By BRAD SALMEN, Gazette Writer
HANCOCK — The
March 30 indictment of a retired New York City FBI agent, accused
of assisting a mob informant in the murder of four people, was
splashed across the front pages of nearly every Big Apple tabloid
the next day.
Hundreds of miles away in the Copper
Country, the news barely caused a ripple. But for Stephen Dresch
of Hancock, that indictment not only represents a hard-earned
victory following years of investigation into government
corruption, it also is most likely his final triumph.
a former Michigan Tech University professor and dean, state
legislator and forensic analyst, is terminally ill with lung
“I should wait for a conviction to notch my
gun, but, given that it is unlikely to occur within the next few
months, I think I’ll do it now,” the 62-year-old
Dresch wrote in an e-mail.
THE INVESTIGATION BEGINS
conviction Dresch hopes for is that of retired FBI agent R.
Lindley DeVecchio, who is accused of providing information to
mobster and informant Gregory Scarpa Sr. (aka the “Grim
Reaper”) that led to the murder of a mob girlfriend, two
rival Colombo family gangsters, and an 18-year-old informant
between 1984 and 1992.
DeVecchio, 65, was indicted by a
Brooklyn grand jury for four counts of murder. He faces 25 years
to life in prison if convicted.
involvement in the case began several years ago, but in reality
it is but the latest in a series of government malfeasance cases
he has investigated since starting his firm Forensic Intelligence
With various collaborators, for the
last decade Dresch has crisscrossed the country looking into a
wide range of suspicious government activities too numerous to
name here (but available in part at his Web site,
travels took him to Oklahoma in 1996, where he was investigating
the suspicious plane crash of Commerce Secretary Ron Brown in
Croatia (many believe Brown was executed, including author Jack
Cashill. Cashill wrote “Ron Brown’s Body: How One
Man’s Death Saved the Clinton Presidency and Hillary’s
Future,” which quotes Dresch extensively).
Libertarian, Dresch is well-known locally for battling authority
on a number of issues including the Michigan Department of
Natural Resources takeover of Richard DeLene’s property in
Baraga County and the MTU Ventures scandal.
That he has a
deep mistrust of the federal government is an understatement. Yet
even he was surprised by the deepseated corruption he claims he
found emanating from the Oklahoma FBI offices.
I first looked into Oklahoma, I thought it must be an
aberration,” he said. “These things just don’t
happen to the criminal justice system in general.”
it turns out, it was the tip of the iceberg. While investigating
an FBI-related homicide in Oklahoma, he met private investigator
Angela Clemente, who dropped a further bombshell.
said, ‘Well, if you think this is bad, you should see the
Eastern District of New York,’” he said.
then sent Dresch a crate of documents regarding the FBI District
that was “enough to make your hair curl,” according
TRACKING DOWN A
It would be the beginning of a long and arduous
investigation for Clemente and Dresch, who as a result became
“We thought it would be a short
project,” she said. “It turned out to be a seemingly
endless investigation. We had no idea it would involve so much
money and time ... it was absolutely killing us
Indeed, the two spent countless hours
the next six years traveling from state to state, interviewing
witnesses and former mobsters, many of whom were serving long
sentences in prison.
“Often we’d ask
ourselves, ‘what are we doing?’” said Clemente.
“We’d slow down for a little while, but then we’d
pick right back up. We couldn’t get it out of our
The big break in the case came two years
ago, when Dresch tracked down Lawrence “Larry” Mazza
in Cocoa Beach, Fla.
Mazza had been a hitman for Scarpa
during the 1980s and early ‘90s before being arrested and
subsequently testifying against fellow mobsters. He received a
10-year prison sentence in exchange for his cooperation and had
just recently been released from prison when Dresch arrived at
his doorstep with his wife, Linda.
of amusing introducing your wife to a mob hitman,” said
Dresch. “I don’t think Linda was too happy being
there. But he was really most charming.”
the caveat that he would disavow anything he said if subpoenaed
(unless before a televised Congressional hearing), proceeded to
tell Dresch what really happened in the 1992 murder of Nicholas
“Nicky Black” Grancio.
DeVecchio, said Mazza,
had a 12-year agent/informant relationship with Scarpa (who died
of HIV/AIDS as a result of a blood transfusion in 1994). Grancio,
a rival of Scarpa in the bloody Colombo mob wars of 1991-93, was
under NYPD surveillance on Jan. 7, 1992, when the officers were
suddenly called off by a DeVecchio subordinate at the
Immediately after police left, Scarpa gunned down
Grancio in a drive-by shooting. Scarpa was able to make the hit,
said Mazza, because he had called DeVecchio and told him to call
off the surveillance.
“Scarpa was outraged (by the
police surveillance) and got on the phone to his FBI handler and
said, ‘How am I supposed to kill this guy?’ Suddenly,
the cops received a call from DeVecchio’s number two,
Christopher Favo, calling them back to Federal Plaza in Manhattan
... and sure enough, a van pulls up and a shotgun blows Nicky
Black’s head off,” said Dresch.
