A Tale Of Two MurdersA Special Report On The Fifth Anniversary Of 9/11
By J. R. de Szigethy
Within the space of one day in November, 1990, two of the most significant murders in New York City crime history occurred; the murders of Rabbi Meir Kahane and Eddie Lino. Kahane was an Orthodox religious leader, author and public speaker, Israeli politician, FBI Informant, close associate of Colombo Mafia Family Godfather Joe Colombo, and the founder of the militant Jewish Defense League. Lino was a heroin dealer who was a hitman in the 1985 murder of Paul Castellano that elevated John Gotti to Godfather of the Gambino Family. Both murders have one common link; that of NYPD Detective Stephen Caracappa, who played a key role in the investigation of the first murder, and was the triggerman in the second.
Both these murders - and the investigations into them - would have far-reaching ramifications, offering up lessons to be learned by current and future generations; the most notable being that corruption and incompetence among law enforcement not only endangers the public safety, but can threaten our national security as well.
Stephen Caracappa should never been hired as a New York City Police Officer; as a young man, Caracappa, raised on Staten Island, was arrested on a felony burglary charge. Despite this criminal past, Caracappa was hired by the NYPD in the late 1960s. The same can be said for the man who would later become Caracappa’s ‘Partner in Crime,’ Lou Eppolito. A bodybuilder who attained the title "Mr. New York City," Eppolito admitted during his screening procedures that he was the son and nephew of two members of the Gambino Mafia Family. Eppolito was hired nevertheless.
It is still not yet clear as to exactly when and where Stephen Caracappa and Lou Eppolito began to be ‘Partners in Crime.’ In Court proceedings in 2006, Federal Prosecutors alleged that the two began to hold up bodegas in New York City during the late 1970s in order to obtain spending money. Caracappa was also alleged to be involved in drugs - notably cocaine - during his work in the late 1970s as an undercover narcotics officer. It is also believed that Eppolito utilized anabolic steroids during his brief career as a bodybuilder, a common practice then among athletes at a time when taking such substances was not illegal.
As Eppolito exhaustively revealed in his auto-biography ‘Mafia Cop,’ he had become a darling of the Media during the 1970s and 1980s. The tabloid newspapers of New York of that era reveled in detailing the hard-nosed cop’s exploits, portraying Eppolito as a variation of John Wayne and ‘Dirty Harry,’ walking the streets of the Big Apple wearing the uniform and badge of the NYPD. Eppolito was seen as on a mission to protect ordinary citizens from the thieves and drug dealers that with each passing year were becoming more violent.
Eppolito, however, was serving more than one Master. According to Mafia protocol, and his own auto-biography, Eppolito was loyal and showed "Respect" to his father and Uncle Jimmy the Clam and his son ‘Jim- Jim,’ all three of which were ‘Made’ members of the Gambino Family, meaning they had each murdered at least one person on orders of their Godfather. By extension, Eppolito showed the same regard and "Respect" for the Gambino Family Godfather, Paul Castellano. At that time Paul Castellano was at the height of his power and influence; he lived in a mansion called the "White House" on Staten Island’s appropriately named ‘Todt Hill,’ so named by early Dutch settlers, which means "Death Hill." Castellano controlled one of the largest Mafia families in America; the Gambinos were into just about everything Evil and illegal; hijacking trucks and fencing the stolen goods; drug trafficking; credit card rip-offs; a stolen car ring; the production and distribution of pornography, including child pornography; murder for hire.
And the Gambinos, along with the Genovese and DeCavalcante Families, maintained iron-clad control over the corrupt labor Unions that dominated the New York economy; construction, the docks on the waterfront; shipping and trucking; the garment industry; waste management; restaurants and hotels. In 1978 Godfather Castellano must have beamed with pride when a member of his Family, a corrupt Union leader, stood next to President Jimmy Carter during a labor Union rally in New York City.
It was the labor Unions of New York, Boston, and Chicago that had helped Jimmy Carter get elected President in 1976. The country at that time, weary from the excesses of the Watergate scandal of the Nixon Administration, had turned to the little-known Southern Governor for new leadership. By 1979, however, what had begun as a promising, new era in American history had turned into what many regarded as a nightmare. Upon arriving in Washington, one of President Carter’s first actions was to decimate America’s intelligence community, with long-lasting repercussions worldwide. When the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, Carter’s response was to threaten that unless the Soviets removed their troops he would not allow American athletes to compete in the 1980 Olympic Games to be held in Moscow. When Cuban Dictator Fidel Castro dumped thousands of his most violent criminals and mentally ill citizens onto the shores of America in the infamous ‘Mariel boat lift,’ President Carter took no action, much to the dismay of our nation’s law enforcement community. For the last 444 days of his Presidency, Carter allowed the most powerful nation in the world to be humiliated as Islamic Fundamentalists in Iran held 52 Americans hostage.
As Carter’s Presidency was failing, his wife, First Lady Rosalynn Carter became involved in her own public relations nightmare, a bizarre sequence of events during which a hostile Media published a succession of photographs of Mrs. Carter in the company of vicious murderers, one of whom was "Jim-Jim" Eppolito. By the time the scandal had run it’s course, the Carter Administration would become the target of ridicule and satire by members of the Media, as well as fodder for comedians and late-night talk show hosts. And, two members of the Eppolito family would wind up dead.
The first such embarrassing incident involving Rosalynn Carter came in November, 1978 and it involved a Preacher who was active in Democratic politics in San Francisco. During a 1976 campaign event Mrs. Carter had shared a platform and dined with the Reverend Jim Jones, an avowed Communist who had been appointed Director of the Housing Authority by San Francisco Mayor George Moscone. By 1978, however, Reverend Jones had relocated his Congregation to a plantation in Guyana, South America, where the flamboyant Minister began to preach an apocalyptic doctrine that advocated mass suicide as a means of bringing about global Socialism. It would later be learned that Jones had taken action to have the $7 million in the Church’s bank accounts bequeathed to the Soviet Communist Party upon his death.
When Congressman Leo Ryan learned of the Reverend Jones’ bizarre new rhetoric he set off on a fact-finding tour of ‘Jonestown’ to speak to some its members, most of whom were constituents of his Congressional District back home. On November 18th, 1978 members of Jones’ cult murdered the Congressman, and Reverend Jones then ordered the members of his Congregation to commit suicide. Most of the 900 men, women, and children in the cult complied by consuming a children’s drink laced with cyanide. Those who did not quite possess such Revolutionary zeal were murdered.
The government of Guyana reacted to this shocking event by releasing copies of letters by top U. S. officials praising Reverend Jones and his Church, this to counter public opinion worldwide that Guyana had allowed into it’s borders "a bunch of crazies." A spokesman for the government told the Media that "the Reverend Jones presented references of the highest caliber!" The Guyanese government released glowing tributes to Reverend Jones from Americans including President Carter’s Vice-President Walter Mondale, former Vice-President Hubert Humphrey, Joseph A. Califano, Jr., Carter’s Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare, Senators Henry "Scoop" Jackson of Washington State and Mike Gravel of Alaska, Congressmen Phillip Burton of California and Jonathan Bingham of New York, former New York Congresswoman Bella Abzug, San Francisco Mayor George Moscone and his predecessor Joseph Alioto, and First Lady Rosalynn Carter.(1)
Mrs. Carter’s letter to the Reverend Jim Jones was hand-written on White House stationary, in which she promised to relay to her husband Reverend Jones’ plea in a previous letter to her asking that the Carter Administration provide humanitarian aid to the Communist government of Fidel Castro. Back in the United States, the Media dug up a photograph of Mrs. Carter embracing the Reverend Jones, much to the delight of Republicans eager to see the Carter Administration embarrassed.
Just days after the ‘Jonestown Massacre,’ San Francisco residents were rocked by another shocking event, when a member of the San Francisco City Council, Dan White, murdered Mayor Moscone and Harvey Milk, a local gay activist. Gays would later riot in the streets of San Francisco, overturning police cars and setting fires, after a jury acquitted White of the most serious charges against him, this after his lawyer argued that White’s murderous rage was caused by a bad reaction to his ingestion of a Hostess Twinkie. Dan White would later commit suicide.
Two weeks after the murder of Mayor Moscone, Democrats were hit with another embarrassing event, when authorities arrested a Chicago resident who was active in local Democratic Party activities. John Wayne Gacy would eventually be executed for murdering 33 young men, most of whom were found buried underneath his house, the same home at which Gacy had hosted events for the local Democratic Party. After Gacy’s arrest, the Media distributed a photo of First Lady Rosalynn Carter shaking hands with Gacy during a campaign stop in Chicago.
With these bizarre events and disclosures coming within the space of just a few weeks of each other, comics across America were having a field day ridiculing the Carters. Making matters worse was the fact that when the Carters first came to Washington they brought with them from Georgia a convicted murderer, Mary Fitzpatrick, to work in the White House as a Nanny to their young daughter Amy.
Then, a few months after the arrest of John Wayne Gacy came the 60 MINUTES story that exposed a fraudulent children’s charity scam run by "Jim-Jim" Eppolito that had ensnared both Mrs. Carter and Massachusetts Senator Teddy Kennedy. Broadcast on national television for all the world to see was a photograph of the First Lady of the United States, Rosalynn Carter, shaking hands with yet another murderer, "Jim-Jim" Eppolito.
