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stejskalGreg Stejskal served as an FBI agent for 31 years and retired as resident agent in charge of the Ann Arbor office.

 

 

 

 

 

 

HBO Docu-drama Makes Me Think How Bo Schembechler Would Have Handled the Penn State Scandal

HBO has produced a docu-drama about Joe Paterno & the Jerry Sandusky/Penn State scandal starring Al Pacino as Paterno. This column first ran in 2012 and is a summary of what the investigation of the scandal revealed and poses the question, how Bo Schembechler would have dealt with the Sandusky and the scandal.

The author (right) Greg Stejksal and late Michigan coach Bo Schembechler

By Greg Stejskal
ticklethewire.com

Last November I wrote a column about how I thought legendary Michigan football coach Bo Schembechler would have handled the Penn State scandal.

Since then Joe Paterno was fired and subsequently died from cancer. Jerry Sandusky was convicted of 46 of 48 counts of sexual child abuse involving 10 boys.

Now the results of an independent investigation, the Freeh report, have been released.

As I had speculated in my column, Joe Paterno knew of allegations of Sandusky’s sexual child abuse as early as 1998. He apparently forced Sandusky to “retire” from the PSU coaching staff (after the 1999 season), but gave him a unique severance package including $168,000 and the designation Assistant Professor Emeritus – thus, allowing Sandusky continued, unrestricted access to Penn State athletic facilities.

This makes Paterno’s actions and inaction in 2002 all the more indefensible. When confronted with an eyewitness account of Sandusky sexually abusing a child in a shower at the PSU football facility, Paterno passed the report to his superiors.

Not Report It 

But rather than actively pursue it, Paterno counseled that the allegations not be reported to law enforcement or child welfare services.

Paterno was an active participant in the cover-up. Then he lied about it under oath.

I am more certain now that faced with the situation that occurred at Penn State, Bo Schembechler would have handled it differently from the beginning, and it would not have ended like this.

Here is the column as it appeared last November:

“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.

All About Honor

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 and was 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.

What Bo Schembechler Would Have Done 

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.

Tell The FBI

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.

 

 


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I Stand By My Critique of the Discovery Channel Series on the Unabomber

Greg Stejskal served as an FBI agent for 31 years and retired as resident agent in charge of the Ann Arbor office. He wrote two critiques (1 and 2)  of the Discovery Channel series, “Manhunt Unabomber,” in which he criticized the way FBI agent Jim Fitzgerald was portrayed as having a much bigger role in the Unabomber case than he actually did.  Fitzgerald, who is now retired responded that he had a bigger role than Stejskal acknowledged and that the show also took artistic license to make him look as if he did more than he actually did. This is Stejskal’s response to Fitzgerald’s column. 

By Greg Stejskal
ticklethewire.com

I wasn’t going to respond to Jim Fitzgerald’s recent rebuttal to my two critiques of the Discovery Channel series, “Manhunt-Unabomber,” but Mr. Fitzgerald personally called me out and seemingly questioned my voracity.

Theodore Kaczynski (FBI photo)

“In closing, one doesn’t have to be a criminal profiler or forensic linguist to realize that Stejskal’s continued silence regarding his alleged sources speaks volumes regarding what he wrote about me. Quite frankly, it speaks volumes about him, too.”

First, I stand by everything I wrote in those two critiques. As for my sources, they were all longtime members of the Unabomber Task Force. Several of them were in leadership roles. (Since writing the critiques, I have heard from other members of the UTF thanking me for writing them – none have challenged the accuracy of what I wrote.)

Fitzgerald has questioned what, if any, was my role in the Unabomber investigation. I was the case agent on the James McConnell bombing. University of Michigan Professor McConnell was the tenth victim of the Unabomber/Kaczynski in 1985. My involvement in the investigation continued through the identification, arrest and prosecution of Kaczynski. I have never claimed to be any thing more than a member of the investigative team.

In Fitzgerald’s rebuttal, he suggests that I don’t understand the concepts of dramatic license or the use of a composite character. I addressed the use of dramatic license in my first critique.

James Fitzgerald

I do understand the need to sometimes use a composite character to simplify the plot and/or make a more compelling story. But I am admittingly confused why the composite character in the Unabomber series bears the name of Jim Fitzgerald which in effect gives the Fitzgerald character credit for the work of other agents. In the series no other agents’ true names were used. Several of those agents had far more involvement in key aspects of the investigation than did Fitzgerald. (Fitzgerald was a paid consultant for the series and involved in promoting the series when it first aired in the summer of 2017.)

I will again quote one of my personal heroes, Bo Schembechler, legendary Michigan Football Coach:

“No man is greater than the team, no coach is greater than the team; the team, the team, the team.”


