Local law enforcement and the FBI work cooperatively. Provided cooperative means the FBI makes all the decisions. Information flows up to the FBI but not down to the locals.
The compound was under surveillance from both local and federal law enforcement, but it took several months for law enforcement to intervene despite local reports.
By Kyle ShidelerSEPTEMBER 14, 2018
Questions keep coming about how the U.S. justice system responded to a New Mexico compound that housed five alleged would-be jihadists and 11 reportedly malnourished children along with the remains of a twelfth child who died on the compound.
What else is new? I’ve worked with the FBI. They have tremendous resources. There are some caveats to working with the FBI. They don’t share. Information flows up, but not down. Local concerns are not the concern of the FBI. In some instances, being under investigation by the FBI is a license to continue criminal behavior. They will ignore offenses until they get the one that they like. As my old boss used to say, they are not good neighbors.
The first time the FBI and I shared a common suspect, what should have been a month long investigation stretched out to a year. I obtained information that a drug smuggler had branched out to growing marijuana. An informant pinpointed the location of the grow.
I was working up the background on the suspect when I set off warning bells. I was contacted by a FBI agent, newly assigned to the DEA task force. He was investigating the same crook. We agreed to pool our resources. Within the month, we were able to confirm the existence of the marijuana grow, at the location my informant identified. I was ready to get a search warrant.
The FBI squelched that idea. They used the probable cause for the search warrant to initiate an OCDEFT and Title III (wiretap). The crook remained undisturbed for almost a year, before the FBI initiated enforcement action. The FBI investigation identified a few more crooks. I am not sure that the expense and delay was justified by the return.
My next foray with the Bureau was another Title III and OCDEFT investigation. It involved a marijuana smuggler running loads from McAllen to Atlanta in semi-trucks. We followed the target truck to McAllen, watched him load it with marijuana and followed him to San Antonio. There was a concern that once the crooks learned the Feds were on to them they would shut down their operation.
I proposed that our Highway Interdiction Unit stop the truck. They would get the driver to the back of the rig. While the driver was engaged with the Interdiction officers, another agent would jump into the truck and drive away. As soon as the truck started moving the Interdiction officers would jump in their car, leaving the truck driver standing on the side of the road. DEA approved the scheme. The lone FBI agent objected, contacted his supervisor and that was the end of that.
We ended up doing a variation on the theme. The Interdiction officers made the stop, found the dope and brought the truck to the task force office. It was hoped that the crook would not be intimidated by a local task force. We off-loaded 1800 pounds of marijuana. The truck driver expressed amazement and claimed no knowledge. His performance was sincere. We pretended to believe him and let him go. Had this performance been captured on film, he would have been a candidate for an Oscar.
It was only later that we found out why he was so convincing. The driver was being paid $25 a pound for making the trip. He was told that he would be hauling 900 pounds of pot. It was a shock to him, that he was hauling twice is much and getting screwed out of half his commission by the boss.
But wait, it gets better! We conducted this operation the Friday before Thanksgiving. The following Tuesday the main crook is in a bar complaining to his buddies that the cops stole his dope. He intended to get to the bottom of it. Seated at the table with him was a female informant for the FBI.
She had outlived her usefulness but still maintained contact with the FBI. A brand new out of the academy baby FBI agent was assigned to be her handler. She phoned him for instructions. Although not assigned to our case, he knew about it. He contacted his supervisor and explained the situation and asked for directions.
The supervisor, who was involved in our investigation, gave him the following instructions. She was to tell the crook that she had a cousin who was assigned to the task force. She would reach out to him and see what she could find out. She did as she was told and the crook gave her his phone number and told her to call anytime. She reported the conversation to her FBI handler. She was given additional instructions.
On the Wednesday night prior to Thanksgiving, the informant did as she was instructed. She called the crook. Recall that I mentioned a Title III? That means a wiretap. It was a slow night for the guys monitoring the wire (wiretap). They are thinking about football, turkey and all the trimmings when the crook’s phone rings. The conversation (recorded for posterity) goes something like this:
Unidentified female: “I talked to my cousin.”
Crook: “Yeah, can he help?”
Unidentified female: “Yeah, he can get the report, but it won’t be until Monday, he is out of town.”
Crook: “Good, Monday is good.”
In the monitoring room, all thoughts of turkey and football have vanished. They call the case agent, who calls the FBI supervisor (who came up with this story) and they reach the same conclusion: “Oh shit, Oh dear! The task force is compromised. They are going to sell us out!”
Fortunately for all concerned, the informant contacted baby FBI agent to report her actions. The baby FBI agent had been a big city cop for ten years, prior to joining the bureau. He could recognize a fuck-up in progress when he saw one. More importantly, he wasn’t shy about pointing it out. The task force was cleared. So was the FBI supervisor, right out of his DEA assigned office.
One more and I am done. Our Interdiction guys stopped a minivan. The driver was from Camden, New Jersey. He was unemployed but had the ability to buy the minivan for cash two weeks prior. His last employment was that of business agent for the Carpenters’ Local Union based in Philadelphia. He had $35,000 in cash.
I interviewed him and established. He had a wife, a mistress, and two kids, made less than 50 K a year and yet was able to save $35,000. He was unaware that there was organized crime in Philadelphia. Consequently, the concept of organized crime involvement in union activity was foreign to him. He was clear in all of the databases I had available to me. I didn’t think he was involved in a drug deal. I suspected that he had looted union funds and was on the run.
I called the FBI and tried to get in touch with agents that I knew. Unfortunately, it was federal Friday. That means that after two o’clock most agents, with the exception of new agents and Mormons who don’t drink, were at local watering holes conducting investigations.
I was forced to deal with the “duty agent.” The assignment rotates through the office. The duty agent is required to screen all calls that come into the office. This means law enforcement inquiries, crank phone calls, PR calls, anything that some other agent hasn’t a prior claim. I identified myself and explained the situation and what I wanted.
The response I got was, “what do you want us to do?”
I don’t have much patience for fools and time servers, so I explained it to him in terms he could understand. “I want you to run this guy through your secret organized crime database and whatever other databases you have. Then you can call me back and lie your ass off and tell me you don’t have any information. This will be followed by agents showing up and stealing my crook and the money and disappearing down the rabbit hole.”
A half hour later, an FBI agent that I knew by sight, but had never worked with showed up at our location. (It was on his way home). He laughingly explained that the relevant database was down. He agreed with my assessment and also agreed that we didn’t have enough to hold him. Since the drug detecting dog alerted on the money we decided to seize the money. The reality is that most currency circulating is contaminated with drug residue.
We relieved the former business agent of his 35 K and sent him on his way with the promise that we would send a check if we decided not to forfeit the money. His only request is that we send the check to his post office box, rather than his home. I guess his wife opened the mail.
There is a PS to the story. On Monday morning I had two messages from the FBI organized crime unit in Newark, New Jersey. Our crook was the target of an FBI investigation. He and his boss were suspected of looting union funds from the Carpenters’ local in Philadelphia.
The FBI was waiting on his doorstep when he returned home. We mailed a check to the FBI in Newark as a partial recovery of the looted funds.
I know this sounds like a big time down on the FBI. That is not entirely correct. Once you reject what you learned via TV and the movies and accept the bureau, with reservations, they are a great resource. Let me put it to you in terms you can understand. When you drag a fat, ugly chick home from a bar at two in the morning, you have no right to complain when she is still fat and ugly in the morning. It is all a matter of perception.