Mob Nemesis: How the FBI Crippled Organized Crime
with Don DeNevi
Amherst, New York: Prometheus Books, 2002
Subject, Methods, Database:
The autobiography of former FBI Special Agent in Charge of the Cleveland office, Joseph Griffin; with an introduction by G. Robert Blakey.
Griffin entered the FBI in 1957 as a clerk. One of his first assignments was to monitor hidden microphones that were planted in mob hangouts in Chicago. After becoming an FBI agent, Griffin took Italian and Sicilian language classes and was subsequently sent to the Buffalo field office in 1964 to investigate organized crime. At this time, the FBI had planted microphones in all known mob meeting places. According to Griffin's recollection, Buffalo CN-boss Stefano Magaddino was frequently visited by public officials and politicians who would address him as "godfather" (p. 67).
In July 1965, the Department of Justice ordered the FBI to terminate all microphones covering the Mob. Allegedly, President Johnson gave the order after learning that the FBI had a microphone covering an organized-crime associate of Bobby Baker, the former secretary of the Senate Democrats, who was later convicted in federal court on corruption charges (p. 74).
The FBI failed to get to Magaddino in court, but when a search of his son's and underbosses premises turned up some 500,000 $ in cash, the greedy Magaddino and his son were voted out as boss and underboss after Griffin had tipped off two Cosa Nostra informants about the money (p. 125-8).
Between 1972 and 1976 Griffin was assigned to FBI headquarters before going to the Cleveland field office as assistant special agent in charge. One of his tasks included exposing a mob mole who furnished classified FBI data to Cosa Nostra members. The mole turned out to be a trusted clerk who gave away information in exchange for financial rewards (p. 190-9).
In 1981, after serving on the FBI inspection Division for two years, Griffin went to Cleveland as Special Agent in Charge. During his years in Cleveland the FBI succeeded in flipping several members and associates of the local Cosa Nostra family, including acting boss Angelo Lonardo (p. 275-8). In the end, all but one of the members of the Cleveland Cosa Nostra family were convicted and imprisoned, primarily on murder-related charges. The only remaining member, who previously had retired to Florida, died in 1991 of a heart attack.
Griffin himself retired from the FBI in 1988 to work in the private investigative consulting sector.
Mob Nemesis is an interesting addition to the stock of books on Cosa Nostra in many respects. First of all, its not about New York City but about Buffalo and Cleveland, i.e. rather neglected areas in the organized crime landscape. Secondly, Griffin provides a view on investigative strategies that seems to differ from conventional wisdom in that he emphasizes the importance of informants more than that of electronic surveillance. Finally, the book reveals a great deal of infighting within and between federal agencies (e.g. 293-9).
Mob Nemesis covers aspects of Cosa Nostra history that have previously been neglected. The book also puts new perspectives on persons and events that have been discussed in other organized crime books, such as the flipping of Jimmy "the weasel" Fratianno and Angelo Lonardo, the strike force program, the witness protection program and the application of the RICO statute.
Bonavolonta, Jules, and Brian Duffy, The Good Guys: How We Turned the FBI 'Round - and Finally Broke the Mob, New York: Simon and Schuster, 1996.
Jacobs, James , Busting the Mob: United States v. Cosa Nostra, New York: New York University Press, 1994
Porello, Rick, The Rise and Fall of the Cleveland Mafia: Corn Sugar and Blood, New York: Barricade Books, 1995
Roemer Jr., William F., Roemer: Man Against the Mob, New York: Donald I. Fine, 1989
© Klaus von Lampe, all rights reserved.