Today I will be covering two subjects. First, I will briefly review a recent presentation by author Peter Lance of his book "Deal With the Devil: The FBI’s Secret Thirty-Year Relationship with a Mafia Killer," which is about the violent life of crime of Gregory Scarpa, Sr., who as a serial killer of historic proportions may have been Whitey Bulger before Whitey's time, with some overlap between the two careers. Second, I will describe some personal experiences that pertain to this series of True Crime articles.
With degrees in both law and journalism, Lance is perfectly equipped to assemble a prodigious, bewildering inventory of interrelated facts. This article can hardly do justice to Lance's work, but it will serve to introduce readers, especially crime aficionados, to the extensive material available on his website.
The book event took place at the Mob Museum in Las Vegas, part of the legacy of three-time Las Vegas Mayor and former Mob lawyer Oscar Goodman, who was the subject of an earlier article in this series
. The entire program consumed nearly two hours of fast-paced delivery of the highlights of Lance's investigations and some startling conclusions regarding the relationship of this work to the ongoing threat of international terrorism.
Lance calls Scarpa, Sr., "the most vicious, bloodthirsty and cunning serial killer," one who is alleged to have committed more than 50 murders within a single 30-day period. His son, Gregory Scarpa, Jr., ratted his father's gang to the FBI. Lance finds that some of the recipients of this information in the FBI tried to get Scarpa, Sr., while others protected him. As with Whitey, Lance's assessment is that Scarpa got the better of the interaction between himself and the law enforcement community.
Another major villain of the book is Scarpa's FBI control agent, R. Lindley DeVecchio, whom Lance accuses of acting as the principal enabler of Scarpa's crime wave. According to Lance, the basic facts of Scarpa's activities were known by the FBI as early as 1962, thanks to a memo delivered directly to FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover that may have been drafted by Truman Capote, author of the 1966 true crime thriller "In Cold Blood."
The second theme of Lance's speech, besides outlining the crimes of Scarpa and the complicity of the FBI, is to address the question, "Why should we care?" Lance's answer is that he has assembled evidence that the Mob had intelligence regarding the 9/11 plot as far back as 1997, and that a terror cell in Manila was involved in the World Trade Center plot, a plot to kill the pope and a plot to hijack 12 American planes dating back to 1995.
Along with other commentators, Lance has found that President George W. Bush was briefed on evidence of the 9/11 plot a month before it occurred. At least equally disturbing is Lance's finding that the terrorists operated a cell through an entity called Sphinx Trading, right in New York City where the diligent law enforcement could have tracked a nest of conspirators.
Instead, federal authorities conducted a sweep with great fanfare of over 100 over-the-hill mobsters. Scarpa was sentence to 40 years not for murder but for Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization (RICO), which is not a federal crime.
DeVecchio, Scarpa's allegedly complicit handler, was granted immunity and allowed to retire to Sarasota. Former Assistant U.S. Attorney for New York Patrick Fitzgerald devoted his energies to trying to suppress Lance's book on the 9/11 attacks. For Lance, the 9/11 attacks remain a "cold case."
Readers are likely to conclude, along with Lance, that the Mob had better intelligence than the FBI. For some, this notion may rekindle interest in possible Mob connections to the assassination of JFK.
The following are some first-person recollections and observations based on experiences that resonate with the testimony of Goodman, Former Rep. Robert Ney, R-Ohio, and Peter Lance as to the corruption and ineptitude of the "wreckers" of the criminal justice system.
In the summer of 1971, immediately after graduation from law school, I had the opportunity to clerk in the office of my uncle, Martin Fine, who was a county-seat lawyer in Williamsport, Penn., where I was born and my parents grew up. Clerkships were no longer required for bar admission, but it seemed to be a good way to get experience.
I immediately found myself working on a federal criminal gambling case involving 13 defendants, where simultaneous arrests had been made in Las Vegas and Williamsport. This was one of the earliest cases where wiretap evidence was employed as authorized under Nixon-era legislation that ironically was supposed to fulfill the administration's anti-crime platform.
The defense lawyers only had one copy of the wiretap transcript to share. I read it and made careful notes, but suggested that there was no substitute for hearing the actual tapes. To do this, I had to travel to Philadelphia and go through the tedious process of listening to the selections I had listed, with the young prosecutor having to change the tapes in order to maintain the chain of custody. As he was getting a bit tired of this, he offered to tell me which selections pertained to our client, and there were only three out of my lengthy list.
At this point, I summoned all my courage and said, "If that's all you have, I don't think you have much of a case." I expected him to come back with, "Look, punk, what you think is totally meaningless and of no interest to me."
So I was startled when instead, he said, "If you think this case is weak, wait until you see the next case we're going to try in Williamsport." As I continued to listen to wiretap passages and the day was winding down, he interrupted me and said he was going to dismiss the cases against our client and two of the other defendants. Presumably he had been talking to Washington and received permission to take this step. The case proceeded with the remaining defendants, and some of them were convicted of running an illegal gambling ring.
The next case that the prosecutor referred to also involved my uncle's client, but this time he had the public defender. The defense table was populated with about half a dozen lawyers.
The first step at the beginning of the case was to open the sealed wiretap order and introduce it into evidence. As the prosecutor, another young lawyer working on his first case, opened the envelope, his hair stood on end. The defense table asked to see the document, and as it passed from hand to hand, each of the lawyers chuckled. The wiretap order had not been signed!
What I did not realize but would learn over the subsequent decades is that snafus and fiascos within federal bureaucracies, including Congress, are commonplace, even routine. My experience in following the adventures of the so-called banking regulators for four decades has been that they seem to be recruited from "The Gang That Can't Shoot Straight." They seem to be the only people who don't know what is going on or are so conflicted by client interests that they are, in effect, complicit in the ongoing destruction of the U.S. and global financial systems.
No one is held accountable for the failures; instead, the "wreckers" of the regulatory bureaucracy are rewarded with higher salaries and more authorities, along with the financial terrorists who run the "too big to fail" banks. This is why the country is headed for another crisis episode of 9/11 proportions, one that will prompt another round of bailouts, excuses, power grabs and ill-conceived legislative fixes, supposedly to ensure this can never happen again.
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