened for H.I.V. One of the donors—Paul Mele, a weight lifter who served on Scarpa’s crew—had con­tract­ed the virus, appar­ent­ly from a steroid needle; six months after donat­ing his blood, he was dead.
     After the trans­fu­sions, Scarpa was tak­en to the oper­at­ing room at Vic­to­ry Memo­ri­al for emer­gen­cy ulcer surgery. He seemed fine for a day or two, but then came down with a high fever, and began drift­ing in and out of con­scious­ness. Lin­da Schi­ro claimed that the res­i­dent sur­geon who had per­formed the oper­a­tion, a Fil­ipino named Angeli­to Sebol­lena, insist­ed that every­thing was all right, but she was unnerved one day when she caught him shav­ing Scarpa’s face, in order to, as the doc­tor put it, “make him look nice.” She had Scarpa trans­ferred to Mt. Sinai Hos­pi­tal, in Man­hat­tan. There his stom­ach, which was hem­or­rhag­ing beyond repair, was removed. Scarpa final­ly went home in Octo­ber, with the aid of a walk­er.
     Scarpa blamed Sebol­lena for mak­ing a faulty inci­sion, and Vic­to­ry Memo­ri­al for expos­ing him to AIDS. He filed suit. Before long, Sebol­lena was in fur­ther trou­ble. In 1991, he inject­ed two male patients with the drug Versed, a central-nervous-system depres­sant that leaves a per­son con­scious but immo­bile, and per­formed oral sex on them. Gary Pillers­dorf, the lawyer who rep­re­sent­ed Scarpa at the medical-malpractice tri­al, in August, 1992, recalls that on the morn­ing of the open­ing state­ments the judge motioned him to the bench and said, “Let me get this straight. You’re rep­re­sent­ing a hit man with AIDS again­st a doc­tor who sodom­izes his patients. Am I on the right page?”
     Scarpa made a superb wit­ness in his own behalf. Chok­ing back tears, he tes­ti­fied that he was afraid now to kiss his grand­chil­dren, and he said that liv­ing with AIDS was like being “a per­son that’s con­demned to death and, each time he walks the cor­ri­dor to the exe­cu­tion, he gets a reprieve.” A black wom­an on the jury—an elementary-school prin­ci­pal, whose hus­band worked for the Brook­lyn D.A.’s office—began to cry; she lat­er described Scarpa as “a noble man.” Sev­er­al jurors lat­er said they had been pre­pared to award Scarpa mil­lions of dol­lars, but by August 28th he was too exhaust­ed to con­tin­ue with the tri­al, and agreed to a set­tle­ment of three hun­dred thou­sand dol­lars. He want­ed the mon­ey in twenty-four hours, how­ev­er, and in cash. The next morn­ing, he sent a body­guard, in a nylon jog­ging suit and heavy jew­el­ry, to a Man­hat­tan Citibank branch to col­lect it. Pillers­dorf says that bank employ­ees were non­plussed when the man tossed the cash into a duf­fel­bag with­out count­ing it, and were “wide-eyed” when he told them, “I know who you guys are, if there’s a prob­lem.”

 

WHILE Scarpa was recu­per­at­ing at home after his surgery, the fam­i­ly con­sigliere, Carmine Ses­sa, dropped in on him sev­er­al times. Once or twice, Ses­sa hand­ed Scarpa the phone and told him the caller was some­body named Mr. Del­lo, and he remem­bered hear­ing Scarpa once tell Del­lo, “But I already brought you up to date on that.” Ses­sa, who lat­er turned coop­er­a­tor, said he had always fig­ured that Scarpa had a friend in law enforcement—someone who pro­tect­ed him. Ses­sa also believed that Scarpa had an infor­ma­tion source in the gov­ern­ment. Dur­ing the Colom­bo war, some of Scarpa’s crew­men heard him refer to a source he called The Girl­friend, who was under­stood to be a man—not a lover, cer­tain­ly, but some­one Scarpa trust­ed deeply. When­ev­er The Girl­friend paged Scarpa, even if Scarpa was in a car on the high­way, he got to a phone as quick­ly as pos­si­ble. Scarpa seemed to have inside infor­ma­tion about the ene­my fac­tion dur­ing the war, includ­ing rebels’ address­es, and he told his crew­men that The Girl­friend was a mole in the ene­my camp. At least one of those crew­men, Joey Ambrosi­no, didn’t believe it; he lat­er told the author­i­ties that there was no way any rebel would trust some­one as “vicious” as Greg Scarpa.