Eppolito’s Godfather Paul Castellano was not pleased. What had been Mrs. Carter’s public relations nightmare was now his as well. Castellano, who owned politicians and Union leaders the way some people owned pet dogs, understood the political ramifications of what could come of this scandal. There would certainly be a law enforcement investigation into the charity scam that Jimmy Eppolito had run. If the case went to trial it would turn into a ‘media circus,’ especially if the First Lady of the United States was called to testify as to how she had been innocently drawn into the scam. Pious Republicans in Washington would demand their own investigation, the sole purpose of which would be to further embarrass the Administration they desperately wished to see replaced the next year with one of their own.
The only way to stop this was to remove Jim-Jim Eppolito from the face of the Earth.
In his auto-biography Lou Eppolito bragged about his ability to arrange a ‘sit-down’ with Godfather Castellano and specifically mentions the events surrounding the murders of his Uncle and cousin. What Eppolito does not go into detail about is the apparent orchestration of these murders. Given that Detective Eppolito was a ‘darling’ of the New York City Media, Castellano and his associates must have known that the murder of Jimmy Eppolito would be a front-page story, exactly the publicity the Gambinos did not want. Thus, the evidence suggests that the decision was made to take Jimmy Eppolito and his father out on a day when the Media - as well as law enforcement - would be distracted by some other ‘big event.’
That ‘big event’ was the arrival in New York of the enormously popular Pope John Paul II. The Pope had been scheduled to address the United Nations and lead two outdoor Masses on October 2nd and 3rd. In the early morning hours of October 2, 1979, Lou Eppolito was awakened by a phone call. By his own admission, Eppolito exploded into fury at the news that his Uncle and cousin had been murdered. Eppolito’s rage was further fueled during his examination of their bodies at the Morgue; both men’s faces had been blown off by their assassins, who shot them numerous times at close range inside a car.
Eppolito left the Morgue in order to join the thousands of New York cops assigned to provide security for the Pope during his visit. The Pope’s visit had turned into a Media frenzy. On a ‘slow news day’ the murder of two Mafia Wiseguys - relatives of a decorated Police Officer who himself was a ‘Media favorite’ - would have been front-page news. Instead, the story was eclipsed by coverage of the Pope’s visit. In the days following the murders the Daily News did not even report on the story, while the Post ran one short blurb buried on page 15.
This was exactly the way Godfather Castellano wanted it. And, if as a consequence of removing this embarrassing ‘problem,’ another name was added to the growing list of men who wanted Castellano dead, that name being that of Detective Lou Eppolito, the Gambino Godfather probably shrugged off the matter as just the cost of doing ‘Business.’
Trouble for the Godfather, however, was just beginning. Jimmy Carter was defeated in his re-election bid in 1980, an event that would have enormous repercussions for the American Mafia. The new President, Ronald Reagan, owed nothing to the mobbed-up Unions that had supported Carter. To combat the American Mafia, President Reagan appointed William French Smith as his Attorney General. Appointed to the number 3 position within the Justice Department was a young attorney from New York named Rudolph Giuliani. That position put Giuliani in charge of all of the U. S. Attorneys across the country. In 1983 Giuliani accepted his own demotion to that of U. S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York. Giuliani felt he could make more of an impact on organized crime by prosecuting members of New York's Five Mafia families utilizing the provisions of the RICO Act of 1970.
The "Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act" had been passed by Congress to add substantial prison sentences to those who commit crimes as members of criminal enterprises such as the American Mafia. However, the Attorney General at that time, John Mitchell, was himself a criminal, who would later be sent to prison for the crimes he committed in the ‘Watergate Affair.’ His boss, President Nixon, would later resign in disgrace and his successors, Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter, did not push for utilizing the potential of the RICO statutes to combat organized crime.
In Rudolph Giuliani, President Reagan found someone who would at last wield this weapon granted to law enforcement a full decade earlier. Giuliani soon racked up one of the most impressive records of prosecutions of Mafia figures in United States history. Among these was 1986's "Commission Trial" in which top associates of all five New York Mafia families were convicted, as well as the infamous "Pizza Connection" drug trafficking trial.
While Giuliani was targeting Godfather Castellano, Lou Eppolito also found himself in trouble with the law. In 1983, authorities raided the home of a heroin dealer, Rosario Gambino. Inside Gambino’s home, authorities claimed they found copies of law enforcement files on Gambino that clearly had to come from a ‘mole’ inside law enforcement. Lou Eppolito emerged as the primary suspect and authorities claimed that his fingerprints were on one of the papers. However, after a Departmental Trial, Eppolito was cleared of the charges and given back his gun and Badge.
Eppolito’s Godfather Paul Castellano would not be so lucky. First, Rudolph Giuliani hit Castellano with numerous indictments, alleging murders, including those of James Eppolito Sr. and Jr., racketeering, drug trafficking, prostitution, extortion, bribery, and auto theft, among other charges. Castellano would not live to face such charges. On December 16, 1985 Godfather Castellano left his Todt Hill home in the company of his driver, Thomas Bilotti. When the two men pulled up in front of Sparks Steak House in Manhattan they were quickly blown away by a four-man hit team, including a heroin dealer named Eddie Lino.
It was not a ‘slow news day’ on the day Paul Castellano went down and the murder of the Gambino Godfather was front-page news. John Gotti wanted it that way, and overnight a ‘star’ was born - that of John Gotti as a Godfather ‘Superstar,’ a celebrity who sought to please his "Public" through the Media, openly strutting around New York in his thousand-dollar suits. The Media loved it; John Gotti sold newspapers. And, the dead bodies began to pile up. In April, 1986, John Gotti’s Underboss, Frank DeCicco, a conspirator in the plot against Castellano, was murdered when a bomb blew up the car he had entered into, a car that Gotti himself was scheduled to climb into at some point that day. Suspicion by law enforcement centered on Genovese Family Godfather Vincent "Chin" Gigante, whom it was believed was seeking to kill all those who murdered Castellano without "permission" from the ‘Commission,’ the ruling body of New York’s five Mafia families.
This Mafia hit was soon followed by one that did not succeed, in which members of the Gambino Family ambushed Anthony "Gaspipe" Casso, the Underboss of the Luchese Mafia Family. It is now known that Lou Eppolito’s cousin, Frank Santora, had recruited the two ‘Mafia Cops’ to provide information - as well as other services - to "Gaspipe" Casso. During a prison stint in the early 1980s, Santora became associated with Burton Kaplan, a career criminal who had done business with Casso. Once both men were out on the streets, Santora hooked up his cousin Lou with Kaplan - and through him, Casso.
Gaspipe Casso turned to the Mafia Cops for help in murdering one of those who tried to kill him, a Staten Island resident named James Hydell who was a hitman for the Gambino Family. Caracappa and Eppolito tracked down Hydell one day and ‘arrested’ him as police officers. Instead of delivering Hydell to the local Police Precinct, the two Mafia Cops instead delivered Hydell to Casso in the parking lot of a children’s toy store.
Gaspipe then took the bound young man to a house in Brooklyn. In the basement of the house, Gaspipe brutally tortured the hitman to make him reveal the names of his accomplices in the failed hit on him. As the 1980s drew to a close, the Mafia Cops would continue to assist Gaspipe Casso in the murders of numerous men Casso believed to be his enemies. One of the last to be targeted was Eddie Lino. As an accomplished hitman himself, Casso and the Mafia Cops knew that the murder of Lino would be a difficult task. This murder would thus take particular planning and skill in order to be pulled off.
The plot against Eddie Lino came at a time when crime in New York was changing dramatically, during which the Italian Mafia’s control of the market share of criminal activity faced new, unprecedented competition. First came the Colombian drug cartel, aided by their counter-parts in the Dominican Republic and Jamaica. Billions were to be made in America by these drug cartels, offering up a new, cheap drug; crack cocaine. They themselves faced competition when the Soviet Union collapsed at the end of the decade, one result being the flooding of New York of Russian Mafia thugs, many of whom had worked for the KGB.
During the 1980s, the United States government had funneled billions of dollars to the Islamic Fundamentalists waging war to drive the Soviets out of Afghanistan. Although Afghanistan was a poor, under-developed country, the Afghans had an asset that they used to their advantage; that of their terrain. The Afghan countryside is one of mountains of extremes in terms of vertical height and inclimate weather. Buried beneath these mountains is a labyrinth system of tunnels and caves in which the Afghan rebels successfully hid from the Soviets as they waged their guerilla warfare. The Soviet Army was in Afghanistan for a full decade yet could not root out the resistance in the mountains. (By the same token, Osama Bin Laden has been hiding out in this same system for 5 years now since 9/11.)
Once the Soviets withdrew from Afghanistan as their very own system of government began to collapse under the weight of it’s own improbability, many of those involved in the struggle for Afghan Freedom were confronted with new choices; whether to remain in that country, return to the countries of origin from which many had come, or go elsewhere in search of a new life. Some came to America.
