Category: Organized Crime

scarpaOn June 4, 1994, Greg “The Grim Reaper” Scarpa died of AIDS related complications at the Federal Medical Center in Rochester, Minnesota.  The former mobster is known as one of the most feared killers in mafia history.   Joseph Valachi is thought to be the first made member of a La Costra Nostra family to shed light on the dark secrets held by the mafia.  Following Scarpa’s death, it came to light that he had been an informant for the FBI as early as 1953 preceding Valachi by ten years.  Unlike Valachi, he never testified and while an informant he continued to operate on the streets of New York with sometimes very deadly consequences.  From all accounts, he took part in or played a supporting role in dozens of murders, some of which remained unsolved.   His son, Greg Scarpa, Jr., is still incarcerated but has renounced his former life as a mobster and continues his quest to have his conviction reviewed and his jail time reduced.  I was previously familiar with the author Peter Lance, having read his book ‘A Thousand Years For Revenge’ as a sophomore at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice.   This book on Scarpa came as a recommendation from Amazon and I jumped at the chance to read this engaging and shocking expose.  And while the cover of the book is highly enticing on its own, what’s contained is the pages of this book is nothing short of mind-boggling and will make you question everything you thought you knew about the trials and convictions of mobsters, most notably, John Gotti, Vic Orena, Sr.,  Sammy “The Bull” Gravano and Anthony “Gaspipe” Casso.  And next to Scarpa, Casso figures prominently throughout the book and his relationship with the government is just as fascinating.

Lance does a masterful and mesmerizing job of investigation the government’s relationship with Scarpa and the intelligence he was providing to the FBI.   Receiving intelligence in return from the bureau, Scarpa was given a free pass to continue his criminal enterprise, avoid criminal prosecution and perfect his craft as a stone cold killer making the streets of Brooklyn run red with blood.  Lin DeVecchio, who was his handler, was charged and later acquitted of four homicides related to his relationship with Scarpa. And while he avoided prosecution, this book sheds new light on his actions at the time resulting in even more questions than answers.  DeVecchio didn’t take part in this book and never responded to Lance’s requests for interviews.   Whether his choice to avoid Lance is admission of guilt or a carefully thought out plan of defense is up to the reader to decide.  What is clear from this book is that for 30 years, Greg Scarpa, Sr., enjoyed a privilege seldom given to mafia killers.  Following his death, the fallout from his time as a confidential informant continued for several years.   However, not all of the fallout was negative.  In fact, Lance reveals several important details regarding the war on terror that have a direct relationship with the Grim Reaper himself through his son Greg Scarpa, Jr., and his incarceration with the infamous terrorists Ramzi Yousef and Terry Nichols.  For those who have studied the first World Trade Center bombing and the Federal Building  bombing in Oklahoma, this section of the book will be highly interesting.  When I started reading this I literally could not put it down.   For information on Greg Scarpa, the Colombo Crime Family wars and the government’s fight against and collusion with the mafia, this book is a must read.

ASIN: B009NG0SIG

 

Organized Crime Uncategorized

DeMeo On January 18, 1983, New York City Police Detectives were called to the scene of a grisly murder all too common in the streets battles of organized crime.  An abandoned Cadillac was found with a surprise in its trunk, the body of mobster Roy DeMeo, the homicidal enforcer for the Gambino crime family.  He had been brutally shot several times before his tragic demise.  During his career, it is believed that he participated in dozens of murders, running a modern-day version of Murder, Inc.  His death came as no surprise to some in law enforcement who know very well that many in that life eventually leave it in a body bag.  But for DeMeo’s family, his disappearance and death, shook the family to its core.

Albert DeMeo, his oldest son, stepped into his father’s shoes following the murder and his life changed in ways no one could have predicted.  To the public, DeMeo was a feared mobster whose reputation preceded him but to this family, he was a father and husband who never failed to show his love and teach them the ways of life so that they did not end up in the life that he chose.  Through Albert’s eyes, we see Ray as the stereotypical American father with a wife and three children who lives on a quiet street in an even nice neighborhood.  Albert is aware that his father has a job that is not the standard nine to five but is carefully shielded by his loving father.  After Ray’s death, Albert does not glorify the life or  reveal any smoking guns. But he does recall events involving figures such as Nino Gaggi, Dominick Montiglio, Anthony Senter and Joey Testa.   Senter and Testa became known as the Gemini Twins in mafia circles.

In the beginning, all seems as if there is one big happy family.   But DeMeo’s death changed everything and as Albert tells us, the world turned upside down and those once considered to be Dad’s friends, are seen in a different light as a veil of secrecy develops in the wake of the crime. And it is here that the story changes pace as the fallout begins.  Albert finds himself in the cross hairs as the Mafia wants to see what he knows about the organization and the police want to know what he has to tell about his father’s associates.  He becomes a pawn on a chessboard as two titans wage their war against each other.  The tug of war that ensued would have profound effects on DeMeo and his revelations about the effects on his personal life are eye-opening and tragic.

With this intimate account of his life as a Mafia child, DeMeo joins the group of authors who have published their memoirs that tell the story of life under the roof of an organized crime figure.  And what is clear from his words and theirs, is that life as a Mafia child is exciting as good times come and money flows in but at some point, things inevitably change, typically for the worse and the family is left to pick up the pieces.  In this story, DeMeo picks up the pieces as best as possible but not even he can overcome the adversity that stared the family in the face in the wake of the demise of one of the Mafia’s most prolific killers.

