Showing posts with label Larry Mazza. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Larry Mazza. Show all posts

Monday, July 13, 2009

Sandra Harmon's "Mafia Son: The Scarpa Mob Family, the FBI, and a Story of Betrayal"

Book ‘Em is an exciting new feature on Crimesider. Every week we interview a top true-crime author to get the story behind their story.

For our first week, we spoke with journalist and bestselling author Sandra Harmon, whose new book, Mafia Son: The Scarpa Mob Family, the FBI and a Story of Betrayal, tells the story of Greg Scarpa, Jr., a hardened criminal and former Mob “wiseguy,” who, according to Harmon, became a jailhouse spy who gave the FBI information that might have averted the tragedy of 9/11, if only the Feds had listened.

In her book, Harmon details how she gained inside access to both Mob and law enforcement figures and became a trusted confidante to an unrepentant mob killer turned FBI informant.

Harmon told Crimesider about the dangers of reporting on the Mob, the FBI's missed opportunities to prevent 9/11, and the intriguing sex life of one of the mob's most dangerous men.

What drew you to this story?

Harmon: Although I had never before written about crime - my biggest bestseller was “Elvis and Me,” written with Priscilla Presley - I became intrigued by the twisted and sometimes tragic tale of the Scarpa family.

Gregory Scarpa, Sr. was a mafia kingpin, so addicted to violence and murder that he was nicknamed The Grim Reaper. But Scarpa had hubris; he played both sides of the fence. For the thirty years he was leading a crew of fifty mobsters in a life of crime, he was also a top echelon informant for the FBI. For decades, his intimate relationship with his “handler,” the much publicized former FBI agent Lin DeVecchio, protected Scarpa and granted him a virtual license to kill, which he did, quite often, and always with obvious relish.

I learned about the extraordinary love affair between Greg Sr. and a woman named Linda Schiro. Although married to others, they raised a family together and remained “intimate” – demonstrating such deep and obvious love for each other and devotion to their family – that I wondered how they could have led such a heinous, amoral existence.

Then, I learned of Linda’s fondness for “threesome’s,” and Greg Sr.’s total acceptance of another man sharing their bed for fifteen years – Larry Mazza, a man who rose in the mafia to become Greg’s right hand man - at the same time sleeping with his boss’s mistress – often with all three in the same bed. Why would this psychopathic killer allow another man in his bed? Did he love Linda so much that he would do anything to make her happy? Or did he do it for himself? I admit I was intrigued. But intrigue is not enough for me to take up the long and arduous task of writing a book. What first pushed me forward was the need to uncover what I believed was the corrupt and self serving relationship between Greg Sr. and Lin DeVecchio. Ultimately, I became so involved in the story that I sent an affidavit to the Brooklyn District Attorney, which, in part, resulted in Lin DeVecchio being indicted on four counts of murder. In fact, I became so embroiled in the story that I was actually subpoenaed by both the prosecution and the defense to tell all I knew, and was forced to hire a first amendment attorney to protect my journalistic rights. It was a great eye-opener for me about all aspects of the “crime community,” the bad guys and the supposed good guys as well.

What’s the most compelling or surprising aspect of this story that you can reveal?

Harmon: The most compelling and surprising aspect of this story is that of Gregory Scarpa Jr., who was a promising young athlete until, to please his Machiavellian father, he entered the family business and became a mobster. In the late 80’s, he was betrayed by Greg Sr., who sacrificed his son to save himself from prison.

After a decade in federal prison, and awaiting a new trial, Greg Jr. was moved to the Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York City and placed in a cell next to Ramzi Yousef, architect of the 1993 World Trade Bombing. Greg made a deal with the government to get information from Yousef in exchange for leniency. A year later he furnished the feds with detailed intelligence on what would eventually result in the September 11th attacks. But incredibly, Gregory’s desperate warnings were both ignored and buried; he was sentenced to 40 years to life at the ADMAX Prison in Florence, Colorado. There, he would supply the FBI with intelligence on Oklahoma City bomber and fellow prisoner Terry Nichols. Again his contribution was ignored, and Gregory remains at ADMAX, where he believes he will one day be murdered.

