As recounted in my third HarperCollins investigative book TRIPLE CROSS in 2005 Gregory Scarpa Jr., now serving a 40 year sentence, was responsible for uncovering a cache of undiscovered explosives buried for ten years. His source this time, was Terry Nichols.
EXPLOSIVES THE FBI MISSED
February 2005, Scarpa Jr., the Colombo Family wiseguy who had risked his life for eleven months between 1996 and 1997 ratting out Ramzi Yousef, the true mastermind of both WTC attacks, was serving a four decade stretch in The Supermax. Confined to a seven-by-twelve-foot cell in the prison known as “The Alcatraz of the Rockies,” in Florence, Colorado, he slept on a thin mattress atop a concrete slab.
Subject to special administrative measures (SAMs) that limited his number of visitors and phone calls, Scarpa Jr. was literally walled off from the outside world, unable to receive any newspapers or periodicals that would give him a hint of conditions on the other side of the prison’s twelve-foot razor-wire fences.
Along with a number of lone-wolf bombers housed there—such as Unabomber Ted Kazcinski and Olympic bomber Eric Rudolph—his fellow inmates now included many of the al Qaeda terrorists who had been convicted in the SDNY and imprisoned on multiple life sentences, including Ramzi Yousef, Abdul Hakim Murad, Eyad Ismoil, and Nidal Ayyad.
Despite his solitary confinement, which allowed him only one to two hours outside of his cell each day, Greg Jr. learned in early 2005 that homegrown terrorists might be planning to use a cache of undiscovered explosives from America’s second biggest adjudicated act of terror: the Oklahoma City bombing.
The tip came from Terry Nichols, the disgruntled army veteran who was convicted with Timothy McVeigh of planting the bomb on April 19, 1995, that killed 168 people at the Murrah Federal Building. McVeigh himself had been housed at the Supermax until his execution in 2001. Now, during their limited contact, Nichols was warning that a cache of nitro methane buried at Terry’s old home in Herrington, Kansas, might be retrieved and used to mark the tenth anniversary of the Oklahoma City blast in 2005.
According to Nichols, the explosive was buried with an ammunition can under a pile of rocks in a crawl space beneath the house where the FBI had supposedly done a thorough search following his arrest ten years earlier.
As soon as he got the word from Nichols, Scarpa Jr. contacted Angela Clemente, the forensic investigator who had been working to get him a lawyer for the past several years. With her partner, a Yale-educated Ph.D. named Stephen Dresch, Clemente contacted staff members in the offices of two congressmen she had dealt with on government reform issues: William Delahunt, a Democrat from Massachusetts, and Dana Rohrabacher, a Republican from California.
The most significant revelation from Scarpa Jr., according to Clemente, was Nichols’s alleged admission that “others unknown” were involved in the original Murrah Building plot—despite Timothy McVeigh’s insistence up until his execution that he and Nichols had acted alone.
Another startling new allegation Scarpa learned from Nichols was that Roger Moore, an Arkansas gun dealer whose girlfriend testified against Nichols and McVeigh, may have been an FBI informant. Nichols alleged that it was Moore who supplied the tubes of the high explosive that were buried in the crawl space.
Moore has always vigorously denied any involvement.
“Terry was anxious to have somebody test the boxes the explosive had come in for fingerprints,” says Clemente, “and that’s why he let word of the explosives slip to Greg.”
During McVeigh’s trial, the government had argued that Nichols and McVeigh had financed the Oklahoma City bombing by using the proceeds from a gunpoint robbery at Moore’s home on November 4, 1994. But evidence later showed that on the day of the robbery McVeigh was at a gun show in Kent, Ohio, hundreds of miles away.
Moore alleged that he had been accosted outside of his house at 9:00 or 9:30 a.m. that day by a man wearing a black ski mask and wielding a gun. Moore said that the man then took him inside the house and single handedly tied him up with rope and duct tape before robbing a series of guns, ammunition, coins, and other valuables.
In his book Others Unknown: The Oklahoma City Bombing Case and Conspiracy, McVeigh’s lawyer, Stephen Jones, wondered how Nichols, who “saw poorly” without his glasses and didn’t own contact lenses, could have effected the robbery. As Jones noted, Moore was never called by the government as a witness at McVeigh’s trial, but at Nichols’ trial, when Moore’s girlfriend and/or business associate listed one of the guns as stolen, Nichols’ attorney demonstrated that Terry had purchased that same weapon at a gun show two years before—a revelation described by Jones as “a stunning blow to the prosecution.”
