Thursday, January 20, 2011

Greg Scarpa: Mob Informer Who Played Key Role in Historical Civil Rights Case

Readers of this blog know that the Mafia is of major interest to me. I enjoy bringing to light interesting mobsters who did unbelievable things but who are not widely known about. The mob didn't end when John Gotti went to prison.

This post concerns Gregory Scarpa, Sr. (May 8, 1928 – June 4, 1994), who was a fiercely loyal capo in the Colombo crime family with cojones the size of coconuts. Known as "The Grim Reaper," for decades, especially from the1970s through early 1990s, Scarpa was Colombo boss Carmine Persico's chief enforcer, doling out the proverbial dirt nap to whoever defied the administration before dying of AIDS, contracted from a crew member during a blood transfusion.

In my post about junior hitman John Pappa, who also fought in the war on the same side as Scarpa, I wrote he'd be a great subject for a book or film; Scarpa would be an even better one.

Grim Reaper/informer Scarpa
shows off the fashion of the day.
That's because Scarpa, a mobster's mobster, was actually an informant for the FBI nearly the entire time he was in the mob; during his tenure working for the Feds he played a pivotal role in solving the 1960s murders of civil rights workers down in Mississippi.

From a entry: According to [long-time lover] Linda Schiro and other sources, in the summer of 1964, "FBI field agents in Mississippi recruited Scarpa tohelp them find missing civil rights workers Andrew Goodman, James Cheney, and Michael Schwerner. The FBI was convinced the three men were dead, but were unable to find their graves. The agents thought that Scarpa, using illegal interrogation techniques not available to agents, might succeed.

"Once Scarpa arrived in Mississippi, local FBI agents allegedly provided him with a gun and money to pay for information. Scarpa and an FBI agent allegedly pistol-whipped and kidnapped Lawrence Byrd, a TV salesman and secret Klansman, from his store in Laurel, Mississippi and took him to Camp Shelby, a local Army base. Scarfa severely beat Byrd and stuck a gun barrel down his throat, forcing Byrd to reveal the location of the graves.

AIDS-stricken Scarpa still got into firefights
on the street, getting an eyeball shot out in one brawl.
He took a shot of scotch before calling an ambulance.
"The FBI has never officially confirmed the Scarpa story. In addition, the story contradicts evidence from investigative journalist Jerry Mitchell and Illinois high school teacher Barry Bradford, who claimed that Mississippi highway patrolman Maynard King provided the grave."

But listen to how Mitchell reveals this in his article in The Clarion-Ledger: "[The newspaper] has obtained long-sealed FBI documents that point to a different answer: The Ku Klux Klan believed one of its own, Pete Jordan, passed on the whereabouts of the bodies to Maynard King, a Mississippi highway patrolman close to the FBI agent overseeing the investigation into the June 21, 1964, killings of James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner." The long-sealed documents reveal what the KKK believed; they do not state fact. The KKK believes....who cares what the KKK believe?

To some it may seem that the FBI was making a rather lame effort to offer an alternative explanation to what I think is the truth: Scarpa, a scary guy probably even when he was happy, scared the guy into revealing where the three graves were. I don't profess to know the absolute truth in this matter, but I believe it's true -- and I believe the FBI would never admit to it.

They were willing to use the mob to kill Castro, so why wouldn't they use one mobster to shake down a KKK scumbag for some intelligence?

To be continued........

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