NOVEMBER 21, 2011

by Hillel Levin
[Editor's Note: It has been nearly 50 years since the assassination o !ohn "# $ennedy and
%&erica is no closer to distin'(ishin' act ro& iction# Many ha)e tried, thro*in' theories at
the *all to see *hat stic+s and still *e are let to *onder *hat ha,,ened on that ate(l day in
-allas, No)e&ber 22nd, 1./0#
%,,earin' in the No)e&ber 2010 iss(e o 1layboy, in)esti'ati)e a(thor 2illel 3e)in atte&,ts to
(nra)el the details o the "BI's in)esti'ation and the 4arren 5o&&ission's indin's s(rro(ndin'
the dayli'ht &(rder o an %&erican icon# 6he ollo*in' is the article in (ll#7
Having just retired from the FBI, Zack Shelton traveled in 2002 from his Texas home to
reminisce ith old !hicago comrades" The# met over meals, at $laces that had once %een their
hangouts" &ost of them ere also retired, gra# and %eef#" The# ore o$en'necked shirts and
khakis or jeans" Back in their %ureau da#s the# had %een a lean and edg# cre(dark suits and
ties ere standard attire" Together the# had $ut the first cracks in the $reviousl# im$ervious shell
of !hicago)s &afia, knon as the *utfit"
+o Shelton as on a similarl# ,uixotic task" He %elieved a small'time criminal locked u$ in an
Illinois $rison ma# have committed the greatest crime of their time" His name as -ames Files,
and he had once %een a driver for the *utfit)s most feared hit man" Files told Shelton %oth he and
the hit man ere in .allas hen -ohn F" /enned# as assassinated" Files even claimed that he
had fired the fatal shot from %ehind a fence on the infamous grass# knoll"
Shelton kne it sounded $re$osterous, %ut he had reason to take Files seriousl#" 0hen he
re$eated the Files confession to his old %uddies, Shelton as $re$ared to %e laughed out of the
restaurant" Instead, the# all listened intentl#" In fact, like Shelton, some of them also had their
on revelations a%out the assassination or kne other agents ho had" The# regretted never
having had a forum in hich to air them"
2There)s one thing a%out FBI agents,3 sa#s Shelton" 2The#)re damn good investigators" The#
don)t o$erate on the %asis of theories" The# deal in facts, and the facts have never su$$orted the
0arren !ommission)s conclusion that 4ee Harve# *sald as the lone assassin"3
The evidence, Shelton %elieves, shos that organi5ed crime orchestrated /enned#)s murder" 6n
increasing num%er of historians agree, %ut the# still don)t kno ho the shooter(or shooters(
ma# have %een" There is also virtuall# no understanding of the *utfit)s role in the cons$irac#"
If S$ecial 6gent Shelton learned an# lesson during his eight #ears in !hicago, it as never to
underestimate the *utfit or Ton# 6ccardo, the man at its helm for five decades" 7nlike the &afia
dons on the 8ast !oast, 6ccardo had little interest in the $u%lic s$otlight or a%solute $oer" 6fter
he took control of the *utfit, in the mid'19:0s, he %uilt hat is no acknoledged to %e the
%iggest em$ire in the histor# of 6merican organi5ed crime, ith rackets extending from !hicago
to !alifornia"
6ccardo as illing to divide the s$oils %# geogra$h# rather than %# famil#" Inside !hicago that
meant five grou$s, each ith its on %oss" 6lthough most of these mo% %osses ere Italian, the#
ere not necessaril# related to those ho orked for them" Their associates and underlings could
%e ;reek, -eish or ;erman" .e$ending on here an illegal act took $lace, unaffiliated
criminals(even eekend $oker $la#ers(had to $a# a street tax to the local *utfit %oss" Failure
to $a# could result in a %eating or death"
Shelton)s fello agent -im 0agner transferred to !hicago from +e <ork and immediatel#
recogni5ed ho crime in !hicago as organi5ed" 2The *utfit had a su$erior %usiness model
%ecause it used geogra$h# instead of famil#,3 he ex$lains" 2<ou didn)t have the %lood feuds like
in +e <ork, here different families fought over the same territor#"3
+othing fueled the *utfit)s ex$ansion as much as its influence on unions(the International
Brotherhood of Teamsters in $articular"
The union)s $ension fund, hich as run out of !hicago, financed construction of the *utfit)s
first casinos on the 4as =egas Stri$" 6s he did in his hometon, 6ccardo as illing to let other
mo%sters $la#(%ut on his terms"
6 ke# com$onent of the *utfit)s success as its infiltration of the .emocratic >art# in !hicago)s
First 0ard" &o% o$eratives influenced the election of judges, ho then found reasons to thro
out charges against the *utfit" The mo%)s $olitical connections also hel$ed it %u# voting cards
from residents of !hicago)s $u%lic housing $rojects that it could then $unch for its favored
candidates" 0hen a slender margin in Illinois ensured /enned#)s electoral victor# over ?ichard
+ixon in 19@0, Shelton sa#s, 2the mo% reall# did %elieve it gave /enned# the election"3
If that as true, the /enned# administration shoed little gratitude" 6ttorne# ;eneral ?o%ert F"
/enned# made organi5ed crime his signature issue, lighting a fire under -" 8dgar Hoover and the
FBI, hich had $reviousl# gone eas# on the &afia" In the last #ear of the 8isenhoer
administration the -ustice .e$artment convicted onl# AB lo'level mo%sters" B# the end of 19@A
?F/ had $ushed that num%er to 2CC, including high'ranking %osses" &ore alarming for the
*utfit, hile it as using the Teamsters $ension fund to %uild casinos, ?F/ targeted Teamsters
$resident -imm# Hoffa ith a team of investigators knon as the ;et Hoffa s,uad" The s,uad)s
first indictments against the union leader ere for acce$ting $a#offs from trucking com$anies
and for su%se,uent jur# tam$ering in those trials" In the summer of 19@A it %rought ne charges
involving $ension funds"
Five months later, -F/ as assassinated" ;" ?o%ert Blake#, then a mem%er of ?F/)s -ustice
.e$artment, as ell aare of hat organi5ed crime had at stake in snuffing out the /enned#
administration)s onslaught" 2It seemed o%vious that if there as a cons$irac#, it ould %e from