Since the 1970s, followers of Islam from nations across the Globe had been quietly infiltrating the U. S., many of them members of various terrorist organizations. By 1990, terrorist cells had been established in most major cities throughout America. In Oklahoma City, Los Angeles, Dallas, Houston, Philadelphia, Washington, and Kansas City, cells were set up by associates of Hamas. In Cleveland and Raleigh, North Carolina, cells of supporters of Islamic Jihad were established. In St. Louis, a cell was formed by Palestinians loyal to Abu Nidal. In Chicago, a gang of African-American and Hispanic drug dealers, calling themselves the "El Rukns" received support from Libyan agents. In Denver, Ft. Lauderdale, and Boston, cells associated with Al Qaeda were set up. In New York City, cells were established by veterans of the Afghan war, notably Mustafa Shalabi, who ran the Alkifah Refugee Center in Brooklyn.(2)
Most Americans were unaware of the penetration of their cities and communities by Islamic terrorist cells until two legal cases exposed the threat amongst us. One case involved Federal prosecutions of the El Rukns gang in Chicago. "El Rukns" is Arabic for "The Foundation." In the mid 1980s, members of this ‘narco-terrorist’ gang traveled to Libya, where they joined in a conspiracy to commit acts of terrorism within the United States in exchange for funding from the government of Libyan Dictator Muammar al-Qaddafi. In 1987, 5 members of this gang, including it’s then-leader Jeff Forte received sentences of nine to eighty years in prison for conspiring with Libya to blow up airplanes and buildings within the United States. Other trials of El Rukns members followed, which resulted in additional convictions against numerous gang members.
Many of these convictions, however, would later unravel after it was revealed that agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, as well as Prosecutors in the U. S. Attorney’s Office in Chicago, had provided Prosecution witnesses with "sex and drug parties" held within the offices of the Federal Prosecutors. As investigative reporter Jeffrey Toobin would later report in The New Yorker, no disciplinary actions were taken by the government against the accused Federal employees.
Just how dangerous the El Rukns members were to America would later be revealed in 2002, with the arrest of El Rukn member Jose Padilla, aka Abdullah al-Muhajir. The Feds alleged that the Brooklyn-born Padilla had traveled to Egypt, Afghanistan, and Iraq in his quest to obtain and detonate a ‘dirty bomb’ containing nuclear waste over a major U. S. city. Padilla was eventually indicted on other charges relating to supporting terrorism.
Like the original Federal Prosecutions in Chicago of the El Rukns, a legal case emerged in 1989 that forced the FBI to reveal the growing threat of Islamic terrorist cells operating in America. This event transpired in America’s heartland, St. Louis, Missouri, the city that heralds itself as the "Gateway to the West." On the morning of November 6, 1989, an FBI agent learned while listening to the radio of the death of a 16-year-old Palestinian girl, Tina Isa. The FBI agent in question knew that the Isa apartment was bugged, given that the father of the young girl, Zein Isa, was involved in a criminal scheme that was raising funds for the Islamic terrorist Abu Nidal. The agent also knew that whatever transpired in that apartment would be captured on an FBI tape. When examined, the tape revealed that Tina’s father had confronted her the night of her death, angry that she had defied Islamic tradition by applying for a part-time job at a Wendy’s fast food restaurant without his consent.
Tina’s father’s voice is clear on the FBI tape: "Listen, my dear daughter: tonight, you’re going to die!" Eight minutes of the tape reveal Tina’s screams as her mother holds her down while her father repeatedly stabs her in her heart with a butcher knife. The brutal murder of Tina Isa forced the FBI to admit that cells of Islamic terrorists were in place in numerous communities in the United States, and that the FBI was aware of this and was monitoring their activities. The father and mother of Tina Isa were convicted of her murder and both received the Death Penalty. This was not the end of the story.
On April 1, 1993, Zein Isa was indicted by the Feds on charges he participated in a plot to blow up the Israeli Embassy in Washington. Indicted along with Isa were co-conspirators Tawfiq Musa, Saij Nijmeh, and Luie Nijmeh. The indictment marked the first time that members of a terrorist organization, in this case the Abu Nidal Organization, were indicted in the United States for plotting terrorist attacks within our borders. The four men were charged under RICO statutes, usually utilized in prosecuting members of the Mafia. The RICO statutes provide substantial prison sentences and each man faced Life in Prison if convicted of all charges. Incredibly, the charges against Zein Isa were dropped and his 3 co-conspirators accepted a plea bargain of 21 months which resulted in their immediate release. Jewish leaders worldwide were outraged over this slap on the wrist of terrorists and some predicted that the message this sent to terrorists operating within America would lead to more such terrorist plots. They, among others, would be proven right.
One FBI agent who refused to be silent about the growing threat of domestic Islamic terrorist cells was Lawrence Reinfeld, who, in the late 1980s, having just retired from the agency, was hired as an investigator for the A. C. Nielsen company, one of America’s largest firms that redeem grocery store coupons. Reinfeld, along with his associate Ben Jacobson, a former NYPD Detective, discovered that in major cities across America cells of Islamic terrorists were raising as much as $100 million dollars a year through a lucrative and simple scam involving coupon fraud. This is how coupon fraud works: every day, millions of Americans shop for groceries which they discount by redeeming a coupon on items such as soap, breakfast cereal, and candy bars. The grocery store then redeems the coupons with clearing houses and receives a monthly check as reimbursement. This industry is a $8 billion a year operation, in which manufacturers print and distribute coupons in an effort to entice consumers to try their product. The costs of these coupons are passed on to the consumer through higher prices on just about all goods offered for sale in grocery stores. What Jacobson and Reinfeld discovered was that Islamic terrorists across America were opening small grocery stores and redeeming in them tens of thousands of coupons stolen from distributors. Incredibly, when the two former law enforcement officers tried to convince America’s law enforcement community to investigate their findings, they were rebuked.
Thus, when Mustafa Shalabi immigrated to the United States, there was already in place dozens of Islamic terrorist cells operating across the country, many of them funding their operations through illegal activity, including drug trafficking and coupon fraud. However, there exists no evidence to suggest that Shalabi was involved in illegal activity once established in the United States. Shalabi set up the Alkifah Refugee Center adjacent to the Al Farouk Mosque on Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn, where he raised funds to support the resistance efforts in Afghanistan that were coming to fruition in the final months of the Soviet occupation.
After the war was over, Shalabi sponsored a blind cleric, Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, to come to America. Shalabi set up the Sheik in the Mosque in Brooklyn but the two soon had a falling out regarding the Sheik’s desire to raise funds to overthrow the government of Egypt, which had made peace with Israel. The blind Sheik was among many Islamic Fundamentalists who were placed on trial for their role in the conspiracy to assassinate Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in 1981. The Sheik was acquitted for his role in this plot.
After his falling-out with Shalabi, the blind Sheik then fled to Newark, New Jersey, taking his followers with him, including his driver, Mahmud Abouhalima. There the Sheik set up a devoted following at a new Mosque and began new plots to attack U. S. landmarks. Also, the Sheik began to issue "Fatwas." A ‘Fatwa’ is a religious decree issued by some Islamic leaders which demands that a certain individual be assassinated by true believers of the Islamic faith. The most famous ‘Fatwa’ in recent times was that issued by the Iranian leader Ayatollah Khomeini, demanding that his followers track down and murder novelist Salman Rushdie, whom, the Ayatollah claimed, had blasphemed Islam through his 1988 novel "The Satanic Verses." The Sheik issued a Fatwa against Mustafa Shalabi and Rabbi Meir Kahane, the militant leader of the Jewish Defense League. The Rabbi would be the first to die.
Meir Kahane was born in Brooklyn in 1932. As a young man Kahane studied law at University although he did not pass the bar exam. For 3 years in the mid 1960s, Kahane worked as an FBI Informant working undercover in the John Birch Society, a right-of-center, anti-Communist non-profit organization. In 1968 Kahane founded the Jewish Defense League, a non-profit that resorted to radical, often violent means to promote the welfare of Jewish people. Kahane was also associated with Joe Colombo, Godfather of the Colombo Family. In 1970, Colombo founded the Italian-American Civil Rights League, a non-profit not dissimilar from Kahane’s organization. Colombo’s organization claimed that the FBI was unfairly targeting Italian-Americans in their fight against organized crime. In 1971, Kahane and several of his associates were arrested on weapons charges, prompting Godfather Colombo to provide the money to bail Kahane out of jail. Rabbi Kahane was with Colombo when the Godfather was shot in the head in an assassination attempt at an Italian Unity Day rally in June, 1971.
The Fatwa to assassinate Rabbi Kahane was accepted by two of Sheik Rahman’s followers, his driver Mahmud Abouhalima and a fellow Egyptian, El Sayyid Nosair. It was to be a public execution. On the evening of November 5, 1990, Rabbi Kahane was delivering a pro-Israel speech at a public event at the Marriot Hotel in mid-town Manhattan. After the speech, a member of the audience, Nosair, approached the Rabbi and pulled out a gun, shooting a single bullet into Kahane’s neck. Nosair then ran outside the hotel, expecting Abouhalima to be waiting in the getaway car. However, Abouhalima was not there. Instead, Nosair encountered a retired law enforcement official and a gunfight erupted between the two on the crowded sidewalks of Lexington Avenue. Both men received non-life-threatening bullet wounds which allowed for the arrest of Nosair.
