Legendary Colombo Boss Carmine (Junior) Persico Was A Top Echelon FBI Informant, Court Records Say

Carmine J. Persico Jr., the legendary boss of the Colombo crime family who clung to power for decades from prison, including during a years-long mob war launched to oust him, was a top echelon FBI informant all along—if we are to believe a recent Daily News report that lifts the allegation from a decades old government document that was included in a recent compassionate release filing for Persico's chief rival during the Colombo war.
Carmine Persico, Colombo boss
Junior Persico died in prison in 2019.

The document, from November 1971, mentions the FBI's Top Echelon Informant Program and lists four turncoat members of the Colombo crime family. One of the four is longtime Colombo boss Carmine Persico, according to Daily News reporting by Larry McShane and Stephen Rex Brown.

“The official boss of the Colombo family, on whose side (Greg) Scarpa (the Colombo capo/FBI informant) and (Roy Lindley) DeVecchio (Scarpa's FBI handler) were working, Carmine Persico, was himself, since decades earlier, in the government’s employ as a member of its ‘Top Echelon Informant Program,’” wrote Attorney David Schoen, who submitted the document last Wednesday in a Brooklyn Federal Court filing aimed at getting his client, onetime acting Colombo boss Victor (Little Vic) Orena, 87, out of prison on compassionate release.

“I think it changes the entire dynamic of how this so-called Colombo war has been sold,” Schoen said, according to the News. “I never wanted to disclose this document. I think it potentially puts people in danger.”

Aside from the highly inflammatory claim about Persico, no additional details were released. Schoen himself notes in the News report that many unanswered questions remain...

Orena resides at FMC Devens, Massachusetts. He was given multiple life sentences following his 1992 conviction for murder and racketeering. 

Persico died in prison in 2019 at age 85. Persico had served more than 32 years of a 136-year prison sentence following his conviction in the Mafia Commission Case.

Schoen said that Persico’s cooperation made the Colombo “war” more of a one-sided “attack.” He also noted that he had even met with Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz and other Federal agents "to confirm the documents were legit," the News reports. The list emerged through a Freedom of Information lawsuit that pried confidential documents from the Justice Department, according to the News.

Persico attorney Anthony DiPietro pushed back on the claim, asserting, “There is no truth to this allegation and the supporting record is substantively worthless. Having served as Carmine’s lawyer, I can attest that he was not an informant nor did he provide information to the Government. Until this day, Carmine remains a giant among men, and I was honored to represent him in the many contentious legal battles he fought against the Government." 

“This is ridiculous on its face. If this were the truth, Carmine Persico would have won compassionate release and not have died in prison like a dog,” DiPietro said.

In the 1980s, Orena served as Colombo acting boss while Persico was away in prison. In early 1991 Persico announced that his son Allie Boy, who was due to be released from prison in June 1993, would become Persico's successor as the new official boss of the Colombo family. The announcement raised tensions between the Orena and Persico factions, and Orena started making moves to take over the family and make himself official boss, launching the third Colombo war. The war began in earnest on the night of June 20, 1991, when Orena spotted a hit team outside his home in Cedarhurst, Long Island, and sped away, unharmed.

To build support for his cause within the mob, Orena called Persico a "rat," though his allegation wasn't based on the evidence his lawyers are now presenting. Orena had argued that Persico, while acting as his own attorney during the Commission Case, had violated the prohibition against admitting the existence of the Mafia code of omertá. He also criticized Persico for providing information to a New York Daily News journalist and for talking to a reporter with CBS's 60 Minutes about appearing on that show.
Carmine Persico in 1980
Persico led to court (he wore handcuffs) on Nov. 7, 1980. Credit: AP

This past April, Orena's attorneys hinted at the allegation about Persico, telling the Daily News that their effort to press for Orena's release from prison would include newly discovered evidence about a top-echelon confidential informant—who we promptly and incorrectly concluded was Scarpa, the murderous, double-dealing mobster/informant who died in prison in 1994.

Persico took the reins of the Colombo family after Joe Colombo, the boss, was shot in the head and paralyzed during an Italian-American civil-rights rally in Columbus Circle in Manhattan on June 28, 1971.

The son of a middle-class law firm stenographer, Persico spent most of his adult life under indictment or in prison. Persico, who ultimately was indicted in 25 separate cases, was arrested dozens of times in the 1950s and early ′’60s.

Known to his friends as Junior and to adversaries as “the Snake” (he got the name from the Gallo brothers), Persico worked his way to the top from the bottom: in the 1950s, Carmine, who dropped out of high school at 16, became the leader of the Garfield Boys, a street gang. He was accused of killing another teenager (the case would be dropped).

