Betrayal: Whitey Bulger and the FBI Agent Who Fought to Bring Him Downby Robert Fitzpatrick, Jon Land
The Jack Nicholson film The Departed didn't tell half of their story. A poor kid from the slums, Robert Fitzpatrick grew up to become a stellar FBI agent and challenge the country's deadliest gangsters. Relentless in his desire to catch, prosecute, and convict Whitey Bulger, Fitzpatrick fought the nation's most determined cop-gangster battle since Melvin/i>
The Jack Nicholson film The Departed didn't tell half of their story. A poor kid from the slums, Robert Fitzpatrick grew up to become a stellar FBI agent and challenge the country's deadliest gangsters. Relentless in his desire to catch, prosecute, and convict Whitey Bulger, Fitzpatrick fought the nation's most determined cop-gangster battle since Melvin Purvis hunted, confronted, and killed John Dillinger.
In his crusade to bring Bulger to justice, Fitzpatrick faced not only Whitey but also corrupt FBI agents, along with political cronies and enablers from Boston to Washington who, in one way or another, blocked his efforts at every step. Even when Fitzpatrick discovered the very organization to which he had sworn allegiance was his biggest obstacle, the agent continued to pursue Whitey and his gang . . . knowing that they were prepared to murder anyone who got in their way.
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WASHINGTON, D.C., 1980
“Fitz,” Assistant Director Roy McKinnon said the day he summoned me to his office at headquarters in Washington in late 1980, “we need an Irishman to go to Boston to kick ass and take names.”
I laughed but he didn’t.
“Any suggestions?” he asked instead, staring me in the eye.
McKinnon was the ultimate straight shooter. He had a square jaw and wore his salt-and-pepper hair cropped military close. I seem to remember he’d been a Marine; either way, there was a directness of purpose about him befitting a military mind-set, right down to the orderly nature of his office, in which nothing, not even a single scrap of paper, was ever out of place. He told me the assignment was important for a variety of reasons. He sounded grave about my new adventure and talked about difficult problems in Boston without specifically outlining what those problems were. Right out of the gate, loud and clear, he ordered me to put Boston on the “straight and narrow.” My initial reaction was it sounded like déjà vu, having had an assignment in Miami in the mid-to-late 1970s where, in fact, I did kick ass and take names in the ABSCAM investigation that nabbed numerous public officials, including a sitting U.S. senator. ABSCAM was a sting operation that targeted corrupt politicians and possible law enforcement personnel. I supervised the sting undercover, getting targets, including Senator Harrison Williams (D-NJ), to implicate themselves on tape. It was, in all respects, the FBI at its best.
I was Miami’s Economic Crimes (EC) supervisor at the time and also worked undercover on our yacht, the Left Hand. I had procured the sixty-foot yacht from U.S. Customs, which had acquired the boat as part of their seizure in a major drug sting. We needed a “come-on” for our undercover gig and the Left Hand fit the bill beautifully. Before we docked the boat in Boca Raton, my squad cleaned it and installed surveillance equipment around the large foredeck, which was perfect for entertaining, and inside a trio of well-appointed cabins for private meetings. Soon, the Left Hand became an attraction and developed a notorious reputation in South Florida, fostered in large part by our undercover persona.
ABSCAM became the biggest case ever on the EC squad, recovering millions of dollars in fraudulent securities and various white-collar crime scams. We decided to have a final party and invited all of the criminals we had evidence on to attend. We equipped the boat with additional surveillance equipment and captured our future arrestees on tape. The “Sheik,” an undercover agent, was posing as the wealthiest person in Miami, a connected Arab. While I sat up in the control room with the Strike Force chief, we encountered a problem. Senator Williams had appeared and demanded that he be allowed to attend our party. We declined and he demanded to see the Sheik anyway.
Under orders from FBIHQ we were told in no way could the senator board the boat. The Strike Force chief insisted we finish the sting, but FBIHQ demanded we close the operation down. HQ’s concern was that allowing the senator to come aboard a boat laden with druggers, prostitutes, and criminals might be seen as a form of entrapment.
Afer much deliberation with FBIHQ, the FBI special agent who was playing the sheik, told me, “Bob, I won’t allow alcohol, drugs, or anything that could harm the senator aboard my boat!”
I laughed at him and said, “You’re crazy. What kind of party are we supposed to throw?”
He looked at me and, in the dignified role and manner of a true sheik, said, “I am the sheik and I won’t let it happen!”
The party went forward on the pretext its host, our undercover sheik, could not be in the presence of drugs or alcohol for Muslim religious reasons. The recorded conversation and surveillance tapes played at Harrison Williams’s trial dispelled any notion that we had entrapped the senator, and he was found guilty and convicted in federal court by his own voice. I took no pleasure in taking down a sitting U.S. senator; to me, he was a criminal who was extorting agents of the federal government sworn to uphold the law.
In this unique experence, I became no stranger to corruption, learning how to dig it out and destroy it. And that’s why I supposed I was being transferred to Boston.
Tom Kelly, my former boss in Miami and an FBIHQ deputy at the time, had filled McKinnon in on my experience in ABSCAM, making it plain that I had cleaned up Miami and could probably do the same in Boston. Contrary to what was apparently going wrong up there, a key factor in the decision to send me north was my ability to pursue investigations without anyone tipping off the press or the target. ABSCAM was successful because all FBI agents working for me diligently did their jobs of investigating high-ranking government officials in a major scam without a single leak. Not one.