     A num­ber of Scarpa’s asso­ciates had con­clud­ed that he had a law-enforcement source as ear­ly as 1987, because that year he had inside infor­ma­tion about a drug case. Around that time, he had joined his son Greg, Jr., and nine of Greg, Jr.,’s crew­men in a vio­lent narcotics-and-extortion enter­prise. Deal­ers who sold mar­i­jua­na and oth­er drugs in areas that Scarpa, Sr., con­sid­ered to be his turf, which includ­ed, for exam­ple, the cam­pus of the Col­lege of Staten Island, were required to make pay­offs of as much as a thou­sand dol­lars a day or have their bones bro­ken. With the help of a deal­er who had been beat­en with base­ball bats, the Drug Enforce­ment Admin­is­tra­tion soon began to build a case again­st Greg, Jr., and his crew. The D.E.A. was unaware that Scarpa, Sr., was involved in the enter­prise, but he knew all about the D.E.A. inves­ti­ga­tion. One day that sum­mer, Greg, Jr., showed some of his crew­men a piece of paper that he had got from his father, which list­ed ten peo­ple, includ­ing Greg, Jr., who had been tar­get­ed for arrest. He said the list had been sup­plied by “a friend” of his father’s, whom he also described as “an agent.”
     Scarpa, Sr., ordered that no one but Greg, Jr., attempt to flee—it is believed that he want­ed to learn how strong a case the gov­ern­ment had again­st his son-and the nine crew­men were arrest­ed on Novem­ber 12, 1987. Greg, Jr., could not be found. Valerie Caproni, the Brook­lyn fed­er­al pros­e­cu­tor han­dling the case, was angry. “This was going to be a big, expen­sive case to try, and our top defen­dant was in the wind,” she recalls. He was not caught until August, 1988, after being fea­tured on the tele­vi­sion pro­gram “America’s Most Want­ed,” by which time Caproni had con­vict­ed the nine crew­men. Though she sub­se­quent­ly con­vict­ed Greg, Jr., and he got twen­ty years, she com­plains that it was “not a lot of fun” to have to mount a sec­ond tri­al.
     Caproni, a South­ern­er with a rep­u­ta­tion for tough­ness, has since risen to chief of the crim­i­nal divi­sion of the Brook­lyn Unit­ed States Attorney’s Office. In ear­ly 1994, she learned from two of the con­vict­ed crew­men, who had become coop­er­at­ing wit­ness­es, that in 1987 Greg, Jr., had obtained a list of all her defen­dants. She plain­ly sus­pects Lind­ley DeVec­chio; in a court doc­u­ment she states that there is “some rea­son to believe” he leaked the list. DeVec­chio vehe­ment­ly denies doing so, but Caproni recalls that in the sum­mer of 1987, while the D.E.A. case was being devel­oped, she invit­ed an F.B.I. agent named Michael Tab­man to a plan­ning meet­ing, and that Tab­man took notes. Tab­man lat­er recalled, in a sworn state­ment, that some­time after the meet­ing he’d told DeVec­chio about the D.E.A. case, and found him “very inter­est­ed in this mat­ter.”
     Caproni also finds some rea­son to believe that DeVec­chio leaked anoth­er piece of con­fi­den­tial infor­ma­tion to Scarpa in 1987—information that near­ly got a man killed. She recalls say­ing at the sum­mer meet­ing in Tabman’s pres­ence that one of the crew­men she planned to indict, Cos­mo Catan­zano, was “a weak link,” who might coop­er­ate if he was arrest­ed. Tab­man says he doesn’t remem­ber this. That same sum­mer, Greg, Jr., informed one of his crew­men (who lat­er coop­er­at­ed with fed­er­al author­i­ties) that his father’s “agent source” had warned that Catan­zano was “going to rat.” Some­time after that, Scarpa, Sr., ordered that Catan­zano be mur­dered and buried-and quick­ly, because the D.E.A. arrests were immi­nent. Two crew­men dug a grave for Catan­zano in a seclud­ed spot off the Arthur Kill Road, in Staten Island, but Catanzano’s exe­cu­tion was foiled by his arrest. He nev­er did coop­er­ate. DeVec­chio denies ever men­tion­ing Catan­zano to Scarpa.

 

CAPRONI would not say any­thing about DeVec­chio in an inter­view, but she lav­ish­ly praised an agent named Christo­pher Favo, who had worked under him, and who became DeVecchio’s most vocal accuser. Favo, an attor­ney and a grad­u­ate of Notre Dame, joined the Bureau in 1983. “I think Chris Favo is an excel­lent agent,” Caproni said. “He’s an extreme­ly hard work­er. He’s very bright. I have used him as a wit­ness in a cou­ple of cas­es, and find him to be easy to pre­pare. He has a good mem­o­ry.” Dur­ing the Colom­bo war, Favo was, among oth­er things, an infor­ma­tion liaison between the F.B.I. and New York City police offi­cers, who found him rather straitlaced—”like a young sem­i­nar­i­an,” one recalls. But that was all right: the cops had been given the job of try­ing to sup­press the war by arrest­ing peo­ple for car­ry­ing guns, and they believed that Favo could be trust­ed. The stan­dard crit­i­cism of Favo was that he worked too hard—he seemed nev­er to go home—and that he want­ed to do every­thing him­self and would not del­e­gate respon­si­bil­i­ty.
