It's a well-known story — a reputed Boston mobster, working as a top informant for the FBI, even while he was allegedly committing serious crimes.
You'd be forgiven if you thought we were talking about James "Whitey" Bulger. We're not.
Those details also describe the case of Mark Rossetti, who, allegedly, was the No. 2 figure in the Boston Mafia, who's now in jail and accused of drug trafficking, loan sharking and extortion.
WBUR's David Boeri has been digging into the case and spoke with All Things Considered host Steve Brown about it Friday.
Steve Brown: First off, who is Mark Rossetti?
David Boeri: Rossetti is a convicted murderer. According to organized crime investigators, he is a "capo regime" in the local mafia, which means he's in the top three of the leadership.
He was indicted last year in state court, charged with drug trafficking as well as extortion and loan sharking. Rossetti made headlines Friday when, according to published reports, he was indirectly described as an FBI informant in court papers filed Thursday. But WBUR has now confirmed that Rossetti has in fact been a longtime informant for the FBI. He was accorded the same top-echelon status that Bulger once had.
Rossetti's lawyer denies he's an informant?
She denied that in a story published Friday morning, but law enforcement sources have told me that Rossetti became an FBI informant as long ago as the early 1990s. Furthermore, as I have learned, while Rossetti was an informant, he told one FBI agent, who was his handler at the time, about a murder involving a mafia don and Steven Flemmi, who like his partner Bulger, was also a top-echelon informant.
That kind of information would be sensational, right?
It gets even more sensational. According to our sources — who called him "the rabbit" — Rossetti informed that same FBI agent that Flemmi and Bulger were getting inside information leaked to them about the legitimate efforts of law enforcement to catch them.
At the time, the FBI was using secret court-sanctioned microphones called "roving intercepts." The enforcement team had their own special name for the equipment. They called it "the rover" and they knew they had a problem when Rossetti used that same name. He said Flemmi knew about the rover because Flemmi had an inside source.
What happened to the information Rossetti gave back then?
That's certainly a timely question now that Whitey's back. The idea that the mobsters had someone inside the FBI betraying information to them was huge. Our sources say the FBI agent told his supervisor and a federal prosecutor inside the Organized Crime Strike Force that they had an enemy within. But what if anything was done with that explosive discovery is unknown. Our sources think nothing came of it.
So bring us up to speed on this case.
All these years later, Rossetti was himself caught on court-approved wiretaps last year. But now — and the story gets wilder — he was caught by State Police conducting 40 conversations with an FBI agent, according to court records. From this State Police determined Rossetti was an FBI informant. He was even using a phone given to him by the FBI.
How does this compare to the Bulger case?
Bob Fitzpatrick, former FBI agent and supervisor, has testified about this in court — that the FBI's own policy should have prevented Bulger from ever becoming a top-echelon informant and should have been closed. And when called Friday, he insisted that Rossetti's top status should have disqualified him from FBI protection as well.
What's the reaction from the FBI?
Friday afternoon the local FBI spokesman said that a statement is under consideration but for the time being they are sticking with their earlier statement: "The Department of Justice rules require us to report criminal wrongdoing by any of our sources. The FBI followed those guidelines."
This program aired on August 12, 2011. The audio for this program is not available.