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The Unabomber and I Agree on One Thing: The Discovery Channel Series Was Chock Full of Inaccuracies

Theodore Kaczynski (FBI photo)

By Greg Stejskal
ticklethewire.com

A few months ago, I wrote a critique of the Discovery Channel series, “Manhunt: Unabomber.” My concern shared by a number of agents that were on the Unabom Task Force was that the series portrayed a minor player on the UTF, Jim Fitzgerald, as the agent who broke the case and was involved in key aspects of the investigation. None of which was true. The series then built on that fiction by depicting a relationship between Fitzgerald and the Unabomber/Ted Kaczynski that never happened. *

Now, it seems that Ted Kaczynski is also critical of the Discovery Channel series, and in a weird twist Kaczynski cites my critique to bolster his position.

Kaczynski was responding to a letter he received from a woman (I will call her Jane Doe.) asking him about certain aspects of the Unabomber series. Jane sent the letter to Kaczynski at the federal maximum-security penitentiary at Florence, Colorado, where he is incarcerated.  Specifically, Jane’s inquiry was about the series indicating that Kaczynski’s criminal activity was at least in part due to Kaczynski’s participation in a psychological study while an undergrad at Harvard in 1959. According to the TV series, the study at Harvard was part of a secret CIA project code named MK Ultra.

Mind Control Program

MK Ultra was a CIA program initiated in 1953 to develop techniques and drugs to be used for interrogation to elicit information and/or confessions through “mind control.” The program was a response to Soviet, Chinese and North Korean use of mind-control techniques (also referred to as brainwashing) on US prisoners during the Korean War – the “Manchurian Candidate” phenomenon. **

Much is still not known about the MK Ultra project as many records were destroyed. It is known that the project involved about 80 institutions in Canada and the US including at least 44 colleges and universities, also some hospitals and prisons. Some of the institutions were not aware of that the CIA was sponsoring the studies. The CIA used front organizations to hide their involvement.

Some of the participants weren’t even aware they were participating in a study. This was especially true in the project’s efforts to develop mind-controlling drugs. LSD was one of the main drugs experimented with and sometimes administered without the subjects’ knowledge.

One of the CIA’s primary concerns was that there were “moles,” double agents, controlled by the Soviets within the US’ and its allies’ intelligence services. There was a fixation on developing techniques and drugs that could be used to elicit the truth from suspected moles or their handlers.

It has been theorized and the Discovery Channel Unabomber series portrays as fact that the personality study that Kaczynski participated in at Harvard which was supervised by Professor Henry A. Murray was part of the MK Ultra project. This study, it is alleged, was so traumatizing that it resulted in psychological damage to Kaczynski which led to his later criminal acts.

Professor Murray used 22 Harvard undergrads in his study including Kaczynski. The studies were controversial and, among other things, were designed to measure people’s reactions under extreme stress. This had the legitimate goal of trying to determine what personality traits are most beneficial in dealing with stress. Consequentially, a large portion of Murray’s study involved the use of personality traits questionnaires. (Prof. Murray was one of the pioneers in developing the ubiquitous personality questionnaires, e.g., would you rather be in a room full of people or in the woods by yourself.)

There does not seem to be any evidence that Prof. Murray’s studies were connected to the CIA MK Ultra project although Prof. Murray did work with the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) during World War II, helping to produce a psychological profile of Adolph Hitler. The OSS became the CIA after the War.

But even if Prof. Murray’s studies were part of the MK Ultra project, Kaczynski in his response to Jane Doe’s letter debunks the theory that his participation in the study caused such psychological damage to him that it resulted in his serial bombings.

Kaczynski’s Letter 

This is a portion of Kaczynski’s letter addressing the Discovery Channel Unabomber series:

“From several people I’ve received letters concerning that Discovery Channel series about me, and it’s clear from their letters that the Discovery series is even worse than most of the other media stories about me. In fact, the greater part of it is pure fiction. Among other things, they apparently passed on to their viewers the tale through the agency of Harvard professor H. A. Murray I was repeatedly “tortured” as part of the an “MK-Ultra” mind-control program conducted by the CIA. The truth is that in the course of the Murray study there was one and only one unpleasant experience. It lasted about half an hour and could not have been described as “torture” even in the loosest sense of the word. Mostly the Murray study consisted of interviews and the filling-out of pencil-and-paper personality tests. The CIA was not involved.

“Since people may find it difficult to believe that the media would broadcast such a conglomeration of outright lies, I’m sending you herewith a copy of an article by FBI agent Greg Stejskal in which Stejskal confirms that the greater part of the Discovery series is fiction. Stejskal’s purpose is to defend the honor of the FBI, not to tell the truth about Ted Kaczynski (in fact, not all of his statements about me are strictly accurate), but the fact that Discovery lied about the FBI investigation should make it easier for people to believe that they lied about me too.”

It is an interesting and sort of tantalizing theory that a CIA mind-control project caused Kaczynski’s later criminal acts – he became a “Manchurian Candidate” run amuck. But Kaczynski dispels that whole notion.

Kaczynski already provided the reasoning and motivation behind his bombings in his 35,000-word manifesto.

For the record I’m ambivalent about being in common cause with Ted Kaczynski regarding the factual accuracy of the Discovery Channel Unabomber series, but in a sense, we both have an interest in protecting the integrity of the historical record.

