The FBI turned down a chance nearly 20 years ago to bust an up-and-coming mobster who was dealing heroin in East Boston, according to a retired state police investigator.
That up-and-coming mobster, Mark Rossetti, is now a captain in the mob, according to authorities, and has also been a long-time FBI informant, FOX Undercover has learned.
Bill McGreal was an undercover state trooper in 1979 when he was first introduced to Rossetti as someone who could sell him cocaine.
“We're not even past the ‘Hi, how are you?’ stage when he says, ‘I'm just going to explain something to you. If something goes wrong with this deal, something is going to go seriously wrong for youse guys’” McGreal recalled.
“This kid is 21 or 22, something like that. He's right out of central casting from The Godfather. This is incredible. I have never dealt with anybody that young that was trying to act so mobbed up,” McGreal told FOX Undercover reporter Mike Beaudet.
McGreal says he later bought a small bag of cocaine from Rossetti, but the case never went anywhere.
That’s because the next day, Rossetti went to jail after pleading guilty to assaulting and nearly killing an off-duty state police trooper.
Then, more than a decade later, around 1992, a drug user came to McGreal with an offer. He said Rossetti was dealing heroin, and he offered to go undercover and buy drugs directly from Rossetti in exchange for help getting out of jail.
This time though, Rossetti was no up-and-coming wise guy. His standing with the mob had grown, along with his record, which by then included a conviction for helping rob an armored car at gunpoint.
“So I decide, being a good guy, the FBI is looking at members of La Cosa Nostra. This guy is either made or he's about to be made, and I have an informant who tells me he can do hand-to-hand sales with Mark Rossetti, and he says he's willing to do it.”
McGreal, an FBI agent and the informant met.
“My informant lays out clearly his dealings, heroin trafficking, purchasing heroin from Rossetti…he explains more with Rossetti's dealings, and says he's more of an up-and-coming heroin mover in the East Boston area,” McGreal said.
A few hours after the meeting, the FBI called McGreal to talk about the case.
“I'm told, ‘We're going to take a pass on Rossetti.’ And I'm saying to myself, this guy is really the guy who has got a propensity for violence, with crimes of violence in the armored car and assault with intent to murder with the trooper. He's got a drug distribution thing and now he's dealing heroin, and he's moving around pretty good in East Boston, and they're going to pass on him? It didn't make any sense.”
“Hearing now that Rossetti was an informant for the FBI, does it make sense?” asked FOX Undercover’s Beaudet.
“It would make sense because if you got a guy dealing heroin and he's either in the mob or he's about to go into the mob, what better time to take him off?” McGreal replied.
McGreal says it’s likely that Rossetti's arrest then would have prevented future crimes. But what angers him more is that the FBI would go into business with someone convicted of nearly killing a fellow trooper.
“Part of the outrage on this to me is you got a guy who almost killed a trooper. Almost killed him. And then he goes out and he holds up an armored car…. They have to be looking the other way. It has to be the same as (James “Whitey”) Bulger. He's more important to us as a top echelon informant than he is as the target of a FBI investigation,” McGreal said.
Another part of Rossetti's background the FBI was willing to overlook is that Rossetti is considered a suspect in several murders.
While it's not clear exactly when Rossetti became an informant, a defense attorney in the current case said in court recently that Rossetti was caught with an FBI agent's beeper number in his pocket in 1992, around the same time that McGreal offered him up to the FBI.
The FBI declined to comment for this story, but the agency has said its handling of the informant in this case has been by the book.