The mobster known as the Grim Reaper was born on May 8, 1929, in New York, New York. His parents immigrated from Italy some years before and raised their family in Brooklyn. As a young man, he found work with his father in the coal mining industry. Fatefully, at some point, his older brother Salvatore is rumored to have introduced him to a life of crime.
Scarpa married a young Connie Forest in the 1950s. They went on to have four children, three sons, and a daughter. One son, Greg JR., would eventually follow in his old man’s formidable footsteps. Like many gangsters, Scarpa was not faithful in his marriage to Connie. He fathered two children with his girlfriend, Linda, with whom he maintained a thirty-year romance.
Stylish and flashy, Scarpa loved money and violence. Scarpa’s crimes ranged from loansharking to hijacking. He was also involved with counterfeiting and robbery. In the 1960s, he was arrested for armed robbery. To save his skin and avoid spending time in the Big House, he chose to rat on other criminals. This incident began Scarpa’s third long-term relationship. His mistress? The FBI.
His reputation for confrontation and brutality perked ears at the agency. They allegedly approached him with an offer he couldn’t refuse. In 1964, agents in Mississippi hit Scarpa up. They wanted him to shake down a certain Klansman who had been rumored to know the whereabouts of three missing civil rights workers: Andrew Goodman, James Chaney, and Michael Schwerner. Allegedly, the FBI hooked him up with a gun and the cash to do the job. The target, a man named Lawrence Byrd, was kidnapped and beaten at Camp Shelby. Here, Scarpa himself is said to have extracted the information from Byrd by thrusting the pistol into his mouth. Byrd sang like a canary.
Although the FBI never confirmed this story, and after allegedly helping with another case involving the KKK, Scarpa and the agency had a falling out over reward money. They did not work with him again until the 1980s when Scarpa became involved with Lindley DeVecchio, an agent with the FBI. He and his wife, Connie, had separated in 1973. He allegedly gave the FBI minimal information on the Colombo Crime Family before ultimately being arrested by them for credit card fraud. To help him escape a lengthy sentence, DeVecchio reminded the agency how much information Scarpa had given over the years. It paid off, and Scarpa skated by with probation and tiny fine.
Having lived such a stressful and dangerous life, Scarpa developed stomach ulcers. In 1986, during one of his many blood transfusions for this ailment, he contracted HIV. He tried to hide his illness by claiming he had cancer.
Scarpa’s illness progressed. In 1991, he faced another deadly problem. Because he had ratted on the Colombo Crime Family during his time as an informant for the FBI, the Colombo boss, Victor Orena, decided to seek vengeance. While Scarpa was driving his car, he was ambushed by hitmen sent by Orena. He managed to escape and quickly sought revenge. Although he was quite ill by this time, he still hunted down his attackers. Deranged by anger and illness, he carelessly murdered several innocent people who he thought were involved.
In 1992, Scarpa was arrested on firearms charges. Not long after, he was also indicted for three murders. Right after Christmas that same year, he lost an eye while battling it out with a couple of Lucchese Family mob boys. They were out for Scarpa’s son, over drugs.
After this incident, which landed him back in prison for defying his house arrest order, Scarpa quickly began losing the battle with his health. In 1993, he pleaded guilty to three murders and conspiracy. The feds sentenced him to life in prison. He didn’t suffer there for long. He died from AIDS-related complications on June 4, 1994.
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