** The Manchurian Candidate, a 1959 novel, by Richard Condon adapted into a movie in 1962 and again in 2004. It’s a political thriller about a soldier in the Korean War who while a POW through various mind control techniques used by the Soviets and Chinese is turned into an unwitting assassin for a communist conspiracy in the U.S.


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What the Discovery Channel Gets Wrong In Its Series on the Unabomber

By Greg Stejskal
ticklethewire.com

The Discovery Channel TV series, “Manhunt Unabomber,” disrespects achievements of  the “Unabom” investigation by creating a predominantly fictionalized story.

Theodore Kaczynski (FBI photo)

Theodore Kaczynski (FBI photo)

One of the shows I watched in my youth was “The Untouchables.” I was about ten when it premiered in 1959 on TV, and it was one the things that inspired me to want to be a G-man. The first episodes of “The Untouchables” were based on Eliot Ness’ book by the same name that he wrote with Oscar Fraley a sportswriter. (The book was published in 1957 less than a year after Ness’ death.) Those early episodes closely followed the book and were presented as a true story. It is very good story – a crusading lawman puts together a team, a group of incorruptible agents who take on Chicago’s biggest crime lord, the ruthless Al Capone, and topple his empire that was built on the manufacture and sale of beer and liquor during prohibition.

The problem is some of the key parts of the story aren’t true.

The Untouchables didn’t topple Capone. They did raid and destroy some of Capone’s distilleries and breweries. This diminished Capone’s bootleg income and inconvenienced him financially, but it was the IRS agents working with the U.S. Attorney’s Office that toppled Capone. The IRS agents and U.S. attorneys built a strong tax evasion case against Capone independent of Ness and the Untouchables. Capone was convicted of five counts of tax evasion and no violations of the Volstead Act (the illegal manufacture and/or sale of alcohol for consumption). Capone was sentenced to 11 years, most of which he served at Alcatraz off the coast of San Francisco.

Ness Never Met Capone

Unlike the TV series or the subsequent movie, which was even more fictionalized, Ness and Capone never met. There was no dramatic confrontation.

Ness and Fraley in writing the book embellished the truth regarding Ness’ role in the demise of the Capone empire, and the TV series that followed solidified that fiction. Those IRS agents and US attorneys who successfully prosecuted Capone are forgotten. (For the record, the Chicago U.S. attorney who prosecuted Capone was George E.Q. Johnson, and the lead IRS agent was Frank Wilson – lest we forget.)

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That brings me to a series currently running on the Discovery Channel about the “Unabom” investigation. The show makes the usual claim/disclaimer that it’s based on a true story. Unfortunately, it’s more fiction than truth. The series makes a large departure from the truth – it portrays a minor player on the Unabom Task Force (UTF), Jim Fitzgerald, as the investigator who broke the case and was involved in key aspects of the case. It then builds on that fiction by depicting a relationship between the Unabomber/Ted Kaczynski and Fitzgerald that never happened.

The Unabom (FBI shorthand for University and Airline Bomber) investigation began in 1978 with the first bomb and continued until the Unabomber was identified, arrested and prosecuted in 1998. (The last bombing was in 1995.) The investigation was the longest and most expensive in FBI history. Many people were involved in the investigation from different agencies. Some spent a substantial portion of their careers on the investigation. All kinds of investigative techniques were utilized, huge data bases were built and countless leads were followed only to what seemed to be dead ends.

In the later years, a Unabom Task Force was formed in San Francisco. The lead agency was the FBI, but there were representatives from the U.S. Postal Inspectors and the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms (ATF). San Francisco had been the mailing origin for some of the later bombs, and the San Francisco Chronicle was one of the newspapers that Unabomber had chosen to communicate through with law enforcement.

Finally, the big break came when the Unabomber claimed that he would discontinue his use of bombings to kill if his 35,000-word manifesto were printed in a major newspaper. (He did reserve the right to commit acts of sabotage without targeting people.) It was decided that the publication could lead to identifying the Unabomber, but a major newspaper had to be persuaded to publish it.

The Attorney General, Janet Reno, the then Director of the FBI, Louie Freeh, the San Francisco Special Agent in Charge, Jim Freeman, the Assistant SAC, Terry Turchie and Kathy Puckett, an FBI agent and a member of the UTF with a psychology background (PhD), met with and persuaded the very reluctant editors of the NY Times and the Washington Post to publish the manifesto. It was decided that the Post would publish the manifesto in its entirety, and the newspapers agreed to share the immense cost of the publication. (Jim Fitzgerald had no part in this process.)

Publication Triggers Suspicions

The publication led to David Kaczynski and his wife’s realization that David’s brother, Ted, was probably the Unabomber. (David’s wife had suspected that Ted was the Unabomber for a while.) They reached this conclusion by comparing some of Ted’s early writings with the manifesto.