the mo%,3 sa#s Blake#" In Brothers, a recent %ook on ?F/, author .avid Tal%ot ,uotes Bo%%#
telling a confidant after -F/)s assassinationD 2If an#one as involved, it as organi5ed crime"3
6ccording to Blake#, neither Hoover nor -F/)s successor, 4#ndon Baines -ohnson, anted to
o$en that can of orms" 2The risks of here that investigation ould lead ere too high,3 sa#s
Blake#" 2It as much more convenient for *sald to %e the lone assassin"3
In the late 19E0s Blake# served as chief counsel for the 7"S" House Select !ommittee on
6ssassinations, hich took a second look at the 0arren !ommission)s findings" *n the %asis of
acoustical evidence, Blake#)s investigators determined there as a 2high $ro%a%ilit#3 that more
than one gunman fired at the $resident and that 2individual mem%ers3 of 2organi5ed crime3 ma#
have %een involved" The committee also found that Hoover had ke$t the FBI)s organi5ed crime
task force out of the investigation and didn)t $ursue leads t#ing *sald and his killer, -ack ?u%#,
to the &afia"
But %ack in 19@A, if the 0arren !ommission had called in the FBI agents monitoring the *utfit,
it $ro%a%l# ouldn)t have learned much" 6lthough it as the dan of electronic surveillance and
mo% leaders ere su$$osedl# unaare of the %ugs $lanted in their meeting $laces, the FBI never
had enough information to %ring a major case against the *utfit in the 19@0s"
27nfortunatel#,3 Blake# sa#s, 2e learned later that the surveillance as incom$lete"3
In !hicago, for exam$le, agents never full# understood the executive nature of the *utfit)s
hierarch#" The# thought Sam 2&omo3 ;iancana ruled the *utfit" ;iancana as the !hicago
mo%)s most flam%o#ant %oss after 6l !a$one, %ut he remained in $oer onl# until 19@B"
It)s no clear ;iancana ala#s ansered to 6ccardo" 6ccording to Blake#, no %ug or ireta$
ever caught 6ccardo talking to ;iancana" Because of 6ccardo)s understated a#s, the media, la
enforcement and even some local criminals never com$letel# kne the extent of his control"
0hen Zack Shelton transferred to the FBI)s !hicago office in 19EC, his first case involved the
murders of several %urglars ho had %roken into 6ccardo)s home" It as natural to assume the
mo% %oss had ordered their executions" For a fe eeks it a$$eared the 2C'#ear'old agent and
his $artner ould $ut 6ccardo %ehind %ars for the first time in his long criminal career" 2.uring
the investigation e $ulled the $hone records of ever#one e could think of,3 Shelton
remem%ers" The agents could see a call alerting 6ccardo to a %reak'in at his house and then the
crime %oss)s call to his right'hand man, -oe# 6iu$$a, don the chain of command to 6iu$$a)s
driver, ;err# !arusiello, another longtime %urglar, ho did the dirt# ork"
The agents learned enough to im$anel a grand jur#" The first time he sa 6ccardo, Shelton
understood h# $eo$le underestimated his %rutalit#" 6t EA, 6ccardo dressed in conservativel#
tailored suits and looked more like a retired cor$orate executive than a crime lord"
6ccardo covered his tracks ith ruthless efficienc#" !arusiello as killed %efore he could testif#"
6ccardo)s longtime Italian houseman, ho testified to a grand jur# in %roken 8nglish, ma# have
said too much, %ecause he soon disa$$eared" Shelton got a arrant to search 6ccardo)s home for
signs of the itness)s herea%outs %ut could find nothing other than a $air of $rescri$tion glasses
at the %ottom of an incinerator"
0hen the agents searched 6ccardo)s enormous %asement(hich as as %ig as the u$$er floor
of the o$ulent house(the# found a hidden alk'in safe" Inside ere stacks of ne %ills that
totaled F2EB,000" Shelton and his $artner traced the mone# to 4as =egas" Hoever, the FBI had
just %egun to investigate ho the *utfit had skimmed cash from casino counting rooms" ?ather
than %lo that o$eration, the# returned the funds to 6ccardo and never %rought charges against
him for the deaths"
The investigation could not have had a more unsatisf#ing outcome for Shelton" 26%out all e
managed to do as kee$ that mone# from him for a%out 1C months,3 he sa#s" 2But ;od, it sure
as an interesting case"3
If nothing else, this case taught Shelton to im$ortant lessons a%out 6ccardoD The mo% leader
kne no merc# hen it came to insulating himself from a serious crime, and Shelton had seen
for himself the sort of cash that gushed from 4as =egas"
*nl# #ears later did he reali5e these lessons could shed light on the assassination of -F/"
6round the time of the %urglar# investigation, Shelton had a much more run'of'the'mill case
against a ring of hijackers" The grou$)s mem%ers ould over$oer truckers at rest sto$s and
a%scond ith the entire tractor trailer"
The cre as led %# -ames Files, ho as the sort of hite man ith no overt ethnicit# that
mo%sters called a hill%ill#" In fact, Files as %orn into a %roken home in 6la%ama %ut raised %# a
single mother in the tough Italian neigh%orhood of a !hicago su%ur%" Shelton had no idea ho
Files fit into the cra5#',uilt $attern of the *utfit" 26ll I kne as that he had to have the
%lessings of the mo% to %e o$erating on that scale"3
Shelton used another hill%ill# to infiltrate Files)s cre" It as onl# a matter of time %efore the
agent %uilt a case for the interstate trans$ort of stolen goods" Then one da# Shelton de%riefed his
informant a%out a tri$ he had taken to .allas ith Files" 6s usual, the# ere hauling stolen
vehicles, %ut hen the# $assed through .eale# >la5a, the snitch told Shelton, 2Files ent eird
on me" He said, GIf the 6merican $eo$le reall# kne hat ha$$ened there, the# ouldn)t kno
ho to handle it")3
The comment seemed so %i5arre that neither the informant nor the FBI agent kne hat to make
of it" 2There as no reason for this gu# to make u$ that stor# a%out Files,3 Shelton sa#s" 26nd
Files as the last $erson I)d ex$ect to comment a%out -F/)s assassination or an# to$ic of that
