COVER UP: Chapter One

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The White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan who ruled Neshoba County, Mississippi, had a nickname for Michael “Mickey,” Schwerner, the New York white boy who came down to Meridian, Mississippi that Freedom Summer to register black voters and open a local community center. “Goatee,” they called him; branding Andrew Goodman, another white and James Chaney, a black civil rights worker as “outside agitators.”[i]

On June 21st, 1964 they had come to nearby Philadelphia, to investigate the Klan burning of  Mt. Zion, an African American church. According to evidence presented at a federal trial years later, Edgar Ray Killen, a local preacher and KKK Kleagle, conspired with at least twenty other Klansmen to lie in wait for the three men. Arrested for speeding by the town Deputy, Goodman, Schwerner and Chaney had been jailed for five hours.  Presiding over a Klan meeting that night at the Long Horn Drive-in, the term Killen had used to describe what would happen to them was “elimination.”[ii]  But one of the Klansmen would later testify that Killen’s death warrant was less delicate. “He said those… civil rights workers were locked up and they needed their rear ends tore up.”[iii]

Released after midnight so that two cars full of Klansman could follow, Goodman, Schwerner and Chaney left the Neshoba County Sheriff’s office heading North from Philadelphia in a Ford station wagon. They were never seen alive again. Hiding behind an old warehouse, the two car Klan convoy, followed by Deputy Price in his patrol car, hung back until Goodman, Schwerner and Chaney cleared the outskirts of town.

At that point they gave chase, with one vehicle, a red Chevy, roaring up beside the Ford wagon and attempting to force it off the road. After a pursuit on Highway 19 that topped speeds of 100 miles an hour, Deputy Price flashed his red light, pulled the Ford over and ordered the civil rights workers to get out. The three young men from CORE[1] complained, holding their hands up as flashlights were pointed in their eyes. They were then driven 34 miles away. When the convoy turned off onto a graded clay road, Goodman and the others were ordered out of their cars again and shot to death where they stood. Their bodies were thrown into the back of their own station wagon and driven to the farm of a wealthy Philadelphia’s businessmen. There they were dumped at the based of an earthen dam while a bulldozer entombed them under 15 feet of red clay.[2]

Their disappearance touched off a firestorm at the Justice Department, then run by Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy. Dozens of dark suited, FBI agents were dispatched to Meshoba County in what the Bureau dubbed the MISSBURN case.

As recounted in the 1988 film Mississippi Burning, the agents soon located the Ford, which had been taken to a local swamp area and burned. But soon the investigation stopped dead. Terrified blacks and protective whites hid that fact that the murders had been the work of a 21 local men from the Klan Klavern.[iv]

By 1964 if the FBI was hated in Mississippi, the Klan was feared. At that point the so-described “White Knights,” were waging a war of domestic terror throughout the state, perpetrating church bombings, arsons and the beating of black citizens.

“Nobody, and I mean nobody was gonna give up those boys,” recalls W.O. Chet Dillard, a Neshoba County Judge who had served as District Attorney several years later.[v] “Old J. Edgar figured that if he was gonna break that thing – and he was hurtin’ to break it — he was gonna have to go to some extreme measures and he did.”

FBI Director Hoover, who for years had denied even the existence of organized crime in America, decided to call on a man who had already earned a position in an elite group inside the Bureau called T.E. for “Top Echelon.”[3]

Since 1962, Gregory Scarpa Sr., had begun living two lives.[vi] On one had he was a young Bensonhurst, Brooklyn cock on the walk and soldier in the Columbo Crime Family. On the other he was a secret mole who had become an informant for the FBI.

Years later Scarpa’s boss Joe Colombo, would tear up the Mafia rule book which demanded anonymity and found The Italian American Civil Rights League. It was a very public “Italo-American” advocacy group that regularly picked FBI offices and staged rallies to denounce the Bureau for, “Forever, Bothering, Italians.”

The young Greg Scarpa Sr. became one of Colombo’s flashiest spokesmen. He was also lucrative family “earner” bringing in tens of thousands of dollars a month from racketeering book making loan sharking, credit card fraud and other racketeering. But he also had a violent, bragging that he loved “the smell of gunpowder, and punching a Satanic “666” into the beepers of fellow wiseguys each time he made a kill.[vii]  But on the flip side of his double life, he would sit down at least once a week with Anthony Villano, his Bureau control agent, spilling a host of secrets on the inner workers of what Hoover later dubbed the LCN – La Cosa Nostra.[viii] Soon Scarpa married and had a son who he named after himself. But he didn’t draw Greg Jr. into the family business until he was a teenager.