Is there a hero?

Harmon: If there is a “hero” in MAFIA SON, it would have to be Gregory Jr., who is by no means “heroic.” He was a mafia capo who has admitted to murdering 26 people. However, he did risk his life to gather incredibly accurate intelligence which might well have averted 9/11 and the death of over 3,000 people had the federal prosecutors, including Patrick Fitzgerald, and Valerie Caproni, not put their careers first and justice second, which they continue to do to this day.

Do you ever worry that your reporting puts you in any danger?

Harmon: Before the indictment against DeVecchio, I never personally felt in danger, even though I am a woman alone who was investigating the highest level of corruption in many areas of government. But after I submitted that affidavit to the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office in which I attested to a murder which Linda Schiro had discussed with me -- a crime allegedly involving DeVecchio, and the details of the affidavit were leaked to the press -- all hell broke loose, with stories in major newspapers naming me specifically as the instigator of the DeVecchio investigation. This led to months of my being threatened by Mafia types, intimidated by the FBI, ridiculed in local newspapers for lacking the journalistic credentials of a “real crime writer,” denigrated in cyberspace (with the greatest venom generated on a website known as the “Friends of Lin DeVecchio,” and denounced in a book by a former undercover FBI agent. I was also warned that in all likelihood my phone line had been 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 exercise extreme caution in all correspondence. I have also been threatened with nine lawsuits from different characters I write about in the book.

Do you ever have nightmares because of this case?

Harmon: I don't have nightmares, but sometimes I have trouble falling asleep because I worry about which character from MAFIA SON, who is pissed at me because they don't like what I wrote, will next show up in my life and attempt to intimidate me.

Thanks to Barry Leibowitz

Monday, October 22, 2007

A Story for Martin Scorsese to Bring to the Big Screen

Are you familiar, as the lawyers say, with a man named Alphonse Persico, known as Allie Boy? How about Nicky Black, Wild Bill, Joe Waverly, Joey Brains and Joe Brewster? Or Lawrence Mazza, James Delmasto, John Pate and Carmine Sessa?

If not, good luck following the blockbuster murder case on trial in Brooklyn Supreme Court before a spellbound audience of journalists, promoters, authors, conspiracy theorists, gadflies and some who answer to three or more of those designations. You need a scorecard just to track the players.

Fortunately, their nicknames give them away: All are figures associated with the Mafia, that fetishistically documented secret society responsible for long-ago crime waves, more recent cinematic masterpieces and, above all, an enduring modern marketing bonanza. Some are dead and some are living; in their lives the press loved them all.

These latter days find the waning wiseguys reduced to walk-on roles in an ensemble gathered for the trial of Roy Lindley DeVecchio, a retired Federal Bureau of Investigation supervisor. Mr. DeVecchio, 67, has been charged with helping his prized Mafia informer kill four people in the 1980s and early 1990s. Prosecutors say he disclosed confidential information to set up assassinations.

This contemporary Mafia trial’s more prominent players include a 1960s campus radical turned dapper judge whose taste in courtroom d├ęcor runs to the eccentric, an aspiring author planning a book with a self-styled love, dating, sex and relationship coach and an amateur private investigator who was choked (not fatally) in a strange, unexplained attack last year.

The publicity circus surrounding big mob trials was already in full churn last week. Satellite trucks idled on Jay Street. Photographers ascended stepladders to gain some purchase over their rivals. A high school class visited the courtroom on a field trip. Mr. DeVecchio, free on $1 million bond, mingled with his supporters. And tabloid newspapers reflexively chronicled every twist under headlines such as “Weird Mafia Love Triangle” and “G-Man and G-Strings; Plied With Bimbos: DA.”

The basic accusations against Mr. DeVecchio date to the Bensonhurst war for control of the Colombo crime family in the early ’90s, when Mr. DeVecchio led an F.B.I. squad charged with crippling the Colombos. His informer was Gregory Scarpa Sr., proprietor of the Wimpy Boys Social Club and a capo in the family.