     DeVec­chio doesn’t share Caproni’s high opin­ion of Favo. “Suf­fice it to say, he’s not a favorite of mine,” he says. “Everything’s black-and-white for Chris Favo. If you were cross­ing the street and missed the cross­walk by a foot, he’d give you a tick­et for jay­walk­ing. And he’s an ego­ma­ni­ac of the worst kind.”
     It was Favo who even­tu­al­ly report­ed DeVec­chio to the Bureau. Though Favo was joined by three oth­er agents when he voiced his sus­pi­cions, DeVec­chio says those agents were “duped” by Favo. They all mis­in­ter­pret­ed his actions, he says, because they all lacked street expe­ri­ence, and had “no clue” to what it took to oper­ate a top-echelon source. “Favo used to say, ‘I’ve got a lot of expe­ri­ence with coop­er­at­ing wit­ness­es,’” DeVec­chio says. “So what? Any­body can make a deal with some guy who doesn’t want to go to jail for the rest of his life. He nev­er worked in the street covert­ly and devel­oped an infor­mant.”
     Favo’s thoughts and actions dur­ing the Colom­bo war have been pre­served in tes­ti­mony, affi­davits, mem­o­ran­dums, and a dai­ly diary. He was the senior field agent inves­ti­gat­ing the war, and was one of the first agents on the scene on Novem­ber 18, 1991, when its open­ing shots were fired—at Greg Scarpa.
     Scarpa had been pre­dict­ing a shoot­ing war for some time—ever since it became appar­ent that the family’s act­ing boss, Vic­tor Ore­na, Sr., was try­ing to depose the jailed Carmine Per­si­co and take over the fam­i­ly. From Scarpa, and from Scarpa’s girlfriend’s daugh­ter, who was also named Lin­da, Favo learned what had hap­pened. Scarpa was pulling out of his dri­ve­way in his car, and Lin­da, with her infant son, was pulling out in anoth­er car, when a van and a pan­el truck blocked their way. A group of men in ski masks jumped out of the van and opened fire with auto­mat­ic weapons, leav­ing a row of bul­let holes in the fend­er of Linda’s car. Scarpa escaped by dri­ving up onto the side­walk, past the pan­el truck. (He lat­er groused that for the gun­men to have even risked hit­ting Lin­da and her son showed that dis­ci­pline was falling apart in the Mafia.) Favo took down the plate num­ber of the truck, which had been left behind, and traced it to a rental office in Queens. He says he pro­vid­ed that infor­ma­tion to DeVec­chio, whom he had not yet begun to sus­pect of leak­ing infor­ma­tion to Scarpa. He says he didn’t learn until after the war, from a coop­er­a­tor, that some­one had told Scarpa where the truck had been rent­ed.
     Scarpa believed that the gun­men had been sent by William (Wild Bill) Cutolo, then reput­ed­ly the act­ing under­boss. Scarpa made plans to dis­guise him­self as a Hasidic Jew and mow down Wild Bill as he left his girlfriend’s house on Thanks­giv­ing Day, 1991, but that morn­ing an arti­cle in the Post men­tioned the snitch rumor about Scarpa, and he was forced to call off the hit so that he could assuage his con­fed­er­ates. Between Decem­ber 3rd and Jan­u­ary 7th, Scarpa did kill two oth­er rebels, wound­ed a third, and acci­den­tal­ly shot and killed a Gen­ovese fam­i­ly asso­ciate, who was blamed for his own death, because he was at a Colom­bo hang­out at the time. There was no more talk of Scarpa being a snitch.
     In a 1995 sworn state­ment DeVec­chio denied ever delib­er­ate­ly leak­ing intel­li­gence to Scarpa, but he said it was pos­si­ble that Scarpa had inferred infor­ma­tion from his ques­tions, adding, “You can­not debrief a top-echelon source in a vac­u­um.” Though the entire record is not avail­able, it appears that much of the infor­ma­tion that Scarpa was giv­ing back dur­ing the war was worse than use­less. F.B.I. doc­u­ments show that he repeat­ed­ly pinned his wartime vio­lence on oth­er peo­ple; they also show that DeVec­chio con­ferred with Scarpa on the very day Scarpa com­mit­ted one of his mur­ders.
     As the war esca­lat­ed, DeVec­chio found it dif­fi­cult to reach Scarpa by phone, and one time he dropped by Scarpa’s house. When­ev­er DeVec­chio met with an infor­mant at home, he brought along one or two oth­er agents, to make the vis­it look like an intru­sion. He did not let his sub­or­di­nates par­tic­i­pate in the debrief­ing with Scarpa, how­ev­er; he sat them down in Scarpa’s liv­ing room, with the tele­vi­sion turned on, while he spoke pri­vate­ly with his infor­mant in the kitchen for about an hour.