Detective Stephen Caracappa had already worked a full shift when he was called into the investigation of the murder of Rabbi Kahane. Caracappa would pull a 30-hour straight duty as the NYPD scrambled to solve the shooting of a public figure whom had thousands of devoted followers throughout the city - many of whom, police feared, would resort to violence seeking revenge for the murder of their fallen leader. An NYPD spokesperson was adamant from the beginning of the investigation that authorities were convinced that the gunman had acted alone and that there was no conspiracy involved in the Rabbi’s assassination. For three days this was the mantra the NYPD would chant to the Media, disclosing that Nosair was under the care of a psychiatrist and was taking the drug Prozac; thus, he was, as they said from the beginning, a "lone nut" who "acted alone." Eventually, the NYPD would admit they found bomb making materials in Nosair’s residence, as well as photographs and other information on New York landmarks, including the World Trade Center.
As for Detective Caracappa, he ended his marathon 30-hour tour of duty by hooking up with his partner in crime Lou Eppolito. Instead of going home to get at least a few hours of well-deserved rest, Caracappa and Eppolito went out searching for Eddie Lino in a car provided to them by Gaspipe Casso. Finding Lino leaving a Brooklyn Mafia hangout, the two cops followed Lino on the Belt Parkway that traverses the waterfront. Flashing their badges at Lino as they pulled up alongside his Mercedes Benz, the two cops succeeded in getting Lino to pull over under the guise of a traffic stop. Caracappa then fired several bullets from his gun into the body of Lino, killing him instantly.
Like the murder of Rabbi Kahane, this was a public execution, with numerous potential witnesses in plain sight. On a ‘slow news day,’ the rubout of a hitman for the Gambino Family would have been front-page news; however, the murder of Eddie Lino was in competition with the Media frenzy over the murder of Rabbi Kahane. The NYPD was focused on the Kahane murder, which, it was feared, could lead to violence in the streets. No such threat existed regarding the murder of Eddie Lino, and the NYPD devoted little of it’s resources to solving that murder.
In retrospect, the murder of Eddie Lino offered the NYPD and FBI an opportunity to uncover the most serious case of corruption in NYPD history, that of the ‘Mafia Cops,’ killers for hire wearing the Badge and uniform of New York’s Finest. The murder of Rabbi Kahane also offered the NYPD and FBI an opportunity to uncover a cell of Islamic terrorists that would eventually commit the most horrific attacks on American citizens in U. S. history.
The NYPD and FBI would fail on both accounts.
The failure of those investigating the murder of Rabbi Kahane to uncover his associates plotting terror against America was just the first in many missed opportunities. Another such opportunity came in March, 1991, when Mustafa Shalabi was found murdered in his apartment in Seagate, a gated community on the tip of Coney Island. The evidence suggested that Shalabi was murdered by someone he knew, yet the authorities investigating the murder did little to identify who those persons were.
Perhaps the best opportunity to detect and stop the terrorists amongst us came in the person of Nancy Floyd, an FBI agent who’s plight is documented in the best-seller ‘1000 Years for Revenge’ by acclaimed investigative reporter Peter Lance. Lance reveals that agent Floyd secured one of the most important recruitments of our time of a man willing to be an FBI Informant; Emad Salem, a former Major in the Egyptian Army who had extensive contacts in the Muslim communities of New York City. Salem was recruited in 1991 and offered a window into the dangerous radicals associated with Sheik Abdel-Rahman. Salem’s evidence, gained at great risk to his life, disclosed that associates of the blind Sheik were involved in plots to bomb New York landmarks. Floyd’s superiors in the FBI eventually refused to follow the evidence and dropped Salem as an Informant, while taking actions that appeared retaliatory against agent Floyd. The beleaguered agent was investigated for over five years by the Justice Department on outrageous charges of misconduct, much of which was totally unsubstantiated. In the end, agent Floyd was given a two-week suspension for being "insubordinate" to a superior.
Had the FBI not dropped Salem the first time as an Informant their investigation should have led straight to all of the bomb plotters, including the mastermind of the World Trade Center bombing, Ramzi Yousef, an associate of Osama bin Laden who had ties to the Iraqi government of Saddam Hussein. Yousef arrived in New York City in 1992 at Kennedy airport. Traveling on a suspect Iraqi passport, Yousef was detained but because, as usual, the INS did not have enough space in it’s detention center to hold him, he was released onto the streets of America.
Yet another missed opportunity was presented by the case of Louis DiBono, a member of the Gambino Mafia Family. DiBono ran a construction firm that held a contract with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey that was worth millions of dollars - the fireproofing of the World Trade Center. The Port Authority is an entity that operates in two States and as such, incredible as it may seem, was not bound by New York City or State fire codes when the World Trade Center was constructed in 1973. That a critical component of the construction of the buildings - that of fireproofing the structures - was given to a man who was a member of an organized crime syndicate, was an apparent conflict that potentially could put the public safety at risk. As a criminal, DiBono in fact decided to cut corners and not apply the fireproofing materials to the inner structures of the buildings as the original plans had called for. Thus, if a major fire ever erupted in one of the World Trade Center buildings, hundreds, perhaps thousands of people’s lives could unnecessarily be endangered.
DiBono’s greed was surpassed by the Underboss of the Gambino Family, Sammy "The Bull" Gravano. Once John Gotti took over the Gambino Family with the murder of Paul Castellano, Gravano began the process of murdering several of his business associates in order to take over their lucrative businesses, most of them being in the construction industry. DiBono’s contract was not only worth millions, but was an on-going venture, given that the original fireproofing of the buildings was not done properly, a situation the Port Authority was aware of, and thus the fireproofing materials had to be inspected and in some cases replaced with the passage of each year.
On October 4, 1990 security employees of the World Trade Center found Louis DiBono’s body in the front seat of his car in the parking lot underneath the North Tower. DiBono had been shot three times while approaching his car and then dragged inside the car. As DiBono weighed 350 pounds that suggested more than one person was involved in the murder.
This murder betrayed a shocking gap in the Security in place at the World Trade Center; no video camera surveillance photos existed to document who was responsible for this outrageous crime committed in a public place, and no eyewitnesses or ‘ear witnesses’ could be located. This event should have been sufficient to prove that Security measures at the Trade Center needed to be drastically improved. It should have been self-evident to Trade Center authorities that if a car could be parked for 3 days unexamined in a Trade Center parking lot with a dead body inside, such a vehicle could just as easily be left behind that contained a bomb.
Despite this clear example that security needed to be improved at the World Trade Center, measures were not taken. Thus, over two years later, on February 26, 1993, associates of Sheik Rahman were able to drive a rented Ryder truck into the parking lot underneath the North Tower of the World Trade Center without being challenged. The terrorists even brazenly parked the vehicle in an unauthorized parking zone that went unexamined by Port Authority employees. Terrorist Ramzi Yousef, the principle designer of the car bomb, had chosen that site in the hopes that the bomb explosion would cause the North Tower to collapse upon the South Tower, murdering tens of thousands of people in the process.
The bomb vehicle exploded shortly after noon, tearing a gaping hole through three floors of the sub-level parking lot and sending acrid smoke billowing up the ventilation systems of the North Tower. This required the evacuation of thousands of the building’s occupants, including those who were trapped inside elevators that stalled once the explosion disrupted the Tower’s electrical systems. Some occupants high in the Tower, desperate for fresh air to breathe, broke the windows of the building, waving handkerchiefs of despair as they risked plummeting hundreds of feet to their deaths. The cold Winter air blowing into the towers from the North only added to the upward-spiraling effect of smoke being lifted from the scene of the blast to each successive floor above.
As thousands of panicked victims fought their way down the smoke-filled stairs arranged around the core of the building, they were met - and aided - by hundreds of members of the New York City Fire Department, Police Department, Port Authority Police, and paramedics, all racing up the stairs. This event was the largest-scale search and rescue operation any city in America had ever faced. In retrospect, it is amazing that no one else died that day; no one fell, jumped, or was pushed from the windows; no one died of smoke inhalation; no one suffered a fatal stress-induced heart attack or stroke. Still, in addition to the 6 people killed by the bomb, 1000 people were injured.
After the bombing, the FBI had no choice but to literally beg Emad Salem to return to work as an FBI Informant. This time around, he was offered over $1 million and entrance into the Witness Protection Program. Salem then uncovered more evidence that proved the blind Sheik and his followers were responsible for the Trade Center bombing and were also preparing bombings at several other New York landmarks.
The Special Agent in charge of the New York office of the FBI at the time was James Fox. In December, 1994, two weeks before his retirement from the Bureau, Fox was Suspended allegedly for comments he made to the Media about the World Trade Center bombing. The New York Post would later report that the suspension was also the result of personal bad blood between Fox and Louis Freeh, then the new FBI Director. Renown investigative reporter Gerald Posner would report in his book ‘Why America Slept’ that the suspension was also in retaliation for Fox’s expressed views that Iraq had ties to the bombing.
Ramzi Yousef was one of those involved in the bombing that had ties to Iraq. While most of his co-conspirators in the World Trade Center bombing were quickly apprehended, Ramzi Yousef quietly slipped on a jet airliner and fled the United States. Eventually, he would take up residence in the Philippines, where the Islamic terrorist organization Abu Sayyaf was being funded by Osama bin Laden. This group was led by local resident Khadafy Janjalani. With the support of these terrorists, Ramzi Yousef explored new methods of bomb making, most notably improvised bombs that could be disguised as common household items that could be smuggled onto a jet airliner. In December, 1994 Yousef boarded PAL Flight 434 in the Philippines, upon which he improvised a crude bomb based on a vial of nitroglycerin, with the detonator being a Casio watch timer. Yousef may have been a terrorist but he was no martyr, and, unwilling to be a suicide bomber, Yousef left the device behind to explode after he exited the plane. The bomb later exploded en route to Japan, killing one passenger but failing to explode the nearby center fuel tank as Yousef had planned. Yousef’s plan was for one dozen planes headed towards the United States to be blown out of the sky on a single day.
