NEW YORK – A retired FBI agent was indicted on murder charges Thursday for allegedly taking bribes from a mobster to supply him with inside information that led to four underworld slayings in Brooklyn.
R. Lindley DeVecchio, 65, was arrested in a case of "confidential leaks, payoffs and death" dating back two decades, District Attorney Charles Hynes said.
DeVecchio pleaded not guilty and was released on $1 million bail. He did not speak at his arraignment. One of the two alleged mob hitmen behind the slayings was jailed without bail. The other was in Florida, awaiting extradition.
Colleagues of the FBI veteran were quick to defend him against the charges.
"We all know Lin, and we all know he's not capable of doing these kinds of things," James Kossler, a former supervisor with the FBI's New York office, said Wednesday. "It's so sad it could happen to a guy like this."
Prosecutor Michael Vecchione had argued DeVecchio should be jailed without bail, calling his "one of the worst cases of law enforcement corruption in the history of this country." He also suggested that the defendant's many supporters in law enforcement could help him flee the country, drawing angry murmurs from dozens of former FBI agents packed into the courtroom.
Defense attorney Douglas Grover called the charges "nonsense" and described his client as an honest investigator who played a key role in the war on organized crime.
DeVecchio "was and always will be a man of the law," he said.
Hynes said the charges stemmed from the unusually close relationship between DeVecchio — then head of the FBI's Colombo crime family squad — and Gregory Scarpa Sr., a government informant and Colombo captain nicknamed "The Grim Reaper."
The pair met each week during the 1980s and '90s and discussed a bloody civil war within the Colombo family. In exchange for bribes, DeVecchio "counseled Scarpa to protect himself by eliminating imminent threats," Hynes said.
In 1984, DeVecchio allegedly warned Scarpa that the girlfriend of a high-ranking Colombo figure was cooperating with federal authorities. As a result, authorities say, she was shot and killed in a Brooklyn social club — a pattern prosecutors said was repeated in three slayings of Scarpa rivals, the last one in 1992.
Scarpa gave DeVecchio weekly payments and also enhanced the agent's reputation within the FBI by helping him solve important cases, Hynes said.
DeVecchio surrendered Wednesday night at the Brooklyn district attorney's office. He had no comment as he entered.
Kossler, former FBI Assistant Director James Kallstrom, ex-agent Joe Pistone, known for infiltrating the mob as Donnie Brasco, and other supporters in law enforcement have begun raising money for DeVecchio's defense on a Web site.
Grover, the defense attorney, noted that DeVecchio already was cleared in previous investigations. He accused prosecutors of relying on evidence from convicted mobsters eager to lie in exchange for leniency.
Brooklyn prosecutors began investigating last year when U.S. Rep. William Delahunt, D-Mass., turned over evidence of corruption uncovered during preparations for a House Judiciary Committee hearing on organized crime.
Prosecutors declined to detail any new evidence. But DeVecchio's attorney said the case was based in part on recent statements by a longtime girlfriend of Scarpa's.
DeVecchio retired in 1996. Scarpa died in prison in 1994.