Meanwhile Scarpa Sr., became the principal shooter in the war of succession between rival factions of the Columbo family. After Joe was killed in a Columbus Circle rally back in the 1971, the family was taken over by Carmine “The Snake” Persico. When he went to prison, his son Alphonse, “Allie Boy,” was crowned boss, but he was perceived as a weak, shadow of his father.[ix]As Greg Sr. later told it, the acting boss of the family, Vic Orena, saw an opening and laid plans for a coup. But by then, Scarpa, a cold-blooded Machiavellian hit man set the stage for his own power grab as lead gunman for the “Persico faction.”

The result was a series of drive-by shootings and gun battles that played out across Brooklyn and Staten Island between 1991 and 1992 like a bloody season of The Sopranos. In the end, 12 were dead including two innocent bystanders, and Scarpa Sr. had murdered a third of the victims himself.[x]

Dubbed “the Grim Reaper,” “the Mad Hatter,” and “Hannibal Lecter,” Greg Sr. became known as a capo who could take a fellow wiseguy to lunch, joke with him over a plate of ziti and shoot him between the eyes before the check was paid.[xi] In the course of the war, he had one of his victims hit while he was stringing Christmas lights in front of his wife. He ordered a grave dug for another victim in advance of the “whack.” After being diagnosed with HIV and given months to live in 1992 Scarpa broke house arrest and went after a pair of local drug dealers who had threatened his younger son. In the ensuing gun battle, Scarpa Sr., got his right eye shot out, but he treated himself with a glass of scotch before reluctantly accepting a ride to a hospital.[xii]

After each execution Scarpa, Sr. would send a report to his protégé. an ex-delivery boy named Larry Mazza,[xiii] by punching the “Devil’s sign,” into a beeper.[xiv] All of this violence was not without a measure of irony. When Greg Sr. set himself up in the Brooklyn social club where he did business, he named it “The Wimpy Boys.” And though he never accepted the official title of “capo,” by the mid 1970’s when FBI Agent Villano was “running him,” Scarpa had murdered his way to a senior spot in the Colombo hierarchy.

INTERROGATION BY RAZOR BLADE

Back in 1964 when the call came from Hoover, Greg was a ruthless young soldati with ice water in his veins. In the film Mississippi Burning, the kidnap and triple murder is broken by an African-American FBI agent named “Monk” who is flown down to question the town’s mayor. But with heretofore unpublished documents from declassified FBI files[xv] interviews with Neshoba county residents and research done by a biographer of Scarpa Sr.’s common law wife, the real story can now be told.

Having been authorized by Hoover for the “special” Greg flew with his 17 year old girlfriend Linda Diana to Mobile, Alabama, where he was met by FBI agents who gave him a gun. Scarpa Sr. her “I’m going out with these men. If I’m not back, there’s a return ticket and here’s some money,” passing her a folded stack of bills.[xvi]

Declassified FBI documents and the files of Judge Dillard, who was then Neshoba County D.A. show that Scarpa Sr. was then driven to Philadelphia, Mississippi where, with the help of FBI agents he kidnapped a local politician.

“They took him to an undisclosed location,” said Judge Dillard, “and while the agents waited outside, Scarpa started working on the guy. He put a pistol to his head and cocked it, demanding to know where those boys were. But the man told him a phony story. After he checked it with the agents, Scarpa then put the barrel of the gun in the man’s mouth and cocked it.”

But the audacious politician fearing Klan reprisal gave Scarpa another story which the agents outside confirmed was false. “It was at that point,” says Judge Dillard, “that Scarpa took more drastic steps.”

Taking out a straight razor, he proceeded to unzip the man’s fly. “He was threatenin’ to emasculate him,” says the Judge. And that’s when he blurted out the location of the dam.”

