The .22 Caliber Killings: Inside the Mafia’s Infiltration of Two FBI Field Offices
During the post War period to 1968, the FBI and a few local police department Intelligence Units made liberal use of extrajudicial hidden microphones and wiretaps. In 1968, Congress passed the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968. This statute authorized the first legal use of audio surveillance by law enforcement. The FBI created a large list of confidential informants. Many of them were street-level thugs and a few high-ranking mobsters. Since they did not have extensive electronic surveillance, they needed these men for probable cause to obtain the new legal wiretaps. Of these valuable informants, fifteen made-men were placed on the extremely confidential Top Echelon Informant list.
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Access the Top Echelon List
In 1971, a young lady named Irene Kuczynski was a typist at the FBI’s Newark field office. A New Jersey Mob associate named Peter Szwandrak learned about this employment when he worked at Western Electric with her husband George. Peter told George Kuczynski a New Jersey Mob boss named John “Johnny D” DiGilio would pay for any files his wife could get and copy. George Kucznskui was already a spouse abuser and when his wife refused, he beat her several times until she agreed to get some files. DiGilio gave George $100.00 per delivery of any files his wife copied and brought home. DiGilio was extorting money from shipping companies and conducted a loan sharking business. He learned from the FBI documents that two members of his crew, loan shark and gambler Vincent Capone, and Frank Chin, an electronics expert who moonlighted doing wiretaps and sweeping for government microphones, were talking to the Bureau. The FBI caught the Kuczynski’s and they agreed to testify. In July of 1975, the government charged Peter Szwandrak and Harry Lupo with the theft of FBI documents. They could not make a case on DiGilio. After this acquittal, unknown persons shot and killed Vincent Capone while his Cadillac was stopped at a traffic light. Someone murdered Frank Chin in the basement parking lot of his Manhattan apartment. In an interesting turn of events, the FBI lab results revealed that both men were killed by the same 22‐caliber pistol.
FBI goes into high alert
Once they discovered the theft of documents in the New Jersey field office was linked to the murder of witnesses, the FBI went on high alert. During the middle 1970s, they had noticed informants were being killed at every level. The newspapers reported on a rash of .22 cal. murders during this time and the FBI knew these were mostly informants. The FBI knew this entire leak of informant data did not come from the single theft at the New Jersey Field office. They theorized that the mob had paid persons to infiltrate the FBI throughout the United States.
Cleveland has a Mole
Cleveland mobster Anthony “Tony Lib” Liberatore had a car dealership and he learned that one of his employees named Jeffrey Rabinowitz was engaged to a young woman named Geraldine “Gerri” Linhart and that she was a clerk in the Cleveland office of the FBI. Gerri Linhart was getting a divorce. She did not earn much working for the Bureau and she was trying to sell a house she had received in the settlement. She had a hard time getting this house sold Liberatore had someone contact her and they promised to make her financial troubles disappear. She was advised that she only need to do some favors in return. She started selling files to Liberatore and his capo James “Blackie” Licavoli. Among those files was a complete list of FBI informants. An example was the name Danny Greene who was in a battle with the Italian mafia over control of a labor union. He had been informing on the Mafia for years. In an interesting turn of events, the Cleveland Teasmster official Jackie presser was a Top Echelon Informant but he had demanded his name never be put on any list. However, two of his underlings were on the informant list.
Fratianno was a former Cleveland mobster who had moved on to become a roving mafia member who was based in Califonia. He had been giving information to the FBI himself for many years. When he learned of the Informant list, he called back to Cleveland and he was relieved his name was not on the list. He was shown this list and he recognized many names. Over the next few years, many other persons who may have been named as informants were murdered with a .22 cal pistol. the most famous .22 cal. murder was Sam Giancana. While his name may not have been on an informant list, the Chicago Outfit had learned about his deal with the CIA to kill Fidel Castro. Johnny Roselli who was part of this same arrangement was found murdered shortly after.
Mortgage broker Edward Lazar was murdered with a .22 pistol in 1975. Lazar had been involved in laundering money for the Chicago Outfit by buying up property in the southwest.
August “Augie” Maniaci was an old-time “made man” in the Milwaukee crime family. The FBI classified him as a Top Eschelon informant. Mob historian Gavin Schmitt stated Maniaci was dissatisfied with boss Frank Balistreri and the leadership when he had started talking. He exited his house one morning and found he had a flat tire. As he stopped to examine the tire, unknown assailants approached him and murdered him with a .22 pistol. Chicago Outfit assassins Paulie Shiro and Chuckie Nicoletti were the suspects. Nicoletti was listed as a Top Echelon Informant himself.
Vincent Calderazzo was a soldier in the Genovese family and he reported to Vincent “The Chin” Gigante. “Chin” was suspicious of Calderazzo after an FBI raid. He sent Calderazzo to California. Shortly after he arrived someone murdered him with a .22 cal. pistol.
The most famous murder was that of the boss of San Diego and Underboss of the LA Family, Frank “Bomp” Bompensiero. He had been implicated in the murder of a businesswoman, Tamera Rand because she was creating trouble for the Chicago outfit “Strawman” Allen Glick who owned the Stardssut and was sending skim back to Chicago. he did this murder with Chicago outfit member Tony Spilotro and they used a silenced .22 pistol.
Jimmy Fratianno will later tell the FBI that Bompensiero told him that the Chicago Outfit had a large cache of .22 pistols and silencers. When the mob learned that Bompesiero was informing himself, he was set up while making a telephone call from a phone booth and killed with a .22 cal. silenced pistol.
Show notes by Gary Jenkins
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