After the war ended, federal prosecutors admitted that Mr. DeVecchio had passed confidential information to Mr. Scarpa. Investigators for the Department of Justice failed to turn up evidence to support criminal charges or even disciplinary action, and Mr. DeVecchio soon retired.

In a way, his new trial can be considered the triumph of the hangers-on, the true believers and the Mafia aficionados.

The Brooklyn district attorney’s office has credited Angela Clemente, a single mother from New Jersey, amateur private eye (and victim of that unexplained choking) with research that helped revive the case. The office has also acknowledged the work of Peter Lance, a writer who attends the trial in pinstripe suits, telling anyone who will listen his theories linking the case to global terrorism. But at center stage is the main prosecution witness, Linda Schiro, aspiring author of a book tentatively titled “Marriage, Mafia Style.” Supporting testimony is expected from her son, Gregory Scarpa Jr., who is in prison for racketeering. Mr. Scarpa is a prolific informer who has at times claimed to have the goods on his own father and on Ramzi Yousef, orchestrator of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.

Mr. DeVecchio’s defense lawyers speak of a darker side to all this Mafia obsession. Over the years, they argue, Ms. Schiro has tried time and again to sell the story of her life as the common-law wife of the senior Mr. Scarpa, who died in prison in 1994.

With each new telling and each new potential co-author (including the love and dating coach, Sandra Harmon), she has sharpened her portrayal of Mr. DeVecchio. In her evolving accounts, defense lawyers argue, Mr. DeVecchio has gone from a man who met privately with her husband to a man she heard giving orders to kill.

“That’s pure fantasy,” said a defense lawyer, Douglas Grover, in his opening statement. “She’s making it up.”

Prosecutors built the groundwork for her credibility last week with testimony from a Mafia expert and from F.B.I. agents who had worked with Mr. DeVecchio.

The Mafia expert, Sgt. Fred Santoro of the Police Department, seemed well at ease. A product of Bensonhurst himself, he lent the trial an old-time touch by cracking wise on Mafia policies for drug-dealing (frowned upon) and murder (get permission first). The federal agents recounted their suspicions about Mr. DeVecchio’s relationship with his informer.

By the end of the week, a real live Mafia associate cried on the witness stand, to the evident delight of the gallery. The witness, Lawrence Mazza, told of hunting Colombo rivals, armed to the teeth in a frequently repainted station wagon.

The judge overseeing the case, Gustin L. Reichbach, interjected with his own questions. He knew a thing or two about the F.B.I.; its agents had once counted him among the most dangerous protest organizers at Columbia University. When the witness mentioned a newspaper account of one killing, Justice Reichbach offered a qualification.

“Just because it appears in the newspapers,” he said, “doesn’t make it so.”

The writers packed into the gallery laughed and laughed. The judge leaned back in his big leather chair. The scales of justice glowed over his shoulder, in neon, bright red and blue.

Thanks to Michael Brick

Mob Killer Crys on Witness Stand

A stone killer for the Mob, who testified casually about his homicidal jaunts through Brooklyn looking for people to shoot, started crying in court yesterday over his youthful wrong turn into a life of crime.

Tough guy Lawrence Mazza, 46, who was to testify about his gangster boss' ties to rogue FBI agent Lindley DeVecchio collapsed in tears in Brooklyn Supreme Court when he recounted that he spent a year at John Jay College of Criminal Justice studying police science.

"I was planning to follow my father" in civil service, Mazza said, choking up at the thought of his dad, a lieutenant in the Fire Department. "I'm sorry," Mazza told the judge, growing increasingly emotional.

A court officer handed him a tissue. The prosecutor got him a glass of water. But the handsome mobster continued to weep. Finally the judge called a break.

Seasoned court watchers said they'd never seen anything like it.

After recovering his composure, Mazza laid out his remarkable story: how he unwittingly romanced a Mafioso's girlfriend, was befriended by the gangster, shared the woman with him and gradually transformed into a feared killer.

Mazza called his mobster patron, Colombo capo Gregory (The Grim Reaper) Scarpa Sr., "vicious, violent" and a man who "told me he stopped counting at 50" when listing his murders. "He was unscrupulous and treacherous. He was a horrible human being," Mazza testified. "I was his right hand man, very, very close."