Through their attorney they communicated their conclusion to the UTF.  When members of the UTF saw Ted Kaczynski’s early writings and compared them to the manifesto, most if not all of them thought they were written by the same person. No special analytical technique was necessary. (Jim Fitzgerald was not the first one to make this determination. He reached the same conclusion as did most of the other members of the UTF.)

David Kaczynski’s attorney told the UTF that Ted was living in a small cabin in Lincoln, Montana. A surveillance was quickly begun of Ted in Lincoln. Various UTF members and other agents were infiltrated into Lincoln using assumed identities. At the same time, investigation and interviews were conducted in all the locations where Ted had lived and gone to school.

All this information was analyzed and put together for a search warrant affidavit establishing probable cause to search Ted’s cabin. After the surveillance had been ongoing for about six weeks, the search warrant affidavit was presented to a local federal magistrate who issued the search warrant. A ruse was developed to get Ted to come out of his cabin, and the cabin was searched.

The search found: bomb making materials; voluminous incriminating documents including an original draft of the manifesto and a coded diary confessing to all of the bombings; the typewriter used to type the manifesto and a fully constructed bomb ready to be sent – the bomb was designed as an anti-personal bomb, despite Ted’s promise not to kill.

Post Arrest 

After Ted’s arrest, he was interviewed by Postal Inspector Paul Wilhelmus and FBI agent Max Noel. Both had been involved in the Unabom investigation for years. Ted did not confess, but after what was found in the cabin, it wasn’t necessary. (Jim Fitzgerald was never in Lincoln during the search of the cabin and the arrest of Ted. Consequently, he had no part in the search nor the interview.)

Like Eliot Ness, who never met Al Capone, Jim Fitzgerald never met Ted Kaczynski.

Much later Jim Fitzgerald in an interview with Newsweek, implied that his “forensic linguistic analysis” identified Ted Kaczynski as the Unabomer. In the Newsweek piece, that identification is referred to as a “defining moment in Fitzgerald’s career” – no such moment occurred.

I realize that the Discovery Unabomber series is a dramatization not a documentary, and it’s difficult to make a long often tedious investigation into a compelling story. But that’s not an excuse to make a minor member of a team who was only on the team for a matter of months into the star player who won the game. I’m not sure why the writers took this tack, and I don’t do screen plays, but maybe an ensemble cast of unique characters would have worked. That’s what the task force was – kind of like the movie, “Spotlight.”

The Unabom investigation is a great story and can be told without embellishing the minimal role of one agent in the investigation and thereby diminishing all those that contributed to a monumental team effort.

As the legendary Michigan football coach Bo Schembechler said:

“No man is greater than the team; no coach is greater than the team; the team, the team, the team.”


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Hunting for The Joker

By Greg Stejskal
ticklethewire.com

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In the Spring of 1989, a drama fraught with irony began playing out in Austria. A Jewish American family, a mother and her two grown sons, were fighting extradition to the US. About 50 years before, Jewish families were desperately trying to leave Austria for safe havens like the U.S.

The subjects of the extradition were Linda Leary and sons, Paul and Richard Heilbrunn. They fled to Austria from Indiana in anticipation of an indictment that was returned by a Federal Grand Jury in November, 1987. The indictment ran 136 pages and contained 53 counts variously charging 34 people. Paul and Richard were specifically charged with running a massive marijuana smuggling and distribution operation, legally termed a “Continuing Criminal Enterprise” (CCE). According to the indictment the ring operated from 1975 to 1985. It distributed more than 150,000 lbs. and took in more than $50 million in cash. The figures were subsequently revised upward to 250,000 lbs. and $50 to $100 million. It would prove to be the biggest marijuana ring ever prosecuted by the US.

Paul Heilbrunn was characterized as the ring leader of the enterprise. Testimony later depicted him as both respected and feared. He was referred to as “Melech,” Hebrew for king. Although Paul was a high school dropout, he was by all accounts a brilliant businessman. Prior to the indictment, he was believed to be a successful commodities trader in Indianapolis and wrote a column on trading for the local newspaper. He was a bon vivant who favored three-piece suits, frequented the finest restaurants and drove a top of the line BMW. He on several occasions rented jets and flew his friends to such events as the Super Bowl and the NCAA basketball finals.

His older brother, Richard, on the other hand was described as a big Teddy bear. He lived on a farm and usually wore flannel shirts and jeans. Richard supervised operations while Paul was the CEO.

Their mother, Linda Leary, was twice married and divorced. She had kept the name of her second husband. Leary was prominent in the Indianapolis community. She was the head of the Indiana League of Women Voters and president of the local chapter of the National Council of Jewish Women.

Leary was also involved in her sons’ business ventures. An early venture was dubbed Heilbrunn and Friends, ostensibly it was a health food distribution business -a good front for marijuana distribution. The “friends” were high school buddies who had setup marijuana sales networks at colleges they attended. But soon the network was supplying customers outside the campuses in eleven Midwestern states. Most of the marijuana came by ship from Columbia, Jamaica and Thailand – an exotic global operation. It was then trucked to Indiana where it was stored in barns that were owned or rented by the Heilbrunn organization.