kind, %ut it sounded as though he reall# kne hat ha$$ened" &a#%e %ecause it as so
unex$ected, it stuck ith me"3
*ver the next decade Shelton and the other agents in the organi5ed crime unit turned the tide
against 6ccardo" 0ith *$eration Straman, Shelton)s team caught the *utfit selling casinos to
the /ansas !it# mo%" The investigation on the 19C@ conviction of EC'#ear'old 6iu$$a, ho
s$ent the next 10 #ears in $rison" .uring the same $eriod Shelton)s s,uad also ta$$ed the lines of
the Teamsters $ension fund offices to %ring charges against union leaders" 2I loved %eing in
!hicago,3 sa#s Shelton" 28ver# da# as different and exciting, and e did a hell of a lot of
Shelton didn)t think a%out Files again until 1992, after he had %een transferred to the FBI office
in Beaumont, Texas" He read in a local nes$a$er a%out -oe Hugh 0est, a $rivate investigator
and former Ba$tist $reacher from Houston ho claimed to have revelations regarding -F/)s
murder" 6s Shelton skimmed the article, to *utfit names jum$ed off the $ageD !harles
+icoletti, a notorious hit man, and -ohnn# ?oselli, the *utfit)s first enforcer in 4as =egas" 0est
claimed he had a source ho could $lace %oth men in .allas on +ovem%er 22, 19@A"
6lthough Shelton as vaguel# familiar ith the conclusions of the House Select !ommittee on
6ssassinations, he had #et to hear an#one claim that *utfit heav#eights had %een involved,
es$eciall# +icoletti or ?oselli, ho could not have acted ithout 6ccardo)s a$$roval"
Shelton gave the $rivate investigator a call" 6lthough 0est had a re$utation as a huckster Hhe
held his $ress conferences in front of a %anner em%la5oned ith T?7TH, I+!"I, he seemed
sincere a%out finding the cul$rits %ehind -F/)s assassination" He revealed the ex'con ho had
%een his source for the information a%out +icoletti and ?oselli" 2I even ent to court and got
immunit# for the gu# so he couldn)t %e convicted for an# crime he told us a%out,3 Shelton sa#s"
2But I $rett# ,uickl# caught him in a cou$le of lies" I told -oe, G.on)t take an#thing this gu# sa#s
to the %ank") 0hen -oe heard that, it as as if the life ent out of him"
I felt sorr# for the man, so I said, GIf #ou can track don a gu# named -ames Files, he might have
some good information")3
Shelton returned to Beaumont and as arned %# his su$ervisor never again to mention -F/"
Shelton ex$ected the matter to %e closed in earl# 199A hen he read that 0est had died
folloing heart surger#" Soon after, 0est)s la#er, .on Irvin, called to announce that 2the
crusade lives on"3 Irvin told Shelton that 0est had succeeded in tracking Files to a state $rison in
Illinois, here he as doing the e,uivalent of a life sentence for the attem$ted murder of a co$"
Files had initiall# re%uffed 0est, %ut the former $reacher $ersevered through $hone calls, a visit
and extensive corres$ondence" The $risoner as devastated to learn of 0est)s sudden death"
6s a tri%ute to 0est, Files agreed to talk extensivel# to Irvin, ho then rela#ed hat he heard to
Shelton" He had much more to sa# than an#one antici$ated" Files told of %eing remanded for a
court'martial from the 6rm# after he as charged ith shooting other soldiers in 4aos in 19@0,
%ut he then claimed to have %een $lucked out of a veterans) hos$ital during a $s#chiatric
evaluation and recruited to train anti'!astro !u%ans in Florida" 6fter the 19@1 Ba# of >igs fiasco,
Files said, he returned home ith a chi$ on his shoulder against his nation and the $resident"
+icoletti sa him racing stock cars and ta$$ed him to %e his driver"
For most !hicago mo%sters, muscular !harles +icoletti(nearl# six feet tall and ith a lantern
ja(could %e a frightening sight" +evertheless, he defied the stereot#$es of a mo% killer" *n
most da#s he ore a suit and tie" His hangouts included insurance agencies, car dealershi$s and a
com$an# that made %urial vaults"
.es$ite the %usinessman tra$$ings, +icoletti as the son of an a%usive father, hom he killed at
the age of 12 after the man %eat his mother" The *utfit %ecame his famil#, and +icoletti orked
his a# u$ the ranks %# dealing do$e and making %ook, for hich he as re$eatedl# arrested and
jailed" Inside the mo%, +icoletti)s intelligence and heartlessness made him effective as an
enforcer" !harles !rimaldi, another hit man ho had turned informant, called +icoletti 2the most
res$ected and the most dangerous3 man in the *utfit, adding, 2He don)t ant to im$ress
an#%od#" He just ants to go a%out his %usiness"3
B# the earl# 19@0s $olice %elieved +icoletti as the *utfit)s third'ranked leader and right'hand
man to ;iancana" 6t this stage +icoletti)s skills ere reserved for onl# the most sensitive
contracts, and hen he ent out ith another hit man, Files claimed to %e the third man %ehind
the heel"
.es$ite +icoletti)s fearsome re$utation, Files called him 2&r" +icoletti3 and said he as the
closest thing to a father figure he ever had"
.uring his discussions ith Irvin, Files gave vivid accounts of the eeks leading u$ to the
assassination" Then 21, he as $la#ing $in%all at his favorite hangout hen +icoletti first told
him that ;iancana had $ut out a contract on 2#our friend3(the $resident" +icoletti instructed
Files to ac,uire the ea$ons and %ring them to Texas in the hidden trunk com$artment of a 19@A
!hevrolet, a 2ork3 car that couldn)t %e traced"
Files told Irvin the folloing stor# a%out his journe# to .allasD He sta#ed in a court#ard motel on
the estern outskirts of .allas and met 4ee Harve# *sald, ho took him donton to $oint
out the %est esca$e routes from the cit#" *sald also took him to an a%andoned field, here Files
test'fired guns hidden in the trunk" H*sald, he said, didn)t ant to shoot"I 7$on their return to
the motel *sald took a $icture of him standing shirtless next to his $orta%le record $la#er(a
$hoto Files ke$t %ut one that ould have %een more telling had it included the $hotogra$her"