Eighteen months later, Hoover recruited Scarpa Sr. again, this time to break a case involving the Klan firebombing and murder of NAACP worker Vernon Dahmer. The black man’s wife and daughter were also badly burned when KKK thugs torched his home. Once again, all of the local witnesses stood mute, but the FBI investigation led to Lawrence Byrd, a Klan captain who owned Byrd’s Radio and T.V. Service, an appliance store in nearby Laurel, Mississippi.

As Judge Dillard recounts the story in his book Clear Burning, Civil Rights, Civil Wrongs,  Scarpa Jr. and two other men “wearing wigs,” showed up at the appliance store just before closing one night in January, 1966. “They showed an interest in some television units, but as (Byrd) came around the counter to show them, they grabbed him, hijacked him into an automobile (and) took him out on a back road.” [xvii]

There, according to Judge Dillard who later interviewed the terrified Byrd in the Jones County Hospital, Scarpa Sr. proceeded to “beat him within an inch of his life.”

“They threatened to string him up and leave him out there naked in the winter, where the animals could get at him,” said the Judge.

“After that I can tell you that Mr. Byrd told them what they needed to know and later on it’s pretty clear that he set up another man related to the Dahmer case who was also kidnapped and beaten into a confession.”[xviii]

“Lawrence was a tough guy,” Dillard later told reporter Frederic Dannen, who profiled Scarpa in a 1996 New York piece.[xix]“”(he) was a big raw boned country boy, but he was beat up so bad, that he was never the same after that.”

On returning from that second “mission,” as Greg Sr. called it, he and Linda vacationed at the Fontainblue Hotel, courtesy of Uncle Sam. Several accounts of Greg’s involvement as an FBI “special” agent have mixed the two “missions” together. [xx] But Judge Dillard insists that Byrd’s confession was related to the Dahmer case only.

In any case, though seven Klansman were convicted of federal conspiracy charges in connection with the Goodman, Schwerner and Chaney slayings, the reputed leader of the ring, Rev. Killan ,walked out of court a free man and none of the conspirators were ever even indicted on murder charges.

On it’s 40th anniversary the case remains a kind of legal open wound in Mississippi and in late May, due in part to the reporting of two local papers, the Neshoba Democrat and the Clarion Ledger, Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood said that he was reviewing more than 40,000 pages of FBI documents with an eye towards possibly re-opening the case.[xxi]

“All these years I have been hoping there would be justice for those boys,” says Caroline Goodman, whose son Andrew was 20 at the time of his murder. “I’m still waiting.”[xxii]  In that case, the U.S. Justice Department, which is supporting the new investigation, is on the side of the angels. But decades after Greg Scarpa Sr.’s Mississippi black bag work, the FBI’s involvement in the darker side of his Bureau service led to an extraordinary obstruction of justice in the war on terror.

GETTING “MARRIED” TO “THE GIRLFRIEND”

Several years before his death, Special Agent Anthony Villano had been forced to “close” Greg as a confidential informant (C.I.) FBI rules forbid the use of any C.I.’s where there is even a hint that they’re involved in a “serious act of violence,” By 1970 Scarpa Sr. was suspected in the murder of a DEA informant and while Villano “did a tap dance” to protect him and Greg escaped indictment he was eventually shut down in 1975.[xxiii]

Five years later R. Lindley DeVecchio, an FBI Special Agent working organized crime in the New York office (NYO) noticed Scarpa’s name in the closed files and re-activated him.[4] The move resulted in a 14 year relationship that caused both of their career’s to advance – Scapra Sr. eventually taking over de-facto control of one of the two rival branches of the Columbo family and DeVecchio being promoted to Supervisory Special Agent, the head of the Columbo Task Force and one of the Bureau’s most celebrated authorities on organized crime.  Earlier, Special Agent Villano had compared the closeness of his relationship with Scarpa to a couple “getting married.”

“The problem was,” says defense attorney Alan Futerfas, “the relationship was deeply corrupt.”[xxiv]  In fact, the FBI’s own files would later reveal that rather than defending the Persico faction in the Colombo war, Scarpa Sr. with DeVecchio’s help, had instigated the violence. Killing wiseguys on both sides, Greg Sr.’s plan was to keep the blood flowing long enough to gain control of the family himself and grab a seat on the national “Commission” of La Cosa Nostra.