In the 1950s, Persico worked for mob capo Frank (Frankie Shots) Abbatemarco and became aligned with the crime family of Joseph Profaci. Persico also worked with the Gallo brothers, who sought to challenge Profaci, prompting two mob wars.

In the first war, Persico shifted sides and stayed aligned with the more powerful Profaci faction, prompting the Gallos to call him The Snake.

In the 1960s and '70s, Persico became involved with hijacking and was sentenced to a stint in federal prison. By then, Joseph Colombo had taken control of the Profaci organization.

Persico on FBI's  10 most wanted list
Persico once made the FBI's 10 most wanted list.

In 1985, Persico, while on the FBI's top 10 most wanted list, was nabbed at the Wantagh, Long Island, home of his cousin after the cousin's husband, Fred DeChristopher, called the FBI. (DeChristopher wanted to collect the $50,000 reward for helping find Persico.)

Persico was convicted in the Commission Trial in 1986 and sent to prison for the rest of his life.

“He was the most fascinating figure I encountered in the world of organized crime,” Edward A. McDonald, a former federal prosecutor who was in charge of a Justice Department unit that investigated the Mafia in the 1970s and ’80s, told the New York Times. “Because of his reputation for intelligence and toughness, he was a legend by the age of 17, and later as a mob boss he became a folk hero in certain areas of Brooklyn.”

Even while serving prison terms, from the 1960s on, Persico was a key power in the running of the Colombo family’s criminal operations. During his tenure, his organization reaped millions a year in labor racketeering payoffs, gambling, loan-sharking and drug trafficking.

Persico was a moody man who, at the drop of a dime, could be charming or vicious. When not plotting or conniving or killing, he enjoyed gardening and preparing Italian cuisine, especially his favorite dish — pasta with olive oil and garlic.

Persico would become enraged over the slightest suspicion that someone was cheating him (see the Deep Throat murders). Mob snitches have noted that Persico boasted about pulling off more than 20 murders. Persico ordered murders but had no compunction getting his own hands dirty.

His wrath inspired an iconic scene in The Godfather: Part II. On Aug. 20, 1961, in the Sahara Club, a bar in Brooklyn, Persico tried to garrot Larry Gallo, but was interrupted by a police officer who happened into the bar and found an unconscious Gallo with a rope twisted around his neck.

At the height of his power, from the 1960s to the mid-1980s, Persico, clad in a suit and tie and accompanied by his hulking pal Hugh McIntosh, would roam around Brooklyn's Carroll Gardens, Red Hook, Park Slope, and Bensonhurst. 

Persico was serving a term of 139 years at the Butner Federal Correctional Complex in North Carolina when he died.

In 2017, Persico's attorneys sought to get him resentenced on the grounds of FBI misconduct during the investigation prior to the high-profile trial of the so-called leadership of New York's Five Families.

Persico attorneys DiPietro and Mathew Mari filed a brief on January 22, 2017, arguing that Persico should be resentenced based on disclosures obtained via Freedom of Information Act filings. A key allegation based on the documents regarded the use of confidential information from Colombo mobster/longtime FBI informant Gregory Scarpa, a top gun for the Persico faction in the third Colombo crime family civil war.

Scarpa, who died of AIDS in 1994, gave the Feds information used to prosecute the Commission Case in New York's Southern District.

Persico's lawyers also argued that Persico couldn't have been official boss because of his incarceration, which prevented him from providing the crime family with effective leadership.

Thomas DiBella was the boss of the Colombo crime family when the Commission Case murder was committed, according to the documents. That was the 1979 murder of Carmine Galante, after Galante moved to take over the Bonanno crime family.

Carmine Persico and Hugh McIntosh
Carmine Persico and pal Hugh McIntosh.

Mari also noted that FBI 302s based on information provided by former Bonanno boss Joseph Massino, who flipped following his own conviction in a major murder and racketeering trial, bolstered Persico's case.

Joe Massino made a host of claims that rewrite the history of the New York Mafia as we know it. These include different motives for the murders of Dominick "Sonny Black" Napolitano and Anthony Mirra; according to Massino, the two were not whacked over Joe Pistone's Donnie Brasco Mafia infiltration, among other things.

There was no Commission meeting to determine the fate of Carmine Galante, Massino told the FBI, which detailed his comments on 302s, the form used by FBI agents to report or summarize interviews with certain sources. In fact, the Galante murder was in-house Bonanno business, Massino told FBI agents. Bonanno boss Philip (Rusty) Rastelli simply ordered the murder of Galante, Massino told the FBI. Massino never testified in court about this information.

The reply brief disputed many long-held "facts" about Mafia history in New York.