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Special Report

Dan Moldea: On The 44 Anniversary of Jimmy Hoffa’s Disappearance. Here’s What I Think Happened

The writer, a Washington investigative journalist specializing in organized-crime and political-corruption investigations, is a Jimmy Hoffa murder expert. He is the author of “The Hoffa Wars” (1978) and eight other books. Tuesday marks the 44th anniversary of the unsolved disappearance of Hoffa, who wanted to regain the presidency of the Teamsters. 

James R. Hoffa

By Dan Moldea

Jimmy Hoffa disappeared 44 years ago today.

In early August 1975, while serving twenty years at Trenton State Prison for manslaughter, inmate Ralph Picardo received a visit from his accountant, who was accompanied by Stephen and Thomas Andretta, two of the alleged co-conspirators in Hoffa’s murder a few days earlier.  Picardo, who was a close friend of the Andretta brothers, told the FBI in or about November 1975 that he had spent some time alone with Steve Andretta during that prison visitation.  According to Picardo, Andretta had given him a few details about the murder.

Picardo told the FBI that, based on what he had learned from Andretta, Hoffa had been murdered near Detroit in a killing engineered by New Jersey mobster Anthony Provenzano, the Andretta brothers’ boss.  After his death, according to Andretta via Picardo, Hoffa was stuffed into a 55-gallon oil drum, loaded onto a Gateway Transportation truck, and shipped to New Jersey.

Shortly thereafter, Picardo made a deal with federal prosecutors and became the most credible witness about the Hoffa case to date.

When he was asked by the FBI specifically who had murdered Hoffa, Picardo replied that he didn’t know for sure but added that Salvatore Briguglio, Provenzano’s top lieutenant, had earlier received a contract from his boss to kill Hoffa in late 1973 or early 1974.  Provenzano sent Briguglio a note, delivered by his brother, Gabriel Briguglio, asking him to execute the Hoffa hit.

Anthony “Tony Pro” Provenzano

When Picardo was asked by the FBI where Hoffa was taken in New Jersey via the Gateway truck, he again replied that he didn’t know for sure but added that his friends in the Provenzano crew frequently disposed of dead bodies at a landfill in Jersey City, owed by Phillip Moscato, a soldier in the Genovese crime family.

In 1975-1976,  I revealed—in what was my biggest contribution to this case—that a vicious Hoffa rival, Rolland McMaster, was the mystery man behind a series of acts of violence—bombings, beatings, shootings, and general sabotage—directed primarily against Hoffa’s allies in Detroit’s Local 299, the last of which was a car bombing just twenty days before Hoffa vanished.

On the day of Hoffa’s murder, McMaster was with his brother-in-law, Stanton Barr, who was the head of Gateway Transportation’s steel division in Detroit.  Also, one of McMaster’s top goons was Jim Shaw, a long-haul driver for Gateway, who, directed by McMaster, had participated in the earlier anti-Hoffa violence in Local 299.  In addition, on the night before Hoffa’s murder, McMaster and Barr had met with Provenzano at a restaurant in Detroit, according to another federal witness, Donovan Wells, a long-time business associate of McMaster.

Dan Moldea’s book.

Only Person Living or Dead

Notably, I am the only person in the world, living or dead, who has interviewed all of these suspects—the Andretta brothers, the Briguglio brothers, Moscato, McMaster, Barr, and Shaw.  And most of these interviews were recorded.

I also recorded interviews with other persons of interest, including Charles “Chuckie” O’Brien, Hoffa’s “foster son,” and Frank “The Irishman” Sheeran, who would later falsely claim to have killed Hoffa.

Confirming that Ralph Picardo “basically had it right,” Phillip Moscato told me—on tape—that he and Briguglio had unloaded the barrel containing Hoffa’s body from the Gateway truck and then buried it at his landfill in Jersey City.

Read more »

Separating Fact from Fiction in the Hit on Mobster Joey ‘Crazy Joe’ Gallo

The author is an organized crime researcher.

By Andy Petepiece

Frank Sheeran

Charles Brandt’s bestselling book, “I Heard You Paint Houses” is the foundation of Martin Scorsese’s new film, “The Irishman.” Brandt conducted many interviews with long-time Teamster Frank Sheeran who claimed he killed Jimmy Hoffa. Among many other crimes that Sheeran took ownership of was the 1972 murder of notorious Mafioso Joseph “Crazy Joe” Gallo. Sheeran lied to Brandt about this event which brings all his other statements into question.

