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May 2021


How to Become a Bounty Hunter

Ann Arbor’s Key Role in Nabbing the Unabomber

By Greg Stejskal

There’s a memorable scene near the end of the classic John Ford movie and parable about the triumph of the rule of law in the old west, “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.”

The editor of the local newspaper has just heard the true story from Jimmy Stewart’s character, Ranse Stoddard, about the killing of Liberty Valance, an extremely bad guy and notorious gunfighter. Stoddard is in the autumn of a very successful political career that began, at least in part, because he had been proclaimed a hero for having killed Valance.

As it turns out Ranse Stoddard didn’t kill Valance.

When the interview with Stoddard ends, a young reporter asks the editor if he’s going to use the story. The editor replies, “This is the west. When the legend becomes fact print the legend.”

A few weeks ago I had a Liberty Valance moment when I was out to dinner with my wife. A local judge, who I have known for years, walked up to our table and introduced me to his wife as the FBI agent who identified the Unabomer. I sort of demurred and said something like, I helped, but it was a team effort.

This wasn’t the first time I’ve been given credit for identifying the Unabomer, and although it’s technically true, it’s definitely misleading.

So here’s the story:

I first became involved in the Unabomer investigation because one his bombs had been sent to Ann Arbor. (“Unabomer” was Bureau shorthand for university and airlines bomber and was used as the title of the case. And yes, the second “b” was dropped in the Bureau spelling.)

In November, 1985, a package (weighing about 5 lbs. and measuring 3”x 8”x 11”) was received in the mail at the residence of Prof. James McConnell. McConnell was teaching and doing research in the psychology department at the University of Michigan. The package was opened by an assistant of McConnell. It exploded and caused considerable damage to McConnell’s kitchen, but the assistant only suffered minor injury to his arms and abdomen.

This was the 10th bomb in a series of 16 sent by the Unabomer from 1978-1995. The bomb had been secreted in a hole cut in a ream of paper. The explosive device was basically a pipe-bomb filled with ammonium nitrate and aluminum powder. The pipe was sealed at either end by wooden caps rather than the usual threaded metal caps. The igniter was a nail held in tension by rubber bands poised to strike multiple match heads when disturbed by someone opening the package.

Because of this rudimentary construction, the bomb did not explode with anywhere near its potential power. Later bombs were more efficient and resulted in the death of 3 people and severe injuries to others.

One of the maddening elements of the Unabomer investigation was that there didn’t seem to be a common thread connecting the recipients of the bombs. And the construction of the bombs although similar was done with components that proved to be untraceable.

It wasn’t until the Unabomer‘s convoluted manifesto was published that some overarching motive could be discerned.

When Attorney General Janet Reno and FBI Director Louie Freeh persuaded the reluctant editors of the New York Times and Washington Post to publish the manifesto in its entirety – 35,000 words, it was hoped that someone would read it and associate it with the person who was the Unabomer.

It is a testament to Ted Kaczynski’s isolation that only one person did or could identify him, Ted’s estranged brother, David Kaczynski. But for Ted’s hubris in demanding his manifesto be published, he may never have been identified.

David’s wife, Linda, saw some common themes in the manifesto and some of Ted’s professed philosophy, but neither she nor David had had any contact with Ted in years. She encouraged David to read the manifesto. (Linda had thought Ted might be the Unabomer for some time prior to the publication of the manifesto.)

David was struck by the similarity between some of the ideas and phraseology in the manifesto and some old letters Ted had written and which David had kept. In the letters Ted had expounded on his anti-technology philosophy.

In the Fall of 1995, David and Linda contacted a friend, Susan Swanson, who was an attorney/investigator regarding their concerns about his brother. Swanson contacted Clinton Van Zandt, a retired FBI agent. Van Zandt, a hostage negotiator for the FBI had been assigned to the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit which among other things does criminal profiling.

Swanson took the letters from which almost all the names and identifying information had been removed to Van Zandt and asked him to determine whether the author of the letters was the author of the manifesto. After reviewing the material, Van Zandt concluded that there was about a 50% possibility that the authors of the letters and the manifesto were the same. Van Zandt was not impressed enough with any similarity to pursue the information further.

Swanson had been investigating this matter pro bono, but was unable to continue.

The Kaczynskis’ concerns had not been alleviated. So they contacted another attorney friend who was practicing in Washington, D.C., Anthony Bisceglie. Bisceglie knew a FBI agent, Mike Harrison. Bisceglie apprised Harrison of David and Linda’s concerns without identifying them. He also provided Harrison with some of the redacted documents.

Harrison believed there was sufficient similarity in the writings to justify contacting the Unabomer Task Force in San Francisco. With Bisceglie’s knowledge, Harrison contacted the UTF and told them about the redacted letters and their similarity to the manifesto. He provided the task force with what information could be gleaned from the letters. Fortunately in the documents, some hints were mistakenly not redacted: The name “Ted” appeared and there were references to Harvard, Michigan and the University of California in Berkeley. (Bisceglie was not aware of the tell-tale information that remained in the documents.)

The UTF, which was comprised of FBI, Postal Inspectors and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agents had been coordinating the Unabom investigation and had recently been inundated with tips resulting from the publication of the manifesto. None of which would be of any value, but had to be investigated none the less.

The information Harrison provided stood out and seemed to have some promise. Several UTF agents would investigate the information in an effort to identify the author. Joel Moss, a FBI supervisor, assigned to the UTF would pursue the possible Michigan connection.

The evening of February 12th, I was working late when I received a call from Joel. I knew Joel as we had talked in the past about the Unabom investigation and the McConnell bombing. Joel explained to me about the letters, the manifesto and some information that might be useful in identifying the author.

They had determined that: his name was Ted (a derivation of either Theodore or Edward); he was born in the Chicago area; had done under-grad study at Harvard (probably in mathematics), and thereafter obtained or sought a PhD at the University of Michigan between 1968 and 1972. It was believed that subsequent to being at Michigan, Ted taught mathematics at the University of California at Berkley.

The UTF was making inquiries at UC Berkley, but so far they hadn’t been successful.

