Boston Herald
 December 21, 2000

 Hidden truth: Hoover's FBI may have suppressed info on Mob hit
 By Jonathan Wells and Maggie Mulvihill

 Top FBI officials, including then-director J. Edgar Hoover, may have 
 suppressed credible information that could have prevented four innocent 
 men from being charged, tried and convicted for a 1965 Mob hit, newly 
 disclosed FBI records reveal.

 The explosive FBI reports, released Tuesday by a Justice Task Force 
 probing FBI corruption in Massachusetts, may provide potent new evidence 
 for two men - Joseph Salvati and Peter Limone - who are trying to overturn 
 their 32-year-old convictions for the murder of low-level gangster Edward 
 "Teddy" Deegan.

 The reports show that former FBI agent H. Paul Rico, then a top organized 
 crime investigator in the bureau's Boston office, received details on the 
 March 12, 1965, Deegan murder from an informant the day after it happened.

 That informant, whose identity is blacked out in the reports, told Rico he 
 had spoken to a known criminal, Vincent "Jimmy" Flemmi, who admitted a 
 part in killing Deegan and revealed the names of four other men who were 
 involved with him.

 Rico wrote a report two days later, on March 15, to then-FBI 
 special-agent-in-charge in Boston James L. Handley, who four days later 
 wrote his own report about the Deegan murder and sent it to Hoover at FBI 
 headquarters in Washington, D.C.

 The informant provided Rico with a detailed account of the Deegan murder 
 and gave him the names of five men who allegedly carried it out: Vincent 
 Flemmi, Joseph "The Animal" Barboza, Ronald Cassesso, Wilfred Roy French 
 and Romeo Martin.

 But when indictments were issued two years later by then-Suffolk County 
 District Attorney Garrett Byrne, whose prosecutors worked closely on the 
 case with Rico and the FBI, the list of Deegan's murderers had changed. 
 The men charged were Salvati, Limone, Henry Tameleo, Louis Greco, Cassesso 
 and French.

 The FBI reports released this week, if accurate, provide compelling new 
 evidence that suggests Salvati, Limone, Tameleo and Greco were actually 
 innocent of the Deegan murder.

 The government centered its case on Barboza, a notorious Mob hit man who 
 Rico had convinced to become a government witness against the hierarchy of 
 the New England Mafia. Barboza, considered to be a major prize by the FBI, 
 became the first participant in the FBI's new witness protection program.

 Barboza testified he was a hired killer employed by Limone to kill Deegan, 
 a Malden tough and ex-boxer.

 Deegan was found sprawled in a pool of his own blood in a Chelsea alley.

 Barboza said the murder was ordered "by what people know as Cosa Nostra." 
 He said Tameleo, a top aide to then New England Mafia boss Raymond L.S. 
 Patriarca, personally sanctioned the killing.

 In 1968, a Suffolk County jury believed Barboza and convicted Salvati, 
 Limone, Tameleo, Greco, Cassesso and French in the murder. When the six 
 men were indicted, tried and convicted, the penalty in Massachusetts for 
 first- degree murder was death by electrocution.

 Four men - Greco, Limone, Tameleo and Cassesso - were sentenced to death 
 in the electric chair in Walpole State Prison.

 After the verdict, Greco told the jury, "I'm not guilty of this murder. I 
 took a lie detector test and it showed that I didn't do it."

 The four men's lives were spared in 1974 when Massachusetts abolished the 
 death penalty and their sentences were changed to life in prison.

 Tameleo, Greco and Cassesso died in prison.

 Salvati also professed his innocence from the beginning, and in 1976 
 Medford attorney Victor Garo agreed to take his case. In the 1980s and 
 early 1990s, Garo unearthed new evidence suggesting Barboza had implicated 
 innocent men, including his client, but his motion for a new trial was 
 opposed by the Suffolk County DA's office and later denied by the 
 Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court.

 In 1997, then-Gov. William F. Weld commuted Salavati's sentence and he was 
 released from prison. But Salvati still wants his record cleared.

 Salvati chose not to comment yesterday, but Garo said the latest FBI 
 reports confirm what he has been alleging for years.

 "It's my opinion that the federal and state governments conspired to 
 murder Joe Salvati and the murder weapon was the indictment," Garo said. 
 "The cover-up started in 1965 and continues in the year 2000. When does it 

 "I find all of this outrageous. This is an organization (the FBI) that we 
 the people are supposed to be protected by and they are breaking laws 
 whenever they want to."

 Garo said Hoover and the FBI were so intent on making high-profile Mob 
 cases in the 1960s that they did not care if innocent people and their 
 families were destroyed in the process. "Sensationalism and good press 
 became more important than human rights and human decency," he said.

 Officials in the Boston office of the FBI and at FBI headquarters in 
 Washington declined comment.

 An attorney for Rico, William Cagney, said he had not seen the FBI reports 
 and declined comment.

 Handley, the former head of the FBI's Boston office, and Hoover are dead.

 The FBI reports were released by the head of the Justice Task Force, John 
 H. Durham, and given to Garo and John Cavicchi, the attorney for Limone, 
 who is pressing for a new trial for his client.

 In a cover letter to Cavicchi accompanying the FBI reports, Durham and 
 U.S. Attorney Donald K. Stern wrote that the Justice Task Force, the U.S. 
 Attorney's office, the Boston FBI and FBI headquarters "understand the 
 potential significance of the enclosures to Mr. Limone and Mr. Salvati.

 "These documents are being made available to you with the concurrence and 
 encouragement of the Boston FBI and FBI Headquarters." Neither Durham nor 
 Stern would comment further.

 The letter did not mention Suffolk County DA Ralph C. Martin II, whose 
 office successfully opposed Salvati's attempt to get a new trial and is 
 currently fighting Limone's motion for new trial.

 Yesterday, Martin declined to be interviewed about the FBI reports 
 unearthed by Durham's office. Instead, he released a written statement 
 stating his office received the documents for the first time Tuesday, and 
 is in the process of reviewing them.

 Martin also said his office is "intent on pursuing the truth about the 
 Deegan murder, wherever it leads us, and to do so as expeditiously as 

 Jack Zalkind, the lead prosecutor for Suffolk County at the Deegan murder 
 trial in 1968, was surprised yesterday when told of the just-released FBI 

 "I am stunned," Zalkind said. "I have never seen any FBI reports that were 
 signed by Paul Rico and I was the prosecutor," Zalkind said.

 The newly disclosed FBI reports also reveal for the first time that the 
 FBI recruited Vincent Flemmi as an informant, right around the time Deegan 
 was murdered. Just a month earlier, Vincent Flemmi's brother, the 
 notorious Winter Hill Gang boss Stephen "The Rifleman" Flemmi, had been 
 signed up as an informant by Rico.

 Lawyers involved in the case have suggested that the FBI privately agreed 
 not to indict Vincent Flemmi for the Deegan murder as a favor to his 
 brother Stephen Flemmi, who by then had become a "top echelon" informant.

 The newly released FBI reports raise the possibility that Vincent Flemmi 
 was protected because he himself was an informant for the FBI.

 The reports also raise questions about the FBI's decision to use Vincent 
 Flemmi as an informant, given his apparent appetite for killing.

 In May 1964 report, Rico's partner, FBI agent Dennis M. Condon said he 
 spoke with an informant about Vincent Flemmi. "FLEMMI told him that all he 
 wants to do now is to kill people, and that it is better than hitting 
 banks . . . Informant said, FLEMMI said that he feels he can now be the 
 top hit man in this area and intends to be."