Files claimed he made contact ith another *utfit leader on +ovem%er 21" 8arl# that morning he
drove to the sank# !a%ana &otor Hotel in .allas, here he $icked u$ -ohnn# ?oselli" Then BC,
?oselli had carefull# cut silver hair and ore tinted glasses and silk suits" He as ever# %it the
flash# mo% king$in +icoletti as not, %ut %ack in his #ounger !hicago da#s ?oselli as e,uall#
feared as a hit man" B# 19@A he as hanging out at the Friars !lu% in 4os 6ngeles ith his $al
Frank Sinatra and as caught a fe #ears later in an ela%orate card'cheating scheme" It %rought
him a %rief $rison sentence and a $ermanent %an from 4as =egas casinos" In .allas, Files said, he
took ?oselli to a $ancake house, here he met -ack ?u%#"
6ccording to Files, +icoletti did not join him until the morning of +ovem%er 22" The to ent
to .eale# >la5a, using as a guide a ma$ of the motorcade route that ?oselli had gotten from
?u%#" He and +icoletti $icked a s$ot in the .al'Tex toer Hnext to the Texas School Book
.e$ositor#, here *sald orkedI for +icoletti to shoot from" *nl# then, Files sa#s, did the hit
man ask him to %e a %acku$" +icoletti feared ?oselli as too rust# to hit a target from a long
distance, and he kne Files had %een trained as a sni$er in the 6rm#" Files said he set u$ %ehind
the stockade fence on the grass# knoll to get a shot from the front of the $rocession" The ea$on
he chose as a ?emington Fire%all, a cross %eteen a rifle and a $istol that could fit inside an
attachJ case" +icoletti)s one instruction as not to hit -ackie" Files folloed the motorcade
through the sco$e of his ?emington and shot a "222 cali%er %ullet that hit the $resident in the
right tem$le" He then casuall# took off his jacket, turned it inside out and $ut his gun %ack in its
.uring his %rief encounter ith *sald, Files said, the to did not discuss each other)s mission"
He %elieved *sald never fired a shot and as unittingl# there as a $ats#(as *sald himself
said after his arrest" *ther hit men ere in ton to kill *sald, %ut he sli$$ed aa# %efore the#
got to him(the major glitch in the da#)s o$eration"
For Irvin, -ames Files as the missing link to the real cons$irac# %ehind the -F/ assassination"
Irvin anted Shelton to intervie Files to make sure he didn)t turn out to %e as flak# as 0est)s
$revious sources"
2I thought some of hat Files said as a little too good to %e true,3 Shelton admits" 2That as
m# first im$ression" But I thought there as a ring of truth to it, too" +icoletti as the $erfect
$erson for the *utfit to send" I could understand h# it anted ?oselli in .allas too, %ecause
the# trusted him to o$erate things" But at that stage of his life ?oselli couldn)t have %een a
shooter" It made sense that +icoletti ould have anted someone else to %ack him u$"3
But nothing a%out the Files stor# as more com$elling for Shelton than the fates of the three
central *utfit charactersD 6ll of them had %een killed in the mid'19E0s after %eing summoned %#
congressional committeesD ;iancana and ?oselli around the time of a Senate investigation and
+icoletti just a da# after one of Blake#)s investigators called looking for him" 6ll had ranked
high enough in the mo%)s hierarch# to have directl# im$licated 6ccardo and 6iu$$a in a
cons$irac# to kill the $resident" 0as 6ccardo covering his tracksK
Shelton)s efforts to intervie Files in 199A ere leaked to the $ress %# one of Irvin)s associates,
and the FBI ouldn)t allo it" The %ureau instead sent to other agents to intervie the Illinois
$risoner, and the# deemed his information unorth# of further investigation" Shelton atched
from the sidelines as T= im$resario .ick !lark $roduced a sho for +B! %ased on Files)s
confession" 6t the last minute the netork %rought in consultants ho declared Files a fraud, and
the $rogram as scru%%ed"
Shelton still ouldn)t let go of the Files stor#" 6lthough he reali5ed it had man# holes, he sa#s,
2There as just too much detail for him to have made ever#thing u$"3 6fter he retired from the
FBI in 199C and o$ened his on $rivate investigation firm, he a$$roached !lark a%out getting
the Files stor# %ack on the air" 2.ick !lark had me out to his office,3 Shelton recalls, 2and I think
he %elieved there as something to $ursue, %ut he had just %een %urned too %adl# to tr# again"3
&eanhile, -oe 0est)s organi5ation had s$lintered" Some of the $ieces had %een $icked u$ %# a
.utch investor, 0im .ank%aar, ho offered to cover Shelton)s ex$enses if he could corro%orate
Files)s claims" H.ank%aar used some of Shelton)s research in his %ook and video, Files on -F/"I
For Shelton that colla%oration came ith the discover# of to men ho claimed inde$endentl#
that the# had hel$ed %ring the hit men to .allas" !haunce# &arvin Holt said he drove +icoletti
from a ranch in 6ri5ona, and 0illiam ?o%ert >lumlee said he fle ?oselli into ton the da#
%efore the assassination" 8ach man had s$ent a significant $art of his life on the ;ulf !oast, and
each had connections to the mo%, the !I6 and !u%a"
6ccording to an extensive FBI file, >lumlee claimed he made his first clandestine flights to !u%a
in su$$ort of !astro, su$$l#ing guns mo%sters had stolen from a +ational ;uard armor#"
He served time for $assing a %ad check %ut as still used as a contract $ilot %# the !I6, hel$ing
to e,ui$ such right'ing guerrilla grou$s as *liver +orth)s !ontras" >lumlee claimed his !I6
contacts had ordered him to fl# ?oselli to .allas the da# %efore the assassination"
The !I6 connection ith ?oselli as not farfetched" It is no knon that in 19@0 the !I6
a$$roached ?oselli through a 4as =egas hotel executive Hand former FBI agentI to assist in a
$lan to assassinate !astro" ?oselli introduced the go'%eteen to ;iancana and Tam$a mo% %oss
Santo Trafficante -r", ho had casinos ex$ro$riated %# !astro and as %riefl# jailed in !u%a after
the revolution" The !I6 su$$lied $oison that a Trafficante confederate as su$$osed to sli$ into