Joel impressed upon me the sensitivity of the information, and that it had to be handled as expeditiously as possible. In other words I needed to get personal information from the University of Michigan regarding a possible PhD candidate, whose name I didn’t know, and I couldn’t tell them why I was asking.

I had been in Ann Arbor and around the University long enough to know that people at the University would not welcome the FBI with open arms nor would I have any control over how many people became aware of the investigation. Further, they would refuse to do anything without a subpoena and nothing would happen quickly.

But I had a friend, Jim Smiley, the Assistant Director of the UM Department of Public Safety, the UM police. He was a graduate of the FBI National Academy (The prestigious school for law enforcement executives), and we had worked together on a number of occasions.

I called Jim and told him I needed to identify an individual who may have received a PhD from Michigan, but didn’t know his full name, etc. I did not tell him that the guy might be the Unabomer. I just said it was extremely important and very sensitive.

Jim didn’t question my sanity nor did he say such a check couldn’t be done without more information. Instead he said that he would see what he could do.

Within a few hours Jim called me back and told me that he had come up with 5 possibles, but only 1 seemed to fit all the criteria, Theodore Kaczynski. To Jim’s credit he never asked me what the inquiry was about.

I immediately called Joel Moss and gave him the name Theodore Kaczynski and what background information Michigan had about him. Joel told me I was to tell no one else, “At this moment there are only two people who know the identity of the Unabomer.”

It is my understanding that within a few days the UTF was contacted directly by Anthony Bisceglie. Initially Bisceglie had some pre-conditions he wanted to be agreed to before disclosing the identity of the Unabomer. Joel Moss and others on the UTF explained to the attorney that perhaps the discussion could move more quickly if the attorney knew that the UTF already had the name Ted Kaczynski.

Over the next few weeks, while the FBI had Kaczynski under surveillance in Lincoln, Montana, and arrest/search warrants were being prepared, I was making discrete inquiries regarding Ted’s time at Michigan. I learned that he was a brilliant if eccentric and socially inept student, who had studied theoretical mathematics.

About six weeks later, when Ted was arrested and the little cabin where he was living was searched, considerable evidence was found linking Ted to the bombings including a live bomb that was ready to be sent.

Joel Moss sent me a copy of Ted’s handwritten diary that was found at the cabin. I was particularly interested in what he had written about his time at Michigan – “These were the most miserable years of my life.” However, Ted didn’t send the bomb to Prof. McConnell because he was a disgruntled Michigan student. He sent it because he hated psychologists.

Although brilliant, Ted had many demons. He viewed himself as intellectually superior to other students and the faculty. He contemplated killing people even back then: “What was entirely new was the fact that I really felt I could kill someone. My first thought was to kill somebody I hated and then kill myself before the cops could get me. (I’ve always considered death preferable to long imprisonment.) But, since I now had new hope, I was not ready to relinquish life so easily. So I thought, I will kill, but I will make at least some effort to avoid detection, so that I can kill again.”

Ted Kaczynski is currently serving a life sentence with no possibility of parole at the Federal Penitentiary in Florence, Colorado – “Super Max,” where he is locked down 23 hours a day.

So technically I identified the Unabomer, but in reality I was merely a cog in the machinery that was already moving inexorably towards knowing Ted Kaczynski was the Unabomer.

Print the fact not the legend.


New Orleans Saints’ Bountygate Could be Prosecuted as a Conspiracy

This column also appeared in the New York Daily News.
By Greg Stejskal

What if several executives of a multimilliondollar national corporation hatched a plan to pay bounties to its employees to deliberately injure key employees of competing corporations?

Then put the plan in action, actually disabling key employees, thereby affecting those corporations’ ability to compete. It clearly would be something that should be criminally prosecuted.

As you may have guessed, this is just a generic business- term description of the un-Saintly bounty scheme New Orleans was apparently running. There have been reports there may be criminal prosecutions pursued. Apparently the NFL Players Association has warned players involved that they may face criminal charges.

The Associated Press reported that “most legal scholars agree that prosecutors are reluctant to prosecute on-field sports activity,” said Gabriel Feldman, a sports law professor at Tulane. “They’re difficult cases to bring, because it’s hard to prove the injury was caused by a tackle with specific intent to injure, rather than a regular tackle.”

I would agree with the prosecutors’ reluctance to prosecute on-field activity, but criminal prosecution of the Saints’ pay-for-injury scheme would not necessarily entail proving much specific on-field activity.

Instead of charging individual incidents as though they were a series of assaults and batteries, a criminal conspiracy could be charged using federal criminal law. Under the so-called Hobbs Act (18 USC 1951), a racketeering statute, whoever conspires to commit physical violence to any person in furtherance of a plan or purpose which in anyway or degree effects commerce is in violation of the statute. Clearly the NFL and all of its teams are involved in interstate commerce.

Those teams’ primary purpose is to compete with the other teams in the NFL and win football games. Thus illegal activity that impedes or obstructs a team’s ability to compete is adversely affecting commerce.

The other question to be answered is, would a conspiracy rewarding intentionally injuring opposing players be criminal? Football is a violent game and “hard hits” are encouraged, but within the rules. Late hits, unnecessary roughness and unsportsmanlike conduct are proscribed by the rules. If the conspiracy encouraged hits, with the intent to cause injury regardless of whether the hit would or could result in a penalty, then it seems such conduct goes from being aggressive football to assault and battery under the guise of playing football.

The prosecution would not have to show specific injuries resulted from specific hits for which a bounty was paid. It need only show a conspiracy was formed to commit acts of illegal violence which affected interstate commerce. It now appears, like Watergate, there is compelling, recorded audio evidence of the conspiracy. Although I think this is viable prosecutorial theory, I’m not sure I would be enthusiastic about recommending or pursuing a criminal prosecution in Bountyate based on the facts that have been reported.

But I do have a concern. What if organized crime and professional gambling interests became aware of or participated in the pay-to-injure activities? (Who understands paying bounties for injuries better than the mob?) That would change the whole perspective. This is why it is important for the NFL to come down hard on the participants in Bountyate. The integrity of the game is at risk. The potential for criminal prosecution should not be dismissed, but rather held in abeyance.