The evidence exposed in a series of federal trials now shows that DeVecchio, code named, “Mr. Dello,” “Del,” and “the girlfriend,” by Scarpa, actually helped the killer locate his victims. According to Scarpa’s oldest son, DeVecchio even sat watch as a lookout during a bank robbery[xxv].

Greg Scarpa, Jr., who eventually kept the books for his father, testified that in return for this inside help, DeVecchio was paid more than $100,000.00 over the years, rewarded with vacations to places like Aspen, Colorado and treated to calls girls in a Staten Island hotel.[xxvii]

DeVecchio, who vehemently denied the corruption charges, became the subject of a two-year FBI OPR (internal affairs investigation) and was ultimately cleared and allowed to retire with a full pension. But he refused to take an FBI polygraph test and in a May, 1996 habeas corpus hearing for a group of Scarpa’s rival mobsters, DeVecchio invoked the Fifth Amendment repeatedly. At a 1997 hearing, after being granted immunity by the Government, the former Supervisory Special Agent answered “I don’t recall,” more than 50 times.

Further, FBI #302 memos obtained in this investigation show that three of the agents directly under SSA DeVecchio testified internally that he had crossed the line. The allegations of DeVecchio’s immediate subordinate Special Agent Christopher Favo[xxviii] and agents Howard Leadbetter and JeffreyTomlinson dovetail with what a series of Columbo family members told investigators when they agreed to testify: that DeVecchio had not only leaked intelligence to Scarpa, he had allowed him to view FBI surveillance tapes, warned him of impending arrests and furnished him with Bureau forensic evidence so that he could locate his opponents and hunt them down.[xxix]

DeVecchio himself had escaped prosecution on gun-running charges in 1976 when a U.S. attorney was ordered not to prosecute him for illegally selling $60,000 worth of weapons in Pennsylvania and allegedly lying to agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.[xxx]

Even worse, DeVecchio had intervened after Scarpa was arrested for a massive bogus credit card scam and gun possession, making sure that his prized informant got probation and stayed on the street. All of this, again, in defiance of Department of Justice informant guidelines. But DeVecchio later testified that Scarpa’s propensity for violence was known to top FBI officials at Headquarters in Washington.[xxxi]

Between 1960 when he first began as an FBI informant until he stopped working for the Bureau thirty-two years later, Scarpa was paid upwards of $158,000.00 by the Feds. But that was insignificant when compared to the millions he earned from loan sharking drug dealing, credit card and securities fraud and hijacking.  In three on-again/off-again decades cloaked with Bureau’s protection, Scarpa, also known as “the Killing Machine,” only did 30 days in jail before he was ultimately sentenced in the Colombo war homicides and died in prison.

When that tangled web became unraveled in the mid 90’s and DeVecchio was exposed, it threatened to derail multiple homicide and RICO cases that had made the careers of a series of prominent Feds.[xxxii]  Threatened with that level of embarrassment, the evidence now shows that officials of the FBI and Justice Department cut their losses by shutting down the most important investigation into an act of al Qaeda violence on U.S soil prior to 9/11. It was an intelligence lead, that if pursued, could have led the Feds right into the heart of the 9/11 plot.



[1] The Congress Of Racial Equality


[i]  U.S. vs. Cecil Ray Price et. al. Criminal Action Number 5291 U.S. Court For the Southern District of Mississippi. October 7, 1968.

[ii] Ibid at trial transcript p. 765

[iii] Ibid at p. 957.

[iv] Andrew Jacobs, “The Southern Town Struggles With A Violent Legacy,” New York Times. May 29, 2004.

[v] Author’s interview with Judge W.O. Chet Dillard, June 11, 2004.

[vi] FBI AIRTEL re: Top Echelon Informant June, 6, 1962.  Payment authorization from Asst. Director Evens to Director J. Edgar Hoover,

[vii] “Greg B. Smith and Jerry Capeci, “Mob, Mole & Murder,” New York Daily News, October 30, 1994.

[viii] Anthony Villano with Gerald Astor, Brick Agent, Inside the Mafia For The FBI (New York;
Quadrangle, 1977).

[ix] On November 21st, 2003 Alphonse Persico was sentenced to 13 years in prison for racketeering, extortion and loan sharking. Judge Reena Raggi, presiding at the U.S. Court for the Eastern District of New York, described Persico, 49, as “a very dangerous man.” John Marzulli, “Colombo Big Gets 13 Years,” New York Daily News November, 22, 2003.