While Yousef was working in Manila devising his plots to bomb America, that city was visited by an American citizen with similar terrorist goals. His name was Terry Nichols, and he and his former Army buddy Timothy McVeigh were seeking methods of building a truck bomb to carry out their plan to destroy the Federal Building in Oklahoma City. It is now known that McVeigh, Nichols, and their associates were under the influence of a drug that some public health officials consider more addictive than cocaine or heroin. That drug is ‘crystal meth,’ which, according to the National Drug Intelligence Center of the U. S. Department of Justice, has side effects which include rapid heart rate, high blood pressure, brain damage, stroke, heart damage, hyperthermia, convulsions, and death. Psychological effects of the drug include violent behavior, paranoia, psychosis, and insomnia, among other reactions.
Methamphetamine was discovered by a Japanese chemist in 1919. During World War II the Japanese government and their allies in Nazi Germany mass produced ‘meth’ and forced their troops to use the drug, which has the effect of edging on it’s user to commit violence. After World War II, the Yakuza, or Japanese Mafia, began aggressive distribution of meth. In the mid to late 1970s the Yakuza first brought meth to the State of Hawaii, where they already had organized crime rackets established. The love of gambling by Yakuza members would bring them to Las Vegas during this time, and along with them, meth. By the dawn on the 1980s meth had established a foothold in drug subcultures in Hawaii, the West Coast, and the Southwestern States of Arizona, New Mexico, and Nevada. Meth, also known as "Speed," also became popular with long distance truck drivers, as the drug allows it’s user to stay awake and alert for 48 to 72 hours straight, sometimes longer.
The intersection between the Yakuza, the Gambino Family, and crystal meth first appeared in 1982, when Gambino Family associate Paul Morasca was found dead in his San Francisco apartment, bound with wire in a murder technique popular with the Yakuza that causes the victim to slowly asphyxiate. Morasca was known to law enforcement as someone who laundered the money generated by a West-Coast based drug trafficking ring run by the Gambino Family, even though that Family was headquartered on the other side of the Continent back in New York City. The associate who found Morasca’s body was a convicted drug dealer later successfully prosecuted in Washington, State in 1992 by the DEA for setting up a crystal meth operation deep within an abandoned precious metals mine.
During this time, crystal meth became a popular drug in two very disparate communities in America; among a sub-culture of the gay community who use drugs to enhance sexual activity, and in right-wing, anti-government organizations which operate mostly in rural areas of the United States. Some of these groups are part of the ‘Militia movement’ that arose in the 1990s, some are associates of older groups such as the Ku Klux Klan, and some are advocates of neo-Nazi organizations. Common to all these groups is a hatred for non-whites, gays, and Jews.
Into this mix of hate-mongers during that time entered Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols. Associated both with the KKK and various Militias, the two men’s road to violence began in the heart of ‘meth country,’ Kingman, Arizona. It was there that the two began using crystal meth and began to experience the paranoia and delusions that are side effects of this drug. Over a period of two years McVeigh and Nichols would make a circuitous journey back and forth from Phoenix and Kingman, Las Vegas, to Junction City, Kansas, and rural Michigan and Arkansas. These trips would immerse both men in the shadowy world of Militias, gun collectors shows, anti-government cults, and neo-Nazi skinheads, a common element in each community being outrage over the deaths of innocents at Waco and Ruby Ridge.
As crystal meth fueled McVeigh’s and Nichol’s descent into madness, they sought to express their paranoia and hatred towards the U. S. government by constructing a bomb truck. Thus, many investigators believe, that quest was what led Terry Nichols to the Philippines, where it is believed by some he met with Yousef and/or associates seeking information on how to build such a bomb.
Nichols and McVeigh succeeded in building their bomb truck, which was parked outside the Federal Building in Oklahoma City on the morning of April 19, 1995. The bomb, far stronger than the one Yousef built for the first terrorist attack on the World Trade Center, blew half of the building into pieces, killing 168 people.
Suddenly, law enforcement in the U. S. had to confront two new threats to America; terrorists from Islamic countries, and terrorists who were born and raised in the USA. And, as the example of the "El Rukns" in Chicago clearly showed, sometimes these two groups joined forces to explore their common goals of Evil.
Whereas Jose Padilla, a Brooklyn-born American sought to murder Americans through terrorist attacks, another Brooklyn-born American would step up to the plate and volunteer to do his part to bring down these terrorists. True, the volunteer had some credibility issues, given that he was a drug dealer. However, in a case of "like father, like son," the young drug dealer offered his services to the FBI to spy on Ramzi Yousef, who, along with his mentor, Osama bin Laden, was one of the most dangerous terrorists of our time. The young drug dealer was simply following the example set for him by his father, who was one of the most dangerous Mafia hitmen in American history. However, the father was also an FBI Informant, and, as such, literally possessed a ‘license to kill’ for decades because of his protected status that began way back in the days when the Bureau was run by the degenerate madman J. Edgar Hoover. The protected hitman was Colombo Mafia Family drug dealer Greg Scarpa, Sr., and it was his son, Greg Scarpa, Jr., who would try his best to follow in his father’s footsteps.
Greg Scarpa Sr. first caught the attention of the FBI - and it’s Director J. Edgar Hoover, sometime in the early 1960s, perhaps earlier. As a young man, the brutal thug had become one of the youngest ‘Made’ members of an American Mafia Family ever. Hoover had reached the zenith of his career during the 1950s ‘witch hunt’ of alleged Communists within the State Department led by his associates Senator Joseph McCarthy and his right-hand man lawyer Roy Cohn. It would be many years later before it was revealed that all three men were closeted homosexuals, and that Cohn and Hoover enjoyed the services of male prostitutes supplied to them by the Mafia. If Hoover was being blackmailed by the Mafia - as some evidence to emerge in recent years has suggested, Hoover himself was a master blackmailer, using his army of FBI agents to spy on politicians - even Presidents - in order to obtain the ‘dirt’ on them he perceived he needed in order to stay in power.
Hoover had, according to historians, compiled such negative information on the man who would become President in 1961, John F. Kennedy. The new President, however, made the unprecedented act of appointing his brother - Robert Kennedy, as Attorney General, making him, effectively, Hoover’s ‘boss.’ Thus, there was a deep-rooted feeling of antagonism and mistrust between Hoover and Robert Kennedy. That hostility only intensified after the President’s assassination when Bobby Kennedy found himself sandwiched between the new President, Lyndon Johnson, a Hoover ally, and Hoover himself.
Still, Hoover had to ‘deliver’ when called upon and a crisis arose in 1964 that prompted Attorney General Kennedy to apply pressure on the Director of the FBI. That event was the disappearance and presumed murders of three civil rights workers in Mississippi who were members of CORE, the Congress of Racial Equality. Robert Kennedy demanded of Hoover that he utilize all of his resources in solving the murders and at that point Hoover ordered the young and vigorous Greg Scarpa to be flown down South with an FBI agent. There, Scarpa kidnapped a local member of the KKK and placed the FBI agent’s service revolver into the mouth of the captive, threatening that he would blow the man’s brains out if he did not reveal what he knew about the three missing men. The Klansman complied with Scarpa’s death threat, the bodies were recovered, and seven locals were eventually convicted for violating the worker’s civil rights.
As a result of Scarpa’s work in this case, the FBI literally gave him a ‘license to kill,’ as the FBI protected Scarpa from prosecution of a myriad of crimes, including drug trafficking, credit card rip-offs, gambling, bribery, and multiple murders. In 1981 Scarpa was taken over by a single control agent, Lindley DeVecchio. Despite an arrest by agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms in 1975 for illegally running guns in the State of Maryland - for which agent DeVecchio received a slap on the wrist - DeVecchio was given control of Scarpa, despite FBI standards that required two agents to ‘handle’ an Informant such as Scarpa who was clearly a violent member of an organized crime syndicate.
After just 3 years of interaction with Mafia hitman Greg Scarpa, agent DeVecchio was himself able to successfully impersonate a Mafia hitman. DeVecchio’s target was Ed Wilson, a rogue retired Intelligence Officer who had been arrested for supplying plastic explosives and other bomb making materials to Libyan Dictator Muammar al-Qaddafi. The Justice Department wanted more evidence against Wilson, so DeVecchio approached Wilson claiming to be "Tony DeAngelo, Mafia Hitman." "Tony" offered to murder key members of the Prosecution against Wilson in exchange for money, which Wilson arranged to be delivered through his son. Wilson was convicted for murder solicitation by the U. S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, led at that time by Rudolph Giuliani.