A Tale of Union Racketeering or How I Learned to Love the Hobbs Act

By Greg Stejskal

Richard Debs was President of the United Auto Workers union local 1776. (No relation to Eugene V. Debs, the union organizer and socialist from the early 20th Century.) Debs had been the President of the local for 15 years in 1988. 1776 was the local representing the workers at the General Motors Willow Run assembly plant near Ypsilanti, Mich., where the Chevrolet Impalas were made.

Debs liked that job. And authorities suspected he was willing to harm people to keep it. But before I get into that, a little more about the Willow Run plant.

Willow Run was a massive industrial complex first developed by Ford during World War II to make the B24 Liberator bombers. At that time it was the largest assembly line facility in the world. At its peak it turned out a bomber every 55 minutes and was home to Rosie the Riveter. (The model for the iconic picture worked at the plant.)

After the war GM acquired the complex, GM expanded and converted it to an assembly plant and another plant to build the GM Hydra-matic transmissions.

During the waning halcyon days of the American auto industry, as president of a local, Debs had considerable power over a fiefdom that was comprised of all the workers at the assembly plant. Debs did not work at the plant, but rather administered the local from an office in a union building near the plant.

Because all GM plant jobs required UAW membership, Debs had the ability to influence hiring and to disperse jobs. He also had political power in the local community that derived from his position. There were also ample opportunities for corruption and graft to those so inclined.

Periodically UAW local officers have to stand for reelection, and there was to be an election in the spring of 1989. Debs was being challenged for the presidency by two other local members, Jesse Gray and Bob Harlow. Despite Debs 15 years as president, he was not universally well liked. Also he had recently been charged albeit acquitted in a Federal corruption case involving a local judge. (The judge and several others were convicted.)

In the fall of 1988, the FBI learned from a confidential informant (CI)that Debs had been attempting to hire some men to dissuade by violence Gray and Harlow from running against Debs. The source knew the identities of some of the men that had been approached by Debs, but he/she did not know whether anyone had agreed to Debs’ plan.

Although the CI’s information was deemed creditable, it was not clear whether Debs had progressed beyond the solicitation stage, and we did not want to jeopardize the CI.

It was decided the best course of action was to advise the Michigan State Police (MSP) and the potential victims of the information. We arranged to have Jesse Gray and Bob Harlow come to the MSP Post in Ypsilanti which was the Post responsible for the Willow Run complex.

Gray and Harlow were apprised of the alleged threat. They were also advised to take some precautions like avoiding predictable routines and varying the routes to and from work.

About a month after the meeting with Gray and Harlow, Gray was shot in the neck while driving to work in the early morning of December 29th. Gray was not killed, but multiple shots had been fired at his truck from a pickup as it passed him. Gray was unable to give more than a general description of the pickup. He thought there was more than one person in the pickup, but he could not provide any descriptions.

MSP did the crime scene investigation and was able to recover several spent 9mm slugs from Gray’s vehicle including the one that struck Gray. Although Gray’s wound was not life threatening, it was serious, and it had to be concluded the shooter was trying to kill Gray.

As a result of the shooting, Gray dropped out of the race for presidency of the UAW local. Bob Harlow decided to continue his effort to unseat Debs, but he confided that following our warning, he had varied his route to and from work. Gray had not.

MSP and the FBI began an investigation into the shooting. We interviewed Debs. He denied any involvement in the shooting, and said he and his wife were in Cleveland visiting family at the time of the shooting. Debs also denied soliciting anyone to do harm to either Gray or Harlow.

During the investigation we were hearing rumors about Debs having unusually close relationships with young men and boys. (That would foreshadow some future events.)

We interviewed one of the young men. (I’ll refer to him as John.) John said that Debs had befriended him and had given him money and gifts, but denied being asked by Debs to do harm to anyone. When asked about his whereabouts at the time of the shooting, John said he was in Cleveland with Debs.

John elaborated that late on the night of December 28th, Debs and his wife came to John’s apartment. Debs said he would pay John to drive them in Debs’ car to Cleveland.

They drove to Cleveland and arrived early in the morning on the 29th. Debs had John drop them off at a house. Debs told John to pick them up at 11:00 am. When John picked them up, Debs had John drive them back to Michigan. Debs never explained to John why he and his wife needed to go to Cleveland late at night and a few hours later return home.

As an investigator you question coincidences. Why would Debs seemingly on the spur of the moment decide to travel to Cleveland hours before the shooting of Jesse Gray and then return only hours after the shooting? I remembered an old adage from the Book of Proverbs: “The wicked flee when none pursueth….” (Proverbs 28:1)

In April, Debs was defeated by Bob Harlow for the presidency of local 1776.

It had been months since the shooting, and we weren’t any closer to identifying the shooters or tying Debs to the shooting. MSP had to cut back on their involvement. We had done most of the investigation and without new leads a resolution didn’t seem too promising.

We had interviewed some of the individuals the CI said had been approached by Debs to dissuade Gray and Harlow from running against him. All of them had been eliminated as the actual shooters.

We were able to confirm that 4 of the 5 men had been approached by Debs. He offered jobs and/or money to violently dissuade Gray and Harlow from running against him. All 4 had refused Debs’ offer. There hadn’t been any further discussion as to what specific violence Debs had in mind.

I came away from those interviews not enthusiastic with how creditable these 4 men would be to a jury. When you try to recruit some guys to commit felonies of violence, you don’t go looking for Eagle Scouts.

When I interviewed the 5th man Debs reportedly had contacted, he said Debs had made the same proposal to him that he made to the others. The 5th man, Larry Poore, said his initial response to Debs was he didn’t even know Bob Harlow. So Debs gave Poore a photo of Harlow. Poore told Debs he would think about it, but he said he never had any intention to do anything. Later he told Debs he didn’t want to do it.

As I was getting ready to leave Poore’s home, he asked me if I wanted the photo Debs had given him of Harlow – I hadn’t thought to ask. The photo had potential to be a great windfall. I very carefully placed the photo in an evidence envelope. The next day I sent the photo to the FBI Lab with a request that it be examined for fingerprints. Any latent fingerprints found would be compared with the fingerprints of Poore and Debs. I wasn’t optimistic, but it was worth a shot.

