NEW YORK (PIX11) - The Reverend Al Sharpton has admitted that he voluntarily cooperated with the FBI to help bring down members of the mob in the early 80s, but has downplayed his role, painting himself as a victim and insists he did nothing wrong.
A former member of the New York State Organized Crime Task Force told PIX11 News that the civil rights leader and MSNBC host was pressured into cooperating.
“He was rolled, Sharpton was rolled and he cooperated,” Joseph Coffey, who was appointed to the task force by Gov. Mario Cuomo and was its principal investigator, said.
According to Coffey, his team had a wiretap on the phone of Genovese crime family capo Joseph Pagano.
“That wiretap produced the fact that Al Sharpton called Pagano looking to sell him 10,000 tickets to Madison Square Garden,” Coffey said.
That conversation, Coffey said, led to a broader investigation involving the NYPD and FBI.
According to Coffey, Sharpton was attempting to “shake down Madison Square Garden” to provide 10,000 tickets to a rock concert, or else he’d have pickets ringing the perimeter of the Garden.
“I heard the recording where he called Pagano and we identified Sharpton by his voice and his conversation,” Coffee said.
Sharpton told PIX11 News during a phone conversation that Coffey’s claims are “ludicrous.”
As for him being a confidential informant for the FBI, Sharpton declares, “Rat? Give me a break.”
Speaking at a news conference Tuesday, Sharpton denied ever meeting the mafia members he’s accused of reaching out to.
The civil rights leader fired back after The Smoking Gun reported this week that he was Confidential Informant No. 7 and carried a wire in a briefcase to help bring down eccentric mob boss Vincent “The Chin” Gingante.
Sharpton doesn’t deny cooperating with the feds, and claims he called them after his life was threatened by mobsters in the music industry.
“Old news,” he said of the report, reminding the press that he first recounted all this in a book he wrote 18 years ago.
“I wasn’t with the rats. I’m a cat,” Sharpton quipped. “I chase rats and whether it’s a rat in racial profiling or police brutality or mobsters exploiting black artists, don’t get me confused.”
A second source close to the task force investigation in the 80s told PIX11 that Sharpton was “turned” as the result of a sting in which an undercover agent posing as a drug dealer was sent to entrap him into a drug deal.
As for the assertion that Sharpton was heard in a conversation with a mob figure, the former mafia task force investigator insists he didn’t get that information second hand. Joe Coffey said he was privvy to all the information.
“The wiretap on Pagano was under my purview. I heard the conversation, period,” he said.
Sharpton told me he would not dignify Coffey’s assertions by responding to them on camera. But on the phone he told me they were “ludicrous.” He said he had a close relationship with James Brown and had control over his concert tickets, but denied ever trying to sell them to the mob.