60 Minutes: Hit Man
Not too many years ago, John Veasey was a professional hit man. But as Byron Pitts reported for 60 Minutes, the contract killer and veteran of a mob war eventually turned and got out of the business. These days, he has relocated to suburban America, where he claims to have started a new life and found religion. But did he really change his ways?
60 Minutes: John Veasey Background
In 1993, someone approached Veasey with a cash offer to commit a murder. He said that he had no qualms about taking the gig. Growing up in South Philadelphia, Veasey was the youngest of five.
He was a junkie and teenage father with a long rap sheet. But he never had aspirations to join the mob before he was offered the cash. Veasey said he had no moral code, so he could not feel bad about what he was getting involved in.
60 Minutes: Murder For Hire
A 1990s mob war erupted in Philadelphia, and Sicilian old timers like John Stanfa faced off against Joey Merlino and a new generation of mobsters.
An Inquirer reporter recalled that Veasey made great muscle for Stanfa, who was eager to make the easy money, no matter what it took.
60 Minutes: John Veasey Mob Hits
Veasey and a partner took their first assignment: take out Merlino and his top lieutenant. They did so in broad daylight, and he now recalls that it was all in a day’s work.
Merlino survived, but Michael Cincaglini was crossed off the list, which included as many as 30 names at any one time. Frank Baldino, a popular neighborhood bartender, was an acquaintance of Veasey’s, but he was not shy about taking Baldino out on orders from above.
60 Minutes: John Veasey Boy Scouts
While committing these contract killings, Veasey was a volunteer Boy Scout leader. He said the kids had a good time with him, and he never thought about what the kids or their parents might think.
As Veasey climbed the ranks of the organization, he wanted to see the money for his work. Mob leader Stanfa did not appreciate Veasey’s discontent, and ordered a hit on the hit man.
60 Minutes: John Veasey Shot In The Head
But Veasey got wind of things and agreed to turn on the mob as a police informant. FBI agent Paul Hayes handled Veasey’s case, and said that John’s brother encouraged him to cooperate to save his life.
Ultimately, Veasey wore a wire to gather evidence. He survived being shot four times, three times in the head. He fought his way out of the attack, stabbing an attacker before escaping.
60 Minutes: John Veasey Testimony
This death-defying stunt cemented Veasey’s reputation, and he helped to bring down the Philly mob as a star witness. However, before John could testify, his brother was murdered in a mob hit.
That devastation led to genuine testimony that helped make a solid case against mobsters, all of whom were found guilty. Veasey was sentenced to 10 years in prison, and spent a lot of time plotting to avenge his brother.
60 Minutes: The Hit Man Review
These days, Veasey has a wife and family, living in anonymous suburbia with his wife of eight years. His wife, Norma, cannot imagine John’s past because that is not the man she knows.
She has nothing but forgiveness for her husband. Veasey had trouble finding work, given his background. Now he is a top-selling car salesman, and the subject of a book called The Hit Man.
60 Minutes: Did John Veasey Change His Life?
Veasey also spends his Sundays in church, having been baptized and becoming a volunteer church bus driver.
Back in Philly, the Inquirer reporter is not buying Veasey’s changed life. The reporter told 60 Minutes that he suspected Veasey’s finding God was more a matter of convenience than conversion.
60 Minutes: Billy Veasey Murder Trial
It has been about two decades since Veasey’s brother was murdered. There are reports that Veasey has made threats against people he believes were culpable in the hit on his brother.
In a 2001 trial, multiple suspects were acquitted in the murder of Billy Veasey. The wife of John Ciancaglini said she is among those who have received threats.
60 Minutes: John Veasey Voicemails?
The woman also recorded voicemails left for her family by Veasey, whose expletive-laden recordings are full of threats. Veasey, who lives under an alias, is no stranger to the law in his new life.
A bar fight was one of four police incidents in recent years. Pitts did not seem to be on board with Veasey’s dramatic life changes either. For his part, the ex-mafia hit man did not seem too interested in convincing anyone about anything.
But given his demeanor in this interview, and his candor on the witness stand years ago, it’s hard to imagine that he could have too much success in terms of deception or mind games. What did you think of Veasey’s story?