!astro)s food, %ut nothing came of the effort"
?oselli testified a%out the esca$ade hen it as revealed in 19EB during the hearings into
6lleged 6ssassination >lots Involving Foreign 4eaders led %# Idaho senator Frank !hurch" But
?oselli ma# have talked too freel#"
He disa$$eared ithin eeks of his third a$$earance %efore the committee, in 19E@" His %od#
as found saed in half and stuffed inside an oil drum floating off Bisca#ne Ba#" His death so
rattled >lumlee that he contacted local FBI agents to inform them of his role in %ringing ?oselli
to .allas, %ut he claimed the effort as to 2a%ort3 the assassination, not assist it"
!haunce# Holt, ho said he %rought +icoletti to .allas, had a %ackground even more
$ro%lematic than >lumlee)s" He admitted to having orked as an accountant for %usinesses
oned %# gangster &e#er 4ansk#" Holt also orked for >eter 4icavoli, a leader of .etroit)s
&afia and a su$$orter of -imm# Hoffa" Holt said he met +icoletti and *hio hit man 4eo &oceri
Hho disa$$eared in 19E@, shortl# after HoffaI at 4icavoli)s ranch in Tucson and drove the to to
.allas" The# intended to arrive on +ovem%er 21 %ut did not get into ton until the morning of
the assassination %ecause of car trou%le" Holt claimed he as the oldest'looking mem%er of the
three 2tram$s3(the a$$arent vagrants found in a %oxcar after the assassination and
$hotogra$hed as the# ere marched into .allas $olice head,uarters" The# ere held %riefl#, and
their true identities have %een a source of s$eculation among cons$irac# theorists ever since"
Holt also claimed to have %een in another iconic shot(of 4ee Harve# *sald in +e *rleans, a
fe months %efore the assassination, during an anti'!astro demonstration" Holt as
$hotogra$hed standing to the side read# to lend moral su$$ort as *sald faced don
Holt said that in addition to orking for mo%sters he $rovided contract services for the !I6" 6
trained artist, he forged documents, including the alias I. card *sald used to $urchase the
&annlicher'!arcano rifle, the su$$osed assassination ea$on" He said he had also created
counterfeit Secret Service credentials for others to use in .allas" Holt first 2came out3 as a
cons$irator in a 1991 +eseek article and sat for several intervies, some videota$ed, %efore
his death from cancer, in 199E" 6lthough he never admitted knoing ho had orchestrated the
assassination, he did s$eculate that the $resence in .allas of $eo$le like him, ith such murk#
%ackgrounds in %oth crime and es$ionage, ma# have %een $art of the $lan to 2mudd# the aters"3
In 2002 Shelton traveled to San .iego to meet ith Holt)s daughter, ho had her father)s
videota$es" 4ater, Shelton had dinner ith a retired FBI agent, ho asked h# he as in ton"
0hen Shelton told him a%out Files, the agent re$lied ith his on stor# from hen he orked
on the Teamsters $ension fund case" He had monitored a ireta$$ed conversation %eteen a
$ension executive and a Hoffa %od#guard" 2He heard Lthe %od#guardM sa# that ?u%# made all
these calls to !hicago %efore the assassination" That ala#s %othered him %ecause the 0arren
!ommission concluded that ?u%# had no significant tie to the underorld" 6ll these #ears he
kne that as %ullshit, %ut there as no one he could talk to a%out it"3
The dinner as an e$i$han# for Shelton" 2I reali5ed there had to %e other agents ho think the#
kno something a%out the assassination" I just had to reach out to them"3
0hen Shelton returned to !hicago later that #ear to excavate the memories of his %ureau
colleagues, he as most interested in the res$onse of -im 0agner, ho had led the organi5ed
crime unit"
0agner %ecame the FBI)s foremost *utfit ex$ert and as a toer of integrit#" 2-im listened to
me talk a little a%out the *utfit and the assassination, and then he said, GZack, I think #ou)re right
4ike Shelton, 0agner had his on unex$ected %rush ith -F/ histor#" In his case, it ha$$ened in
19C9 hen the feds revealed that a mo% attorne# had $ut a ire on one of the *utfit)s most
im$ortant $olitical o$eratives in the First 0ard" 6 fe *utfit soldiers came forard to ear
ires so the# ouldn)t go to $rison" *ne of them as 4enn# >atrick" In his $rime, >atrick
controlled the *utfit)s %ookmaking and juice o$erations on !hicago)s 0est Side" B# the time
0agner orked ith him, he as E@, 2a crotchet# old man,3 0agner remem%ers, 2sickl# %ut still
Before >atrick ould meet his mo% %oss, he ould first go to a safe house, here 0agner ould
fit him ith a concealed recorder" The agent also gave him cash to feed his loan sharks so the
FBI could %uild extortion cases against them, too" It asn)t long %efore 0agner sus$ected
>atrick of stealing some of that mone#"
*ne da# hen >atrick shoed u$ at the safe house 0agner as aiting for him ith a lie
detector" 2I told 4enn# an examiner as on his a# to stra$ him into the $ol#gra$h so I could
find out hat he as doing ith the cash"3 >atrick confessed to stealing it" In the s$irit of the
moment, the agent decided to ask a%out a fe other su%jects as ell" 0agner had once %een a
histor# teacher and as ala#s fascinated %# the assassination" He remem%ered >atrick as
su$$osedl# a friend of -ack ?u%#)s"
>atrick had ala#s don$la#ed their relationshi$, %ut he admitted to 0agner that he had %een
2?u%enstein)s3 mentor in the *utfit, having $lucked him out of a %oxing clu%" >atrick said he
taught him ho to %e a %ookie, and hen ?u%#)s %est friend as killed for taking %ets ithout
$a#ing his street tax, >atrick as the one ho %anished ?u%# to .allas"
>atrick admitted he as one of the last to s$eak ith ?u%# %efore he killed *sald"
6fter hearing that, 0agner said, 2I %acked u$, and I asked, GThen ho hit /enned#K)3
2He said, G0e did it")3
2GBut ho did itK)3
2G<ou kno" &omo L;iancanaM had the main gu#s there")3
20hen I $ressed him to tell me exactl# ho, he clammed u$" He said he had told me enough and