     Some of Scarpa’s men lat­er told fed­er­al author­i­ties that dur­ing the war Scarpa was paged fre­quent­ly by The Girl­friend. He was warned to be care­ful, and to watch out in par­tic­u­lar for a rebel nick­named Joe Waver­ly. In Jan­u­ary, 1992, Scarpa and Waver­ly had a gun­fight from adja­cent cars, two feet apart, near Avenue U. Waver­ly shot out Scarpa’s win­dow, and Scarpa, whose Tec-9 had mis­fired, sped off with glass frag­ments in his hair. On Feb­ru­ary 26th, out on Avenue U, Scarpa shot Waver­ly in the stom­ach.
     The fol­low­ing day, Favo appears to have formed his first sus­pi­cions about DeVec­chio. That morn­ing, a loan shark named Carmine Imbri­ale was arrest­ed by the Brook­lyn Dis­trict Attorney’s Office, and he told the author­i­ties that he’d been at a din­ner the evening before at which Scarpa had pro­posed a toast and bragged about shoot­ing Waver­ly. The D.A.’s office alert­ed Favo, and he con­veyed the news to DeVec­chio. Favo says that DeVec­chio then got a phone call from Scarpa, and told Scarpa that the Brook­lyn D.A.’s office had Imbri­ale in tem­po­rary cus­tody, adding, “I don’t know what he’s say­ing about you.” Favo was con­cerned that DeVec­chio had just endan­gered Imbriale’s life. And, in fact, that evening, accord­ing to a coop­er­a­tor, Scarpa said, “It would be a good idea to kill Imbri­ale.” Favo claims that he per­suad­ed DeVec­chio to call Scarpa the next day and warn him that if any harm came to Imbri­ale he would be held sus­pect. DeVec­chio says that nei­ther phone con­ver­sa­tion with Scarpa about Imbri­ale took place, and that he has “no idea” why Favo would invent such a sto­ry.
     A report that Scarpa had boast­ed about shoot­ing some­one was not suf­fi­cient evi­dence to arrest him, but it should have been cause, accord­ing to the Depart­ment of Jus­tice guide­li­nes on F.B.I. infor­mants, to con­sid­er clos­ing him. DeVec­chio did not seem inclined to do so. Around the same time, how­ev­er, DeVecchio’s imme­di­ate super­vi­sor, Don­ald North, to whom all the Mafia squads report­ed, became uneasy about Scarpa. North had been told by an agent not on DeVecchio’s squad that Scarpa was con­spir­ing to mur­der some­one. (The intend­ed victim’s iden­ti­ty has not been revealed.) North has tes­ti­fied that he asked DeVec­chio if he had rea­son to believe that Scarpa was com­mit­ting crimes of vio­lence. “He was adamant,” North recalled. “He was con­vinced that Mr. Scarpa was not engaged in any vio­lent activ­i­ty.” Nev­er­the­less, North checked on the infor­ma­tion about the mur­der con­spir­a­cy and found it cred­i­ble, so, as of March 3, 1992, Scarpa was ordered closed, and DeVec­chio was told to have no fur­ther con­tact with him. A mon­th lat­er, F.B.I. head­quar­ters per­mit­ted DeVec­chio to reopen Scarpa, after he attrib­ut­ed the murder-conspiracy charge again­st Scarpa to the “para­noia” among Colombo-family mem­bers which had been engen­dered by the war.
     On May 22nd, Scarpa killed again. At about three-thirty in the morn­ing, as the rebel sol­dier Lar­ry Lam­pe­si was lock­ing the gate of his apart­ment build­ing, Scarpa shot him with a rifle extend­ed from his car win­dow, then got out of the car with two of his crew­men and pumped some extra rounds into his body. The same morn­ing, anoth­er Colom­bo rebel was wound­ed in a sec­ond inci­dent.
     A few hours lat­er, Favo says he stopped by DeVecchio’s office to report the two shoot­ings. Twice in court, in the past two years, Favo has given a dra­mat­ic account of how he says DeVec­chio react­ed to the news. Favo said he and his fellow-agents believed that “every time there was a shoot­ing or a mur­der it was a defeat for us”; but DeVec­chio “laughed” and “got excit­ed” at the report, and, with his open palm, slapped his desk and said, “We’re going to win this thing!” Favo said DeVec­chio “seemed to be a cheer­lead­er for the Per­si­co fac­tion,” and also tes­ti­fied, “A line had been blurred.… He was com­pro­mised. He had lost track of who he was.” DeVec­chio has acknowl­edged mak­ing “some state­ment to that effect,” but thinks it was in front of “prob­a­bly half a dozen agents,” and that he obvi­ous­ly meant the F.B.I. was going to win in its efforts to fight orga­nized crime. He adds, “If I’m sid­ing with an organized-crime fam­i­ly, why would I tell that to my agents? What per­son in their right mind would do that?”
