By Albert Samaha
By Amanda Dingyuan
By Anna Merlan
By Anna Merlan
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By Tessa Stuart
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By Roy Edroso
In 1980, a bright young Harvard graduate named John LeBoutillier was elected to Congress representing Nassau County. A Republican with the family fortunes of Vanderbilts and Whitneys in his pockets, he was just 28 when he was carried into office by the Reagan landslide. Two years later, voters promptly ushered him out. But even that short stint gave him a spot in the sun which forever endeared him to the far right. He taunted House Speaker Tip O'Neill as "fat, bloated, and out of control, just like the federal budget." He called New York senator Pat Moynihan "a drunken bum." George McGovern was "scum."
He called himself "the Boot" and Rolling Stone dubbed his act "Republican Punk," an attitude which registered with those who found the National Review timid and stolid, if not with mainline voters. His spunkiness still intact, these days LeBoutillier divides his time between a column on a conservative website, appearances on Fox News, and a pair of causes dear to his patriotic heart.
One is skewering the Clintons. His "Stop Hillary" committee, launched last year, vows to unleash squads of truth tellers "the very minute" she announces for national office. His "Counter-Clinton" libraries, to be built in Washington and Little Rock, will serve as repositories for documentary evidence of Clintonian malfeasance.
His other crusade is of even older vintage and is waged against tougher odds: the rescue of American prisoners of war supposedly held hostage in Russia and Southeast Asia after the Vietnam War. The American, Russian, and Vietnamese governments insist no such P.O.W.'s exist, which makes his battle all the harder and leads him to recruit allies wherever he can find them. Currently, this includes the Federal Correctional Institution at Allenwood, Pennsylvania, where inmate No. 18344053, Frank "Frankie Blue Eyes" Sparaco, former captain in the Colombo crime family, is serving out a 288-month sentence for murder and racketeering.
Sparaco, 48, is a prisoner of a different war. He was a top lieutenant of imprisoned Colombo boss Carmine Persico and his son, Alphonse "Allie Boy" Persico, during the bloody mob strife that raged in Brooklyn's streets in the early '90s. Their faction wasn't known for military brilliance. Along with two other Colombo mob bigs, Sparaco was arrested in 1993 during what was somehow supposed to be a secret meetingthey were caught outside St. Patrick's Cathedral on Palm Sunday. Ten minutes after their arrest, Colombo family consigliere Carmine Sessa agreed to cooperate with the government and tell all. This helped convince Sparaco to plead guilty to five murders.
Before he went away, however, Sparaco said goodbye to an old pal whose East Side bar he had once frequented. The bar owner, Tim Secor, suggested Sparaco just might like to talk to his influential relative, LeBoutillier. "I put it together," Secor acknowledged last week. "Frank was one of my best friends."
Some time later, LeBoutillier told the Voice, Sparaco enlisted in a new struggle: using his unique talents and connections to reach out to imprisoned Russian, East European, and Vietnamese gangsters who might have knowledge of where missing P.O.W.'s are allegedly being held.
"In our prisons are hundreds of Russians, many of nefarious background; some were even in the KGB," said LeBoutillier last week. "You and I could not go and find these guys and talk to them. If anyone in there could talk to them, that's what I want. It doesn't matter what his background is, if he can help get information about American prisoners of war I'll talk to him."
LeBoutillier did more than talk to Sparaco. In addition to visiting the inmate at least four times in prison, he has also written repeatedly to federal officials asking them to place Sparaco in better accommodations.
In one such letter obtained by the Voice, LeBoutillier wrote in June 2001 to the warden at a federal prison in Schuylkill, Pennsylvania, where Sparaco was then being held. "Warden," he wrote, "would you please personally intervene and arrange to move Frank Sparaco from your facility to another FCI?" LeBoutillier asked, specifying low-security prisons at Fort Dix or Allenwood. "Frank and I continue to work on a most important issue," he confided, "that of the U.S. P.O.W.'s captured in Vietnam and Laos and taken to the Soviet Union. If Frank is moved too far away it makes this work very difficult."
Last May, LeBoutillier wrote again, this time to the warden of Sparaco's then residence, Fairton Federal Correctional Institution in southern New Jersey. This time, LeBoutillier asserted that his gangster-intelligence scheme was making big headway.
"For the past four years," he wrote, "[Sparaco] has used his contacts inside organized crime to approach the Russian Mafia to find U.S. P.O.W.'s taken from Vietnam to Russia and held there against [their] will. Mr. Sparaco has been immensely helpfuland successfulat this task. We are making serious progress because of his influence and never ending efforts. We may have located several U.S. airmen shot down over North Vietnam and then taken to Moscow. Later this summer we may successfully be able to bring these men home after more than 30 years as prisoners of war. My staff, my lawyers, and I need to visit Frank quite often," added LeBoutillier. "Thus it would greatly facilitate things if Frank were moved to either Ft. Dix or Allenwood Low [security]."