He described how, during the bloody Colombo family civil war of the early 1990s, they would cruise the streets of Brooklyn in a station wagon tricked out as a death car, loaded with shotguns, rifles and pistols, with special hidden compartments for the guns.

They wore bulletproof vests, carried rudimentary portable phones and looked for members of the rival Orena faction to blow away.

They rarely missed, he said. "Pretty much, we killed who we shot," Mazza testified.

Mazza, who pled guilty years ago to loansharking, racketeering, four murders and conspiracy to kill four other people, now lives in Florida after spending a decade in jail. He began cooperating soon after his 1993 arrest and has helped the feds with three trials so far.

Thanks to Scott Shifrel and Helen Kennedy

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Gangland Killings: FBI Agent Indicted for Role in Mafia War

Friends of ours: Colombo Crime Family, Craig Sobel, John Sinagra, Greg "The Grim Reaper" Scarpa, Alphonse Persico, Carmine Persico, Joseph DeDomenico, Lorenzo Lampasi, Nicholas "Nicky Black" Grancio, Larry Mazza
Friends of mine: Lindley DeVecchio

A retired FBI special agent who was being investigated for his role in mob "hits" has been indicted by a Brooklyn, NY grand jury, according to the District Attorney's office. The decorated FBI agent, Lindley DeVecchio, was indicted on charges that he gave information to his Mafia informant that led to a series of gangland murders during the bloody Colombo Family gangland war of the 1990s, according to the indictment.

The arrest and indictment of retired FBI Agent Roy Lindley DeVecchio and two men Craig Sobel and John Sinagra associated with the Colombo crime family, who have all been implicated in Mafia murders from 1987 to 1992, has shocked New York City.

The murders all took place when DeVecchio was assigned to work with FBI “top echelon" informant and Colombo Family kingpin Greg "The Grim Reaper" Scarpa, in Brooklyn. Sobel and Sinagra are charged with being triggermen in two mob hits, and DeVecchio is charged with acting in concert in four mob-related killings.

This is the most stunning example of official corruption that I have ever seen, said Brooklyn District Attorney Richard Hynes. Four people were murdered with the help of a federal law enforcement agent who was charged with keeping them safe. Lindley DeVecchio deserves the maximum sentence of 25 years to life for each of these killings.

In 2005, the House Judiciary Committee was involved in preparing for hearings to look into allegations against FBI agents involved in organized crime investigations. The pre-hearing investigations uncovered discrepancies regarding DeVecchio and his relationship to Scarpa during 1980s and early 1990s. The case to the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office with a recommendation for a full investigation.

Pursuant to its oversight responsibilities the Judiciary Committee will closely monitor the proceedings in this case, and review all the evidence presented concerning FBI misconduct, according to a Congressional spokesperson.

The first murder victim, Mary Bari, 31, was the stunning brunette girlfriend of Colombo consigliore Alphonse Persico, brother of then Colombo Family boss, Carmine Persico. The indictment charges DeVecchio told Scarpa that Bari had been speaking to federal authorities and should be taken care of. On September 25, 1984, she was shot and killed in a Brooklyn social club by Scarpa and other members of the Colombo crime family.

Agent DeVecchio is also charged with urging Scarpa to kill Joseph DeDomenico, a Colombo soldier who was considered a threat, because he had been using drugs, committing crimes without involving Scarpa and talking about becoming a Born-again Christian. DeDomenico, 45, was killed September 17, 1987, by Scarpa and other Colombo associates.

Sobel is charged with firing two blasts from a sawed-off shotgun that killed 17-year-old Dominick Masseria on the steps of Our Lady of Guadalupe Church on Brooklyn, October 31, 1989. Earlier that Halloween night Masseria had been present at an egg-throwing incident which turned violent, and involved several other youths from the neighborhood. While walking home he was the victim of a drive-by shooting. Present in the car were triggerman Sobel, Joseph Scarpa Greg Scarpa’s teenage son and his friend Patrick Porco.