IMPEACHING GREG JR. AGAIN
Now on March 4th, 2005, to test Scarpa’s credibility on the Nichols tip, the FBI reportedly sent a polygraph tech to the Supermax. After a brief examination, he reportedly concluded that Scarpa Jr. had failed. But forensic investigator Clemente insists that the lie detector test was flawed.
“First of all,” says Clemente, “the polygraph specialist sent from D.C. was belligerent to Greg Jr., which violates the protocol. Second of all, he asked about four questions, then abruptly left the test, went into another room and returned, but he didn’t re-inflate the cuff used to measure the subject’s responses. Finally, this man abruptly ended the test, and told Greg Jr. he wasn’t credible.”
And yet, just as he had with Yousef in 1996, Scarpa offered the FBI details of the explosives and their location that only Terry Nichols himself could have known. Clemente and Dr. Dresch reduced Scarpa’s verbatim recitation of Nichols’s account to a memo and sent it to an aide to Congressman Rhorabacher.
In it they predicted that if the FBI searched the crawl space they would find: “a cardboard box [approx. equal to] 18”x18”x18” wrapped securely in clear plastic wrap containing a full case of the nitro methane (red tinted) liquid portion (component) of the 2-part binary explosive component known as kine-stik (a.k.a. kine-pak). [The liquid is in small clear plastic tubes.] This box is the original box the product came in when delivered to [Roger] Moore’s home at Royal, Arkansas. Thus this is the box which would have his fingerprints on the outside or on the inside flaps . . . There is a 2nd box that’s also a brown cardboard similar in size to the first, possibly a bit larger. It too is wrapped securely in clear plastic and is sitting right next to the first box. This second box contains numerous (a couple hundred) electric blasting caps. And nearby these 2 boxes is a .50 caliber military ammo can ([approximately] 6”W x 8”H x 12”L). It contains at least one non-electric blasting cap, a 16 oz. can of black powder, 2 instructional booklets and some other miscellaneous items.”
The details of the location of the explosive were even more specific. According to Scarpa Jr., Nichols even suggested that in locating the kine-stiks the investigator should bring a flashlight and wear coveralls:
“Find north basement stairway near bathroom. Near bottom step is a square hole about 2 ft. by 2 ft. through the cement wall to left (east). This leads to the crawl space under most of the house. As soon as you enter into the crawl space both to the right which is south and left north are two piles of rocks. These are up against the wall you just went through.
“Note: The two rock piles were part of the foundation wall which was torn down to make other access holes for other parts of the house.
“Under the south pile is my ammo can.
“Under the north pile are two cardboard boxes wrapped in plastic.
“Simply remove the rocks. The north pile probably has some dirt covering the two boxes but not much. There is little light so a drop cord or flashlight would be helpful. And coveralls—the crawl space area is a dirt floor. The box to be fingerprinted, etc., is the one with the little tubes of reddish clear liquid.”
Despite the Bureau’s claim that Scarpa had failed his polygraph, enough pressure was brought to bear by Congressional staffers that the FBI finally agreed to a search. A team of agents entered the empty Herrington, Kansas house on March 31st.
Two days later, John Solomon, the Associated Press’s Washington deputy bureau chief, filed this story on the AP’s national wire:
WASHINGTON (AP) The FBI is facing the possibility it made an embarrassing oversight in the Oklahoma City bombing case a decade ago after new information led agents to explosive materials hidden in Terry Nichols’ former home, which they had searched several times before. FBI officials said the material was found Thursday night and Friday in a crawl space of the house in Herington, Kan. They believe agents failed to check that space during the numerous searches of the property during the original investigation of Nichols and Timothy McVeigh. The information so far indicates the items have been there since prior to the Oklahoma City bombing,” Agent Gary Johnson said in a telephone interview from Oklahoma City.”
Solomon reported that McVeigh’s attorney, Stephen Jones, “knew that some materials gathered for the attack were never found by the FBI and this discovery could answer some of those questions. But he added that it could also prove to be another black eye for the FBI, which was criticized for causing a delay in McVeigh’s execution after it found new documents in the case.”
“I think it is clearly embarrassing if it turns out to be true,” Jones said in Solomon’s story. “We’ve gone from not producing everything for the defendants to failing to recover from one of the conspirator’s homes evidence that clearly is material.”