ASIN: B000FC1I4K
ISBN-10: 0767906896
ISBN-13: 978-0767906890

 

 

 

Biographies Organized Crime

JamBulgeres “Whitey” Bulger is currently incarcerated at the United States Penitentiary, Coleman in Sumter County, Florida. The former gangster who once ruled the streets of Boston is now 86 years of age and will spend the rest of his life behind bars.   The manhunt to capture him spanned 16 years and for several of those years, he was on the FBI’s list of most wanted criminals.  His capture is one of the biggest in U.S. history and also brought down many of the people connected to him, including both known associates and family members.   His trial resulted in numerous lawsuits brought against the U.S. government for the FBI’s complicity in facilitating Bulger’s criminal enterprise.

Recently, Johnny Depp has appeared in ‘Black Mass’ a semi-biopic about the notorious Bulger.  Depp is an outstanding actor and his portrayal of Bulger is nothing short of chilling.   Hollywood is known to take certain liberties when producing films and the true story is often more interesting and far more complex.  I began to search for a book on Bulger after watching the film and picked up this New York Times bestseller by Kevin Cullen and Shelley Murphy.  The authors have done an outstanding job of putting together this semi-biography and semi-investigative report into Bulger’s life, organization and the crimes that were committed.  This book is a great addition for movie goers who’ve seen the film and are looking for more background information on the main characters and the story line in general.   All of it is covered here, including the murders, racketeering, affairs, the FBI’s complicity, Bulger’s run from the law, his capture and conviction.  The city of Boston today is far different from the one in which Bulger made his fortune.  Most of the bars and after hour spots where criminal plans were created are gone, replaced by trendy coffee shops and other commercial establishments.   But at one time, the city was controlled by the most notorious criminal in Boston’s history.

ASIN: B00B0WHTJW

Organized Crime

LufthansaMartin Scorsese’s classic film “Goodfellas”, the story of the life of Henry Hill (1943-2012) during his time as an associate of the Lucchese crime family, is considered to be one of the greatest films ever made about the American mafia.  Scorsese himself has been quoted as saying it was the film he always wanted to make.  Featuring an all-star cast, his masterpiece took us into the violent and dysfunctional world of organized crime.  As a protegé of Jimmy “The Gent” Burke, Hill moved up the ladder of organized crime reaching his pinnacle when he took part in the planning of the infamous Lufthansa heist at JFK airport.  The heist took place in December, 1978 and cost Lufthansa five million dollars in cash and almost a million dollars in jewels.  A massive investigation was launched by the FBI, Port Authority police and New York City Police Department.  Only one person was convicted for the crime and the money has never been recovered.  In January, 2014, mobster Vincent Asaro was arrested and charged with being part of the heist.  He was acquitted in November, 2015.   This book is a collaboration between the late Hill and author Daniel Simone about the robbery and the personal lives of Burke and his crew.

The secrets regarding the location of the stolen cash went to grave with with the deaths of Burke, Paul Vario, Hill and the other associates who took part in the planning or execution of the robbery.   Asaro’s acquittal served as another dead end in the government’s quest to prosecute those responsible for the heist.   The investigation into the robbery received its first break with the discovery of the fingerprints of Pernell “Stacks” Edwards but was immediately compromised by hidden battles between the three leading investigative agencies.  It was not a team effort and the infighting resulted in investigators from each agency running into walls of silence and misinformation.  The crime pulled in all three agencies because 1) it involved currency stolen from an international air carrier, 2) the crime occurred on Port Authority property and 3) the crime occurred in Queens County even though it was on airport property.

At the top of the list of investigators was the Federal Bureau of Investigation in liaison with former United States Attorney and Boston College alumni Ed McDonald.  McDonald has admitted that Hill never made the best witness and his years of drug abuse had taken its toll on the memory he had left. Others have called Hill a rat, junkie, punk and far worse.  In fact, I have yet to hear anyone who did know him on the streets, speak kindly of him.  But the reality is that he was there and he was a witness to the events that formed the basis of Scorcese’s classic.  And his testimony proved to be beneficial for the U.S. government. Burke and Vario both died in prison as they served out their sentences from convictions based on Hill’s appearances.  Still though, this is Henry Hill and some parts of his story are questionable.  He alleges that an attempt on his life was made on Tillary Street near the Brooklyn Bridge.  There is no credible evidence to back up this claim.    So it is up to the reader to take what he does say at face value and cross-reference the facts.

The book reads like a crime novel and Simone’s writing style is engaging.   In the film, there is a sequence in which the bodies of those connected to Burke began to surface following the robbery.  Their deaths are explained further in the book helping the reader and movie buff to understand why they were eliminated and the reasons behind Burke’s actions.  He unleashed a deadly wave of homicides in the wake of the heist and proved to be just a cunning as any mobster we have ever seen.  Burke has long been deceased and can offer no response in defense. But even if he were alive, I highly doubt that he would have written any type of book regarding his time in the life.   Both he and Vario were considered old-school mafioso who lived by the rules of the game.  And had it not been for the movie, millions of people would have never heard their story.  Hill died on June 12, 2012 at the age of 69 after years of battling heart disease. The remaining secrets have gone with to his final resting place.  But before he died he left behind testimony interviews and this collaboration with Simone.   He may not be the most reliable, but he was the final link to a time in New York City that we will never see again.

ISBN-10: 1493008498
ISBN-13: 978-1493008490

Mafia Organized Crime