In 1989 a brutal internal "Mob War" broke out within the Colombo Mafia Family, which pitted those aligned with "Allie Boy" Persico, son of the imprisoned Godfather Carmine "The Snake" Persico and those who supported the alleged usurper, Vic Orena. Orena’s supporters included "Wild Bill" Cutolo, "Big Sal" Miciotta, "Chips" de Costanza, and Dennis Pappas, an attorney who laundered Colombo Family money through his various businesses. Remaining loyal to the Persicos were hitman/drug dealer Greg Scarpa, his young friend Larry Mazza, Carmine Sessa, and Johnny Pate, among others. By the time the war was over at least 12 people were dead - including one innocent bystander. Over the years, evidence would slowly emerge that suggested that Scarpa himself was the one who started this war. Motivation for doing so may have been Scarpa’s impending death due to AIDS, and that he literally wanted to go out of this life as the ‘last man standing’ - and thus de facto Godfather of the Colombo Family by eliminating everyone else that stood in his way.
In addition, evidence has emerged that suggests Scarpa and his associates framed Vic Orena and Pasquale Amato for the 1989 murder of Colombo associate Thomas Ocera - a murder Scarpa himself committed. Scarpa and his associates are also believed responsible for the 1992 murders of pastry shop owner John Minerva and his bodyguard Michael Imbergamo and that they framed three members of the Colombo Family, Joseph P. Russo; Anthony Russo; and Joseph Monteleone, for those two murders. In the case of the murder of Ocera, Scarpa and his associates are believed to have planted guns under the porch of an Orena friend as part of the frame-up.
Much of this information would never have come to light had not members of the Colombo Family made the mistake of framing an honest cop for crimes he did not commit. That person was Joe Simone, a Detective on the elite Organized Crime Task Force that joined NYPD Detectives with FBI agents to bring down members of the American Mafia. In December 1993, just days before his scheduled retirement, agents of the FBI arrested Simone on charges he sold information to members of the Colombo Family. Simone had been framed, and among those involved in the plot was "Big Sal" Miciotta, a 300-pound drug dealer and murderer who was sent by the FBI to get incriminating conversations with Detective Simone on tape. However, knowing Simone could not be bribed, Miciotta turned off the tape recorder - but still told a Grand Jury that Simone took the bribe money he offered anyway. It took the jury in Simone’s Federal trial in Brooklyn just two hours to acquit the Detective of all charges.
Sal Miciotta would eventually be determined by the Feds to be a liar, Perjurer, and fabricator and was kicked out of the Witness Protection Program. Miciotta would later get a second chance at a ‘get-out-of-jail-free card’ when he ratted out "Gaspipe" Casso, who, as member of the Witness Protection Program was bribing Corrections officers to smuggle illegal contraband, including heroin, to himself and other criminals.
During the course of the trial of Joe Simone, as well as that of "Allie Boy" Persico, and, later, two trials involving the Colombo Family War, information slowly emerged regarding the interaction between agent DeVecchio and his FBI Informant/Mafia Hitman Greg Scarpa. In May, 1995 Vic and John Orena, steel company executive Thomas Petrizzo, and four associates went on trial on murder conspiracy charges relating to the Colombo Family war. In her opening arguments Assistant U. S. Attorney Ellen Corcella admitted to the jury that FBI agent DeVecchio had an unusual relationship with crime boss Greg Scarpa and leaked confidential information to him. Defense attorneys argued that their clients were only acting in self-defense against a renegade FBI agent and his Mafia hitman friend. FBI agent Howard Leadbetter testified that he and agents Chris Favo and Jeffrey Tomlinson reported to their superiors that DeVecchio had tried to obstruct a probe of Scarpa. Favo told the Court that he was convinced DeVecchio had committed crimes by leaking information to Scarpa. Colombo capo Carmine Sessa told the Court he too knew that DeVecchio was giving information to Scarpa.
When the jurors in the Orena trial entered into deliberations they set a legal precedent by asking the Judge for evidence not entered at trial. The document in question was agent DeVecchio’s written report of conversations he had with Greg Scarpa at his home during the Colombo Family war. Judge Edward Korman and the Defense attorneys did not even know such a document existed, nor did the jurors; they just ASSUMED such a document existed and asked the Judge to provide it. Under questioning from Judge Korman, the Prosecutors conceded the document in question did in fact exist. In that document DeVecchio wrote that Scarpa told him that there was no Colombo Family war - that shots fired at him weeks earlier were the result of a case of mistaken identity. Faced with the prospect of a mis-trial for the withholding of exculpatory evidence, Judge Korman had no choice but to turn over to the jury a document that had not been introduced at trial. That document cemented the suspicions of the jurors that the FBI, not Allie Boy Persico, nor the Cutolo crew, nor the Orena faction had instigated the Colombo Family war.
The jurors acquitted all defendants on all charges and demanded of the Prosecutors why it was DeVecchio had not been indicted for murder. "They all believed there was a cover-up, and many jurors wondered how come DeVecchio wasn’t indicted," said defense attorney James La Rossa. Defense attorney Jerry Shargel told the New York Post: "The jurors were all just absolutely shocked by the testimony about the relationship between DeVecchio and Scarpa!" "The evidence against DeVecchio was far stronger than the evidence against the defendants on trial!" Juror #186 told the New York Daily News, "Something like this really knocks the credibility of the FBI!" Juror Nancy Wenz stated: "If the FBI’s like this, Society is really in trouble!" Another juror told Newsday that it was apparent that DeVecchio and Scarpa had started the Colombo Family war. "It was a bit scary that the FBI was feeding information to someone so deadly. It was (Scarpa) who made it seem a war was going on!"
As the revelations about Scarpa and DeVecchio were emerging, a stunning twist to the Colombo Family investigations was revealed by the New York Daily News. On Sunday, February 18, 1996, the Daily News shocked America with a sensational story of a plot by Iranians to detonate a conventional bomb above the World Trade Center containing nuclear waste, an event that would render a large part of Manhattan and surrounding areas un-inhabitable for decades. Such an event would have produced mass panic throughout America, requiring the evacuation of the financial district of New York, one result being the crippling of the stock market and the nation’s banking system not seen since the Great Depression. The Daily News got the story from Colombo Family money launderer Dennis Pappas, who said he was asked in 1993 by agents of FBI Counter-Intelligence to help them bug a building purchased by the Iranians involved in the plot. Pappas said that at first he agreed, then later backed out of the plan, fearing the Iranians would harm his family.
Pappas was arrested in July, 1995 and charged with being the "financial consigliere" of the Colombo Mafia Family. Despite his never having been arrested nor charged with a violent crime, Pappas was denied bail. The Judge in his case then placed him under a gag order "for reasons of National security." Before the gag order was imposed, Pappas had complained about his treatment to reporters at the Daily News, who were able to independently corroborate key claims about his story.
Dennis Pappas was held for over two years before he went to trial, the longest such detention without bail in U. S. history for someone accused of non-violent crimes. The Prosecution admitted in Court documents that Pappas had in fact been recruited for a "national security project," but would say little else. While his attorney tried to portray Pappas as a victim of the FBI, it was perceived by some following his case that he had compromised an important investigation of international terrorists, and in doing so had betrayed his country. Pappas would later accept a plea bargain in his money laundering case.
The revelation regarding the Iranian plot presented another mystery. The Iranian plot appeared to be an act of retaliation against the United States for the accidental shooting down by the U. S. Navy of an Iranian airliner in 1988. When, months later, Pan American Airlines Flight 103 was blown out of the skies above Lockerbie, Scotland, it was assumed by many in the government, as well as the Media, that this had been ordered by Iranian leader the Ayatollah Khomeini in retaliation for the earlier accidental attack. If then, the New York plot, years in the making, was the Iranian’s response of retaliation, who then was responsible for the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103?
It would later be established in a Scottish Court of Law that a spy for Libyan Dictator Muammar al-Qaddafi was responsible for the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103. Qaddafi eventually accepted responsibility for the bombing and the government of Lybia offered over $2 billion as a settlement to the families of those murdered onboard the tragic flight.
For many years, Congressman James Traficant of Youngstown, Ohio had claimed that officers of the CIA were responsible for the bombing of Flight 103. However, Congressman Traficant would eventually be discredited after it was discovered he - and a few other members of Congress - were accepting donations from associates of an organization on the State Department’s list of terrorists organizations; the Mujahedin e-Kalk, or, more simply known as the MEK.
The MEK was founded in the 1970s by young Iranian Communists with the aim of overthrowing the Shah of Iran. MEK members were among those in 1979 who invaded the U. S. Embassy in Tehran, kidnapping 52 Americans who were held hostage for 444 days. After the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan and installed a puppet Communist regime, the new Iranian government banned the Communist MEK and they fled to neighboring Iraq, where they received the support of Stalinist Dictator Saddam Hussein. MEK members fought alongside the military of Iraq during the 8-year war between Iraq and Iran from 1980 to 1988. That war, which resulted in one million casualties, featured the use of chemical weapons by Saddam Hussein against both the Iranians and Iraqi Kurds.
While members of the Iranian government were hatching their ‘dirty bomb’ plot against America, their enemies in the MEK were pursuing their own agenda within the United States. Beginning in the early 1990s, associates of the MEK began to funnel enormous amounts of money to U. S. politicians, asking in return that the politicians lobby for their cause in Washington, D. C. In 1993 U. S. Senator John McCain, a former Prisoner of War, entered into the Congressional Record a challenge to the FBI and the Justice Department to share information on the MEK, who are also known as the People’s Mujahedin of Iran and the People’s Holy Warriors. Among those members of Congress who had accepted substantial campaign contributions from associates of the MEK, and who had then lobbied on their behalf, were Robert Torricelli of New Jersey and James Traficant of Ohio.