Armed with Mazza’s unsworn testimony on the
Nicky Black case, along with other illicit DeVecchio-Scarpa Sr.
dealings (DeVecchio allegedly took bribes from Scarpa along with
paying him from FBI funds for information on killings Scarpa
himself had committed), Dresch wrote a report and sent it to a
U.S. Congressional committee on government
Unfortunately, not only did nothing happen on
Capitol Hill, but defense attorney Flora Edwards subpoenaed both
Dresch and Mazza to testify in the case of a different Colombo
family mob boss, Vic Orena.
“I almost had heart
failure,” said Dresch. “I can imagine what Mazza was
thinking ... I almost expected to see some of Mazza’s
friends outside my door.”
Dresch, straightforward as
always, testified as to his conversation with Mazza.
as he had promised he would, denied everything.
wrote Mazza afterwards, saying ‘look, I really apologize, I
didn’t anticipate this crazy lawyer would do something this
dumb, I only told her about our conversations as a courtesy,”
said Dresch, noting Mazza feared government reprisal. “‘I’m
really sorry for putting you in a position in which you had no
choice but to perjure yourself.’”
happening on the government reform committee, and likewise with
Orena’s case (the judge dismissed Dresch’s testimony
as irrelevant since Mazza denied everything), the DeVecchio case
seemed to be going nowhere.
That is, until Clemente made
contact with U.S. Rep. William Delahunt, D-Mass., who invited
Clemente, Dresch, and several relatives of imprisoned members of
the Colombo family for a meeting in early 2005.
after a three-hour meeting, said there was not much he could do
to help. But, he suggested, murder was a state crime ... and have
you considered going to the local prosecutor?
must admit I was dumbfounded,” said Dresch. “I hadn’t
actually thought of that.”
Brooklyn district attorney Charles Hynes. Though Hynes’
office did not immediately act on the information Dresch and
Clemente provided, it was enough to start the ball rolling. Upon
further investigation by Hynes’ office, more evidence and
witnesses were found in several different cases, with the end
result the indictment of DeVecchio late last month.
AND DEVECCHIO TODAY
DeVecchio, who retired from the FBI 10
years ago, has steadfastly denied any wrongdoing.
deny the charges in the strongest, most meaningful terms
possible,” his lawyer, Mark Bederow, told GangLandNews.com.
“The charges are fabricated. He didn’t do it. We
believe they’ve indicted an innocent man. And that’s
His attorneys have further pointed out
that Scarpa was asked before he died if DeVecchio provided
information that led to killings, and Scarpa denied it.
Grancio case, to Dresch’s disappointment, is not one of the
four murders DeVecchio is charged with.
Brooklyn DA’s office) decided in the end not to include
Grancio as one of the counts of indictment, I don’t know,”
said Dresch. “There are supposed to be other counts
(DeVecchio) might be indicted for, and one might even be Grancio.
But it was apparently compromised by Mazza’s
Dresch was also heavily involved in a
civil lawsuit filed earlier this year by Grancio’s widow
naming the U.S. Department of Justice, DeVecchio, Favo and the
FBI as defendants.
But heavy involvement in anything has
been curtailed since late last year.
September, I started feeling tired in the afternoon ... and I
never felt tired,” said Dresch.
A visit to a
pulmonologist in March (which Linda insisted on) confirmed what
he already knew: a terminal case of lung cancer.
since been largely confined to the third story of the stately
Kauth House on Hancock’s Cooper Avenue. A recent visit
found him in bed, racked by coughs and obviously feeling ill. It
didn’t stop him from smoking unfiltered Pall Malls,
however, at least five in an hour-and-a-half.
the point in stopping now?” he said, wryly.
battling illness and fatigue, the longtime iconoclast’s
eyes slowly brimmed again with fiery resolve in recounting the
case. He predicts many convictions based on Scarpa’s
testimony will be overturned.
“Everybody and their
brother who has been convicted on testimony either directly or
indirectly of Greg Scarpa Sr. are going to be walking out of
prison in droves,” he said. “And there are going to
be a slew of civil suits.”
And, hopefully, the end
result will be that the American public will get a full picture
of just how corrupt the U.S. Department of Justice and the FBI
“The Federal Criminal Justice System is
a criminal enterprise; why it is, I don’t know, but it
persists decade after decade,” he said. “No matter
how horrendous something you do is, if you’re a high-level
operative it’ll be brushed aside and you’ll be
promoted, while minor underlings who might question will be
kicked out. It’s a self-perpetuating criminal enterprise,
much like the Mafia.
“I’m sure a lot of them
have self-justifications — basically, the end justifies the
means,” he said. “What I hope, before this thing is
over, is something of the outline of the broader story is exposed
... and I think it will be.”