NEW YORK – A mobster-turned-informant was recruited by the FBI to help find bodies of slain civil rights workers in Mississippi and got information at gunpoint, the gangster's former girlfriend testified Monday at the murder trial of a former FBI agent.
Linda Schiro testified at the trial of one-time FBI agent R. Lindley DeVecchio, who is accused of secretly aligning himself with mobster Gregory Scarpa Sr., an informant within one of the warring factions of the Colombo crime family.
She testified that she went to Mississippi in 1964 after Scarpa was recruited by the FBI to help find the bodies of slain civil rights workers.
She said she witnessed an FBI agent delivering a gun and a wad of cash to Scarpa in their Mississippi hotel room.
Scarpa later told her he had forced someone to reveal the location of the workers' bodies by "putting a gun in the guy's mouth and threatening him," said Schiro.
DeVecchio didn't become Scarpa's FBI "handler" until 1978.
Prosecutors say the late mobster showered DeVecchio with cash, stolen jewelry, liquor and even prostitutes in exchange for confidential information. Scarpa used the inside tips about the identities and whereabouts of suspected rats and rivals to rub out at least four victims in the late 1980s and early 1990s, authorities allege.
Schiro, 62, said that when she started dating Scarpa at age 17, he told her he had been involved in 20 gangland murders.
"I wasn't upset. I was impressed," Schiro said in state Supreme Court, New York state's trial-level court.
Schiro said she was allowed to sit in on secret meetings between Scarpa and DeVecchio after Scarpa vouched for her, telling DeVecchio: "Don't worry about my baby."
Schiro said she saw Scarpa give DeVecchio piles of cash, liquor and stolen jewelry. The agent "took the jewelry and put it in his pocket," she said.
She said she'd been around mobsters most of her life, so she was surprised when Scarpa told her about his ties to the FBI.
"I said 'What do you mean, you're a rat?"' recalled Schiro. "And he said 'No I just work for them."'
Schiro said that in the fall of 1984 she overheard DeVecchio warn Scarpa that the girlfriend of another Colombo capo was a potential "rat."
"You know you have to take care of this?" DeVecchio said, according to Schiro.
"I'll take care of it," Scarpa said.
The girlfriend was gunned down a few days later.