Lobbying on behalf of the MEK also served a dual-purpose, in that it was a tacit endorsement of the regime of Iraqi Dictator Saddam Hussein, who sponsored the MEK within Iraq. The ‘Mainstream Media’ pretty much ignored the MEK and their contributions to U. S. politicians during the 1990s. AmericanMafia.com was the first to widely report on this scandal in probes of the campaign finances of Congressman Traficant and Senator Torricelli. Traficant, who came to power after accepting bribe money from the Cleveland and Pittsburgh Mafia families in 1980, was convicted of bribery and racketeering in 2002. Before being sentenced to prison, Traficant was Expelled from Congress by a vote of 240 to 1, the lone holdout for Traficant being Congressman Gary Condit.
Senator Robert Torricelli would also become the target of a similar probe by the Feds in New York regarding gifts he received from some of his campaign contributors. Torricelli was not charged with any crimes. However, when his rival in the race for the U. S. Senate challenged Torricelli in regards to his acceptance of money from associates of the MEK, the Senator apologized to the public, admitting it was a mistake to have supported the Baghdad-based terrorist organization. With the polls showing Torricelli heading for certain defeat, the Senator dropped out of the race.
Greg Scarpa Jr. would have his own interaction with terrorists which was the result of his own stupidity. In 1995, Scarpa found himself incarcerated at the Federal Prison in Terre Haute, Indiana. Among his fellow inmates was Luchese Family Godfather Vittorio Amuso. One day, Amuso ridiculed Scarpa for the fact that his father was a "rat" and thus had disgraced the American Mafia. Scarpa Jr. then made the mistake of assaulting the Godfather. Despite Amuso’s incarceration, he still maintains his position as head of the Luchese family and a seat on the Mob’s governing body "The Commission." As such, all five Families put out Contracts on the life of young Scarpa, who was serving a 20-year sentence for drug trafficking.
To keep Scarpa Jr. alive, the government transferred Scarpa to the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan, where he was to face additional charges of murder and racketeering. Scarpa was placed in a cell adjacent to Ramzi Yousef, who was being held while awaiting trial for being the mastermind in the bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993. In yet another intersection between a case of the American Mafia and international terrorists, Scarpa would later claim that he was recruited by the FBI to spy on Yousef, photographing diagrams Yousef showed to him with a secret, miniature camera. Scarpa would also claim he told the FBI about a terrorist plot he learned of from Yousef against a Prosecutor and Federal Judge. Scarpa claimed that Yousef told him about the methods he and his fellow terrorists used. Those included the improvisation of bombs aboard airliners using simple, commonly available components, some disguised as toiletries. Yousef was alleged to have also told Scarpa that a bomb could be secreted aboard a plane constructed inside a man’s shoe. Yousef also mentioned that England was the country through which terrorists would operate in their future attacks against America, which, he claimed, would continue as long as he and Sheik Rahman remained incarcerated in the U. S. Scarpa Jr. claimed he was able to gain the trust of Yousef by pretending to be part of the "militia movement" that had included those involved in the Oklahoma City bombing.
When Scarpa later went to trial on the new charges, the jury convicted him on racketeering, loan sharking, gambling, and murder conspiracy charges, but acquitted him on five murder counts.
Scarpa had other allegations to make as well, most notably that his father and FBI agent Lindley DeVecchio had framed Vic Orena for murder by planting guns underneath the porch of an Orena friend. Other disturbing information would be revealed regarding agent DeVecchio. On May 15, 1996 the New York Post revealed that DeVecchio still had access to classified documents, despite the Court testimony of his own agents that he had given secret information to the Mob. The information became public as part of attorney Gerald Shargel’s efforts to win a new trial for Victor Orena, Sr. When at last Shargel got his chance to cross-examine DeVecchio during the Hearing to determine whether Orena would receive a new trial, DeVecchio repeatedly invoked his right under the Fifth Amendment against self-incrimination.
In February 1997 DeVecchio again testified in a Hearing for a new trial for Orena, but this time under a grant of Immunity, which required him to answer all questions. DeVecchio responded dozens of times with the answer, "I don’t recall!" At the beginning of the Hearing, the New York Post ran a story regarding how DeVecchio was caught illegally trafficking guns in the State of Maryland back in 1975. De Vecchio had demanded that the purchaser of the guns, who was in actuality an undercover agent of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, pay him in cash for the weapons. When questioned about this transaction, DeVecchio claimed at the Orena hearing that he did not know that his transporting guns across State lines and selling them without a license was illegal. The FBI and authorities in Maryland decided at the time not to prosecute DeVecchio, who had in his personnel file glowing reports about his performance signed by the late FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover.
The Judge in the Orena Appeal, Jack Weinstein, would later unseal documents which showed DeVecchio’s informant Greg Scarpa had been an FBI informant since 1961, that he had in fact worked for the FBI on civil rights cases in the South during the troubled 1960s, and that Scarpa had received at least $158,000 of tax-payer money for the information he sold to the FBI. It was also revealed that in 1981 Scarpa demanded - and received - an agreement that he have only one handler in the FBI, not two as is required by Bureau policy. Also unsealed by the Judge was a 28 page statement DeVecchio made to investigators in which he claimed he never gave any information to Scarpa and the only things he ever received from Scarpa was a bottle of wine, a tray of lasagna, and a Cabbage Patch doll.
While Greg Scarpa had been protected from prosecution for decades by the FBI, his son would not be so lucky. The FBI denounced the intelligence Scarpa received from Yousef as a scam. Judge Weinstein would later rule that he found Greg Scarpa Jr. "not credible" in regards to his allegations regarding his father, agent DeVecchio and the Orena case. Scarpa’s trial Judge would also disregard his claims that he had befriended Ramzi Yousef and obtained from him valuable information regarding on-going methods of terrorism being developed by his associates worldwide. The Judge called Scarpa’s claims "a hoax." Thus, Scarpa Jr.’s information went ignored, presenting yet another missed opportunity to stop terrorism in America.
Still, others continued to sound the alarm. In February, 1998, five years after the first terrorist attack at the World Trade Center, journalist Steven Emerson appeared before Congress, once again warning lawmakers that the growing threat of domestic terrorists was not being addressed by the FBI and other law enforcement agencies. Also in 1998, Ben Jacobson appeared before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Technology and Terrorism. Jacobson testified as to the facts he had uncovered a decade earlier as to how Islamic terrorist organizations operating with the United States were funding terrorism worldwide through grocery coupon fraud.
In August of that year the American Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania were blown up by car bombs, killing 224 people. On December 4, 1998, President Bill Clinton was issued a report prepared by the CIA entitled: "Bin Laden Preparing to Hijack U. S. Aircraft and Other Attacks." The report, later made public by the 9/11 Commission, did not state that the intent of the hijacked planes was to fly them into buildings, but rather to be used as a leverage demanding the release of Ramzi Yousef and Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman. DCI George Tenet told several members of the Intelligence community on that day the report was given to President Clinton that "we are at war" and that the fight against Islamic terrorists should be the country’s number one priority. The Clinton Administration would then fail to act in two instances in which covert military operations by the CIA likely would have resulted in the capture or death of Bin Laden.
In the absence of action, the terrorist plots continued, as the did the warnings to Congress, the Administration, and the American People. Congress established in 1998 the U. S. Commission on National Security/21st Century. This bi-partisan investigative body was chaired by former Senators Gary Hart and Warren Rudman. In 1999 the Commission issued the first of their reports. The report predicted large-scale terrorist attacks on the United States, stating: "Americans will likely die on American soil, possibly in large numbers." The Hart-Rudman reports received very little attention from the Media.
What also received little attention in 1999 was the book ‘The New Jackals: Ramzi Yousef, Osama bin Laden, and the Future of Terrorism’ by British journalist Simon Reeve. In this book, Reeve documented facts that are much more interesting when viewed in the context of what has occurred in the years since the book’s publication. Reeve reported that terrorists with the Baghdad-based MEK were acting as conduits between Osama bin Laden and the government of Saddam Hussein. Again, this claim was made a full two years before the Bush Administration pushed the case for a war in Iraq. Reeve also reported that al Qaeda terrorists had been successful in obtaining Anthrax. Reeve’s claim came two years before the Anthrax attacks in the United States.
Finally, Reeve reported 2 years before 9/11 ago that Osama bin Laden by that time was involved in a lucrative drug trafficking scheme with Afghan drug dealers and that much of the proceeds from this narco-terrorist enterprise was laundered through Chechen terrorists. Thus, the terrorist attacks against Russia in 2004, in which two planes were blown up, a subway in Moscow was blown up, and hundreds of Russians, including school children, were shot in the backs with rifles by terrorists, was funded at least in part by bin Laden’s Afghan drug network.
In October, 2000, al Qaeda terrorists on a small boat killed themselves and 17 U. S. sailors aboard the USS Cole in Yemen. Just 10 days later, the New York Post’s Al Guart ran an exclusive noting that the Federal government had made drastic cuts in the numbers of Federal cops that patrol high-risk government buildings. On July 1, 2001 Guart published a very disturbing story entitled: "Feds Let Terror Spy Wriggle Free." Guart detailed how a few weeks earlier the Federal Protective Service had taken into custody a Middle Eastern man who was photographing a Federal building in lower Manhattan not far from the World Trade Center. The man was questioned, his film was confiscated, and his passport was photocopied. The foreigner was turned over first to an Immigration agent and then to an FBI agent, who released him. When the film was processed it revealed that the foreigner had photographed sensitive security areas of a number of Federal buildings and Courthouses. It then turned out that the man’s name, address, and passport were phony. Guart added that this security lapse "came amid reports that (Osama) bin Laden was planning a new major offensive against the United States." The Post quoted a source who stated: "The (terrorist) threat is through the roof!"