When I received the lab report, it stated there were only two legible fingerprints on the photo. One was Larry Poore’s, the other was Richard Debs. I felt like I had just drawn to an inside straight. We now had physical evidence to corroborate Poole’s account of Debs’ solicitation which indirectly corroborated the other 4 men’s similar statements.

I knew we still couldn’t prove Debs had any connection to the shooting of Jesse Gray, but we could show that Debs prior to the shooting had attempted or conspired to commit violence against Harlow and Gray. Because this conspiracy’s goal was to impede UAW members from running for office it denied the member electorate a choice. Also because a conspiracy was alleged the rules as to hearsay evidence didn’t apply to statements in furtherance of the conspiracy.

In late fall, 1989, a Federal Grand Jury returned a 4 count indictment charging Debs under the Hobbs Act (18 USC 1951) with having “solicited 5 different men to do wrongful violence against Bob Harlow and Jesse Gray” in an attempt to frighten them away from running against Debs for the UAW local presidency. (The Hobbs Act was enacted as a statute to combat racketeering in labor-management disputes and corruption directed at members of labor unions.)

A 4th count of the indictment actually charged that “Debs caused Jesse Gray to be shot for the purpose of inducing him and other union members not to oppose Debs in the 1989 election.” We knew we would have difficulty proving Debs involvement in the shooting, but by charging it, we could make the jury aware of the shooting and Debs’ coincidental “fleeing” to Cleveland.

Pursuant to the indictment we arrested Debs at his home. He was in bed and on his nightstand was a 38-caliber revolver. When we arraigned Debs, the government asked for detention, but he was released on a $25,000 bond despite the nature of the charges.

In September 1990, Debs pleaded guilty to one count of the indictment. Debs was allowed to stay on bond until his sentencing.

In November while awaiting sentencing, Debs was arrested and charged with 1st degree criminal sexual conduct after allegedly forcing a 12-year-old boy to perform oral sex on him. Now he would await sentencing in jail.

In January, Debs was sentenced to 4 years for the Hobbs Act violation. Ultimately Debs pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 15-30 years on the sex charge. Debs remained in prison until he died of natural causes.

Debs never admitted his involvement in the shooting of Jesse Gray, and the shooter(s) were never identified. But thanks to the Hobbs Act, at least as far as Debs was concerned, justice was served.


Santa’s Helper, a Giant Elf, a Cuban Inmate Uprising and the Salvation Army

By Greg Stejskal

This is a Christmas story, but it really began just before Thanksgiving in 1987, at the Federal Penitentiary in Atlanta.

The Cuban inmates had rioted and had taken control of a sizeable portion of the penitentiary. The catalyst for the riots happened years before that in 1980.

The Mariel boatlift, a massive exodus of Cuban refugees from Cuba to the US, had among its refugees, convicted criminals. Fidel Castro had apparently thought the boatlift was an opportune time to decrease his prison over-crowding.

Upon arrival in the US those Cubans who were determined to be criminals were detained and placed in US penitentiaries with no clear plan as to what to do with them in the long term.

This uncertain future led predictably to unrest and ultimately to the prison riots.

When the inmates rioted and took control of part of the Atlanta Penitentiary, they also took some of the staff hostage.

The FBI was tasked with negotiating with the inmates and providing SWAT teams should it become necessary to retake control of the penitentiary by force and rescue the hostages.

SWAT teams from many of the large offices were called to respond to Atlanta. Our Detroit team was one of those teams.

So on a cold, rainy November night, an Air Force C-141, flying a circuit, landed at Detroit Metro Airport to pick up our team. Already on board were teams from Pittsburgh and Cleveland. We arrived in Atlanta early the next morning.

The Atlanta Penitentiary is a foreboding place. It was built in phases beginning in the late 1800s, into the first few decades of the 1900s.

It has 60-foot walls with watch towers on each corner. Upon our arrival we climbed to the top of one of the watch towers and looked down into the prison yard. It looked like a scene from a post-apocalyptic “Mad Max” movie.

Inmates were walking around the yard, all carrying homemade weapons: long-knives, swords, etc., made from scrap metal and sharpened on some of the prison machine tools.

After seeing that scene, we all assumed we were going to be in Atlanta for awhile. We knew we would prevail if it came to having to use force. After all they had made the critical tactical mistake of bringing knives to a gun fight. But they had hostages and a large supply of non-perishable food in their control.

The next morning I was walking to the Penitentiary administration building for the shift change briefing when I saw a tent where free coffee and Krispy Kreme donuts were being served. It was the Salvation Army tent. The Salvation Army was there every day of the insurrection including Thanksgiving serving coffee, donuts, smiles and kind words. I’ve been on a lot of SWAT operations, but I had never been offered coffee, donuts or kind words from the neighborhood in which we were operating.

Knowing the Salvation Army was there for us, had me thinking that I owed this selfless organization a debt – a pay it forward kind of thing.

The penitentiary insurrection was resolved peacefully after about two weeks. The key factor was that no social order was developed among the inmates just anarchy. They went through several months food supply in days. (There are a lot of good stories from the “siege” of the Atlanta Penitentiary, but those can be told another time.) We all went back to our respective homes.

I didn’t forget the Salvation Army’s generosity. I decided every holiday season for a few hours, I would volunteer to ring the bell and tend the red kettle in my hometown of Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Some years later, I was ringing the bell at a local super market with my wife. We had both donned our Santa hats and were wearing the Salvation Army issue red vests. It was snowing lightly, the Christmas lights were shining and Christmas carols were playing on the stores PA system.

We were at one door of the store greeting shoppers and collecting donations in our kettle, when all of a sudden there was a commotion at the other door.

A man ran out of the store. He was closely followed by two other men in white butcher smocks. The men in the smocks tackled the man in the parking lot. They were trying to hold him down, but he was struggling & screaming as they pulled several cuts of meat from under his coat. The erstwhile meat thief continued to yell, flail and kick.

I turned to my wife and said, “I should probably go help them.” I kept flex-cuffs (large heavy duty zip-ties) in my car. I grabbed some flex-cuffs, walked over and knelt next to the struggling man.

He was facing away from me. In my “soothing,” authoritative voice, that I used for arrests and reading someone their rights, I told him, we could let him up, but he needed to let me put these cuffs on him.