     By late spring, the war was wind­ing down. A num­ber of the rebels had been arrest­ed, includ­ing the fac­tion lead­er, Vic­tor Ore­na. In June, agents on DeVecchio’s squad placed a micro­phone in a car belong­ing to Scarpa’s crew­man Joey Ambrosi­no, a Per­si­co fac­tion mem­ber. DeVec­chio says he approved of the elec­tron­ic surveillance—bolstering his con­tention that he was not play­ing sides in the war—though there is an odd pas­sage in his sworn state­ment con­cern­ing its use. He wrote that “Scarpa, Sr., was astound­ed to learn that Ambrosino’s car had been ‘bugged’ and that I had not told him of this sit­u­a­tion.” One is left to won­der why Scarpa would ever have expect­ed to be told.
     The bug was a pro­duc­tive one, and DeVecchio’s agents began mak­ing arrests, start­ing with Ambrosi­no, who imme­di­ate­ly elect­ed to coop­er­ate, and who con­nect­ed Scarpa to at least one killing. Still, DeVec­chio made no move to close Scarpa. “I saw this to be a dilem­ma,” one of DeVecchio’s agents lat­er said, in a sworn state­ment. “I know if this was my source, I would have gone to the U.S. Attorney’s to obtain a war­rant for his arrest.” Chris Favo had a plan to do exact­ly that: he asked a Brook­lyn pros­e­cu­tor if he could write up a murder-conspiracy com­plaint again­st Scarpa as soon as Favo gave the sig­nal. He kept his plan a secret from DeVec­chio. He has tes­ti­fied that by then “I believed that he was liable to say any­thing to Gre­go­ry Scarpa.”
     Mean­while, the squad con­tin­ued to make oth­er arrests—so rapid­ly, in some cas­es, that DeVec­chio was not noti­fied in advance. In late June, agents arrest­ed four Colom­bo sus­pects at an apart­ment in Point Pleas­ant, New Jer­sey. When the agents next saw DeVec­chio, he was vis­i­bly agi­tat­ed. One of them, Howard Lead­bet­ter, a for­mer Army offi­cer who had worked in Spe­cial Oper­a­tions, said in a sworn state­ment that he heard DeVec­chio, “in a very force­ful tone of voice,” tell Favo, “ ‘I’ve had it! You will not arrest anoth­er sin­gle indi­vid­u­al with­out my speci­fic approval!’” Lead­bet­ter tes­ti­fied in court that he could not under­stand DeVecchio’s agi­ta­tion until some­time lat­er, when he learned that Scarpa had been at the New Jer­sey apart­ment ear­lier that day and had nar­row­ly avoid­ed being arrest­ed him­self.
     On the morn­ing of August 31st, Favo dropped by DeVecchio’s office, and told him that Scarpa was about to turn him­self in to New York City police detec­tives on a gun charge. Dur­ing the mon­th that Scarpa had been closed by the F.B.I., he’d been seen toss­ing a load­ed auto­mat­ic from the win­dow of his car. DeVec­chio knew all about the gun arrest and, accord­ing to Favo, seemed uncon­cerned: it had been agreed before­hand that Scarpa would be arraigned and released. Only three days ear­lier, Scarpa had set­tled his medical-malpractice case, and had told a News­day reporter that he was plan­ning to cel­e­brate with a vaca­tion in Flori­da. Favo then sprang his sur­prise: he informed DeVec­chio that imme­di­ate­ly after the gun arraign­ment Scarpa was going to be arrest­ed by two of DeVecchio’s own agents and booked on fed­er­al murder-conspiracy charges. “DeVec­chio was vis­i­bly upset” by that news, Favo says, and tried to alert Scarpa via the con­fi­den­tial hel­lo line, but it was too late.

 

EVEN then, DeVec­chio did not aban­don his top-echelon source. He got in touch with pros­e­cu­tors at the Brook­lyn Unit­ed States Attorney’s Office to ask them to request bail for Scarpa. One pros­e­cu­tor, Andrew Weiss­mann, lat­er said he was “incred­u­lous” that any agent would want Scarpa on the street, and, at a Sep­tem­ber bail hear­ing, before the fed­er­al mag­is­trate John L. Caden, Weiss­mann argued vig­or­ous­ly for deten­tion. Caden was not aware that Scarpa was an infor­mant, and the attor­ney rep­re­sent­ing Scarpa at the hear­ing, Joseph Ben­fan­te, says he wasn’t aware of it, either. “That would be tan­ta­mount to me think­ing that Moth­er Tere­sa is assist­ing Sad­dam Hus­sein, because no F.B.I. infor­mant goes out and engages in a Colom­bo war—it’s insan­i­ty,” Ben­fan­te says.
     Benfante’s motion for bail was made strict­ly on the ground of Scarpa’s med­ical con­di­tion. By now, Scarpa had full-blown AIDS, with a T-cell count of zero (two thou­sand is nor­mal), and at his mal­prac­tice tri­al in August his doc­tor had tes­ti­fied that he had between two and six months to live. Ben­fan­te says that Scarpa had also begun to show signs of AIDS demen­tia. Dur­ing vis­its he paid to Scarpa in pris­on, he recalls, “He told me to make a list—he wants to give all the guards attache cas­es, spe­cial cas­es of wine, and filet-mignon steaks. I told him, ‘Greg, you can’t have a steak in pris­on.’ ‘What do you mean!’ He’d throw the chair. The next day, he’d be fine.”