[x] U.S. vs. Orena, 92 CR 351, affirmation of Flora Edwards.

[xi] Testimony of Marty Light, Gregory Scarpa Sr.’s former attorney at hearings before The President’s Commission on Organized Crime. Washington, D.C.  January 29, 1986.

[xii] Joseph Randazzo, a 21 year old associates of Scarpa’s son Joey, died after being struck by one of 16 bullets fired in the exchange by Ronald “Messy Marvin,” Moran. The former crack dealer who became a government witness, pleaded guilty to the Randazzo murder in 1997. In Brooklyn Federal Court in December of 1997 Moran testified about the Scarpa gun battle. “I had no bullets left in the gun,” he said. “I was trying to…run in the house and he (Scarpa) was just waving his gun around, shooting it.” Helen Peterson, “Feds Have New Canary,” New York Daily News. December 21, 1997.

[xiii] In 1979 at the age of 18, the handsome young Mazza, became a lover to Scarpa Sr.’s common law wife Linda Schiro, then 30. In 1994 he agreed to testify for the Government. He later gave extensive testimony to Federal prosecutors about Scarpa Sr.’s alleged corrupt relationship with his FBI handler R. Lindley DeVecchio. In July, 1998 Mazza was secretly sentenced to 10 years in federal prison, but he was later released. Jerry Capeci, “10-Yr. Prison Term For Mob Turncoat.” New York Daily News, August 10, 1998.

[xiv] FBI #302 report. Interrogation of Carmine Sessa April 18, 1994. p. 7.

[xv]. FBI Memorandum from Asst. Director  re: Scarpa’s recruitment for the Mississippi interrogation of the Klansman January 21, 1966.

[xvi] Sandra Harmon, “Scarpa’s Mistress,“ book proposal DATE.

[xvii] W.O. Chet Dillard, Clear Burning, Civil Rights, Civil Wrongs  (Jackson, MS; Persimmon Press, 1992).

[xviii] Author’s interview with Judge W.O. Chet Dillard, June 11, 2004.

[xix] Frederic Dannen, “The G-Man And The Hit Man,” The New Yorker, December 16, 1996.

[xx] Unique Way Of Solving Mystery, The Pittsburgh Post Gazzette, December 1, 1998. Tom Robbins and Jerry Capeci, “FBI Used Wiseguy To Crack KKK Man. New York Daily News, June 21st, 1994.

[xxi] Jerry Mitchell, “Feds To Aid In ’64 Slayings case,” The Clarion-Ledger, May, 29th, 2004.

[xxii] Andrew Jacobs, “The Southern Town Struggles With A Violent Legacy,” New York Times. May 29, 2004.

[xxiii] Ibid Dannen.

[xxiv] Authors interview with Alan Futerfas, May 24, 2004

[xxv] Sworn Affidavit of Gregory Scarpa Jr. July 30, 2002.

[xxvi] Affirmation of Flora Edwards;  Author’s interview with Flora Edwards, April 26, 2004; Author’s interview with Det. Joseph Simone, NYPD (ret.) April 30, 2004.

[xxvii] Affidavit of Gregory Scarpa, Jr. April 29, 1999; Affidavit of Gregory Scarpa, Jr. 2002.

[xxviii] FBI #302 reports re: interview of Christopher M. Favo, November 16, 1995; December 8, 1995; Alan J. Futerfas, pross memo, June __, 1996. U.S. vs. Anthony Russo et. al;. FBI #302. Interrogation of Larry Mazza. April 28, 1994.

[xxix] Bill Moushey, “Switching Sides. Federal Agents Sometimes Fall Prey To The Lurid Lifestyles Of Their Informants.” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, December 1st,1998.

[xxx] Affirmation of Flora Edwards. Exhibit M.  Testimony of R. Lindley DeVecchio. Cross Examination by Gerald Shargel.transcript pp. 158-166.

[xxxi] Pasquale Amato, Victory Orena vs. CV-96-1461; CV-96-1474, Affirmation of Flora Edwards, Exhibit M. p. 9  January 7, 2004.

[xxxii] Authors interview with Alan Futerfas, May 24, 2004; Author’s interview with Flora Edwards, April 27, 2004; Dannen, Ibid.

 


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