I was on a career fast track, groomed, I anticipated, for even bigger things to come. Not bad for a kid who’d grown up in a church-run institution, an orphanage on Staten Island called Mount Loretto. But that’s where my dream, this very FBI dream, was born.
Copyright © 2011 by Robert Fitzpatrick and Jon Land
Meet the Author
ROBERT FITZPATRICK spent twenty-plus years as an FBI agent and chief in a career highlighted by his involvement in the Martin Luther King, Jr. killing and the ABSCAM investigation in Miami that resulted in the indictments of numerous public officials. He played a key role in the famed “Mississippi Burning” investigation and recovered the rifle that was used in the MLK assassination and that ultimately led to the arrest of James Earl Ray.
JON LAND is the critically acclaimed author of thirty novels, including the bestselling series featuring female Texas Ranger Caitlin Strong: Strong Enough to Die, Strong Justice, and Strong at the Break. He lives in Providence, Rhode Island.
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BETRAYAL: Whitey Bulger and the FBI Agent who Faught to Bring Him Down Reviewed by Russ Ilg Jon Land and Robert Fitzpatrick have combined to bring to paper the greatest “nonfiction novel” I have had the honor to read. The story of how the FBI protected and sheltered one of the most vicious and deranged killers in history is beyond what any fiction writer could scarcely imagine as a storyline and what Truman Capote had in mind when he coined the phrase in the wake of In Cold Blood. The story begins when Robert Fitzpatrick was transferred to the Boston Office of the FBI to do what he had done his whole career: close. And he was transferred to Boston to fix a broken office and reign in the problems there, just as he had done in Miami office with the ABSCAM investigation on top of his roles in the Martin Luther King Jr. assassination and civil rights murders and bombings in the 60s in Mississippi.† This book is such a page burner that I had to stop and see if the sun was still up. I simply could not put it down. It grabs you from page one and leads you on the ride of your life, and on that ride you will be brought to your knees in fear as to how corrupt the Justice Department and FBI were in this case. Officials in both simply sat back and allowed an Irish Boston gangster named Whitey Bulger to do whatever he wanted as long as they thought he was giving them info on New England’s Italian mob. And Bulger played them to the very end. This will go down as one of the blackest eyes the FBI has ever received, Through his tireless work, Robert Fitzpatrick tried to make everyone up to the assistant director and head of the Organized Crime unit in Washington understand that they were being conned by one of the greatest con men in history. †The FBI was so sure that Whitey Bulger was giving them what they needed they did everything they could to stop Agent Fitzpatrick from doing his job to the point that he finally had to leave the only life he had known and loved and respected and honored his whole career.† The recent capture of Bulger in June did not at all close one of the darkest chapters in the storied history of the FBI. Soon he will go on trial for at least nineteen murders, most of which were committed while working for the FBI and at least a dozen after Fitzpatrick recommended his tenure as an informant be ended. The Bureau did serve up one of Whitey's handlers, John Connolly, who was convicted and sent to prison for accepting bribes and, more recently, accessory to the murder of one Fitzpatrick’s own informants who could have given Bulger up once and for all. This book is a huge read, providing an inside look as to how bad things can get and how many people’s lives are thrown away toward what is believed to be the greater good. Some reports link Bulger to over forty murders in total—think about the national manhunts that have been authorized for far, far less than that.†The great part is that after reading the book you’ll be primed to follow the next chapter in this true story in what promises to be one of the highest profile murder trials in Massachusetts history when Whitey’s day of reckoning finally comes in April. I had the great honor of speaking to Robert Fitzpatrick for about thirty minutes on the phone and learned even more of the inside story and also the fact that for quite awhile after leaving the FBI he was in constant fear for his life. The fact that this novel-like tale is real, that it actually h
OK, so I'm biased - I live in a Dept of Justice law enforcement family. Having said that, Mr Fitzpatrick needs vindication!! This explains so very much of the B.S. that went on in my early career - you know the kind: whispers that suddenly quiet, furtive looks, inexplicable memos.... Everyone knows Whitey was a Fed; the confusion was who was on whose dole! Having been in the same situation (albeit with lesser stakes), it takes a lot to stand up to the establishment. You risk your career, your retirement, your very soul. Mr Fitzpatrick should know 2 things: 1) they'll never take away your integrity; 2) why did no one tell you about the Dept of Labor and the WHISTLEBLOWER ACT??? It protects even we Dept of Justice employees! JG will never sleep soundly again - but you will. God Bless you!!
In my opinion the evidence presented here just concluded Bulgers trial. No need to go any further and waste tax payers money. Tried and convicted.
This is an incredible look inside the inner workings of the Boston office of the FBI and the nefarious relationship that developed with members of the Winter Hill Gang. While proporting to be fighting the crimes of the Italian Mafia the FBI protected the Irish Mafia to the extent of providing cover for all manner of crimes, including murder. This is a sad indictment of our law enforcement system (especially the FBI) and the handling of informants. A well written and fast paced novel that will keep you shaking your head throughout.
Good read but obviously bitter. Would like to know why customer book reviews are being deleted or censored under Tom Foley's book "Most Wanted"?