     Judge Caden agreed to house arrest, with the stip­u­la­tion that Scarpa wear an elec­tron­ic anklet that would alert police if he left the house. All went well until Decem­ber 29, 1992, when Scarpa’s son by Lin­da Schi­ro, Joseph, got into a dis­pute over a drug trans­ac­tion, and was said to have told his father that he had been spo­ken to dis­re­spect­ful­ly. Scarpa rushed out of the house armed, went around the block, and got into a gun bat­tle with two Bay Ridge drug deal­ers, one of whom he is believed to have killed. In the alter­ca­tion, Scarpa’s left eye was shot out. He is said to have walked back home, pressed a tow­el to his bleed­ing eye sock­et, drunk a glass of Scotch, and—because Schi­ro was hysterical—driven him­self to Mt. Sinai Hos­pi­tal. Joseph has since been killed in what was appar­ent­ly a drug-related shoot­ing.
     Scarpa’s house arrest was revoked. It was agreed that he would be sent to Rik­ers Island, a pris­on known for its supe­ri­or AIDS facil­i­ty, to serve a year on his gun charge. It seemed incon­ceiv­able that a man with a zero-T-cell count and no stom­ach, who had just had an eye shot out, would live any­where near that long. The fol­low­ing spring, how­ev­er, Scarpa was still alive, and on May 6, 1993, he appeared before fed­er­al Judge Jack B. Wein­stein to plead guilty to three mur­ders and con­spir­a­cy to mur­der sev­er­al oth­ers.
     Then, in Octo­ber, at a meet­ing with pros­e­cu­tors at the Brook­lyn Unit­ed States Attorney’s Office, Scarpa offered, unsuc­cess­ful­ly, to become a coop­er­at­ing wit­ness for the gov­ern­ment. He had asked his new attor­ney, a for­mer pros­e­cu­tor named Steven Karta­gen­er, to make sure that DeVec­chio attend­ed. Karta­gen­er recalls that at one point “Greg says, ‘I’ve always been help­ful to the gov­ern­ment in the past—isn’t that right, Mr. DeVec­chio?’” and goes on to recount, “I assumed DeVec­chio would say, ‘What are you talk­ing about? Stop being an ass­hole.’ Instead, he says, ‘Yes, that’s true.’ My jaw did a bounce off the table­top.” Two pros­e­cu­tors recall hear­ing DeVec­chio tell Favo at an ear­lier meet­ing that if there were “an O.P.R.”—an Office of Pro­fes­sion­al Respon­si­bil­i­ty inquiry—into DeVecchio’s han­dling of Scarpa “I’ll have your ass.”
     Scarpa’s sen­tenc­ing for mur­der and mur­der con­spir­a­cy took place on Decem­ber 15, 1993. Judge Wein­stein asked Scarpa if he had any­thing to say, and was told no, “oth­er than I expect to go home.”
     “You’re not going to go home,” Wein­stein said. “You’re going to go to pris­on.”
     “I tried to help, Your Hon­or,” Scarpa said. “But it just didn’t work out.”
     Dur­ing Scarpa’s final days in pris­on, his AIDS demen­tia took hold, and he was given to ram­bling. Occa­sion­al­ly, he spoke of the dirty work he claimed to have done for the gov­ern­ment. He told one vis­i­tor how, after kid­nap­ping a Mis­sis­sip­pi man for the F.B.I., “he placed a gun in the guy’s mouth, and start­ed cut­ting his dick off with a razor” and demand­ed that the man tell him the loca­tion of “three kids that were missing”—lending cre­dence to a report, first pub­lished in the Dai­ly News, that Scarpa had led the F.B.I. to the buried bod­ies of the civil-rights work­ers Michael Schw­ern­er, Andrew Good­man, and James Chaney, slain in Philadel­phia, Mis­sis­sip­pi, in 1964. He also spoke about a secret assign­ment in Costa Rica for the Unit­ed States gov­ern­ment in the six­ties that involved mur­der. On June 8, 1994, Scarpa died, of com­pli­ca­tions from AIDS, at the Fed­er­al Med­ical Cen­ter in Rochester, Min­neso­ta.