didn)t ant to talk a%out it an#more" But then he said, GIt as us, and e)ll have to $a# for it")3
If the *utfit had su$$lied the fire$oer for the assassination and the cleanu$ ith ?u%#, as
4enn# >atrick told 0agner, then ho groomed 4ee Harve# *sald as the $ats#K For Shelton
there is one indis$uta%le candidate(a longtime 6ccardo all# from *sald)s hometon ith
%oth the motivation and the energ# to choreogra$h -F/)s assassination"
His name as !arlos &arcello" Short in stature and %ullnecked, he as knon as the 4ittle &an
or the ;odfather of the ;ulf !oast"
0hen Shelton asked !hicago agents a%out the assassination, one referred him to his %rother,
&ichael 0acks, also an agent, ho had s$ent a #ear orking undercover on a sting involving
4ike 6ccardo, &arcello came to $oer in the 19:0s" 4ike 6ccardo, he enjo#ed unusual longevit#
for a mo% %oss, ith domination of his home turf and an ex$ansive reach that extended
throughout the ;ulf !oast" 7nlike 6ccardo, hoever, he maintained a high $rofile as a civic
leader, real estate t#coon and oner of a $o$ular restaurant and hotel in +e *rleans" But if an
associate had his confidence, he)d identif# certain out'of'ton $artners %# sa#ing, in his gangster
$atois, 2.e# &af, like me"3
&arcello as a $artner ith Tam$a %oss Trafficante and the *utfit in several different rackets"
&ost often the Southern %osses ere junior $artners to !hicago %ecause the *utfit controlled the
union leaders ho gave access to $ension funds" But in 19@A &arcello and Trafficante anted
their on $iece of the 4as =egas %onan5a, and like $ros$ectors at a gold rush the# ere eager to
stake their claim on the Stri$ %efore it as too late"
Their $lans hinged on a loan from the Teamsters $ension fund" The# courted Hoffa to do the
deal, %ut Hoffa as distracted %# indictments from ?F/)s -ustice .e$artment" &arcello as no
more a fan of Bo%%# than the union leader as" 6s attorne# general, /enned# de$orted &arcello
to ;uatemala, here he as stranded for a fe da#s in a jungle %efore he could return to the 7"S"
It as a stor# the affa%le &arcello could not retell ithout s$uttering in rage"
The mo% %osses) go'%eteen ith the Teamsters as Trafficante)s trusted trial la#er Frank
?agano, ho as also defending Hoffa against the government)s charges"
6ccording to ?agano, in 6ugust 19@A, hen the mo% %osses had the la#er a$$roach Hoffa #et
again a%out the loan, the union leader res$onded, 2The time has come for #our friend
LTrafficanteM and !arlos to get rid of him" /ill that son of a %itch -ohn /enned#"3
6t %reakfast the next morning in a corner of &arcello)s restaurant, ?agano $assed along Hoffa)s
re,uest" He ex$ected the mo% %osses to laugh it off, %ut the# res$onded instead ith ston#
silence" 4ooking %ack on the incident in his 199: memoir, ?agano ondered hether the
assassination cons$irac# as alread# under a#"
&arcello discussed the /enned#s ith a former 4as =egas $romoter" 8x$laining that he needed
to cho$ off the head of the dog H-F/I so the tail H?F/I ould die, he told the $romoter that he
ould find a 2nut3 his $eo$le could mani$ulate into taking the %lame"
&arcello)s 2nut3 could have %een *sald, ho gre u$ in &arcello)s fiefdom" 6ccording to
Blake#)s investigators, *sald)s uncle, a %ookie, and his mother had connections to &arcello"
6nother mutual ac,uaintance as .avid Ferrie, ho as *sald)s childhood friend and an anti'
!astro activist" Ferrie orked as a $rivate investigator for &arcello)s la#er and as in court
ith him on the da# of the assassination" Ferrie died of a cere%ral aneur#sm soon after +e
*rleans district attorne# -im ;arrison fingered him as a co'cons$irator in -F/)s assassination"
!ons$irac# theorists ho %elieve *sald as mani$ulated %# others t#$icall# %lame agents
associated ith the !I6 or !u%a(not the mo%" *f all *sald)s activities %efore the
assassination, none have led to more s$eculation a%out es$ionage than his tri$ to &exico !it#
from Se$tem%er 2E to *cto%er 2, 19@A" 6s he did in +e *rleans, *sald made another $u%lic
dis$la# of his affections for !u%a %# visiting the nation)s em%ass# and re,uesting a visa to travel
there" !I6 head,uarters later destro#ed $hotos of *sald entering the em%ass# and ta$es of him
calling there"
But according to -im 0agner, there could have %een a mercenar# $ur$ose for *sald)s tri$"
4ooking through FBI archives, 0agner discovered that 6ccardo sent a courier ith F100,000 in
cash to &exico !it# the same eekend *sald as there" It ma# have %een a coincidence, since
the *utfit did have extensive interests in &exico !it#" *r the *utfit ma# have %een in a %etter
$osition than &arcello to $a# off *sald"
In the da#s after the assassination *sald)s various $ro'!astro activities seemed 2too $at(too
o%vious3 to .e$ut# 6ttorne# ;eneral +icholas /at5en%ach, ho had taken control of the -ustice
.e$artment hen ?F/ could no longer function" If the !I6 or anti'!astro interests had $lanned
to use the assassination as an excuse to invade !u%a, the# ,uickl# %acked off"
6nd if the mo% had used the assassination to mu55le the -ustice .e$artment, it could not have
%een more successful" *ver the next three #ears the orkload of federal organi5ed crime
$rosecutors ould %e cut in halfN their time in front of grand juries as reduced %# E2 $ercent"
>resident -ohnson as not the threat to organi5ed crime -F/ had %een(hich as $ro%a%l# no
sur$rise for &arcello, hose domain extended to Texas" Shelton uncovered re$orts that the 4ittle
&an regularl# $aid off 4B-" 6ccording to one of his sources, a ealth# San 6ntonio investor
named &orris -affe 2used to take %ags of cash3 from &arcello to 4B-(even hen -ohnson as
in the 0hite House" B# the time Shelton heard this stor#, -affe had died, so he called -affe)s son"
20hen I asked him if that as true,3 Shelton sa#s, 2he ansered, G&# dad kne a lot of $eo$le"
He as close to -" 8dgar Hoover, too")3