Paul Heilbrunn had structured the organization so that information stovepiped, that is, information moved up and down, but only flowed between members as was necessary. This limited what any member could divulge should they choose to cooperate with law enforcement.

Paul also had attorneys set up offshore corporations in the Bahamas and Panama to launder the proceeds from the marijuana operation. Linda Leary was designated as the head of several of these corporations. Much of the laundered money was transferred back into the US and used to fund loans often for Indiana businesses.

In the present the paradigm has changed – now with so many states legalizing marijuana, it’s almost like looking back on prohibition. The Heilbrunns and their cohorts weren’t protesting the illegality of marijuana. Rather like the bootleggers, they were taking advantage of a restricted market. They could set the price, had little competition and the profits were tax free.

The Beginning of the End of The Empire

The beginning of the end for the Heilbrunn empire occurred when in 1983 a cocaine dealer was arrested. The dealer had previously worked for the Heilbrunns, but had been let go for drug use. He offered to tell what he knew about the Heilbrunn operation as part of plea bargain. There is no honor among thieves and little to none among drug dealers.

After the arrest of the cocaine dealer, law enforcement meticulously put together a case against the Heilbrunn organization which culminated in the 1987 federal indictment. Most of the 34 people charged were known to the federal grand jury that returned the indictment with the notable exception of one indictee who was referred to as “John Doe, also known as the Joker” like Batman’s nemesis. There were also two female subordinates to the Joker – named as Jane Does, aka, “Tipper and Topper.” (This probably was a disappointment to comic book purists who were anticipating a female code name like Catwoman.)

While the Heilbrunns were fighting extradition, most of the indictees were prosecuted and convicted. Some cooperated and agreed to testify against others including the Heilbrunns. In one of the co-conspirator’s trial, there was testimony about the Joker. He was depicted as “Paul Heilbrunn’s trusted and valued peer,” whose Michigan based operation did business with Heilbrunn and his associates. But no one in the Heilbrunn organization other than Paul himself seemed to know Joker’s true identity.

One person in the Joker’s organization had been identified and prosecuted for having stored a 40,000 lb. load purchased by the Joker from Heilbrunn. That person was James Shedd who owned a barn in Ypsilanti Twp. just southeast of Ann Arbor where the load was stored. (Shedd had also previously been the manager of the Sidetrack Bar, a locally famous and historical place in Ypsilanti.) Shedd had refused a plea deal and would not identify the Joker. That stand may have been based more on compensation from the Joker than honor.

It became a personal challenge for me to identify the Joker. It was a matter of pride. The Joker was a huge marijuana dealer who had been operating in my territory with impunity.

There was an individual who had become disenchanted with the Joker’s enterprise and reportedly had a falling out. I decided to see what if anything I could learn from him that might identify the Joker.

Over the next several months, we periodically met for coffee. We talked about a lot of things: sports, politics and although nothing specific was discussed, drugs. Slowly I gained his trust. I explained to him I would never disclose his identity, and any information he provided would be reported in such a way as to not divulge his identity. At no time did he ask me about any payment for information nor did I offer him any compensation. We both understood if he were to provide information, it would be because it was the right thing to do.

We began to discuss some specific things regarding marijuana distribution in Michigan. In early 1989, I asked him if he could help me identify the Joker. His reply was, yes, he could help – he could tell me who the Joker was – he was James Hill.

I immediately began to investigate James Hill. I found that James F. Hill owned a house in an affluent part of Ann Arbor. He also owned a business in Ann Arbor, an ice cream shop on Main Street, “The Lovin’ Spoonful.” And he owned and lived on an 80-acre farm just west of Ann Arbor. Hill had a master’s degree from the University of Chicago. Hill had no criminal record except he had been arrested for a traffic violation in 1973. It was nothing serious, but there was an arrest photo.

I sent a copy of the photo to Indianapolis, and after seeing the photo several of cooperating witnesses identified James Hill as the person they knew as the Joker.

The FBI Ann Arbor Office

Indianapolis obtained an arrest warrant for Hill, aka, the Joker. Early the next morning we set up an arrest team at Hill’s farm. When he was observed leaving the farm, we arrested him and took him to the Ann Arbor FBI office. I explained to Hill that he had been identified as the Joker in a federal indictment from Indiana charging him with multiple drug trafficking violations, and he would be taken to Detroit to be arraigned. He would likely remain in custody until he was transported to Indianapolis. He didn’t really question anything and seemed to have expected to be arrested. He indicated he would be cooperative, but he didn’t want to be interviewed until he got to Indianapolis.

When the media learned of Hill/the Joker’s arrest at the arraignment, they wanted to know how he had been identified. Rather than say nothing and encourage speculation, I made a statement that one of the cooperating witnesses in Indiana had identified him which was partially true.

Hill was removed to Indiana and did cooperate. Tipper and Topper were identified as sisters, Jennifer and Patricia Hanlon of Ann Arbor. They later pleaded guilty and were each sentenced to six years.