Also in July, 2001, Phoenix, Arizona-based FBI agent Kenneth Williams sent a memo to the FBI headquarters in Washington, warning that suspected Islamic terrorists he had monitored at a flight training school in Arizona could fit a broader pattern of a terrorist plot that could target domestic airlines. Agent Williams’ memo went ignored.
In August, 2001, FBI agent Colleen Rowley of the Minneapolis field office applied for permission from FBI headquarters in Washington for a Search Warrant to examine the computer of one Zacarias Moussaoui, who had been detained on Immigration charges. Moussaoui had caught the attention of Federal authorities while attending a flight school in Oklahoma in which he sought training on how to fly and steer a 747 but not learn how to take off or land such a jet. Also disturbing, in June of 2001, Moussaoui had made inquiries into setting up a crop dusting company. Such a business could be used by terrorists to spray chemical weapons such as Anthrax over a large, populated area. It would later be established that during this time Moussaoui had made numerous phone calls to terrorists in Germany that were involved in the 9/11 plot against America.
Agent Rowley’s requests for permission to further investigate Zacarias Moussaoui were denied by FBI headquarters in Washington, and Rowley would later become, like agent James Fox, and others, a victim of a campaign of intimidation and character assassination. It is now known that Moussaoui was part of the 9/11 terrorist conspiracy. An examination of his computer might have allowed steps to be taken to prevent the plot from succeeding.
Two weeks before 9/11, 2001, a heated argument erupted between a veteran FBI agent and superiors in Washington regarding the agent’s demand to be allowed to continue his investigation of an Associate of Osama bin Laden. The agent, a former U. S. Navy fighter pilot, would later tell the Senate and House Intelligence Community that he warned FBI bureaucrats that "someone will die" because of the Bureau’s stonewalling on terrorism.(3)
Finally, on September 10, 2001, John O’Neill, who served as head of Counter-Intelligence for the FBI for many years before retiring, issued the following, final warning: "(A terrorist attack in America is) going to happen. And it looks like something big is brewing!"(4)
On the next day, September 11, 2001, agent O’Neill reported to his new job as Head of Security for the World Trade Center. Agent O’Neill was one of 2,749 men, women, and children murdered by Islamic terrorists at the Trade Center on that day.
As various investigations of the events of 9/11 unfolded, serious concern was turned towards the fireproofing - or lack thereof - of the Twin Towers. Photographs by architect Roger Morse taken in the 1990s revealed that the fireproofing was not consistent throughout the building. The photographs show some fireproofing completely missing, while fireproofing was also incorrectly applied to rusted steel, essentially offering no fire protection.
Professor Frederick Mowrer of the Fire Protection Engineering Department of the University of Maryland, is among those experts funded by the National Science Foundation who have investigated the collapse of the World Trade Center Twin Towers. These experts suggest that the inadequate fireproofing of the Twin Towers may have been a significant factor in their collapse. Their findings suggest that had the Towers been adequately fireproofed, these buildings would have stood much longer, allowing the evacuation to safety of many more victims of this terrorist attack. A thorough analysis of the fireproofing at the World Trade Center can also be found at the website of retired FDNY Deputy Chief Vincent Dunn.
Thus, the awarding of a contract of such a vital component of the World Trade Center - the fireproofing - to an associate of the American Mafia - was a clear indication that the Port Authority built those structures without proper oversight. Louie DiBono’s murder in the parking lot of the World Trade Center also presented a missed opportunity to law enforcement to improve the security of the buildings.
The murder of Rabbi Kahane also presented a golden opportunity for law enforcement to detect and stop the terrorists amongst us. Incredible as it may seem, Nosair was acquitted of his role as the triggerman in the murder of Kahane, despite all of the evidence against him. Nosair had as his attorney the brilliant yet radical William Kunstler, whose fees were being paid in part by Osama bin Laden. Justice got a second try at Nosair when Federal Prosecutors charged Nosair in the Kahane murder as part of the broader conspiracy of himself, Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman, and others in the conspiracy to bomb New York landmarks, including the World Trade Center. Nosair, the Sheik, Yousef, and all their fellow co-conspirators were convicted in Federal Court and are serving out Life sentences.
More evidence of missed opportunities would be revealed. A year after 9/11 two FBI agents, Robert Wright and John Vincent, told ABC News that they had been ordered by superiors to halt their investigation of associates of Osama bin Laden back in 1998. Wright put his allegations bluntly: "September the 11th is a direct result of the incompetence of the FBI's International Terrorism Unit."
Still more evidence of missed opportunities would be uncovered. In 2000, two researchers began an investigation into the crimes committed by Greg Scarpa Sr., never imagining their inquiry would lead them to evidence regarding Islamic terrorists. The two were Angela Clemente and Dr. Stephen Dresch, forensic intelligence analysts. After several years of research, including examination of the clear evidence that Detective Joe Simone had been framed, Clemente and Dr. Dresch turned over their findings to members of the House Judiciary Committee, the House Committee on Government Reform, and the House Sub-Committee on Oversight and Investigations on International Relations. Their evidence regarding Scarpa and agent DeVecchio was then turned over to investigators for the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office. In March, 2006, retired FBI agent Lindley DeVecchio was indicted on four counts of murder. At his arraignment, DeVecchio pleaded Not Guilty to all charges. The Courtroom on that day was packed with current and former FBI agents, some of whom are among the most respected agents in recent FBI history, and all of whom offer their complete support to agent DeVecchio. Clemente and Dr. Dresch would, as a result of their Mafia investigations, also uncover the evidence obtained from Ramzi Yousef by Greg Scarpa Jr.
The Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office also began a few years ago a re-examination of the murder of Eddie Lino with the help of an NYPD Detective, Thomas Dades. A break in the case came when Burton Kaplan decided to become a co-operating witness. Kaplan, in failing health and imprisoned after a mid-1990s drug conviction, agreed to testify before a Grand Jury as to his role as the conduit between Anthony Casso and the "Mafia Cops." In March, 2005, Lou Eppolito and Stephen Caracappa were indicted on multiple charges alleging several Mafia murders, bribery, and the all-encompassing racketeering. The two were also charged with trafficking the drug ‘crystal meth.’
Among the murder charges was that of Eddie Lino. At their trial before Brooklyn Federal Court Judge Jack Weinstein, Caracappa’s lawyer told the jury that on the day Eddie Lino was murdered, his client had worked over 30 hours straight, having been assigned by the NYPD to investigate the murder of Rabbi Kahane. Several hours after leaving work, the lawyer argued, the murder of Eddie Lino took place, thus it would have been nearly physically impossible for Caracappa to have worked those exhausting and intense hours on the Kahane murder case and then go out and track down and murder Eddie Lino.
To some, that would seem a plausible argument. Unless, of course, Caracappa had taken on that day the very drug he would later be convicted of trafficking; crystal meth. Meth would have allowed Caracappa to remain alert and focused as the hours wore on during the Kahane murder investigation, and that same drug would have the effect of prompting it’s user to go out and commit a violent, reckless act; that of the public murder of Eddie Lino.
In August, 2006 authorities in England arrested a cell of Islamic terrorists who were just days away from carrying out a series of suicide bombings of jet airliners en route to the United States. The methods of improvising such bombs onboard an airliner, utilizing common, household items, were identical to the intelligence given to the FBI by Greg Scarpa, Jr. a decade ago, according to Angela Clemente, who has filed her findings with members of Congress. Clemente’s analysis has been corroborated by a professor at the Colorado School of Mines, the New York Daily News has reported.
Thus, the intelligence compiled by Greg Scarpa Jr. marked yet another missed opportunity for the FBI to detect and prevent terrorist attacks, just as there were similar missed opportunities regarding the warnings issued by FBI agents Colleen Rowley, John O’Neill, Kenneth Williams, Nancy Floyd, Lawrence Reinfeld, Robert Wright, John Vincent, and James Fox, among others. Such missed opportunities go all the way back to the investigations of the murders of Tina Isa, Rabbi Kahane, Mustafa Shalabi, and Louis DiBono.
Many Americans believe that a lack of intelligence is to blame for the terrorists attacks both here and abroad. The available evidence, however, much of which has been presented herein, reveals that intelligence is not lacking, but rather the proper and correct analysis of that intelligence, and the accompanying appropriate law enforcement response to that analysis.
Five years after the terrorist attacks on 9/11, America still is not safe.
Related Features by this author:
Crime Scene: World Trade Center
License to Kill: Greg Scarpa and the FBI
Partners in Crime: The Mafia Cops
Mob War! Murder, Deception, and Intrigue Inside New York’s Colombo Mafia Family
(1) New York Times 11/21/78
ADDITIONAL SOURCES AND SUGGESTED READING
Cover-Up: What the Government is Still Hiding About the War on Terror
The G-Man and the Hitman, by Frederick Dannen. New Yorker Magazine, December 16, 1996.
‘Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States,’ 2004.
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