Wolf concluded that more than a dozen FBI agents had violated the law or bureau regulations. So far, one, John Connolly, has been convicted of racketeering and obstruction of justice and is awaiting sentencing; and another has been granted immunity for testimony. Both had also accepted bribes from informants they were protecting.
The Hit Men
Boston FBI agents trying to recruit Vincent J. "The Bear" Flemmi as an informant knew what he was from the start -- and made sure the FBI director's office knew too.
Stephen Flemmi's younger brother spoke openly of his "plans to become recognized as the No. 1 'hit man' in this area," Boston agents told Washington in a June 4, 1964, memo.
At least four field memos informed headquarters that Vincent Flemmi planned to kill a small-time hoodlum named Edward "Teddy" Deegan in a dispute over money.
A March 10, 1965, memo, for example, said Vincent Flemmi had asked Mafia bosses for permission to kill Deegan. And hours before the murder, Boston agents reported that mob enforcer Joseph "The Animal" Barboza had joined the plot.
Deegan's body turned up in a Chelsea, Mass., alley on March 12, 1965. A week later, a memo to headquarters named six men, including Vincent Flemmi and Barboza, as the killers, describing the murder in detail, right down to who fired the first shot.
An unsigned response from FBI headquarters directed Boston agents to tell Chelsea police what they knew. But soon, the FBI had another idea. The agency, it seemed, didn't want Vincent Flemmi in prison. It wanted him on the streets, as an informer.
On June 4, 1965, FBI records show, the director's office demanded a progress report. Was he ready to inform?
Yes, Boston replied, adding that Vincent Flemmi was suspected in eight murders and that "from all indications, he is going to continue to commit murder."
Soon, FBI memos show, Boston agents also recruited Barboza, convincing him that his Mafia employers had turned on him.
Boston told the director's office in a June 20, 1967 memo, that Barboza was the most dangerous man in the region, "a professional assassin responsible for numerous homicides." He was also unreliable, Boston reported -- a man willing to encourage perjury to spare himself a long prison term. He had also vowed never to incriminate his friend, Vincent Flemmi.
But with the promise of a light sentence for his role in the Deegan murder, Barboza soon became a star witness in three Mafia trials.
A Massachusetts jury trusted his word and convicted six men in the Deegan case. Vincent Flemmi and two others identified as the killers in memos Boston agents had sent to headquarters were never charged.
Instead, FBI files show, the bureau stood by as Barboza's false testimony convicted four men who had no connection to the crime. Two died in prison, and two others were released in recent years, exonerated after the scandal broke.
Barboza had implicated two of them to settle street grudges. The others, though blameless in Deegan's murder, were known Mafia figures.
After the convictions, a July 31, 1968, field memo requested letters of commendation for Barboza's handlers. Hoover sent a personal reply:
"The successful prosecution of these subjects was a direct result of your noteworthy development of pertinent witnesses."
In return for his testimony, Barboza was released after serving five months for the Deegan murder and relocated with a new identity.
Before long, however, he was threatening to recant his testimony unless given $9,000 for plastic surgery to change his appearance.
If Barboza (who had changed his name to Baron) were to recant, mob convictions "might be overturned and plunge the government into protracted and acrimonious litigation," two Justice Department lawyers who worked closely with Boston FBI agents warned their Washington supervisor in a Feb. 12, 1970, memo.
"We recommend that by some manner or means, Baron's request be honored to the degree possible," said the memo from Edward F. Harrington and Walter T. Barnes.
Six months later, Barboza recanted his testimony; but soon he changed his mind again, standing by his original story.
Barnes, now retired, said that, as best he can recall, some money was approved for Barboza. At the time, he had no reason to believe Barboza had lied on the witness stand, Barnes added in a recent interview. Harrington, now a federal judge in Massachusetts, declined comment.
In 1976, the Patriarca family found Barboza and exacted its revenge, shotgunning him on a San Francisco street.
Vincent Flemmi died in prison in 1979 after Massachusetts authorities convicted him of attempted murder in another case.
Bulger and Vincent Flemmi's brother, Stephen, were just starting their rise in the underworld when Boston agents recruited them as informants. The agents told headquarters what kind of men they were.
For example, a 1964 field memo described Stephen Flemmi's plot to "whack" somebody.