In late 1989, the Heilbrunns lost their two-year fight against extradition and were returned to the US.

In  October 1990, Hill pleaded guilty and agreed to testify against the Heilbrunns. In his plea agreement, Hill admitted to having received several 1,200 to 2,000 lb. shipments of marijuana starting in 1976. Then between March and November 1985, Hill received marijuana shipments of 18,000 lbs., 20,000 lbs., 40,000 lbs. and a pair of 2,000 lb. loads from the Heilbrunn organization. Hill said he made his last payment to Heilbrunn in 1986. By then he had paid the Heilbrunn organization about $20 million for more than 100,000 lbs. marijuana.

James Hill was sentenced to 20 years. Because he had pleaded to having run a Continuing Criminal Enterprise all of his assets were subject to forfeiture. The US District Court Judge said that Hill would have received harsher punishment if not for his cooperation.

In January 1991, Linda Leary also pleaded guilty and agreed to testify against her sons. She was subsequently sentenced to nine years.

There was no trial of the Heilbrunns. Paul and Richard pleaded guilty in April, and in July 1991, they were sentenced. Richard got 13 years. Paul, the King, who had also pleaded to CCE, received 28 years. Thus, ended the Heilbrunn empire.

To my knowledge no one ever learned the identity of the source who identified the Joker.

 

 


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The Abduction of GM Executive’s Son Shows Kidnapping Doesn’t Pay

Greg Stejskal was an FBI agent for 31 years and retired as resident agent in charge of the Ann Arbor office.

Greg Stejskal
ticklethewire.com

I was one of more than a dozen FBI agents assigned to surveillance on Braeburn Circle on Ann Arbor’s south side. After a few hours, agent Stan Lapekas, suggested we look in a Dumpster at the townhouse complex for possible evidence. The Dumpster was inside a wood fence enclosure in the parking lot, and we couldn’t be seen from the outside.

After only a few minutes, a car drove in and parked next to the gate. I peeked out and realized the driver was the man we were looking for — a suspect in the kidnapping of the son of a prominent General Motors executive.

In 1975, my first year assigned to the FBI’s Detroit Division, Michigan had four kidnappings. The one everyone remembers is Jimmy Hoffa, a kidnapping/murder that remains unsolved. The other three were kidnappings for ransom.

Ransom kidnappings still happen frequently in areas where law enforcement is weak or corrupt, including parts of the Middle East, Africa, and Latin America. They were once common in the U.S., too. In Public Enemies, America’s Greatest Crime Wave and the Birth of the FBI, 1933-34, Bryan Burrough writes that for some of the notorious gangs of the era, kidnapping was the crime of choice. John Dillinger’s gang specialized in bank robbery, but the Barker/Karpis gang preferred kidnapping. The two gangs were so successful at their respective specialties that Congress made bank robbery and kidnapping federal crimes, empowering the FBI to investigate them.


Bob Stempel

The 1932 statute that gives the FBI jurisdiction in kidnapping cases is called the “Lindbergh Law.” There was a proliferation of high-profile kidnappings in the U.S. during the 1930s, but none was more famous than the abduction of Charles Lindbergh Jr., the toddler son of Charles and Anne Lindbergh, in May of that year.

Kidnapping for ransom, out of necessity, requires a victim who is of wealth or has some access to wealth. Not only were the Lindberghs rich, but  Charles may have been the most famous and beloved person in America at the time.

The Lindbergh baby was found dead after a ransom payment, and the crime took several years to solve. Tracking the cash finally led authorities to carpenter Bruno Richard Hauptmann. He was convicted in 1935 and executed a year later.

The Lindbergh Law relies on a presumption that any kidnapping involves interstate commerce. It is a rebuttable presumption, but allows the FBI to investigate a kidnapping without having to first establish some interstate aspect. And so it was that Stan Lapekas and I came to be hiding out by the Dumpster at University Townhouses in November 1975.

Four days earlier, 13-year-old Tim Stempel had been snatched in Bloomfield Township.

Tim was the son of Bob Stempel, a GM vice president on track to become CEO. Stempel received calls at home from the kidnappers, who wanted $150,000. They told him not to go to the police, but Stempel contacted GM security, who in turn contacted the police and the FBI.

Kidnapping a Rich Kid 

Tim had been kidnapped by Darryl Wilson and Clinton Williams, who had decided that a moneymaking project would be to grab a rich family’s kid and hold him for ransom.

They had no specific victim in mind when they drove to the high-income neighborhoods of Bloomfield Township. They passed on a few potential victims for various reasons — playing too close to a house, too young.

Then they spotted Tim Stempel skateboarding. Williams asked the teenager for directions to someone’s house. Tim said he didn’t know the person and started to walk away. Williams pulled a handgun and told him to get in the car.

The boy hit Williams with the skateboard, but Williams tackled him and struck him several times in the head. Williams and Wilson then blindfolded their victim and placed him in the backseat.