 

FOR a year and half after the Colom­bo war end­ed, Chris Favo kept qui­et about DeVec­chio. He says he was wor­ried that if he accused a well-respected vet­er­an like DeVec­chio of leak­ing con­fi­den­tial infor­ma­tion the F.B.I. brass “would take it about as well as I would take it if some­body came up to me and said my wife was unfaith­ful.” By Jan­u­ary, 1994, how­ev­er, Favo and three agents on his squad felt com­pelled to come for­ward. Sev­er­al of Scarpa’s crew­men had begun to coop­er­ate, and their accounts of Scarpa and his alleged law-enforcement source were dis­turbing. Most dis­turbing, Favo says, was that dur­ing the Colom­bo war he had given DeVec­chio a par­tial address for the hide­out of the rebel lead­er, Vic­tor Ore­na, and a phys­i­cal description—a white, two-family house, with alu­minum siding—and an incor­rect address for one of Orena’s men. Now it appeared from state­ments made by a coop­er­a­tor that Scarpa’s crew had tried unsuc­cess­ful­ly to locate and kill those two rebels after Scarpa sup­plied them with the iden­ti­cal infor­ma­tion.
     Favo’s diary records what hap­pened when he and the three oth­er agents—Raymond And­jich, Howard Lead­bet­ter, and Jef­frey Tomlinson—came for­ward that mon­th to voice their con­cerns to offi­cials at the New York office. At first they were com­mend­ed for tak­ing action, and assured of con­fi­den­tial­i­ty, but only two weeks lat­er, Favo wrote in his diary, an F.B.I. offi­cial care­less­ly exposed him and Lead­bet­ter as whistle-blowers; when he com­plained, he says, the offi­cial told him that he per­son­al­ly believed in DeVecchio’s inno­cence, and that “we will have to live with the prob­lems.” A few days after that, Favo wrote, DeVec­chio called a squad meet­ing, at which he angri­ly denied the charges and added that “any­one that did not believe him could go f— them­selves.” Before long, Favo had con­clud­ed that blow­ing the whistle on DeVec­chio “was a mis­take that would fol­low us for our careers.”
     By March, 1994, an inter­nal O.P.R. inves­ti­ga­tion of DeVec­chio was under way. He was even­tu­al­ly moved out of orga­nized crime and into drug enforce­ment, and, in the mean­time, his inves­ti­ga­tion was trans­ferred from the Bureau to the Pub­lic Integri­ty Sec­tion of the Depart­ment of Jus­tice. The inves­ti­ga­tion pro­ceed­ed slow­ly, and was kept qui­et, even as alleged par­tic­i­pants in the Colom­bo war con­tin­ued to go to tri­al for mur­der and assault.
     It was not until the sum­mer of 1994 that, large­ly through the efforts of the New York attor­ney Alan Futer­fas and his asso­ciate, Ellen Resnick, the inves­ti­ga­tion came to light. Futer­fas and Resnick had been retained by a num­ber of defen­dants accused of par­tic­i­pa­tion in the Colom­bo war. They imme­di­ate­ly rec­og­nized the DeVec­chio con­tro­ver­sy as a gold mine for the defense, and they used it to for­mu­late what might be called the “com­rades in arms” the­o­ry of the war. Accord­ing to this the­o­ry, the F.B.I. had delib­er­ate­ly fed Scarpa infor­ma­tion, to help foment the war, and to make cer­tain that he would emerge vic­to­ri­ous. Futer­fas argues that when DeVec­chio alleged­ly declared, “We’re going to win this thing,” he was express­ing the hope that Scarpa would end up as a boss when it was all over, with a seat on the Mafia’s rul­ing com­mis­sion.
     The comrades-in-arms the­o­ry, what­ev­er its mer­its, has been an unqual­i­fied suc­cess with juries. There have been nine tri­als stem­ming from the Colom­bo war, and at two of them the judges have per­mit­ted evi­dence of DeVecchio’s rela­tion­ship with Scarpa to be intro­duced. At both tri­als, every defendant—fourteen in all, includ­ing Wild Bill Cutolo—was acquit­ted of all charges. At the con­clu­sion of one tri­al, a juror told the Dai­ly News, “If the F.B.I.’s like this, soci­ety is real­ly in trou­ble.” Some peo­ple who were con­vict­ed before the DeVec­chio con­tro­ver­sy became known have made motions for new tri­als. It was at a hear­ing on one such motion last May that DeVec­chio took the Fifth.
     Despite its inter­est in win­ning con­vic­tions, the Brook­lyn Unit­ed States Attorney’s Office has done noth­ing to make DeVec­chio look good; the gov­ern­ment has even con­ced­ed that DeVec­chio “may have” dis­closed con­fi­den­tial infor­ma­tion to Scarpa, includ­ing, as Favo had charged, the where­abouts of peo­ple Scarpa was look­ing for. Dou­glas Grover, the lawyer for DeVec­chio, blames the “rape” of his client by the Brook­lyn Unit­ed States Attorney’s Office on Valerie Caproni, the head of the crim­i­nal divi­sion. He says that she con­tin­ues to bear a grudge again­st DeVec­chio in the mis­tak­en belief that he leaked word of her 1987 drug indict­ment, caus­ing Greg Scarpa, Jr., to flee. “A gov­ern­ment pros­e­cu­tor should be defend­ing the government’s actions, but Valerie want­ed to get Lin,” Grover says. Caproni dis­putes this. “I don’t know what Mr. Grover would have had us do, given that evi­dence,” she says.