In 19C1 Trafficante and 6ccardo ere %oth indicted for a kick%ack scheme involving a Tam$a
union" 6lthough the# %eat that ra$, Trafficante as indicted on another charge in 19C@" The next
#ear, shortl# %efore his death, he told la#er ?agano, 2!arlos fucked u$" 0e shouldn)t have
killed ;iovanni" 0e should have killed Bo%%#"3
!arlos &arcello had his on trou%les ith the feds" In the earl# 19C0s he as convicted in a
sting knon as *$eration Brila%" 6gent &ike 0acks $retended to %e a crooked insurance
executive" In return for kick%acks, the 4ittle &an o$ened doors to $oliticians and union
executives across the countr#"
6fter a long career in the FBI, 0acks thought he had seen it all, %ut this sting o$ened his e#es
even ider" 2&o% gu#s like 6ccardo and &arcello felt like the# ran a se$arate government,3 he
sa#s" 2&arcello kne right off the to$ of his head ho as amena%le to kick%acks, hether it
as a $olitician or a union figure, across his hole region" +ot just in Texas and 4ouisiana, %ut
&ississi$$i, 6rkansas and *klahoma"3
0acks as read# to ro$e in the *utfit hen a leak to the $ress %rought the sting to an a%ru$t end"
.uring his #ear undercover, 0acks %ecame close ith &arcello" 2He as $ushing E0, %ut I onl#
ished I orked so hard" He could have hundreds of deals going at the same time and %ounce
around until ADA0 a"m" ith a girlfriend half his age" Then at seven the next morning he)d call to
see h# #ou eren)t at ork alread#"3
8ven decades later, 0acks sa#s, &arcello could not hide his hatred for the /enned#s" 2Historians
don)t understand the lo#alt# mo% %osses felt $oliticians oed them" The# thought the# ere on
the same level" If the# $ut someone into $oer and he didn)t do their %idding, their solution as
to take him out"3
8ven though 0acks as ex$osed as an agent, &arcello remained cordial to him" 20e had s$ent
so much time together,3 0acks ex$lains, 2that the old man treated me almost like a son"3
6fter &arcello ent to $rison for Brila% in 19CA, he suffered a stroke" .octors %elieved he as
in the earl# stages of 6l5heimer)s, and he started muttering in his slee$ a%out the /enned#
assassination" 6 $lan as devised to transfer him to a federal $rison hos$ital in &innesota and
em%ed an agent as his cell mate to record the nocturnal admissions" 6gain, ord leaked out and
the o$eration as a%orted"
0acks did not %elieve such su%terfuge as necessar#" 0hen he ent to visit him in $rison, he
found &arcello as lucid as ever" The old man refused to talk a%out the assassination ith the case
agent 0acks %rought from .allas, %ut he told 0acks, 2If I ever get out of here, #ou come to see
me ith m# la#er, and I)ll ex$lain m# involvement ith dat thing"3
*nl# 1C months later, in 1990, &arcello)s convictions ere overturned and he as released" But
0acks)s su$eriors ould not $ermit him to take &arcello u$ on his offer" 2That reall# $issed me
off,3 sa#s 0acks" 2I said to m# %oss, G0hat)s it going to harm usK) But he said, G0e don)t ant
to go there") For some reason, the %ureau anted to close the %ook on the assassination" That
%ugs me to this da#"3
For ;" ?o%ert Blake#, no a $rofessor at the +otre .ame 4a School, hat Zack Shelton and
the other agents have found adds eight to his thesis a%out organi5ed crime)s role in the
assassination" 24ittle %# little, more $ieces a%out organi5ed crime)s involvement kee$ coming
out" +othing of su%stance has come out on the !I6 other than that it anted to cover things u$"
The stories of most su%stance are related to organi5ed crime" Trafficante)s confession to his
la#er is ver# significant" ?agano as in a $osition to kno, and he made notes a%out the
conversation soon after it took $lace"3
For similar reasons, Blake# sa#s, 2I ould %elieve hat 4enn# >atrick told -im 0agner" The
$hone records shoed he as in the middle of ever#thing ith ?u%#, and I)m sorr# he never felt
he could talk to the House Select !ommittee"3
Blake# is more ske$tical a%out Files" 2The acoustical evidence does sho a %ullet as fired from
the grass# knoll, and it as fired at a su$ersonic rate nearl# simultaneous ith the third shot" But
I %elieve that %ullet missed" If #ou look at the O'ra# evidence of the skull, it)s $rett# conclusive
the fatal shot came from %ehind"3 HThe committee also concluded that %ullet fragments taken
from Texas governor -ohn !onnall# and -F/ came from *sald)s &annlicher'!arcano" In 200:,
hoever, the science %ehind the FBI)s anal#sis as discredited, and the gun that fired the %ullets
remains unknon"I
Shelton does not dis$ute Blake# a%out the shot or that Files ma# have em%ellished his stor# ith
information he got from -oe 0est" .es$ite Files)s claims a%out !I6 contacts, nothing has ever
%een found to corro%orate them" Shelton did meet Files in 199C" Files ill remain in $rison until
201@, hen he ill %e E:" Shelton sa#s, 2I am 100 $ercent convinced that Files as there" I)m
not sure he made the fatal shot, %ut #ou had the %est hired killers in the orld there to do it"3
8ven if Files as no more than a fl# on the all, for Shelton he still had a uni,ue vantage $oint"
2<ou talk to some $eo$le in this field, and the# think $eo$le don)t care to kno hat reall#
ha$$ened in .allas" But I don)t find that to %e the case hen I talk to other FBI agents" The# are
a%solutel# in ae of this information" It)s almost B0 #ears after the assassination" .on)t #ou think
it)s time e finall# found out ho did itK
The 0arren !ommission)s conclusion that 4ee Harve# *sald as -ohn F" /enned#)s lone
assassin hangs from a single thread knon as the 2single'%ullet theor#"3 Since *sald could
have fired onl# three shots, and one missed, the theor# maintains that the remaining to %ullets
killed the $resident and injured Texas governor -ohn !onnall#, ho as seated in front of -F/"
0ithout the im$ro%a%le $assage of this %ullet, the commission could not have argued *sald