The man turned his head to look at me, and his eyes got very big.

I’m about 6’4” and weighed about 235 lbs. I had forgotten I was wearing a Santa hat and a big red vest. After staring at me for a few moments, he asked, “who are you?” I smiled and replied, “I’m Santa’s helper.”

He immediately stopped fighting and struggling. He submissively allowed me to place the cuffs on him. The butchers and I stood him up, and he placidly waited for the police to arrive.

I have often thought there might be some profound Dickens type message to be derived from this incident. I don’t know if the meat thief was stealing prime rib for his family, sort of a protein version of Jean Valjean, or maybe he was planning to host a barbecue at a homeless enclave.

There is certainly some irony in collecting donations for the Salvation Army at one door of a grocery store, and at the same time, to have an economically disadvantaged meat thief fleeing from the other door.

Maybe the message is as simple as, if you’re poor and hungry at Christmas time, there are places other than your local grocery store you can go that care, like the Salvation Army.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!


Doing the Right Thing in the Penn State Scandal

As head of the FBI’s Ann Arbor office, Greg Stejskal got to know well the legendary University of Michigan football coach Bo Schembechler. Stejskal, who has retired from the FBI, gives his insights into the Penn State scandal and discusses how he thought Schembechler, who died in 2006, might have handled it.

The author (right) Greg Stejskal and Michigan coach Bo Schembechler

By Greg Stejskal

“Do the Right Thing –Always,” Bo Schembechler

I want to preface this by saying, I was an admirer of Joe Paterno and Penn State football, which in my adult life have been synonymous. I don’t know Joe Paterno, but I know that he has been head coach at Penn State for 46 years and has been extremely successful, winning 409 games and two national championships.

Paterno achieved this seemingly without compromising sound values. His players were encouraged to be student-athletes with equal emphasis on the student part.

The football program’s slogan was “success with honor.” All of that including Paterno’s legacy is in jeopardy.

There was a seamy underside to all that success, Jerry Sandusky. Sandusky played for Paterno then became a coach. Ultimately, he was Penn State’s defensive coordinator (the face of Linebacker U). He was characterized as Paterno’s heir apparent. But if numerous allegations are to believed, Sandusky was, at least, as far back as the mid 90s, a child molester – using his position and its status to sexually abuse young boys.

Sandusky’s alleged transgressions go beyond despicable, but the issue for Paterno is what did he know, when did he know it and what did he do about it. According to the report of the Pennsylvania Grand Jury, that was investigating the allegations against Sandusky, in 1998 the Penn State police conducted an investigation regarding allegations that Sandusky was in involved in the molesting of young boys.

The case was presented to the local prosecuting attorney, but no charges were brought as a result of that investigation. (It is difficult to believe a case could be presented to the prosecutor without Paterno being aware of the investigation.)

Coincident with the conclusion of that investigation, Sandusky was informed by Paterno that he would not be Paterno’s successor as head coach. Following the 1999 football season, at the age of 55, Sandusky retired from the Penn State coaching staff.

I don’t know what caused Sandusky’s precipitous fall from grace, but the timing, at best, seems curious.

Although Sandusky was no longer on the Penn State coaching staff, he was still a member of the PSU faculty. He remained an Assistant Professor of Physical Education Emeritus with full access to Athletic Department facilities and other perks.

According to the Grand Jury report, March 1, 2002, Mike McQueary, a PSU football graduate assistant (now the wide-receiver coach) saw Sandusky sodomizing a young boy in the shower area of the football building. McQueary knew Sandusky andwas shocked and unsettled, but on the following day he reported what he had seen to Paterno. Paterno then told the Penn State Athletic Director, Tim Curley, of McQueary’s eyewitness account. Later McQueary would be interviewed by Curley and Penn State Senior Vice-President, Gary Schultz. It is not clear what further actions were taken as to Sandusky, but it is clear this incident was never reported to the police or child welfare authorities. Nor apparently was any action taken to identify the young boy or ascertain his welfare.

Sandusky retained his Assistant Professorship (He was listed in the faculty directory as recently as last week.) and his access to University facilities. According to the Grand Jury report, Sandusky’s abuse of young boys continued after 2002.

So did Paterno fulfill his responsibility as head football coach and as Sandusky’s former boss?

I don’t think it can be overstated the prestige and sheer clout that Paterno has at Penn State, but for whatever reason, he apparently never used any of that to further pursue the Sandusky matter or to inquire about the welfare of the alleged victims.

In comparison, I pose the hypothetical question: What would Bo Schembechler have done?

Bo is a man I did know. Bo was a legendary football coach at Michigan from 1969-1989 and a peer of Paterno.

To the best of my knowledge, Bo never had to deal with any of his staff being alleged child molesters.

He did have situations that required staff and players having to take responsibility for their acts even if it might reflect badly on Michigan, a place he loved and revered.

In 1987, the FBI was investigating two sports agents, Norby Walters and Lloyd Bloom, who had ties to organized crime. Walters and Bloom had worked up a scam where they bribed blue-chip college football players to sign post-dated, secret, agency contracts while they were still eligible to play college football – a clear violation of NCAA rules. Ultimately some of the players balked, threats were made by Walters and Bloom, and the whole thing fell apart.

Players who had signed the contracts were identified. They were all star players on prominent college teams. Two of the players were on Bo’s 1986 Michigan team.

When Bo found out, he was livid. He called one of the players, Garland Rivers, an All-American DB, into the office and had Rivers tell him the whole story.

Then Bo called me.

When I got to Bo’s office, Bo told Rivers “Tell this FBI agent everything about your relationship with Norby Walters.” Bo could have distanced himself and Michigan from the investigation.

Michigan would have been just one of many major football programs victimized by Walters and Bloom. But that wasn’t Bo. Damage control doesn’t mean hiding from the truth. It means taking responsibility for your actions and trying to rectify the mistakes.

Walters and Bloom had enticed his players to break the rules. They had besmirched Michigan. Bo knew he had to take a stand and do what he could to protect future players from illicit agents.

Later, when Walters and Bloom went on trial in Federal Court for racketeering and fraud, Bo testified. He was the star witness. His testimony was so strong, the defense declined to cross exam him. Walters and Bloom were convicted. What had been a dark moment in Michigan football history was a comeback win as important as any that had occurred on the field.