     Grover nev­er­the­less had been pre­dict­ing since ear­lier this year that DeVec­chio would be cleared. And on Sep­tem­ber 4, 1996, after two and a half years, the O.P.R. inves­ti­ga­tion end­ed abrupt­ly with a two-sentence let­ter stat­ing that pros­e­cu­tion of DeVec­chio was “not war­rant­ed.”
     DeVec­chio has con­tin­ued to invoke his Fifth Amend­ment priv­i­lege, how­ev­er, and the con­tro­ver­sy may not be over. Scarpa’s rela­tion­ship with the F.B.I. may be an issue at the upcom­ing tri­al of Gre­go­ry Scarpa, Jr., who is still serv­ing time on his drug case, and who was indict­ed last year for acts of rack­e­teer­ing, includ­ing mur­der. He dis­putes DeVecchio’s claim that DeVec­chio nev­er leaked infor­ma­tion. Greg, Jr.,’s defense is expect­ed to be that his alleged crimes actu­al­ly were com­mit­ted by his late father, and that the gov­ern­ment is try­ing to pin them on Greg, Jr., to cov­er up its cor­rupt rela­tion­ship with Scarpa, Sr. Through his attor­ney, Lar­ry Sil­ver­man, Greg, Jr., claims to have known firsthand that DeVec­chio was his father’s law-enforcement source and that he was the per­son known as The Girl­friend. He may even attempt to sell the­se alle­ga­tions direct­ly to the jury by tak­ing the stand. Sil­ver­man has told the court that he would like to call DeVec­chio.
     The Bureau con­tin­ues to main­tain its silence, and many ques­tions about the DeVec­chio mat­ter remain unan­swered. Though the F.B.I.’s long rela­tion­ship with Scarpa appears to have shocked jurors, who found it sor­did, it came as less of a sur­prise to peo­ple in oth­er branch­es of law enforce­ment. They have long viewed the F.B.I. as an insti­tu­tion with its own agen­da, obsessed with mak­ing suc­cess­ful cas­es even at the expense of uphold­ing the law. There is noth­ing in the record to dis­pute DeVecchio’s claim, echoed by his attor­ney, that “I didn’t oper­ate in a vac­u­um,” and that key deci­sions con­cern­ing Scarpa, includ­ing the deci­sion to reopen him dur­ing the war, were made with “the full knowl­edge of any num­ber of peo­ple well above me in rank.”

 

IN Octo­ber, Lin DeVec­chio retired from the F.B.I., after thirty-three years of ser­vice. His retire­ment par­ty was held at a seafood restau­rant in low­er Man­hat­tan. About fifty well-wishers turned out. It was a crowd made up large­ly of F.B.I. retirees—”an old-timers’ night,” in the words of one guest—and, when speech­es were made, the crowd got bois­ter­ous. The sub­ject of DeVecchio’s O.P.R. was far from taboo, and as one retire­ment gift was hand­ed to him some­body yelled, “Lin—it’s a sub­poe­na!” There was nev­er any ques­tion, how­ev­er, that the crowd was in DeVecchio’s cor­ner, and near the end of the evening the last speak­er, a retired agent, broke down in sobs, and declared, “Lin DeVec­chio is not cor­rupt! Lin DeVec­chio did what he believed was right!”
     How the crowd felt about Christo­pher Favo was no secret, either. One speak­er pre­sent­ed DeVec­chio with an infectious-agent cloth­ing kit, in case he should ever come in con­tact again with “the viral, infec­tious agent who start­ed all this.” James Kossler, a retired super­vi­sor to whom DeVec­chio had once report­ed, expressed his views about DeVecchio’s accuser before the par­ty: “The trou­ble with Chris Favo is that Chris Favo has a very high opin­ion of him­self. He works six­teen hours a day, sev­en days a week, and you lose all objec­tiv­i­ty when that hap­pens. You see things you can’t relate to or under­stand. This whole thing was a trav­es­ty, and Lin’s rep­u­ta­tion has been destroyed. Why wasn’t Favo stopped? If I’d been there, I would have cut his nuts off.”
     Favo remains an F.B.I. agent, but recent­ly he was trans­ferred from New York to a region­al office in the Mid­west. The three oth­er agents who report­ed DeVec­chio to the Bureau con­tin­ue to work in New York; one of them recent­ly tes­ti­fied that Favo had “tak­en the brunt of a lot of this.” Valerie Caproni says of Favo, “The fact that he’s no longer work­ing organized-crime cas­es in New York is to me just a hor­ri­ble fall­out of this whole thing,” and adds, “It’s been a very dif­fi­cult sit­u­a­tion, as it always is for a whistle-blower.” Reached by phone recent­ly, Favo said he’d be hap­py to com­ment on how he end­ed up in the Mid­west, or answer any oth­er ques­tion, pend­ing per­mis­sion from the F.B.I., which, as he guessed cor­rect­ly, was denied.♦