On the morning of Nov. 18, 1991, Linda Scarpa learned, brutally, what it meant to be the daughter of a Mafia assassin.
Gregory Scarpa, known as “Grim Reaper,” was the most feared gangland enforcer in New York and executioner for one side of an internal war in the Colombo crime family.
But the enemy knew where his family lived in Bensonhurst and was waiting for Scarpa that morning as he pulled away from the house. Linda followed her father’s car out of the driveway and noticed a van speeding down the block.
“The Mafia Hit Man’s Daughter”
by Linda Scarpa with Linda Rosencrance
“When I backed out, I cut the van off,” she writes in her new memoir, “The Mafia Hit Man’s Daughter.” “It almost slammed into me…I yelled a few choice words and started driving again.”
At the end of the street, a truck had blocked the intersection. She pulled up behind her father, and the van stopped behind them. Not realizing the danger, she looked down to check on her 8-month-old son. “All of a sudden I heard popping noises that sounded just like fireworks.”
“I looked up and there were these guys dressed from head to toe in black. Their faces were covered in black ski masks, and they were carrying these long black guns with silencers. They surrounded our cars and started shooting at my father’s car. As soon as the first shots rang out, I saw my father go down.”
She wanted to place her child on the floor but was too afraid to move. “I was only 22 years old. The fear was paralyzing. It was like I was outside my body watching everything that was going on around me. I noticed this one guy with a walkie-talkie standing on the sidewalk, watching these guys shooting at my father’s car as if he was directing a movie.”
A friend of her father’s, Joseph “Joe Fish” Marra, jumped out of his car and returned fire. “One of the guys started shooting back at Joe, and I saw the wind from the bullet whiz right through his hair. He just missed getting his head blown up. I read his lips. He said, ‘Holy s–t.’ He jumped back in the car.
“The guy he was shooting at panicked. His automatic gun was spraying bullets everywhere. He even shot into my car. By now my father’s entire car looked like Swiss cheese.” Modal Trigger
Scarpa’s car took off, wedging through the space between the stop sign and the truck.
“I was left there on the road — the baby and I — with the van, the truck and all these guys dressed in black. My heart was in my mouth. I knew I was going to die right then.
“Then the guy whose gun was spraying bullets — I’ll never forget him because he had the bluest eyes — came running over to my car. . . . He looked in the car, then turned and ran away.”
Linda raced back to the house and, assuming the worst, told her mother, “Big Linda” Schiro, that Greg Scarpa was dead.
Then Scarpa himself walked through the door.
“He was pale as a ghost. He saw me and the baby and he just started to cry. He grabbed my son and hugged him. Then he looked at me. ‘You saved my life. You realize that, right?’ ”
“Don’t worry,” he added. “Everything’s OK. I’m going to take care of this.” He turned to Linda’s mother and said, “They’re all f–king dead. They’re going to f–king die, starting tonight.”
The Colombo War
Linda’s mother (Linda Schiro) was Scarpo’s mistress—she grew up thinking someone else was her father.
Family life was complicated for the pampered Mafia princess.
She grew up thinking a mild-mannered man named Charlie Schiro was her dad, and that “Greggy” was just a friend of the family. It was only as a teenager that she learned the truth: Her mother was Greg Scarpa’s mistress, and Linda and her brother Joey were his children.
Even before she knew Scarpa was her father, though, she loved him. Their home was filled with parties, and “we had the nicest cars and the nicest clothes,” she writes. “I got my first fur coat when I was 6.”
She and brother Joey would sometimes join their father at his crew’s Wimpy Boys Social Club on Thirteenth Avenue in Bensonhurst, where Scarpa worked from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. They were treated to chocolate egg creams at the luncheonette next door and candy from the store across the street — always free.
But when Linda was old enough to find out the truth, she lived in fear of his gangland dealings.
“He was known as the Grim Reaper,” she points out, “because if you did wrong and were in the life, or you hurt his family or anyone he cared about, it was his job to bring you death.”
Scarpa said he stopped counting the number of his victims at 50.
Throughout the Colombo War Scarpa (pictured) was allegedly assisted by FBI supervisor Lin DeVecchio.
Many of the killings occurred during the Colombo civil war of 1991-1993, which erupted just as Scarpa was thinking about retiring and moving to Florida. By then he had AIDS — contracted during a blood transfusion over a life-threatening bleeding ulcer.
The mob family’s consigliere, Carmine Sessa, begged him to join the battle in support of imprisoned godfather Carmine Persico, who was at odds with rebellious acting boss Victor “Little Vic” Orena. Scarpa owed Sessa a debt of gratitude for having cared for him when most others stayed away because of his illness.
Through the war, Scarpa was assisted, Linda alleges, by Lin DeVecchio, an FBI supervisor and Scarpa’s handler during several years when the hit man secretly aided the bureau in exchange for cash and tips.