So what would Bo have done if faced with an assistant coach who was allegedly molesting young boys.

We’ll never know for sure, but I’m certain that he wouldn’t have just reported the allegations to his boss and done nothing else. Bo would have made sure the police were aware of the allegations. And that assistant coach would not have had access to Michigan athletic facilities or be emeritus anything.

It has been said that Paterno fulfilled his legal responsibility by reporting the allegations to the Penn State AD.

However, it would seem he did not fulfill his moral responsibility by making sure the allegations were pursued and, thus, protecting potential future victims.

We may never know why Paterno failed to pursue the Sandusky matter further. Perhaps Paterno didn’t do more out of a misguided effort to protect the reputation of Penn State, but if that was the motive, far more damage has been done to Penn State’s reputation than would have been done had this matter been fully confronted in 1998 or 2002.

Bo did not see degrees of honor and integrity. You either did the right thing or you didn’t – half way was unacceptable.


Ex-FBI Agent and Prolific Author Paul Lindsay: He Did It His Way

Paul Lindsay, the hard-digging ex-Detroit FBI agent who became a prolific author, and wrote seven novels — the last two of which were N.Y. Times best sellers — died peacefully Thursday night at a Boston hospital of pneumonia with his family by his side. He had been battling leukemia.

Paul Lindsay/simon & schuster photo

By Greg Stejskal

Paul Lindsay – He did it his way.

I first met Paul Lindsay in 1975. I had arrived in Detroit fresh from new agents’ class and was assigned to the fugitive squad. Paul ended up being my training agent.

Ordinarily Paul wouldn’t have been assigned a new agent to train – back then Paul wasn’t known for his patience or warmth, and he didn’t suffer fools. New agents tend to be a little foolish, and I was no exception. The guy, who was supposed to be my training agent, was involved in a trial. Paul was his partner so he was stuck with me by default. We didn’t exactly hit it off in the beginning.

Ultimately Paul accepted me, not because I had any great skills or talent, but because I showed that I was willing to work ridiculous hours and to learn.

Paul taught me much.

Paul had earned a reputation as one of the best fugitive agents in the Bureau – he was very good at finding guys who didn’t want to be found. What I learned from Paul was there were no great secrets or tricks to finding fugitives. It entailed hard work and perseverance. But Paul didn’t just work hard. He employed imagination and intelligence.

I eventually moved on to different squads and different violations, but I used the lessons I learned from Paul throughout my career in the FBI. Paul moved on too and later would apply his considerable talents to cold cases and serial killers.

Paul also had a talent for creative writing. He wrote his first book in 1992 while he was still an agent in Detroit. That first book caused some controversy because Paul was not reticent about criticizing some thinly disguised, but still recognizable characters. Usually those characters were in Bureau management.

It also was no coincidence that the heroes of Paul’s books displayed perseverance, intelligence and imagination. Paul’s book (and those that followed) also displayed Paul’s keen rapier like wit – rapier like because Paul was adept at skewered many inflated egos.

Earlier this year, I wrote a review for Paul’s most recent book, Agent X. In that review I described the hero, Steve Vail, as being a “blue-collar intellectual.” Paul wrote me: “If asked to I could have never reduced Vail to a two-word description; “blue-collar intellect” is pretty nifty.” Well I may have been able to reduce Vail to a two word description, but I can’t think of two words, standing alone, that would come close to doing Paul justice.

Paul was not a two dimensional character. He was a multi-dimensional man, who played many roles: husband, father, friend, Marine officer, FBI agent, author, mentor…. He approached those roles, indeed life, with passion, and he did it his way.

“For what is a man, what has he got? If not himself, then he has naught. To say the things he truly feels and not the words of one who kneels. The record shows I took the blows and did it my way!” *

Paul has taken his well-deserved place in the pantheon of FBI legend. He would like that. He embodied the FBI motto: fidelity, bravery, integrity.

*(Frank Sinatra/”My Way,” copyright EMI Music publishing).





Forget About Clemens and Bonds; Get The Big Fish in the Steroid Mess

Greg Stejskal was an FBI agent for nearly 32 years before retiring in 2006. He was the Senior Resident Agent of the Ann Arbor FBI office and spearheaded Operation Equine with former FBI agent Bill Randall — an operation that focused on steroids.

The author (right) Greg Stejsal and Michigan coach Bo Schembechler

By Greg Stejskal

It’s generally accepted doctrine, at least when I was working drug cases, that you try to work up the food chain and go after the bigger fishes so to speak.

That being said, I have to question the wisdom of prosecuting anabolic steroid users — albeit famous ones — like baseball legends Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens. Take away the star power, and they’re simply users — not big fish, not major peddlers. Frankly, it’s not worth spending all the time and money on them.

But before I go on about that, a here’s a little background

In 1988, anabolic steroids (not all steroids are anabolic, synthetic testosterone, which promotes muscle growth and strength, for simplicity I refer to them as steroids) were made illegal under federal law. Dealing or possession of steroids with the intent to sell, became a felony. Mere use or possession was a misdemeanor. (The amount of steroids possessed was an indicator of whether there was an intent to sell.)

In 1989, when I headed up the FBI’s Ann Arbor office, Michigan football coach Bo Schembechler and his strength coach, Mike Gittleson, persuaded me that steroids were becoming a significant problem at all levels of football.

I proposed to FBIHQ that we initiate an undercover operation (UCO) targeting steroid distribution. FBIHQ was not enthusiastic about pursuing the illegal distribution of steroids, but reluctantly authorized a limited UCO to last only 6 months.

The operation, code-named Equine, started slow. We made buys from some street level dealers – gym rat dealer/users. Towards the end of our 6 month term, I got a call from FBIHQ. They apparently had received an inquiry from the White House regarding steroid investigations.

Equine was the only steroid case being worked in the U.S. at the time. Consequently FBIHQ wanted me to renew the case and upgrade it. What had been envisioned as a local case morphed into an international operation targeting dealers from all over the country, Mexico and Canada. The focus was always to identify and prosecute the biggest suppliers.