In a follow up story on April 14th, 2005, the A.P.’s Mark Sherman reported that “While the FBI found no evidence supporting the idea that an attack is in the works for Tuesday’s 10th anniversary [of the Oklahoma City bombing,] the information that explosives had been hidden in Nichols former home in Herington Kansas turned out to be true.”
Steven Schwadron, Cong. Delahunt’s chief of staff, confirmed in the piece that the congressman’s staff had forwarded the warning to the FBI after receiving a letter about the hidden cache from Clemente and Dr. Dresch in early March. According to Sherman, the Bureau refused to comment on why it took weeks between the initial warning and the search to find the explosives, which had been buried beneath a home in a residential neighborhood.
In the story A.P. reporter Sherman confirmed that “The tip came from imprisoned mobster Gregory Scarpa Jr….an inmate in the same maximum security prison in Florence, CO where Nichols is serving life sentences for his role in the 1995 bombing.”
“Clearly the FBI—particularly Valerie Caproni, the general counsel—has every interest in discrediting Gregory Scarpa Jr.,” says Clemente, who first supplied me with Scarpa Jr.’s trove of intel from Yousef back in 2004. “Keep in mind that Caproni was one of the top Feds who went along with the story that Greg Jr.’s material from Yousef was a ‘hoax’ and a ‘scam,” and supported the four-decade sentence they gave him, even though Greg Jr. hadn’t been convicted of a single homicide. She thought he would be buried forever and they would throw away the key and now, here he was in March of 2005 tipping the FBI to another major embarrassment connected to a massive act of terror.”
BURYING THE MARIJUANA KING
Caproni, the former head of the criminal division in the EDNY, whose career was tied to the successful prosecution of those sixty remaining Colombo war cases, reportedly considers Scarpa’s conviction “one of her proudest accomplishments.” Or so she told Robert Vosper, who wrote a flattering profile of Caproni in the October 2004 issue of Corporate Legal Times.
“The younger Scarpa ran a lucrative marijuana operation in Brooklyn and Staten Island for the Colombo family,” Caproni told Vosper. “Not only was his crew dealing, but also forcing just about every drug dealer in Bensonhurst to pay a ‘street tax.’ When one dealer couldn’t pay off his $20,000 debt to Scarpa, the crew broke his cheekbone and both arms.” “The police said that when they took him to the hospital he looked like a fly,” Caproni told Vosper. “Both of his eyes were black and bloodshot, and his arms were broken. They beat the stuffing out of him.”
It’s true that Greg Jr. was known as “the marijuana king” of Staten Island. “But he has never been convicted of a single homicide,” says his former lawyer Larry Silverman. “So when Caproni and the other prosecutors in the EDNY supported that forty-year sentence, it had nothing to do with anything remotely resembling fairness or justice.”
“It was about the cover-up,” insists Clemente, who pushed to reopen the DeVecchio investigation along with Andrew Orena, the son of Vic Orena, the reputed head of the Colombo crime family, who got a life sentence in 1992. It was Orena’s faction, allegedly pitted against a faction of the family controlled by Alphonse “Allie Boy” Persico, that DeVecchio claimed had led to the infamous Colombo war between 1991 and 1992.
Back then, when Orena and his capo, Pasquale Amato, were sentenced to life, their attorneys had no idea that Greg Scarpa Sr. had not only instigated the war, but that he’d killed a third of the victims himself—and done so with the alleged support and encouragement of R. Lindley DeVecchio, the FBI’s top New York agent on organized crime.
By early 1992, Christopher Favo, DeVecchio’s number two in squad C-10 of the FBI’s New York Office, had become concerned that key intelligence on the location of witnesses in the Colombo war was finding its way to Scarpa Sr.
In January of that year, Favo gave DeVecchio what was thought to be the address of Orena’s girlfriend where he was believed to be hiding out. He also furnished a mistaken address for one of Vic’s soldiers. Later, a cooperating member of Scarpa’s crew admitted that he’d tried to kill both men by hunting them at the faulty addresses, which Greg Sr. had supplied to him from his “law enforcement” source.
It was that mistake on the hideout address that was one of the eight possible “disclosures” by DeVecchio to the “Grim Reaper” contained in EDNY prosecutor Ellen Corcella’s letter to defense lawyers on May 8, 1995. Corcella worked directly under Caproni, who was found to have withheld a key piece of exculpatory evidence from defense attorneys documenting the alleged corrupt relationship between the hitman and DeVecchio whom the killer referred to in code as his “girlfriend.”