They drove to the Ann Arbor townhouse on Braeburn where Williams was staying and transferred the boy to the car’s trunk, where he would remain for 50-some hours. Williams then called Bob Stempel to announce that they had his son. He said he would call back later with instructions.

The police and FBI committed hundreds of officers and agents to the investigation. It was designated a “special” by FBI headquarters; all hands on deck. But it had to be done in such a way as to not alert the kidnappers. The paramount goal in any kidnapping investigation, obviously, is the safe return of the victim.

Stempel got additional calls Nov. 11 and 12. Ultimately he was instructed to go to an empty lot behind a roller skating rink in Inkster. He was to leave the money there, and he would be contacted about his son’s release.

The evening of the “drop,” it was pouring rain. Efforts were made to watch the ransom package, but because of the location and the weather, it was impossible without taking the chance of alerting the kidnappers. The package was retrieved, but whoever made the pickup was not seen. Night vision equipment would have been helpful but was not yet available.

Within a few hours, Tim was released near the drop site.


Darryl Wilson and Clinton Williams in court

An Apparel Store 

Initially there were no suspects, but because much of the activity had occurred in Inkster and nearby, neighborhood investigations were conducted, including a canvass of businesses and homes to determine if anyone had noticed relevant activity.

At an apparel store within a block of the roller rink, an agent learned that two men had spent several hundred dollars in cash for clothes. The serial numbers on the cash matched the numbers recorded from some of the ransom money, and the men who bought the clothes were identified.

The men were interviewed. They said they had driven two other men to the roller rink to pick up the cash. They assumed it contained drug money and accepted several thousand dollars for their trouble.

They identified one of the men as Darryl Wilson and said he lived in Ann Arbor. They didn’t know his address, but an investigation determined that he lived on Braeburn with a relative. A surveillance was set up, and the car used in the kidnapping was found.

That was where things stood when Stan Lapekas and I decided to inspect the Dumpster and Wilson drove up. As soon as he exited the car, Lapekas and I grabbed him and placed him in our backseat, with us sitting very close on each side.

We acted as if we already knew everything but wanted to give him an opportunity to tell his side of the story. After we read him his rights, he almost immediately confessed and gave up his accomplice, Clinton Williams.

We hadn’t had Williams’ name. Wilson also told us where Williams lived. I got several other agents and drove to Williams’ home and arrested him.

Williams also confessed. He told us he had threatened Tim Stempel with a handgun and hit him several times. He said they had kept the boy in the car trunk for over two days. He also said he had called the Stempel home from a pay phone in Inkster.

At Wilson’s apartment, we found $137,000 of the ransom.

L. Brooks Patterson Gets Involved 

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The case and subsequent trial became a bit of a media circus. There was no interstate aspect of the kidnapping that would trigger federal charges, so it was prosecuted in state court in Oakland County. County prosecutor L. Brooks Patterson handled the case. (He would later run for governor, and was just re-elected to his seventh term as the Oakland County executive.)

Because of the media attention, the trial was moved to Leelenau County, in the northwest Lower Peninsula. On the first day of trial, Patterson suspected that Wilson and Williams might be planning to enter a plea, so he put Tim Stempel on the stand.

While locked in the trunk of the car, Tim had carved his name on the inside of the trunk lid with a broken piece of a hacksaw blade he found in the trunk — an ingenious act. Patterson introduced the trunk lid as evidence. He then had me testify to get Williams’ confession on the record with all the damning admissions. The next day, Wilson and Williams entered guilty pleas.

We investigated other kidnappings for ransom in the Detroit Division during my 30-plus years there, but I’m not aware of any that succeeded. All the kidnappers were prosecuted.

In two instances, although a ransom was paid, the victims were murdered. In both those cases, the kidnappers never had any intention of releasing the victims.

In the latter years of my career, there were no kidnappings for ransom in Michigan. They also seem rare elsewhere in the country now. The business model is flawed: although the potential profits would seem to be high, the odds of actually getting  and keeping the money are extremely low.


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Robin Hood in Reverse — A $1.1 Million Scam

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By Greg Stejskal
ticklethewire.com

In 2005 Female Jones (not her real name), an indigent woman living in public housing in Ann Arbor, Mich., discovered she wasn’t eligible for federal housing assistance. The reason she wasn’t eligible was because it appeared she was already receiving “Section 8” voucher payments. Jones wasn’t aware of receiving any assistance. So it was assumed that there was a bureaucratic snafu, but an investigation revealed something far more nefarious.

Section 8 vouchers are so-called because they are authorized under Section 8 of the Federal Housing Act of 1937, part of the New Deal legislation designed to help people suffering the effects of the Great Depression. In 1974 the Housing Act was amended to create the Section 8 voucher program. Low income people would be eligible for vouchers that would pay a percentage of their rent in approved housing facilities. The money for the program would be provided by U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), but the program would be administered by the state and local public housing agencies.

There was only a limited amount of funding available. So not all eligible people would receive vouchers. In Michigan a waiting list existed and waits of 3-6 years were not uncommon.

