Stephen P. Dresch, “Anticipatory Obituary”

Daily Mining Gazette, Houghton, Michigan
Published: Tuesday, April 11, 2006

His final triumph
Indictment of FBI agent marks the culmination of long investigation for terminally ill Stephen Dresch


CAPTION: Brad Salmen/Daily Mining Gazette

Stephen Dresch, currently battling terminal lung cancer, sits on the edge of his bed in the third story of his house on Hancock’s Cooper Avenue Monday. The former Michigan Tech University professor and dean, state legislator and forensic analyst played an instrumental role in the investigation leading to the recent indictment of former Brooklyn FBI agent R. Lindley DeVecchio, who is charged with assisting in the murder of four people from 1984-1992.


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.

Dresch, a former Michigan Tech University professor and dean, state legislator and forensic analyst, is terminally ill with lung cancer.

“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

The 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.

Dresch’s direct 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 International, LLC.

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, www.forensic-intelligence.org).

His 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).

A 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.

“When 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.”

As 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.

“Angela said, ‘Well, if you think this is bad, you should see the Eastern District of New York,’” he said.

Clemente then sent Dresch a crate of documents regarding the FBI District that was “enough to make your hair curl,” according to Dresch.



TRACKING DOWN A

FORMER MOBSTER

It would be the beginning of a long and arduous investigation for Clemente and Dresch, who as a result became close friends.

“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 financially.”

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 blood.”

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.

“It’s sort 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.”

Mazza, with 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 FBI.

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.



PURSUING JUSTICE

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 reform.

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.

Mazza, as he had promised he would, denied everything.

“I 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.’”

With nothing 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.

Delahunt, 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?

“I must admit I was dumbfounded,” said Dresch. “I hadn’t actually thought of that.”

Delahunt suggested 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.



DRESCH AND DEVECCHIO TODAY

DeVecchio, who retired from the FBI 10 years ago, has steadfastly denied any wrongdoing.

“We 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 a shame.”

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.

The Grancio case, to Dresch’s disappointment, is not one of the four murders DeVecchio is charged with.

“Why (the 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 testimony.”

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.

“Around 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.

He has 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.

“What’s the point in stopping now?” he said, wryly.

Even 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 really are.

“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.”






Daily Mining Gazette
Serving Houghton, Keweenaw, Baraga and Ontonagon Counties Since 1858.