By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
Giuliani was too well-protected for Persico's Brooklyn gunmen, the gangster told Lloyd. But the assistant U.S. attorney who had prosecuted Persico, a racketeering chief named Aaron Marcu, was a relatively easy target. Persico was going to have him killed, he told Lloyd. Even now, his men were shadowing the prosecutor, tracking his movements. The hit could come any day.
"The one thing I wish," the mobster said vehemently, according to Lloyd, "is I could be there, see his face when they do it. I'd slap him, let him know what's gonna happen."
Under normal prison protocol, Lloyd was supposed to nod and keep mum about what Persico told him. Having loose lips is a capital crime in prison, where inmates can die for the smallest gain in profit or position. Lloyd had seen it happen, and what's more, he knew other prisoners would be happy to oblige the wealthy Persico.
A few years earlier, Lloyd might well have shrugged and kept Persico's secret. But his encounter with the swaggering gangster came at a time that he had resolved to turn his life around, to heed the straight and narrow after a youth filled with reckless, though nonviolent, crimes. He had already been in prison for eight years. Two years more, with good behavior, and he hoped to be finished with his federal rap. Then he faced an additional 10-to-20-year sentence in a Pennsylvania state prison for bank robbery. A 10th-grade dropout, Lloyd had gotten his high school diploma in prison and had started taking college courses. His hope was to get back to the wife and son awaiting his release.
Locked up in the bleak Marion prison, Lloyd had decided to try to stop thinking like a criminal and to learn the rules of the rest of the world. One of them, he knew, was that he had an obligation to stop a murder if he could help it.
He sat down in his cell and secretly wrote letters to Giuliani and Marcu describing Persico's plan.
The mission When Giuliani received the letter, he went into his now familiar emergency mode. He alerted the FBI, which, using its own underworld informants, quickly confirmed that the murder plot was real. Federal marshals were immediately assigned to protect Marcu and his family. FBI agents were also dispatched to Marion to secretly meet with Lloyd. Wary of the unknown prisoner, they asked him to take a lie-detector test. No problem, Lloyd said. He cleared the test easily.
Giuliani followed up by sending his chief organized-crime prosecutor, Alan Cohen, to meet with Lloyd. Cohen told him that Giuliani was thankful for his help. The powerful U.S. attorney had another favor to ask as well. He wanted Lloyd to pass on anything else the dangerous gangster was threatening to do.
Lloyd said he would.
Initially, the mission was supposed to last no more than a couple of months while they made sure Marcu was out of danger. But Lloyd was so successful at it, and Persico's ongoing schemes so dangerous, agents urged him to continue cooperating. Persico's men had tracked a key witness against him to England, and were planning to kill him: Lloyd alerted the feds. A second prosecutor and a pair of FBI agents were similarly targeted: Lloyd got word out.
The daredevil bull rider even agreed to go along when federal investigators asked him to delay his application for parole from his federal sentence. With a spotless prison record, Lloyd stood an excellent chance of winning parole. But he would only be transferred to a state prison to begin his bank robbery sentence.
The feds told him not to worry, they'd make sure the state gave him credit for the extra time spent in federal custody. Lloyd never doubted them. He was dealing with the FBI, and he had been recruited by none other than Rudy Giuliani.
In 1990, Lloyd and Persico were both transferred to the federal penitentiary at Lompoc in California, where more than a dozen imprisoned gangsters were housed. Among them were a major drug dealer who was closely associated with John Gotti; a top leader of Philadelphia's crime family; the consigliere of Boston's gang; and an assassin for the Luchese crime family convicted of 10 murders and suspected of many more.
With Persico making the introductions, Lloyd was quickly accepted, even admitted as a member of the Lompoc Italian-American Cultural Club. They discussed their ongoing criminal schemes and plans for revenge against rivals and federal agents. Over the course of the next four years, Lloyd alerted authorities to planned hits, narcotics deals, jail breaks, crooked cops and judges, and corrupt prison guards. He gave them the lowdown on mob-controlled businesses and unions and lawyers concocting phony evidence.
He became of even greater value to the FBI when a bloody internecine war broke out among factions of Persico's crime family in New York City. The battle raged from 1991 to 1993 and left 12 dead and dozens injured in the streets of Brooklyn and Queens. From prison, Persico attempted to direct the tactics of the faction loyal to him, but Lloyd made sure the FBI learned all of his plans before they were able to be carried out.