Those early gym rat dealers were confronted and offered favorable treatment if they would identify their suppliers and, in some cases, introduce the UC agent to the supplier. Some of the low or mid-level dealers were athletes or body builders, but none had much notoriety (with the possible exception of the then Mr. Ohio, a body builder).

We ended up convicting over 70 dealers in several jurisdictions. Many of these dealers supplied athletes some of whom were well known. One dealer had supplied some of the players on the Michigan State football team that had won the Big 10 and the Rose Bowl. Tony Mandarich, a notable member of that MSU team, whose photo graced the front of Sports Illustrated, admitted some years later to steroid use while at MSU.

Another dealer told us that that he had supplied Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire, the so called bash brothers, while they played for the Oakland A’s. We arranged for that dealer to be debriefed by MLB, and he testified before a U.S. Senate sub-committee.

Ultimately the UCO was successful far beyond our expectations, not only with the many convictions of dealers (all of whom pleaded guilty rather than go to trial), but also with the seizure of massive amounts of steroids. (The Food and Drug Administration estimated that Equine resulted in the seizure of 8-10 million dosage units of real and counterfeit steroids.)

In addition to the UCO, we used a telephone wiretap to make a prosecutable case against one very large dealer. We had been unable to penetrate his organization using the UC agent. (On the wiretap we intercepted one conversation where the dealer threatened to “get rid” of the UCA.) That wiretap allowed us to identify the entire organization, its sources of supply and to intercept a huge shipment of steroids from Mexico.

We charged that dealer with a “Continuing Criminal Enterprise,” the drug equivalent of a RICO charge. Because of the potential for a long prison sentence, the CCE dealer identified his suppliers and provided information that led to the solving of a steroid related homicide.

Through out the about 3 year UCO, we were steadfast in working up the food chain, towards the upper echelons of the steroid trafficking organizations. It was tempting to want to prosecute some of the well-known players, who we learned were using steroids, but despite their celebrity, they were just users.

In the case of the dealer, who had supplied Canseco and McGwire, he identified suppliers in California, and he was willing to make controlled buys from them. The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Northern California was not interested in prosecuting the dealer or his suppliers, so we arranged for the dealer to work with the California State Police.

They were able to successfully prosecute the suppliers with the cooperation of our dealer. Ironically it was the same US Attorney’s Office in California that later prosecuted the BALCO case and ardently prosecuted Barry Bonds for perjury related to his steroid use with minimal success and at great expense.

When our UCO ended, and we announced some of the federal indictments there was some local and national media coverage. We had hoped there would be more coverage. We wanted to send a message as deterrent to steroid traffickers and aspiring athletes. We tried to warn Major League Baseball in the summer of 1994 that they had a big steroid problem. For whatever reason, MLB ignored the warning.

We did have second thoughts about not prosecuting some of the players. As various steroid scandals became public, and Jose Canseco started outing himself and others, all of a sudden the media took an interest. Obviously, honing in on big names — even if they were really small fish in the scheme of things — created a buzz in the media.

Interestingly, Equine became more famous for having unsuccessfully warned MLB than for what we accomplished in prosecuting dealers. The reluctance of the Department of Justice and U.S. Attorney’s Offices to prosecute steroid cases including athletes /players was gone.

Oddly — or maybe not — it only seemed there was an interest in prosecuting players who were famous. Prosecutorial discretion seemed to have made a 180 degree shift at least in the Northern District of California.

The results of those big player prosecutions have been less than stellar. After a long protracted legal fight, Barry Bonds was tried for perjury and obstruction of justice, felonies. His use of steroids was a misdemeanor. He was convicted of one count of obstruction of justice.

I’m certain more money has been spent trying to prosecute Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens then we spent during the entire operational and prosecutorial phases of Equine even correcting for inflation. Oh yes, Clemens, who was accused of lying to Congress about his use of steroids. The prosecution screwed up and presented evidence the judge had barred — and the judge, Reggie Walton, declared a mistrial.

It’s unclear whether he’ll grant a new trial.

Don’t misunderstand me. The players use of steroids as performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) was nothing less than cheating and did grave if not irreparable damage to their sports.

In baseball the effect was so great that the 1990’s will forever be remembered as the steroid era. Further their use of steroids encouraged steroid use by young aspiring athletes sometimes with tragic results.

And perjury before a Grand Jury or Congress can not be ignored. But were the players placed in front of forums in the hope that they would lie so as to create a prosecutable felony that would ultimately stir up a lot of publicity?

Shouldn’t prosecutorial discretion apply if that lie is extremely difficult (read expensive) to prove? Prosecutions should not be based solely on a cost benefit analysis, but it should be a factor. Being cynical, I wonder how much consideration was given to the celebrity of the defendants and the media interest in the prosecutions.

I now have a renewed understanding of the wisdom of working up the food chain in drug investigations, no matter who the users are.

FBI Dir. Mueller, Steroids and Getting Stranded on 3rd Base

The author (right) Greg Stejskal and Michigan coach Bo Schembechler

By Greg Stejskal

I recently read the “Time” magazine profile of FBI Director Robert Mueller noting that his 10-year statutory term was coming to an end. It was mentioned that the Director is a big baseball fan especially of the Boston Red Sox. I have also read speculation about what may be in Dir. Mueller’s future, among other things, that he might be a possible replacement for Bud Selig as Major League Baseball (MLB) Commissioner. Apparently that may have to wait considering the White House has announced that it will ask Congress to extend Dir. Mueller’s tenure by 2 years.

I think there may be some irony in the mentioning of the director and the baseball commissioner job. Without spoiling the whole story, I just want to say maybe one day the director may want to offer me an apology.

It was mid-February, 2005, I was sitting in my office at the FBI Resident Agency in Ann Arbor, Mi., when I received a phone call from a couple of reporters from the “New York Daily News.”

They had been referred to me by Michael Leibson, an Assistant US Attorney in Detroit, who had prosecuted a steroid case with me about 10 years before. (It was actually many cases stemming from an undercover operation. Over 70 steroid dealers were convicted in the US and Canada.)

Let me back up even further. In 1989, Bo Schembechler, the football coach at the University of Michigan convinced me that anabolic steroids were a serious problem in high school and college football. (Not all steroids are anabolic, promoting muscle growth, but for simplicity I will refer to anabolic steroids as just steroids.)