Most experts agree that the Colombo family put out a contract on Joey Gallo. Sheeran’s story was that he was ordered to carry out the hit after running into Gallo at the Copacabana night club in the early hours of April 7, 1972.  Sheeran claimed he knew that Gallo would be in Umbertos restaurant later on and that he had a seating plan of the new joint. These latter two points are outright lies.

On that fateful night Gallo was accompanied to Umbertos by his new wife Sina Essary, her young daughter Lisa, Gallo’s recently widowed sister Carmella Fiorello, associate Peter “Pete the Greek” Diapoulos, and his date Edith Russo.  After the shooting, Sina Gallo and Carmella explained to the police and FBI that they had initially planned to go to Luna’s restaurant but found it closed. They then accidentally came across Umberto’s and decided to go in to eat. (see FBI report NY92-4123)

Peter Diapoulos later confirmed this version in his book “The Sixth Family” on page 143. After seeing a show at the Copacabana, Greek wished to call it a night but, “he (Gallo) …wanted to go to Su Ling’s. It was closed… Then he decided on Luna’s….but it was shut and dark when we drove up.” Diapoulus then explained how they turned a corner and came upon the still open Umbertos. The Gallo party went in much to their later regret. They ended up there by chance.

The versions of Carmella, Sina, and Diapoulos are in accord. There was no way Sheeran would know beforehand they would be in Umbertos let alone have a seating plan of the place.

Brandt either didn’t check the FBI reports on the shooting or chose to ignore them. Instead, he believed Sheeran’s version. This confidence was misplaced.

An FBI report sent to FBI Director Hoover at 10:10 AM, the day of the killing, includes Gallo’s sister’s description of the shooter to the NYPD. “Lone assailant described by sister as white, male, five feet seven inches, Italian, age early forties. ”

According to “top echelon informants” quoted in an April 12/72 FBI memo “…the participants in the gang killing of Joey Gallo were Carmine DiBiase, also known as Sonny Pinto and his close associate (Phil Gambino) …”

An April 13/72 FBI report contains this information, “NYPD has a witness (Carmella Gallo) who stated photo of (the brother) of Vincent Aloi, Acting Boss, Colombo Family, resembles individual who killed Gallo. It is noted that the photo of Carmine DiBiase closely resembles photo of (Benny Aloi)….” Carmella has picked the wrong guy, but this person looked like an Italian and NOT Irishman Sheeran.

Lead Shooter

Peter Diapoulos recognized DiBiase as the lead shooter.  On page 144 of “The Sixth Family” the Greek states, “Just then, at the side door I saw Sonny Pinto. ….Sonny firing shots right for our faces.” Diapoulos knew DiBiase and recognized him immediately. This was NOT Frank Sheeran shooting.

Read more »

Robert Mueller & Rod Rosenstein Named ticklethewire.com Feds of the Year for 2018

Rod Rosenstein and Robert S. Mueller III

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III have been named ticklethewire.com’s Feds of the Year for 2018.

It’s the first time since 2008 when the award was first established, that ticklethewire.com has named two people the recipients of the award.

These are extraordinary times. Not since the White House was occupied by Richard Nixon have we seen the integrity of the justice system challenged in this way.

We’ve seen two Attorney Generals fired along with an FBI director and deputy FBI director. And that’s only in two years.

We’ve seen a president belittle, via twitter and speeches, the Justice Department and FBI.

Under intense pressure, and extremely challenging circumstances, Rosenstein has stood for integrity and undertaken the herculean task of dealing with the White House and maintaining justice at the Justice Department.

It’s been no easy mission, and frankly, something few could pull off and survive.

All that said, it made Rosenstein an obvious choice for this award.

At the same time, Robert Mueller has carried out his duties as special counsel with nothing but class and integrity.

Once again, he too has come under repeated attacks by the White House while carrying out this important mission.

It is his presence in this ongoing investigation as a watchdog of government that has given many Americans renewed faith in our justice system.

It’s an honor to have two public servants as dedicated as these two.