Scarpa, who loved James Bond movies, hinted at the relationship even when his kids were young. “That’s your father,” he once said. “Call me Greg. Greg Bond.” Linda just laughed. “It wasn’t until I was older that I learned what he was talking about.”
DeVecchio was tried in 2006 for helping Scarpa carry out four gangland murders, but the case collapsed because Linda Schiro had denied DeVecchio’s involvement in Scarpa’s murders a decade earlier in a Village Voice interview.
But Linda Schiro told the truth to investigators, “about how Lin helped my father,” the daughter says. Little Linda even says DeVecchio helped spark the Colombo war by tipping Scarpa about the hit men who’d come after him.
“My father gave him the license-plate number of one of the trucks involved in the shooting,” she writes. “Lin checked around. He told my father that the truck belonged to William ‘Wild Bill’ Cutolo. So my father knew that Wild Bill and Vic Orena had called the hit — and now he knew who his targets were.”
Close to home
Linda, at age 6, with her father.
As a teenager, Linda Scarpa, now 46, fell in with a group of kids who used to hang around and smoke pot, a crowd that included her first boyfriend, Greg Vacca.
When she came home high one night, her parents raged at her. The next day, Scarpa went looking for her boyfriend.
The boy’s head and face were so badly beaten, “I couldn’t bear to look at him. His head was misshapen. There were bumps the size of grapefruits.”
She told her dad, “I hate you. How could you do that to him?” He said: “That’s what happens when you do stupid things.”
Greg Vacca gave his own account of that beating in Linda Scarpa’s book. He describes how Scarpa and his gangster friends tracked him down the day after the pot-smoking incident, chasing him in cars as he fled on foot.
“There must have been 10 or 12 guys,” Vacca recalled. “And they just friggin’ pulverized me. I ended up with a broken nose, a concussion, two fractured ribs, and the rest of my body was bruised everywhere. My head was so swollen, I looked like the Elephant Man.”
But Vacca credits Scarpa for steering him away from drugs and the streets.
“I don’t get high anymore or do drugs. I’ve been sober since 1991, completely sober — no drinking, nothing, zero. I don’t gamble at all. I don’t get involved with the mob.
“So, Greg, thank you, number one, for not killing me. Number two, I learned a lot from that.”
Another terrifying encounter happened about three years later. Linda was 16 and attacked by her car-service driver, Jose Guzman, who was supposed to take her to Bishop Ford HS in Park Slope but instead drove her to a secluded area of Prospect Park.
“He grabbed my hand . . . and licked the crease between my index finger and my middle finger as if they were my legs. ‘That’s what I’m going to do to you, baby.’ And then he ripped my shirt open. All that was going through my head was that I was going to get killed — raped and then killed.”
She got out of it by pretending to be interested and insisting that Guzman meet her later. When she told her mother, “She flipped out. Went totally crazy. Crying. Screaming at the top of her lungs.”
Scarpa tracked down Guzman and shot him as he ran from the front steps of his home, telling Linda, “I had actually saved other girls from being raped.”
Scarpa cut out a newspaper account of the murder and kept it in her wallet. “Every once in a while I’d take it out and look at it. He had kids, and I felt so bad and guilty about him getting killed. But what was I supposed to do, not say anything?”
Her lost brother
Linda with her brother Joey, Scarpa, and mother, Linda Schiro.
For Linda, the worst part about his dad’s mob world was what it did to her brother.
Joey, a “mama’s boy,” got pulled into his father’s Mafia world at 17, when Scarpa forced him to murder his best friend, Patrick Porco. DeVecchio found out Porco had been picked up on a murder charge and was going to flip.
“Greg told Joey he’d have to kill Patrick himself. Joey had no choice,” said Linda Schiro. Ultimately the teen couldn’t pull the trigger — but watched as Joey’s cousin shot Porco in the head.
Two years later, another friend of Joey’s, Joe Randazzo, was gunned down in front of him during a beef with drug dealers in which his father blasted Lucchese member Michael “Mickey Flattop” Derosa and his crew fired back. “A bullet went through Daddy’s nose and took out his eye,” Joey told his sister. “When I turned around to tell Joe to duck, he got shot in the head.”
Greg Scarpa ended up in the hospital under arrest, joking to Linda Schiro, “That’s all right, sweetheart. You can call me ‘One-eyed Greg’ from now on.”
Linda and Joey
Scarpa was eventually convicted and died in prison in 1994 at age 66.
Joey spiraled into depression.
“Life’s not the same without Dad,” he told his sister. But though he tried to get away from the life, Joey was killed after a member of the Gambinos lured him into a trap.
His death devastated Linda. “That was in 1995,” she writes. “Today it’s not better, not even a little bit.”
“I’ve often thought about the people my father murdered and the families he destroyed, and it’s very painful and disturbing. I knew what that felt like because my brother was murdered, too.”