Based on Bo’s concerns and some additional research, I proposed a limited undercover operation (UCO), to target the sale of illegal steroids, the first of its kind.

FBI headquarters begrudgingly authorized it (see my column, “FBI Probe into Illegal Steroids Broke New Ground” ).

What started as regional short-term investigation became a very successful international investigation, codenamed “ Equine”, that ran for over 3 years.

One of the dealers we prosecuted was Curtis Wenzlaff. He told us that he had supplied large amounts of steroids to players on the Oakland A’s baseball team; specifically Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire. The undercover operation ended in 1993, but prosecutions continued for a few years thereafter.

Jose Conseco/abc news

In August, 1994, I attended a sports presentation conference at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Va. (The sports presentation program had been established to train FBI agents to speak to college and pro teams about sports bribery and gambling. The presentations expanded into other topics over time.) Also in attendance at this conference were representatives from the NCAA, NFL, NBA, NHL and MLB. From the MLB the representative was Kevin Hallinan, MLB Director of Security.

Prior to this conference, I had written an article for the August, 1994, “FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin,” a national monthly magazine primarily distributed to law enforcement agencies.. The article, “They Shoot Horses Don’t They? Anabolic Steroids and Their Challenge to Law Enforcement,” was distributed to all the attendees at the conference.

That night many of the conference attendees had an informal session in the Board Room, the FBI Academy pub.

At that session Kevin Hallinan and I talked about steroids. I told Hallinan what Curtis Wenzlaff had told us about supplying steroids to players on the Oakland A’s including Jose Canseco, and my belief that steroid use was becoming pervasive in MLB as it had been in football. Hallinan said he had heard rumors of steroid use in MLB and that Canseco was one of the players alleged to be using.

Hallinan didn’t think there was much they could do as the players had rejected any efforts to require testing in the contract that had been negotiated following the strike. I told Hallinan to let me know if we could be of any assistance, but I never heard from him. In 2002, I did arrange through Hallinan to have Wenzlaff debriefed by one of Hallinan’s staff.

In the summer of 2004, I also arranged for Wenzlaff to testify before a Senate hearing regarding steroid use in sports, chaired by Senators Charles Grassley and Joseph Biden.

Christian Red from the “NY Daily News” interviewed Wenzlaff after the hearing. Wenzlaff told Red what he told us about supplying steroids to players on the Oakland As, principally Canseco, in the early 90’s. They asked if Wenzlaff had disclosed this information to the FBI. He told them he had, but he did not know whether the FBI had passed the information on to MLB.

Now back to 2005, my office in Ann Arbor and the phone call from Christian Red and T.J. Quinn (now with ESPN) of the Daily News. Red and Quinn told me they had been referred to me by Mike Leibson, the AUSA, who had prosecuted most of the Equine cases. They also told me about their interview of Wenzlaff. What they wanted to know was, had the FBI passed the Wenzlaff information on to MLB?

A moment of truth: I could have responded, “no comment”, but I knew that if I had, it would be thought that the FBI had not passed on the information.

Here was a situation where the FBI did the right thing. All the criminal cases arising from Equine had long since been adjudicated. (The usual reason for not commenting to the media is that it is inappropriate if a case(s) is being investigated or prosecuted.) So I said I had told MLB about Wenzlaff’s allegations.

I said in August, 1994, I had told the MLB’s Dir.of Security, Kevin Hallinan everything Wenzlaff had told us about his having supplied Canseco and other players on the Oakland A’s with steroids. (It wasn’t until after I had spoken to Hallinan that we learned from Wenzlaff that one of the other Oakland As players being supplied was Mark McGwire.)

The next day the fecal matter hit the air oscillating device as they say.

The front sports page of the Daily News read, “Agent: MLB turned blind eye to steroid warning 10 years ago. FBI says… THEY KNEW!” –over a full-page photo of MLB Commissioner Bud Selig, resting his head in his hand. The MLB Commissioner’s office was quick to respond by denying that I had ever warned them. In fact Kevin Hallinan claimed to not even know me.

I had no idea about the Daily News article until I started receiving calls from all over the country including from Mike Wallace from “60 Minutes.”

Then I received a call from my Assistant Special Agent in Charge (ASAC). The Detroit Special Agent in Charge (SAC), who happened to be in Washington at the time, had spoken to the Director (Robert Mueller).

I was instructed by the ASAC to make no further comments to the media. It would seem my 15 minutes of fame were over. I explained that I had not initiated any contact with the media and that the Daily News had been referred to me by the AUSA, who prosecuted the case.

My concern was having made a statement saying the FBI had warned MLB, would it now look like we were backing down in the face of MLB’s denials if the FBI made no further comment?

I did get a follow-up call from the Daily News. I told them I had been instructed not to make any further statements to the media.

Red & Quinn wanted to know if I was now retracting any part of my previous statements. I said I was not, and my reported quote was, “I don’t think I was off-base with anything I said….I hope the Bureau allows me to defend myself if necessary, but I’m not particularly worried. I can weather the storm.”

When Dir. Mueller told me to not talk to the media, (For the record, I have never met nor spoken to the Director, but was told that it was he.) I thought that maybe the FBI would support me. Instead the silence was deafening.

In the meantime the MLB continued to attack my veracity, but slowly over the next few days, they moved from complete denial to admitting, well maybe I had warned them.

The FBI never did provide any support for me or for my statement that the FBI had warned MLB about their steroid problem in 1994. It was gratifying to have others outside the Bureau go to bat for me (so to speak). Bo Schembechler told the Daily News, “If Greg Stejskal said it, that’s the way it is.” I can’t think of a better character reference than that.

I retired from the FBI in the fall of 2006, having served for almost 32 years. I never did hear from the Director although I was given a 6 month extension beyond my mandatory retirement date. The extension had to have been approved by the Director.

None of this is meant to demean the tenure of Dir. Mueller, but there are times when it is important to protect the reputation of the FBI and support the agents when they are fighting the good fight even if it means taking on institutions like MLB.

Maybe some day if Dir. Mueller does become Commissioner of MLB, he can send me an apology.