1964 was a big year for two of the FBI’s top echelon informants. Gregory Scarpa born in May of 1928 and Stephen Flemmi born in June 1934. Both men had become top echelon informants in the 1960s and were working providing the FBI with information on others. Each man had a person in the FBI he worked with: Scarpa worked with Special Agent Lin DeVecchio and Flemmi with Special Agent Paul Rico and later Special Agent John Connolly. These special agents were referred to as their handlers. Each handler would later be indicted for crimes committed in conjunction with their top echelon informants.
DeVecchio would go to trial in New York City and would have the case against him dismissed because the government’s main witnesses had given two different stories; Rico as an old sick man would be dragged out of his Florida home, treated like a life-long criminal and transported to Tulsa, Oklahoma where he died in custody maintaining his innocence which probably was the truth. Connolly would be the only one prosecuted by the federal prosecutors. He would be sent to prison, prosecuted a second time by the federal prosecutors in a state court, convicted and sentenced again. Having already done 12 years he is likely to die in prison if the federal prosecutors can put an arm lock on the Florida courts to keep him there.
Connolly never fired a gun at anyone. The federal witnesses against him were murderers. One, Martorano, did 12 years for 20 murders compared to Connolly’s ongoing 12 years in prison with no end in sight. How can that be in a civilized society?
Few recognize that Rico and Connolly were the most successful agents in New England bringing down the Mafia. Eventually they would become the victims of a gang-up by the Mafia and its lawyers who used the justice system and the federal prosecutors to gain their revenge. The families of life-long Mafia criminals were given tens of millions of dollars; the families of the agents were given a bucket full of disgrace.
When Connolly came to trial in 2002 in Boston the courtroom was full of cops who were cheering on, of all people, the gangster witnesses; when DeVecchio was tried in 2006 the courtroom was filled with FBI special agents who supported him. This huge difference in support for two agents alleged to have done the same is hard to explain.
I attribute it to the power of the federal prosecutors and the timidity of the FBI special agents more interested in themselves than their fellow agents. It was the state prosecutors who were after DeVecchio so screwing up the courage to oppose them was easy; not so with the federal prosecutors of Department of Justice who could put pressure on the FBI bosses to act against those special agents supporting Connolly. That sent most scurrying for the woods.
But back to the top echelon informants. Scarpa is reported to have murdered more than fifty people while Flemmi’s figure is probably somewhere between twenty and thirty. The difference probably can be accounted for because of the population difference between the Big Apple and the Bean Town, the former providing more opportunities.
Scarpa was not more depraved than Flemmi. Flemmi is one of the worst people ever to have walked the face of the earth. Included in his many murders he also murdered his step-daughter and long-term girl friend,
It’s frightening to think the FBI joined hands with people like Scarpa and Flemmi in its war against crime. You just have to wonder about the mental state of the people who came up with that idea that the best way to fight crime was to protect the top criminals so that they could continue committing crimes. It started under the auspices of J.Edgar Hoover an otherwise good man who seemed to have lost his way in this area dealing with organized crime.
Hoover modeled the program in part on what he had been doing with the Communists; but the difference is the Communists pursued a twisted ideal outside of themselves unlike the gangsters who are morally bankrupt, corrupt and greedily interested only in themselves. Some FBI agents were incapable of recognizing the differences.
The judge at DeVecchio’s trial found it unfathomable for “the FBI. charged with fighting crime, to employ as an informer a murderer as vicious and prolific as Greg Scarpa. apparently, and sadly, organized crime attributed to the FBI a greater probity than the FBI in fact possessed.”
Hoover never wanted to take on the Mafia. Perhaps that was because he knew his men were no match for the hardened criminals. Forced into doing it, he created a warped program that empowered these two evil men and dozens more just like them..
As to why 1964 was a very good year for these men, that’ll have to wait for another time.