Alleged capo’s ties to FBI called lengthy

Codefendants seek more information

By Milton J. Valencia
Globe Staff / August 18, 2011

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Reputed Mafia capo Mark Rossetti had a relationship with the FBI for more than a decade before his arrest by State Police last year, a lawyer for one of his codefendants said yesterday during a Suffolk Superior Court hearing.

Steven Boozang, who represents Mark Weddleton, an alleged member of Rossetti’s organization from Revere, said that he based this assertion on good faith information he has received as well as the fact that an FBI beeper number was found on Rossetti when he was previously arrested for a parole violation.

In light of this, Boozang said, it is surprising that State Police would say they were unaware that Rossetti was working as an informant when they targeted him and his associates more than a year ago in an investigation into violence, extortion, and drug trafficking.

“He’s been around for a long time,’’ Boozang said in court yesterday.

Boozang and other lawyers did not mention Rossetti by name yesterday in a hearing before Superior Court Judge Charles J. Hely, because the judge ordered them to withhold the name of any government informants.

But court documents previously submitted by Robert A. George, who represents two co-defendants in the same case, clearly identify Rossetti as the informant at issue through a description of his role in the alleged crime ring.

Rossetti’s relationship with the FBI has come under scrutiny because he was apparently working as an informant for the agency when he became the target of the State Police organized crime investigation. He is also suspected in at least six murders, law enforcement officials told the Globe.

State Police learned that Rossetti was working as an informant when they heard conversations between him and his handler during a court-approved wiretap of his FBI-issued phone in early 2010. More than 40 conversations were recorded.

The disclosure that Rossetti was working with the FBI at the same time he was being targeted by the State Police raises questions about how closely the FBI was monitoring him, for how long, whether he provided useful information, and whether the bureau was aware of the extent of his alleged activities.

The use of informants by law enforcement agencies has been allowed as a necessary tool in law enforcement, but the FBI has set up strict guidelines. Among them, a handler is supposed to notify supervisors whenever an informant engages in violent crime, and that informant could be turned over to appropriate authorities for prosecution.

Those guidelines were spurred by congressional hearings in 2003 and the 1998 federal court hearings in Boston that exposed the FBI’s mishandling of informant James “Whitey’’ Bulger, who allegedly committed crimes including murder while keeping his relationship with the federal agency.

US Representative Stephen F. Lynch, who sat in on the 2003 congressional hearings, has already questioned whether the FBI followed proper guidelines in working with Rossetti, given his criminal history and the nature of the State Police allegations. Lynch is expecting to meet with FBI officials in Washington, D.C.

The FBI said in a joint statement with State Police that all employees followed guidelines, and that they cooperated with State Police once they were notified of the alleged wrongdoing.

But lawyers for Rossetti’s codefendants pressed for more details of Rossetti’s role as an informant for the FBI yesterday, saying the disclosure of Rossetti’s relationship with authorities could undermine the state charges of organized crime against their clients.

The lawyers questioned how their clients could have unlawfully conspired with Rossetti when he was all along an apparent agent of the government.

The lawyers requested more information on wiretaps State Police may have of Rossetti and his handler, as well as any information about his relationship with the FBI, including when it began and what it yielded. They have argued that any evidence derived from the wiretaps should be suppressed, because Rossetti was secretly working as an informant.

Hely did not decide on the requests yesterday.

Assistant Attorney General Dean Mazzone argued that any other records of wiretaps of Rossetti and his handler are irrelevant. He also said they include information that could jeopardize a separate investigation.

He stressed that the State Police investigation was not influenced in any way by Rossetti’s relationship with the FBI, and that his codefendants can still be charged as conspirators.

“This has always been a state investigation exclusively, and a state prosecution exclusively,’’ he said.

Milton J. Valencia can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @MiltonValencia