April 11, 2014. New York. An independent news outlet broke a 30-year FBI secret this week and it revealed that the notoriously famous, White House-connected Rev Al Sharpton is, or at least was, one of the biggest arch criminals in New York. A Mafia foot soldier with grand schemes of his own, Sharpton used his criminal ties to infiltrate and secretly record some of the most famous people in the Big Apple for the FBI, DEA and NYPD.
The FBI hidden recording of undercover agent negotiating the purchase of 1 kilo of cocaine with Al Sharpton. Image courtesy of The Smoking Gun, and apparently, HBO Sports.
For the record, Al Sharpton still denies everything, even as recently as this week. According to the MSNBC newscaster and frequent guest at the White House, he’s never been a cocaine dealer, he’s never fixed fights with Don King, he’s never defrauded minority set-aside contracts, he’s never extorted musical performers, and more than anything, the Reverend swears he didn’t work for years as a secret FBI informant, willingly wearing a wire and secretly recording incriminating conversations with the most deadly criminals in the nation. But the FBI records suggest otherwise. The records suggest every bit of it is true.
As detailed in the extensive report published by The Smoking Gun this week, it all started in the mid-1970’s when Al Sharpton was just a teenager living in New York. He took an entry level job working for R&B legend James Brown and went to work for one of Brown’s associated record labels - Spring Records in Manhattan. It was there that Sharpton would begin meeting Italian and Jewish Mafia lieutenants who had muscled in on the city’s music industry and were frequent visitors to the label’s office.
The young Al Sharpton would begin participating in criminal acts and scams with his new Mafia friends, many of which were members of the powerful Gambino crime family. His close friends and crime partners included men who would become the most notorious crime figures in New York – Joseph ‘Joe Bana’ Buonanno, Carmine DeNoia, and a number of members from the Paganos crime family, a ranking subset of the Gambino family.
The most famous crime from Sharpton’s early mob years involved a co-conspiracy between New York’s Italian Mafia and the city’s Jewish Mafia, both criminally entrenched in America’s entertainment industry. Together with Matthew “Matty the Horse” Lanniello and his partner in crime at Spring Records, Benjamin Cohen, Al Sharpton created a phony front business to defraud Con Edison out of minority set-aside contracts. The scam was eventually uncovered by the utility and Lanniello and Cohen were eventually charged, but not Sharpton.
Entering the 1980’s
After his racial fraud scam blew up on him, Al Sharpton was still in his early 20’s and a New York kid with big ambitions and lots of friends that could make them happen. It was at this time that he went back to the music industry. In one of his books, Sharpton explained, “Music is a street business, and that’s where organized crime is, on the street.”
Al Sharpton settled at a small music label called Calla Records, where he conspired with criminal elements in the music industry like former NFL player turned producer Robert Curington, WBLS DJ Frankie Crocker, Nate McCalla who was later murdered in a mob hit, and Morris Levy a powerful music industry insider. The men promoted musicians and groups like Barry White, The Dramatics, and The O’Jays. FBI records show that some of the crew’s members were working for the Colombo crime family and were selling the Mafia’s heroin in the black communities of New York. Curington was a well known major drug dealer, having already been twice indicted and caught with large amounts of heroin.
It was now that the most powerful woman in the history of corporate music was secretly working as a DEA informant while simultaneously working at Buddah Records. Sylvia Rhone was also dating one of Sharpton’s criminal associates who was recorded by Rhone and implicated in numerous drug charges. Sylvia Rhone would go on to be not only a prized DEA informant, but also head of Elektra Records, Universal Motown, and Epic Records where she is currently President of the gigantic record label.
1983 - Busted and enlisted by the FBI
In 1983, the FBI and DEA were all over Sharpton’s Italian and Jewish Mafia crime partners. They were all past and future convicts. One audio and video recorded FBI sting operation would prove to be a goldmine of future information. It recorded an arrogant Al Sharpton, now in his late 20’s, negotiating the purchase of one kilo of pure cocaine for $35,000. The two men went on to discuss potential future drug deals and Sharpton’s 10% commission on all the sales.
