The gangster boyfriend who showers you with jewelry and a brand new Mercedes is a given. But there's also the fling with the 18-year-old supermarket delivery boy, the practical jokes involving chopped-off body parts and the son whose best friend is killed on the orders of your beau.
And, of course, the casual attitude toward the truth, the unhealthy predilection for painkillers and antidepressants, and the mission to help the FBI solve the murder of civil rights workers in the deep South: It's a life of "The Sopranos" meets "Desperate Housewives," with a little bit of "Mississippi Burning" thrown in.
Linda Schiro is not your average big-haired, fur-wearing "gumar," though at first glance her story has all the trappings of the quintessential mob mistress.
Schiro, the longtime girlfriend of mobster Gregory "The Grim Reaper" Scarpa Sr., is also the chief prosecution witness against former FBI agent Lindley DeVecchio, who is accused by the government of supplying information to Scarpa that helped the gangster murder four people.
The moment she took the stand in Brooklyn Supreme Court Monday, the 62-year-old brunette with parted, medium-length hair, a gold necklace and a black pantsuit enthralled the judge and spectators with stories about her life amid La Cosa Nostra.
'He Told Me About Everything'
From her childhood on the streets of Bensonhurst, an Italian neighborhood in Brooklyn, Schiro grew up in "this way of life," as she describes the mafia. A middle child raised largely by her father after her mother's death from stomach cancer, she only spent a few months after high school doing legitimate work as a clerk on Wall Street before becoming Scarpa's mob mistress at age 17.
While dating low-level gangster Larry Pistone during the early 1960s, Schiro went out one night to the Flamingo Lounge, a bar in her neighborhood. She was at the bar with two friends when Scarpa walked in, marched straight over to her and asked to be introduced.
"He told me how beautiful I was, he asked me to dance and he asked for my number," Schiro testified Monday morning.
Soon they started going out and it didn't take long before Scarpa, who was 35 and married, told her that he was involved in the Colombo crime family, one of the five ruthless mob families that dominated crime in New York City.
Though most mobsters follow an unwritten rule that their criminal lives should be shielded from their women, Scarpa flaunted his criminality in front of Schiro, she said.
"If we were in a bar or restaurant, other guys would come in and give him money, shylock money," said Schiro. "Greg hijacked TVs and stored them in my father's apartment … He told me about everything -- committing burglaries, the numbers racket, murders."
One night in the Flamingo, she saw Scarpa's propensity for violence up close. When George, the bartender, insulted a friend of his, Scarpa took him from behind the bar, "took him in the bathroom and flushed his head in the toilet," Schiro testified.
When Scarpa told her early in the relationship that he'd been involved in 20 murders, did that bother her?
"No, I wasn't upset," reminisced Schiro. "I was impressed."
FBI Asks for Help
She was even more impressed when Scarpa told her that he was doing work for the FBI, which was having trouble locating the bodies of three civil rights workers slain by members of the Ku Klux Klan.
"He said that [then-FBI director] J. Edgar Hoover was getting pressure because the bodies had not been found and that they approached him to find the bodies, find out where they were."
Scarpa invited Schiro to join him on the mission down in Mississippi and told her to get some new clothes. Schiro, who had never been on a plane before, excitedly picked out a new outfit at Harper's, a clothing store on King's Highway in Brooklyn.
When they got to their Mississippi hotel, Schiro remembers that there were about eight or nine FBI agents standing on the balcony and that Scarpa winked at them. Once they were in their room, an agent came through the door and handed Scarpa a gun.
"Greg changed his clothes and told me that if he didn't come back, to take a cab to the airport and go home," she testified. "He took the gun, left some money on the dresser for me and was gone for hours."
Scarpa came back and gave the gun back to the agent, who handed the gangster an inch-thick wad of money wrapped in a rubber band. The couple's next stop: Miami, for a little rest and recreation.
Scarpa told Schiro that he visited the "guy who knew where the bodies were," put a gun in his mouth and threatened him, and soon learned where the bodies were buried, said Schiro.
Though the FBI has never verified the legend, Schiro said that Scarpa assisted the bureau with other missions -- once in 1966 when the Ku Klux Klan set fire to a house. Scarpa flew down to Mississippi and beat up a man who admitted that he was the one behind the crime. Another time he brought back a Colombo associate involved in pornography who was on the lam in Costa Rica.
A Wife and a Family
Though Schiro wanted to start a family with Scarpa, tradition dictated that he could not obtain a divorce from his wife, Connie. She married another man, Charlie Schiro, though they soon separated when her new husband found about her relationship with Scarpa. Though he remained married and his family lived in New Jersey, Scarpa and Schiro had two children, a boy, Joey, and a girl, Linda, and he often lived at her home in Brooklyn.
Eventually, she became his common-law wife.