as the onl# shooter" The author of the single'%ullet theor# is 6rlen S$ecter, ho in 19@: as
the commission)s assistant counsel" Toda# he is the C0'#ear'old senator from >enns#lvania" In
his memoir, >assion for Truth, S$ecter rites, 2I have ala#s %een confident that the single'
%ullet conclusion is correct" I have also had a sense that if the conclusion turns out to %e
incorrect, that ould %e oka#, too, %ecause it as an honest, good'faith, soundl# reasoned
But according to the testimon# of retired FBI agent -ames Si%ert, S$ecter, ho as the agent)s
sole contact ith the 0arren !ommission, misre$resented Si%ert)s comments and excluded his
re$ort on -F/)s auto$s# from the official record"
*n the afternoon of +ovem%er 22, 19@A Si%ert and his $artner, Francis *)+eill, ere summoned
to 6ndres 6ir Force %ase to accom$an# the $resident)s %od# to the +aval Hos$ital in Bethesda,
&ar#land" 6s Si%ert testified to the 6ssassination ?ecord ?evie Board at the +ational 6rchives
in 199E, 20e ere there to o%serve, o%tain an# %ullets LandM hand'carr# them to the la%orator# to
$reserve the chain of evidence"3The agents hel$ed lift the coffin from the am%ulance and carr# it
into the examination room" *ne or the other agent as then $resent hile .r" -ames Humes
conducted the auto$s#" Both agents took meticulous notes" Humes, the chief +av# $athologist,
talked through each ste$ of the $rocedure" ;iven Si%ert)s $roximit# to such an e$ic scene in
6merican histor#, his memories are vivid"
He noted the entrance ound of the so'called single %ullet" It as not in the %ack of the neck"
Instead, as he rote in his official re$ort, the %ullet hole as 2%elo the shoulders and to
inches to the right of the middle line of the s$inal column"3 There as no dou%t a%out hat he
sa %ecause Humes $ro%ed the hole, looking for either the exit ound or the %ullet, and as
sur$rised he could find neither" Si%ert suggested the %ullet could have %een made of some
su%stance that had dissolved inside the $resident" He called head,uarters to s$eak to a munitions
ex$ert %ut learned instead that a %ullet had %een found in a stretcher %ack at >arkland &emorial,
the .allas hos$ital here -F/ had %een declared dead"
Si%ert rote in his re$ort that hen he rela#ed this nes to Humes, the $athologist s$eculated
that hen the >arkland doctors tried to revive -F/ %# massaging his heart, 2it as entirel#
$ossi%le that through such movement the %ullet had orked its a# %ack out of the $oint of entr#
and had fallen on the stretcher"3 Humes had alread# $ointed out that the gash in the $resident)s
throat as not an exit ound %ut a tracheotom#" He also commented that the >arkland doctors
had closed u$ the scal$ around missing $ieces of skull"To com$lete their mission at the +aval
Hos$ital the agents retrieved the %ullet fragments that Humes could extract from the cor$se"
Back in their home office outside 0ashington, ."!", Si%ert and *)+eill dictated their re$ort"
It as transcri%ed and mimeogra$hed %# an FBI stenogra$her, ho, along ith the agents,
signed one co$#" 6ccording to the %ureau)s $olic# at the time, the agents then destro#ed their
Four months later S$ecter summoned them to a meeting ith no other itnesses $resent" Soon
after, in a memo to the general counsel, S$ecter rote, 2S$ecial 6gent Si%ert advised that he
made no notes during the auto$s#"3 That statement, Si%ert sa#s, 2is a%solutel# false" There ould
%e no a# in the orld I)d make a statement that I made no notes during the auto$s#"3
S$ecter never re,uested further information from the agents" 6s Si%ert later told the 6??B, 2I
can no see h# for man# reasons someone thought it as inadvisa%le to %ring us %efore the
0arren !ommission"3 In fact, it as #ears %efore Si%ert learned that Humes had %urned his
original auto$s# notes in a fire$lace and then altered his findings to corres$ond ith the single'
%ullet theor#"
In his %ook S$ecter claims Humes changed his mind after he consulted ith doctors at >arkland
hos$ital on +ovem%er 2A" But as late as +ovem%er 29, in a ta$ed conversation ith >resident
-ohnson, FBI director -" 8dgar Hoover did not mention a neck ound and told of a 2com$lete
%ullet3 that 2rolled out of the $resident)s head3 and as found in his stretcher"
In S$ecter)s defense, the $ressure to $ut the %lame on a lone assassin could not have %een
greater, as e learn from -ohnson)s other +ovem%er 29 conversations" 6fter s$eaking ith
Hoover, 4B- met ith 8arl 0arren to $ersuade the reluctant Su$reme !ourt chief justice to head
the investigation" 7nless it as %rought to the right conclusion, -ohnson argued, there could %e
nuclear ar ith the Soviet 7nion, hich ould $ut 2:0 million3 lives at stake" 6s 0arren later
rote, he re$lied, 2&r" >resident, if the situation is that serious, m# $ersonal vies do not count"
I ill do it"38arlier this #ear, in a %id for reelection as senator, S$ecter lost >enns#lvania)s
.emocratic $rimar#, effectivel# ending his $olitical career" +o ould %e the time for him to
o$en an honest de%ate a%out the cons$irac# that killed our ABth $resident"
6non#mous 2 #ears ago
0here is Tosh >lumlee toda#K It seems old man histor# no su$$orts >lumleeQs stor# and
%ackground" He a$$ears to %e a ver# dee$ o$erative over a ver# long $eriod of time"
6non#mous 2 #ears ago
&ost *verlooked FactD .uring -im ;arrisonQs trial of !la# Sha an 6$$ellate !ourt $anel thre
out ,as inadmissi%le evidence, the 0arren !ommission ?e$ort due to it %eing FI!TI*+"The onl#
time !ommission ?e$ort faced legal scrutin#"
6non#mous 2 #ears ago
The >lumlee !I6 connection" <es" It does a$$ears >lumlee is a !I6 central characterN !u%a,
/enned#, !ontra and %e#ond" 0*0R
6non#mous 2 #ears ago
.uring !la# ShaQs trial an a$$ellate $anel ruled the 0arren !ommission ?e$ort Sinadmissi%leS
as evidence due to it %eing fiction"The onl# time it as su%jected to legal or judicial scrutin#"
?a# ;uiducci'&ost *verlooked Fact, -ul# 20,2012"