This is the story of the Great Boston Bamboozlement. Webster’s Third New International Dictionary defines bamboozlement as: “the quality or state of being bamboozled.” Bamboozle is defined as: “to conceal one’s true motives from esp. by elaborately feigning good intentions so as to gain an end or achieve an advantage: MISLEAD, HOODWINK.”
It is a story bereft of heroes. It is a story where the hoodwinking was ubiquitous. None were spared. From judges sitting in august chambers of the federal court down through the taxi drivers all were taken in. Boston, Greater Boston, much of Massachusetts, and others from throughout the United States fell for the scam. It even reached across the sea to Ireland and England.
The main culprits were the media and the Mafia. The Mafia as one may expect was motivated by revenge. Surprisingly that also was the motive of some in the media. Although their targets were different, the end goal was the same.
The greatest dupes were those who controlled the strings of the federal government: the judges and the prosecutors. Many in the media were dupes buying into the line that had been established early by those in the media out for revenge and reaffirmed in their position by the subsequent acts of the prosecutors. Some in the media saw what was happening and spoke out bravely against the group think but they were few: Dave Boeri of WBUR being one of the few.
The FBI cannot be ignored. It is hard to say it was duped. It played along with the bamboozling hoping to minimize the embarrassment it had suffered by when its actions faced public scrutiny. Dodging and weaving it tossed the blame on one or two of its agents and pretended what happened in Boston was unique. We don’t know that however. The only FBI office in the nation that has ever been subject to a close scrutiny is that of Boston. We have no way of knowing what type doings are going on underneath the covers of those other offices. It wasn’t that the Boston office acted in a vacuum; agents from elsewhere came and went with the knowledge of what Boston was doing. It seemed to be that what happened in Boston did not stay in Boston; yet we have no way of knowing how widespread in the Bureau similar things have occurred or are occurring. We do know that the J.Edgar Hoover instituted the program that brought about much of the evils still exists.
One hero would have been Judge Mark Wolf. He’s the one with the intrepidness to lift up the cover that protected the Boston FBI office and released the awful genie that brought with it a horrible picture of the FBI’s Top Echelon Informant program but he also succumbed to the Mafia lies leaving him as an honorable man but one who fell a little short.
Back in the late Fifties a Mafia meeting took place at Appalachin, New York. The FBI was unaware of it. It was broken up by the New York State police and a couple of federal revenue agents. After this all doubt was removed about the existence of the Mafia in the United States. The FBI’s Director,J. Edgar Hoover, had denied there was anything like a Mafia in the country but confronted by this evidence even he could no longer hold out. Facing increasing embarrassment, he did a U-turn and declared it to be the FBI’s goal to eliminate the Mafia. But to save face he called it the La Cosa Nostra or LCN, a name used nowhere else but in law enforcement circles. But a rose is a rose by any other name so the FBI went after the Mafia. It took a time to get the assault underway but 30 years after that meeting the Mafia was a shell of its former self. One Mafia leader out of New York City opined that he’d have been better to have his arms cut off rather than having attended the Appalachin gathering.
Like the rest of the Mafia, the New England Mafia at the time Judge Wolf held his hearings in 1997 and 1998 had been fairly well been decimated by the FBI. The first major attack against it was pursuant to the information developed by FBI Special Agent, Paul Rico, who managed to take down its leader, Raymond Patriaca, a man who not only ran the Mafia but had great power in the State of Rhode Island. The second major attack was based in large part by the information provided by FBI Special Agent John Connolly. His final act as an FBI agent before retiring was to secure enough information to have a bug placed into a home and make a recording for the first and only time of a Mafia membership induction ceremony, evidence that for once an all did away with the suggestion that such a thing was a product of the fertile imagination of law enforcement.
Both Connolly and Rico retired with honors from the FBI. The Mafia waited to get its revenge. Rico would die waiting trial on a murder rap in Tulsa, Oklahoma, based on evidence provided by gangsters connected with the Mafia; John Connolly would be sentenced to 40 years in prison based on similar evidence. “Revenge tastes best when served cold” is an old Mafia saying.
The media’s animus needs longer space to explain. Let it suffice to say it was driven by the desire to destroy a man who had treated some parts of it with scorn and seemed to relish in his impregnability. He’d end up being taken down in part by his own hubris, like Achilles not recognizing the opening through which the poisonous arrow could inflict its fatal blow.
This is the story behind the story that most have come to accept as the truth. It shows how given the right wind the sails of deception can carry along many ships, not only of fools, but those trying to do the right thing.