A Tale of Two Gangsters and Their Handlers

buick riviera1964 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.




  1. Jean, by that logic, anyone who works in government “subjects themselves to higher powers” which may scapegoat them. Connolly chose to be an honest FBI agent and was unjustly scapegoated. Noreiga chose a life of crime and got his just deserts.

  2. Matt – Merry Chritmas to you and your family…

    As I read all about John Connolly being framed and likely to die in prison I would like to point out the fact that this is the 25 year anniversary of the invasion of Panama by the US in order to capture Noreiga who essentially was a TEI for the US CIA…and he too will die in prison…but, more importantly he will never be able to tell what his relationship to the US was…I am not making a comparison between former FBI Agent Connolly and Noreiga per se, I am only suggesting that this is the fate of those who get involved in the very murky world of the TEI program..by choice they have subjected themselves to the higher powers which has made them vulnerable to being scapegoated…

  3. Brian, John Connolly was framed by the DOJ and continues to be defamed by the press, the DOJ and private citizens like yourself. What precisely did John do to deserve 12 years in prison? Reflect on that. In Mass, he was convicted of one crime during his 23 years as an agent (transmitting a case of wine with $1,000 in it; there’s a Boston cop who got one year for taking $1,000; John Connolly has never been convicted nor credibly accused of taking a dime; fifteen years after Connolly retires from the FBI, Flemmi, after 8 years in prison, for the first time says Connolly was dishonest; Come on !); Connolly’s other five “wrongful acts” occurred 5 to ten years after he left the FBI and included (1) writing a letter to a judge; (2) telling an FBI agent he didn’t contact a lawyer’s office (3) telling Weeks he heard through the grapevine an indictment was coming down; (4) helping Flemmi’s defense team; (5) telling Weeks to tell Flemmi “to lie” about something. All but number 5, he has a constitutional right to do. I can write a scurrilous letter to the judge condemning cops and judges, and if my letter contains intentionally factual errors, I can be sued for defamation. It’s not a crime to write letters or speak on the streets or help someone’s legal defense. The FEDs made innocent acts into crimes. These five convictions were for “crimes” he committed while a private citizen. Tauro sentenced him to 10 years in prison for them. 2. In Miami, he was wrongfully prosecuted and falsely convicted of “murder by gun.” The sole basis for that conviction was Flemmi’s 2008 “story” that Connolly said in “1982” that “If John Callahan talks we’ll all be in trouble.” The Miami conviction has been overturned by an Appeals Court. The judicial errors and abuse in Miami are too many to list in this post. What happened to John Connolly is a grotesque travesty of justice. He is as innocent as Captain Dreyfus was. (3) Remember why the FBI agents were silent in Boston: Wyshak stood before Judge Wolfe in 1999 and allowed Cardinale (representing Flemmi or Salemme) and Dimento (representing Martorano or some other gangster) to splatter with mud a dozen FBI agents. Wyshak was seeking indictments against those same agents before a grand jury at about the same time. The books were cooked. Wyshak had a duty to defend the FBI agents and failed in that duty. Wolfe wrote a 600 page decision indicting de facto a dozen FBI agents for violations of laws, policies, rules and regulations. Every FBI agent who spoke up in defense of Connolly would have been indicted and lost their job, pension, and perhaps their freedom. They knew how vicious and zealous the Federal prosecutors were. The FBI agents had mortgages and children in college; speak and lose everything. Unlike the Patriots who pledged their lives, fortunes and sacred honor to each other, the FBI fell short in its defense of a good honorable man, John Connolly. I blame the Federal judges (Wolfe, Tauro, Selya, etc) for turning a blind eye to these “witch trials.” I blame the Federal prosecutors for conducting a Witch Hunt. I blame the Boston media, press, t.v., radio (Carr) for unfounded character assassination. 5. Want to open your mind and hear an opposing view, read Character Assassins II (Xlibris 2014)

  4. Your articles are always interesting.

    But in light of all that he has done, John Connolly deserves to be in prison. There are many others who deserve it as well. But John Connolly is right at the top of that list.

  5. The FBI abandoned Connolly exactly as the State Police betrayed Naimovich ( save Lowell). The State cops suffered a great psychological blow in the Naimovich matter which explains their fury against Connolly and the FBI and their conduct at Connolly’s trial. Department rivalry and jealousy also played a part. The FBI did use some very bad types as informants but they got the top 150 Mafia on the East Coast. The State and local police had higher standards and didn’t catch any Mafia. 2. You are 100% correct that the Mafia and it’s lawyers orchestrated the charges against Rico and Connolly. But they were aided by the the DOJ and judiciary. The claims of corruption were 15 to 30 years old. The source of the claims were Mafia killers. On their face they were incredible yet the DOJ used them. Who runs the DOJ? The media? The Mafia? Al Sharpton? Are the criminals in charge. We don’t need police reform we need DOJ reform. Merry Chritmas

  6. Matt, Merry Christmas. I’ve been doing a little reading on Scarpa. From what I read he was an FBI informant from about 1963-66, then when he was implicated in a bank robbery the FBI dropped him as an informant. In 1980, FBI agent DeVecchio picked him up again as informant. Around 1990-1995. Scarpa’s wife said DeVecchio knew of three murders Scarpa had committed and did nothing. DeVecchio started to be prosecuted. Then the defense came up with an early tape-recording by the wife who stated DeVecchio knew nothing about any murders. When the prosecutor was shown the tape-recording, he dropped the case. You’d think Wyshak, Durham, Kelly and other federal prosecutors would have stopped their persecutions when it was proven their witnesses Salemme, Flemmi, Martorano, etc, had told inconsistent stories. But no . . . The FEDs had to do the Globe’s bidding and get the great White Whale from South Boston, so the prosecutions-persecutions zealously continued despite the contradictory evidence proffered by serial killers.