In May of 1990 Porco was questioned by detectives at the 62nd Precinct stationhouse about Masseria’s murder. DeVecchio contacted Greg Scarpa to tell him that Porco, 18, had been speaking to authorities about Joseph Scarpa’s involvement in the Masseria shooting. Sinagra is charged with carrying out a Scarpa-ordered hit on Porco, to prevent him from speaking about Masseria.

The final murder charged is of a criminal rival of Scarpa’s, Lorenzo Lampasi, during the war within the Colombo crime family. Scarpa informed DeVecchio that he wanted to kill Lampasi, 66, and DeVecchio is charged with providing Scarpa critical information -- obtained during law-enforcement surveillance regarding Lampasi’s address and personal habits. On May 22, 1992, Lampasi was murdered in his driveway at 4 a.m., the time that Lampasi left his home every morning.

DeVecchio, 65, who retired from the FBI in 1996, has always maintained he was clean. A source within the New York City Police Department told this writer that the DeVecchio indictment does not mention his alleged role in one of the most notorious mob murder cases in New York history -- the brutal murder of mobster Nicholas "Nicky Black" Grancio in 1992.

Former hitman Larry Mazza, who later became an FBI informant, had claimed Scarpa successfully called on DeVecchio to pull surveillance off Grancio -- a rival mobster -- so Scarpa's crew could shoot him. However, nothing against DeVecchio could be proved by New York detectives.

Thanks to Jim Kouri, CPP

Friday, January 06, 2006

Cops and Mobsters

Friends of ours: Colombo Crime Family, Nicholas Grancio, Bonanno Crime Family, Lawrence Mazza, Carmine Persico

There were two surveillance teams on the streets of southern Brooklyn that day in January, 1992. One was the law: a task force of federal agents and police detectives. The other was the mob: a crew of gangsters who had disguised their sedan with a fake police light and a cardboard cup of coffee on the dashboard.

Although they came from opposing sides, their target was the same: a Colombo family captain by the name of Nicholas Grancio. The agents and detectives wanted to tail their mark at the height of a bloody Mafia civil war. The gangsters, with revenge in mind, had a darker purpose: They wanted him dead. Soon after the detectives left that day, the gangsters arrived, and got their wish.

What eventually happened that day, near Avenue U and McDonald Avenue, is now the subject of a new investigation by the Brooklyn district attorney's office, according to law enforcement officials who have been briefed on the case. Fourteen years after Mr. Grancio was murdered, investigators are trying to determine if a former F.B.I. agent, who supervised the government surveillance team, may have had a hand in his death.

The investigation has focused on that agent, R. Lindley DeVecchio, a career investigator and onetime head of the F.B.I.'s Colombo and Bonanno families squads. Mr. DeVecchio, who is now retired, had developed a remarkable mole within the Mafia, a grim Colombo family killer named Gregory Scarpa Sr. They became close, so close that Mr. DeVecchio would chat with Mr. Scarpa at his kitchen table while two of his F.B.I. colleagues waited in the living room. And close enough for other agents to whisper to their bosses that Mr. DeVecchio had crossed a line.

It was Mr. Scarpa's hit team that pulled alongside Mr. Grancio's car on Jan. 7, 1992, and dispatched him with a shotgun blast to the head. What investigators now want to know is if Mr. DeVecchio had ordered a withdrawal of his own surveillance team and, in so doing, cleared the way for Mr. Scarpa and his crew to swoop down on Mr. Grancio .

Word of the investigation has reached F.B.I. headquarters in Washington, where top-ranking federal officials have been briefed about the case. An F.B.I. spokesman, John Miller, said yesterday that he could not comment. Mr. DeVecchio's lawyer, Douglas Grover, has dismissed the current inquiry as baseless, insisting his client has done nothing wrong.

What breathed new life into a 14-year-old murder case remains unclear, though one law enforcement official said the district attorney's office recently received a tip from an informant. Among the people expected to be interviewed are two former police detectives who were on the surveillance team and who recall being pulled back by the F.B.I. to the agency's New York headquarters from the streets of Gravesend, Brooklyn, only hours before Mr. Grancio was killed.
Already, investigators have made arrangements to speak to a former mobster who was part of the hit team and now lives in Florida. The man, Lawrence Mazza, said in an interview that he remembers being surprised a decade ago when federal agents who arrested him kept asking him if he knew that the surveillance team had, in fact, been sent away before the hit team struck.