FBI records show that there was disagreement within the agency as to whether or not they had enough evidence to convict Sharpton. Instead of gambling on a trial, they decided to “flip” him - threaten him with prosecution and get him to become a snitch against all his crime partners. Sharpton has confirmed the FBI’s attempts, but always insisted he proudly told them to go to hell. He’s made a number of derogatory statements about rats and snitches who wear wires over the years.
The records show that a person by the code name ‘CI-7’ went to work for the FBI that day. CI-7, short for Confidential Informant #7, is now reported to be none other than Al Sharpton. CI-7 is credited with bringing down some of the most powerful and notorious New York Mafia soldiers, lieutenants, and even under-bosses. Due to Sharpton’s extensive friendships within the music industry, drug industry, organized crime world, and the boxing industry thanks to his friendship with legendary promoter Don King, Al Sharpton provided criminal intelligence to a number of law enforcement agencies including the FBI, DEA and NYPD, over and over again for years.
Fishing for Don King, catching the Mafia
Thanks to the release of thousands of pages of law enforcement documents as a result of Freedom Of Information Act requests, investigators from The Smoking Gun were able to piece together at least four years’ worth of undercover infiltration and secret recordings by agent CI-7, aka Al Sharpton. After catching the Reverend discussing large cocaine buys, feds decided to enlist him in their effort to infiltrate boxing promoter Don King. King was making millions off of questionably legitimate boxing matches, which also had ties to the same music industry and Mafia crime figures.
The report explains that Sharpton was able to continue spying on his crime partners because he was never asked to testify against any of the criminals he brought down. He was strictly used as a source for information about the crime rings that law enforcement could never obtain themselves. Instead of outing their most valuable asset by making him testify at trial, they kept him in their back pocket and simply made plea agreements with other now-busted figures in exchange for their testimony.
One of the most devastated crime outfits from Sharpton’s secret recordings turned out to be the Genovese crime family. The research shows that over four years, 8 different District Court Judges, in 4 different US Courts, granted wiretaps in Mafia cars and homes due to CI-7’s sworn testimony against Mafia members. For a while, Sharpton even had a ‘special phone’ in his home. In reality, it was only special because the line was tapped by law enforcement and Sharpton would direct his criminal targets to use it for illegal business.
The report also recounts one instance where law enforcement officials accidentally revealed Sharpton’s true identity. The agents had to rewrite their formal court request because they noticed they had too many details that may identify the real identity of CI-7. The judicial request included information about two instances where CI-7 recorded incriminating conversation with Mafia lieutenants, one from the Genovese family and one from the Gambino family. Agents realized that Sharpton was easily identifiable as the informant in the Gambino recording. And if identified in that instance, he would automatically be identified as the informant in the others. Fortunately, that particular Gambino soldier never linked his conviction with Sharpton’s being the only person who could have done it.
Informant retires, or did he?
The report documents that by 1987, four years after Al Sharpton went to work as a government informant, the FBI and NYPD were actually shopping his services around to law enforcement agencies around the country. In one instance, Sharpton was offered to the Los Angeles Police to help them with their organized crime investigations. While the scandal-plagued New York Reverend still insists none of the stories are true, the documents show that his work as a government infiltrator only lasted four years.
Critics however, suggest that his secret partnership with the government never ended in 1987. They point to a never-ending stream of hate-filled anti-semetic, anti-white and anti-gay slurs, scams like the Tawana Brawley accusations, and associations with crime figures to this day. And still, the man is constantly seated in the front row of White House events along with Beyonce, Lady Gaga and members of the Cabinet. And he’s even found a home on MSNBC with a national TV show. Something just never added up, until now.
Read the full report from The Smoking Gun.
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