Greg Stejskal

Greg Stejskal

The voucher payments were made directly to the indigent tenants’ landlords to minimize the opportunity for fraud. Housing voucher agents working for the state prepared the application forms for the indigent applicants. These agents obtained background information and determined whether the applicants met the eligibility requirements.

Female Jones’ caseworker determined that she was enrolled in the Section 8 program, and voucher payments were being sent to Washtenaw Payee Services, a company that appeared to receive Section 8 payments on behalf of several landlords in Washtenaw County. Because the woman was unaware of the payments, and they were not being received by her landlord, the caseworker reported the problem to the Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA).

MSHDA’s initial investigation indicated there might be some fraudulent activity. As the Section 8 program is federally funded, they reported their concerns to the FBI, and a joint FBI/MSHDA investigation was begun.

Although Washtenaw Payment Services (WPS) appeared to have an office with a street address, it turned out to be a private mailbox service which is often a red flag in a fraud investigation.

The bank records for WPS were obtained via subpoena. Those records showed that WPS was formed in 1990 when LaToya Cotton filed business papers with Washtenaw County and opened a bank account. Since 1994, about 11 years, WPS had been receiving Section 8 voucher payments ostensibly for landlords of low-income tenants enrolled in the program.

The striking thing was the founder of WPS, LaToya Cotton, was a Michigan housing agent responsible for enrolling prospective low-income applicants for Section 8 vouchers. But even more troubling, it didn’t appear that any money had been paid from the WPS account to any landlords on behalf of the Section 8 enrollees.

LaToya Cotton became a Michigan housing agent for MSHDA in 1994. Very soon thereafter she concocted her scheme.

Prior to becoming a housing agent Cotton had setup the WPS account for a legitimate purpose. But after becoming an agent and enrolling applicants for the Section 8 program, she designated WPS as the recipient for some of the applicants’ landlord payments. When the WPS applicants were approved for Section 8 payments, Cotton didn’t tell them they had been approved. Rather, she told them they were not approved, or that they were on the waitlist. None of those enrollees were ever aware that they had been approved for Section 8 payments.

In September 2005, the FBI obtained a search warrant for Cotton’s office. The records seized revealed that during the 11 years that Cotton was a housing agent, she enrolled 100s of Section 8 applicants. Of those applicants she designated WPS as the recipient of landlord payments for about 40 of the enrollees. Cotton would periodically change the WPS enrollees, removing some and adding others. At the time her office was searched, she had eight enrollees whose voucher payments were going to WPS.

All of the money paid into the WPS account was used by Cotton for personal expenses. Over the 11-year period of the fraud, the total amount paid into the account was $1,051,701. She purchased cars, went on vacations. In April 2004, Cotton purchased a 5,237 square foot home for $830,000.  MSHDA figured that the amount embezzled by Cotton could have subsidized housing for 50 families for more than four years.

In January 2006, in front of US District Court Judge Patrick Duggan (The father of current Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan – ironically the mayor has been trying to turn Detroit around after it has been racked by years of public corruption.), Cotton pleaded guilty to a federal indictment charging her with theft from a federally funded program.

Judge Duggan in May 2006 sentenced Cotton to three and a half years incarceration, three years supervised release and ordered her to pay $1.1 million in restitution.  (Cotton’s house was forfeited and sold with the proceeds used to pay a portion of the restitution.)

At the time I was quoted as saying, “She (Cotton) was living in a mansion and there were low-income people on the Section 8 waiting list. It was Robin Hood in reverse.”

 


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How U-M Football Coach Bo Schembechler Inspired FBI’s First Probe Into Steroids in Sports

This column first appeared in the Ann Arbor Observer. It’s being republished with his permission.

By Greg Stejskal
ticklethewire.com

Featured_stejskal-and-bo_22400The late Bo Schembechler (left) and Greg Stejskal.

In reading recent accounts of state-sponsored use of performance enhancing drugs (PEDs), primarily by Russia, I was struck by how quickly it was decided that the FBI would open an investigation. There hasn’t always been a keen interest in pursuing criminal investigations of PEDs in sports. Arguably, that interest began in Ann Arbor.

In 1988, when I was an agent in the FBI’s Ann Arbor office, Michigan football coach Bo Schembechler asked me to come to his office. Since 1982, I had been making presentations to Bo’s players about sports gambling, drugs, and violence against women.

Now he and Mike Gittleson, the Michigan strength and conditioning coach, wanted to discuss their concerns about the use of anabolic steroids by football players. These synthetic versions of testosterone have very limited legitimate medical uses–but the coaches were seeing athletes who abused them, taking dangerously high doses to promote abnormal growth and strength.

It wasn’t just college players. The coaches told me that even the high school players they were seeing in Michigan’s summer instructional camp were asking not whether they should use steroids but when they should start.

Bo knew the sale and possession of nonprescription steroids had recently been made a felony under federal law. He wanted to know what was being done to enforce the law. I told him I didn’t know but would find out.

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