On the other hand, an F.B.I. agent who worked for Mr. DeVecchio and directed the surveillance team has filed an affidavit suggesting that Mr. Grancio was killed at a time when the authorities typically did not have him under surveillance. Remarkably, this agent was one of the first to raise his voice against Mr. DeVecchio, sparking an internal Justice Department investigation that examined charges against Mr. DeVecchio that his relationship with Mr. Scarpa had been untoward.

The Justice Department's two-year inquiry heard a host of complaints by colleagues - including charges that Mr. DeVecchio had leaked information to Mr. Scarpa and had helped him track rivals, which Mr. DeVecchio denied. And in September 1996, the government declined to bring charges. The tangled tale of Lin DeVecchio, the diamond-cuff-linked agent, and Gregory Scarpa, the gangster who died of AIDS in 1994, has long stood as one of the odder stories from the underworld. The current chapter homes in on a few short months in 1991 and 1992, after the boss of the Colombo family, Carmine Persico, was sent to prison and its opposing factions went to war.

Mr. Scarpa was a leader of the loyalist brigade and feared for his life. He suspected Mr. Grancio of having tried to kill him and, according to court documents, set about to seek revenge. The task force run by Mr. DeVecchio was charged with ending the gruesome violence that the war had wrought. To that end, two detectives, Joe Simone and Patrick Maggiore, were sent to watch Mr. Grancio on Jan. 7, 1992, from a post called Plant 26, near Avenue U and McDonald Avenue.

"It was a routine day," said Mr. Simone, who is retired and lives with his family on Staten Island. Then, he said, a call came in with orders to return to 26 Federal Plaza, the local F.B.I. headquarters, for a meeting. "It was kind of unusual," he said, to be pulled off in the middle of a tail. "Very unusual." According to Mr. Simone's duty log, he was at Plant 26 from 12:40 to 1:30 p.m. The next entry reads: "1330-1440 ERT 26 Fed Pl w/Maggiore," which meant that, with his partner, Mr. Simone was en route to the F.B.I. office from 1:30 to 2:40 p.m.

Around 4 p.m. that day, shocking news buzzed through the office: Nicky Grancio had just been killed. "We were called and we went back," Mr. Maggiore, also retired, said in a separate interview. "Then he gets whacked when we're supposed to be on him. We looked at each other and couldn't believe it."

The man who pulled the trigger that day was a fit young up-and-comer in the Colombo family named Larry Mazza. Over surf-and-turf at a Florida steakhouse, Mr. Mazza, having served his term in prison, recalled how he, Mr. Scarpa and a third man spotted Mr. Grancio, followed him through Lady Moody Square - close to where the detectives had been parked - and pulled up beside his car. Mr. Mazza leaned his torso out the back window, put a shotgun near his victim's head and fired, he said.

Mr. Scarpa admitted his role in the killing. And when Mr. Mazza was later arrested, he agreed to cooperate with the F.B.I. He said he remembered thinking it was odd that the agents who debriefed him kept asking him if the gunmen knew that the government surveillance team had been pulled back. A spokesman for the Brooklyn district attorney, Charles J. Hynes, declined to comment.

Mr. Grover said that his client, Mr. DeVecchio, has been through this before - the long grind of an investigation. Indeed, during the F.B.I.'s internal inquiry, Mr. DeVecchio submitted an affidavit in which he presented his relationship with Mr. Scarpa as an appropriate law enforcement tool. The only thing he ever received from Mr. Scarpa, he said, was a Cabbage Patch doll, a bottle of wine and a pan of lasagna.

Mr. DeVecchio later told investigators he gave the doll away to a friend's niece. "I gave the bottle of wine to someone whom I don't recall," he said, "and I consumed the tray of lasagna."

Thanks to Alan Feuer

Crime Family Index