One reason few people ever heard of Scarpa is that until his arrest in September 1992, he worked as a “Top Echelon Confidential Informant” under the protection of the FBI for the most of the thirty years prior. During that time, Scarpa murdered at least fifty people. Understandably, this is not a story not that the FBI wants told, but author Peter Lance has told it anyhow in his stunningly comprehensive new book, Deal With The Devil.
I have taken a particular interest in this story over the years because of the light it shines, improbably enough, on the destruction of TWA Flight 800 off the coast of Long Island in 1996, a subject about which I co-authored the 2003 book First Strike. More on this angle later.
The FBI protected Scarpa, a capo in the Colombo family, because he provided intelligence on New York’s five notorious La Cosa Nostra (LCN) families. Some of the intelligence was accurate. All of it was self-serving. As needed, Scarpa provided other services as well. In 1964, the FBI, under enormous pressure to solve the “MissBurn” case, sent Scarpa to the small Mississippi town of Philadelphia.