Government & Politics
 

Does mob cooperation with the feds happen only in the movies?

Mutual infiltrators Damon, left, and DiCaprio duke it out in Scorsese's "The Departed." credit: Warner Bros.

Referring to my post on the online rants that cost Sal Perricone his job as a federal prosecutor, a reader asked: “Mr. Moseley of ‘The Lens’: I don’t mean any disrespect, but could you just speak ‘plain English’?”

Lo siento, mi amigo. Lo siento.

What can I say? I’m not a logical positivist. I’m partial to “answers” that end in question marks. I like to throw a little subtext and implication into the mix. My columns are structured to reward a close, thoughtful read. If you’re skimming them to find The Point, I’ll save you the trouble. Here’s my strong, unwavering belief for today: “Bad guys = yucky!”

For the rest of you, let’s begin a twisted ride that will last a few posts. Maybe along the way we’ll discover new tea leaves to ponder.

Remember “The Departed,” director Martin Scorsese’s picture about Boston gangsters and police infiltrating each other? Leonardo DiCaprio plays Billy, a police mole in the Boston mob, while Matt Damon plays Colin, a mob infiltrator in the state police. In different scenes, both characters learn that mob boss Frank Costello, whom they work for (or pretend to work for), is a protected FBI informant. Upon discovering this twist, Billy tries to convince his Police Captain: “Aren’t they always trying to make a federal case [against Costello]? And it never gets made?”

(Spoiler alert!!) Then, in a final scene, Colin interrogates Costello about his federal connections before killing him.

COLIN: You’re an FBI informant


COSTELLO: Jesus, Colin, grow up. Course I’m talking to the FBI.

COLIN: Do they know who I am?

COSTELLO says nothing for a moment.

COSTELLO: I never gave up anybody who wasn’t goin’ down anyway.

COLIN instantly raises the pistol to shoot him.

COLIN: Did you give me up?

It’s amusing how both moles are shocked(!) to discover that an organized-crime kingpin would collaborate with the feds to protect himself. How dare he arrange a personal “insurance” policy with the suits! Then it dawns on the moles that they’ve been risking their lives for much smaller stakes than they assumed. The game was fixed. The stings based on their hard-won information were intentionally botched by the Feds, so Costello could continue serving them as “bait” that would lure other big fish into the hands of national law enforcement interests.

I like that the storyline doesn’t revolve around the glorification of the mob’s omerta code of silence, or the solemn “law and order” oath taken by police. It shows the ethical gray areas at even the highest levels on both sides: the feds will sabotage a state police sting operation so as not to lose a prized informant, while the crime kingpin will rat out his associates for purposes of self-preservation. Each side undoubtedly thinks they’re ultimately “playing” their enemy; they’ll never tip their entire hand.

Speak English, Moseley! Are you saying that there might be collaboration between the feds and organized crime in the current highly publicized investigations in Greater New Orleans?!

No. I have no evidence that there’s an organized crime angle to the current federal investigations into Jefferson Parish officials and businesses, much less cooperation. But if, like me, you suspect such a link does exist, and yet you’re still operating under the assumption that such cooperation would be unprecedented or unthinkable, perhaps you too need to “grow up.”

Neither side is immune to infiltration. And neither side is, dare I say, above secret, high-level cooperation.

 

Help us report this story     Report an error    
The Lens' donors and partners may be mentioned or have a stake in the stories we cover.
  • jeffrey

    The rat symbolizes obviousness, BTW.

    Also I think the word you’re looking for amongst all this “subtext and implication” is “nugget.”

  • Mark Moseley

    One of Ralph’s best lines ever. And I’m glad someone else is pro-nugget.