Her mobster beau wasn't as close-minded as her estranged husband when it came to her own affairs. When Schiro, who was then in her early 30s, developed a crush on an 18-year-old delivery boy named Larry Mazza at the Danza supermarket in Bensonhurst, Scarpa gave his consent.
"I told him that I'd like to go to bed with Larry and Greg was like, 'Whatever makes you happy,'" Schiro testified.
Soon, Mazza was spending every day and night at Schiro's home on Avenue J, and Scarpa often paid friendly visits, even helping Mazza get a job in the fire extinguisher business and indoctrinating the young man in the ways of the mafia.
"Larry became like a son to Greg," Schiro testified.
Mazza later took their son Joey to karate lessons. And Scarpa continued to treat Schiro like a princess, giving her expensive gifts. After a score, he and his crew would lay out all the jewelry on Schiro's dining room table and he would tell her, "Pick something you want."
Meeting the Feds
Schiro was shocked when Scarpa first introduced her to DeVecchio, his FBI handler. "What do you mean, you're a rat?" she asked him. "And he said, no. I just work for them," Schiro testified.
Scarpa must have felt confident about Schiro's capacity for discretion because he soon held twice-weekly meetings with DeVecchio at Schiro's home on Avenue J, where they would discuss business in front of Schiro while sitting in her kitchen nook.
At the first meeting, she said DeVecchio sat down and motioned at Schiro with his eyes, questioning her presence. Scarpa told him, "Don't worry about my baby," she testified.
She soon helped the pair hide their meetings, pulling down the blinds on the windows of her house and locking the door whenever DeVecchio was visiting.
She also became adept at deception, lying to FBI investigators about Scarpa's relationship with DeVecchio. In the current trial, DeVecchio's lawyers poked holes in her testimony by demonstrating how key parts of her testimony contradicted her previous statements to investigators and to a grand jury.
Too Close for Comfort
Sometimes, the bloody ways of the mob interfered with Schiro's happy life. When Scarpa killed Mary Bari, a stunning brunette who was suspected of ratting out a fellow mobster, his crew dumped the body only two blocks from Schiro's home.
"I said, 'You're crazy. We live right here,' And he said, 'Don't worry about it.'"
A few days later, one of her girlfriends who was married to mobster Carmine Sessa called Schiro and said that her dog found one of Mary Bari's ears with the earring still in it.
"I was grossed out, but it turned out they were just joking. Greg was laughing about it when he heard the story."
Maybe the gallows humor was a premonition of things to come, because Schiro and Scarpa's life took a sharp turn for the worse in the coming years.
In 1986, the mobster was hospitalized with internal bleeding, and Schiro pleaded with his friends to donate blood. Due to one of those blood transfusions, Scarpa eventually contracted HIV.
When he came home, though he was in a weakened state, the murders continued and started to hit closer to home. Scarpa found out that their son Joey's close friend, Patrick Porco, was ratting out Joey.
When confronted with the claim, Joey vehemently protested, insisting on his pal's innocence. Scarpa was indifferent and ordered the teenager's murder on Halloween night of 1990.
"When Joey came home, he went upstairs, he was crying, lying in a fetal position in the hallway. He was in shock. I couldn't believe it. I loved Patrick. It was very upsetting," testified Schiro.
'This Way of Life' to the End
More than a year later, the violence literally hit home during the midst of a war between two factions of the Colombo family. On Nov. 18, 1991, Schiro's daughter left her mother's home and was getting ready to take her baby son shopping, accompanied by some of Scarpa's crew, when shots rang out.
"I heard shooting and screaming at the front door," said Schiro. "Linda came in the door and I grabbed the baby and put him on the couch. A few minutes later, Greg came in, not injured."
Scarpa was later arrested, and though Schiro paid his $1,500 bail he was subsequently nabbed by FBI agents who were starting to investigate allegations that DeVecchio had assisted the mobster in the commission of his crimes. He eventually died of AIDS in prison in 1994.
Schiro recovered from her loss by following her instinct, befriending and then marrying Scarpa's cellmate, John Barron. Barron was eventually arrested and sent back to jail for stealing a coat from a Ralph Lauren Polo store.
Although her daughter, Linda, got married and had several children, tragedy struck her son. Joey Schiro was murdered on March 20, 1995, causing Schiro to suffer an emotional breakdown. She was hospitalized twice for depression and continues to take medication for anxiety and depression.
And maybe modeling her behavior after her longtime lover's, Schiro became a government informer, calling the FBI with tips about crime in her neighborhood, and keeping in touch with DeVecchio. Although she was living in Staten Island, the district attorney's office recently moved her, providing her with $1,700 for rent and $500 every month, because journalists started to contact her at home.
"Somebody would tell me something, I would just let them know what was going," she testified. "I was used to that way of life."