AFRICANGLOBE – He’s had the titles of civil rights activist, presidential candidate and TV host.
But for a time, the FBI secretly called the Rev. Al Sharpton something else: “CI-7” — a confidential informant who taped mobsters with a bugged briefcase, helping the feds bring down members of the Genovese crime family, it was revealed Monday.
For four years in the 1980s, Sharpton secretly assisted a joint FBI-NYPD task force known as the “Genovese squad,” The Smoking Gun website disclosed.
Sharpton’s role as an FBI informant was first disclosed in 1988 — but The Smoking Gun obtained hundreds of pages of secret court filings and FBI memos that provide stunning new details of his cooperation. The documents depict Sharpton operating easily in an underworld of violence and corruption, helping the feds collect essential information.
“Sharpton’s cooperation was fraught with danger since the FBI’s principal targets were leaders of the Genovese crime family, the country’s largest and most feared Mafia outfit,” said the report by writer William Bastone.
In an interview Monday, Sharpton acknowledged assisting the FBI beginning in 1983, but he denied he was an informant and disputed much of The Smoking Gun’s report.
The revelations come as Sharpton’s National Action Network holds a convention in New York this week that will feature speeches by Mayor de Blasio on Wednesday and President Obama on Friday. The White House had no immediate comment on The Smoking Gun report.
Sharpton allegedly became an FBI informant after he was caught on tape with a drug kingpin discussing cocaine deals. The feds reportedly threatened him with charges — although it’s unlikely any case would have held up — and successfully flipped him to snitch on Mafia acquaintances.
They saw Sharpton as an asset because he had “established relationships with (boxing) promoter Don King, various elected officials and several powerful New York hoodlums involved in concert promotion, record distribution and talent management,” The Smoking Gun said.
Agents gave Sharpton a customized Hartmann briefcase he used to record conversations touching on mob hits, extortion schemes and the activities of Genovese crime boss Vincent (Chin) Gigante, the cagey mobster who tried to outfox the feds by claiming he was mentally incompetent, The Smoking Gun disclosed.
Sharpton had 10 face-to-face meetings, all recorded, with Joseph (Joe Bana) Buonanno, a Gambino family member. FBI agent John Pritchard, one of the heads of the squad, paid Sharpton in small amounts, the report said.
The information Sharpton gathered was used to get wiretaps to bug two Genovese family social clubs, three cars used by mobsters and many of their phones, according to the court records obtained by the website.
“The resulting surreptitious recordings were eventually used to help convict an assortment of Mafia members and associates,” The Smoking Gun said.
Sharpton was referred to in the documents as CI-7, short for Confidential Informant No. 7.
In his interview, Sharpton said he contacted authorities after receiving death threats from Buonanno and others over his activism in trying to get African-Americans more work in the business end of the music industry. “If you’re a victim of a threat, you’re not an informant — you’re a victim trying to protect yourself,” he said.
He acknowledged that his conversations with mob figures were recorded, but he denied using a bugged briefcase. He said he was never paid, but was occasionally reimbursed for travel. “I encourage kids all the time to work with law enforcement,” he said. “You’re acting like it’s a scandal for me to do that?”
He said the role of his information in bringing down mob figures was vastly exaggerated.
“I was never told I was an informant or I had a number or none of that,” he said. “Whether or not they used some of the other information they got during that period for other purposes, I don’t know.”
But the report said that eight federal judges signed wiretap orders based on sworn affidavits that included information from Sharpton — including two taps of Gigante’s home, the phone of Genovese big Dominick (Baldy Dom) Canterino, the Queens home of reputed mob soldier Federico (Fritzy) Giovanelli — who was later sentenced to 20 years for racketeering — and the office of music industry honcho Morris Levy, a family associate.
In his conversations with Sharpton, Buonanno spilled dirt on Gigante’s role at the head of the crime family, a hit ordered by Levy on Buonanno’s brother that was never carried out, and details of loansharking, gambling and African diamond-dealing schemes, according to recaps of the meetings obtained by the website. The bombastic reverend’s relationship with law enforcement petered out after the Tawana Brawley scandal in 1987, the report said.
Sharpton insisted his only goal was to draw out evidence about the threats against him. “You don’t just walk in to a guy and say, ‘Threaten me.’ You get in a conversation,” he said. “They may have said things that hurt them, but that wasn’t my goal.”
He called the report an effort to smear him ahead of his convention this week. “Where is the crime?” he said. “They admit that I never did anything wrong.”
One old Genovese soldier — Giovanelli, sentenced to 20 years after the squad’s recordings were played at his trial — jokingly sympathized, telling The Smoking Gun, “Poor Sharpton, he cleaned up his life and you want to ruin him.”
By: Erin Durkin
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