Previous recipients of the ticklethewire.com Fed of the Year award include: Chicago U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald (2008):   Warren Bamford, who headed the Boston FBI (2009), Joseph Evans, regional director for the DEA’s North and Central Americas Region in Mexico City (2010);  Thomas Brandon, deputy Director of ATF (2011); John G. Perren, who was assistant director of WMD (Weapons of Mass Destruction) Directorate (2012); David Bowdich, special agent in charge of counterterrorism in Los Angeles (2013);  Loretta Lynch, who was U.S. Attorney in Brooklyn at the time (2014); John “Jack” Riley,  the DEA’s acting deputy administrator (2015); D.C.  U.S. Attorney Channing Phillips (2016) and Joe Rannazzisi, a retired DEA deputy assistant administrator (2017) .

 

Excerpt From Investigative Reporter Dan Moldea’s Book: ‘Hollywood Confidential’

A specialist on organized-crime investigations since 1974, best-selling author and independent investigative journalist Dan E. Moldea has published seven nonfiction books including, “The Hoffa Wars: Teamsters, Rebels, Politicians and the Mob.” This excerpt is being published with permission.

CHAPTER ONE

“Forget it, Dan. It’s Chinatown”

By Dan E. Moldea

I didn’t see the minefield ahead.

On April 12, 2002, Anita Busch sent an email, asking me for a favor. She wanted me to collect three articles that Bernard Weinraub of the New York Times had written about one-time Hollywood super-agent Michael Ovitz, two from 1996 and the third from 1999. She provided no explanation, and I didn’t need any. I just did what she asked. Later that day, I sent Anita two of the three articles that she had requested, along with six other stories in which Weinraub had discussed Ovitz. At the time of her email to me, Anita was freelancing for the New York Times. She and Weinraub were in the midst of what would become a seven-part series which began on March 22 about Ovitz and his latest business venture, the Artists Management Group, a broadly based management company for those involved in film and television productions. The two reporters alleged that Ovitz had engaged in financial mismanagement, based on a recent audit of the company’s records.

The final part of their series appeared in the newspaper on May 7.1 The day before that final installation, Anita and Weinraub published a story about Ovitz, “A Faded Hollywood Power Broker Relinquishes His Talent Business,” which seemingly added insult to injury: Even by the turbulent and often cruel standards of Hollywood, Mr. Ovitz’s downfall has been startling. As a founder of the Creative Artists Agency, he emerged as a strong-willed and intimidating figure who sought to inspire fear, and succeeded. But Mr. Ovitz, who is 55, has seen his career fall into a downward spiral since 1997 when he was fired as president of the Walt Disney Company.

Today, Mr. Ovitz reached one of the lowest points in his career. He agreed for a company called The Firm to acquire the major units of his current company, the Artists Management Group. . . . For Mr. Ovitz, the deal is a serious financial and personal blow. 2 In lieu of continuing to freelance for the New York Times and other publications upon the completion of her work on Ovitz, Anita accepted a job on or about May 21, working under contract for the Los Angeles Times. On June 3, her first day with the newspaper, Hollywood legend Lew Wasserman, the retired chairman of MCA, died. As part of her research, she called me to discuss my third book, Dark Victory: Ronald Reagan, MCA, and the Mob, in which Wasserman was a major character. In that 1986 work, I concentrated on MCA, a powerful Hollywood corporation, and its fiftyyear relationship with President Reagan who was in the midst of his second term in office.

During the next two years, I watched the Reagan Justice Department, specifically the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles, kill a federal investigation of MCA, as well as another broader probe of the Mafia’s penetration of the motion-picture industry. With life imitating art, these cases were embodiments of the dramatic conclusion of the 1974 film, Chinatown, in which wealthy powerbrokers used their influence with the law-enforcement community to evade responsibility for their roles in major crimes. In fact, one federal prosecutor placed a fine point on this analogy when—after hearing of my frustrations with reporting on the aborted MCA case—he told me, “Forget it, Dan. It’s Chinatown.” The newspaper’s obituary of Wasserman the following day referred to my work.

Dan Moldea (Photo credit: E. Ethelbert Miller)

On June 4, federal prosecutors indicted Julius “Jules” Nasso, along with sixteen reputed members of New York’s Carlo Gambino crime family as part of a major 68-count conspiracy case.

Nasso had been the business partner of motion-picture star Steven Seagal, whose popular action-adventure films included Above the Law, Out for Justice, and Under Siege. In effect, Anita, who usually covered show business, was now investigating the Mafia. Her partner for this investigation was Paul Lieberman, a respected veteran investigative reporter who worked in the New York bureau of the Los Angeles Times. The first Busch-Lieberman story appeared on June 5, stating: Nasso, 49, of Staten Island, was charged with two counts, conspiracy to commit extortion and attempted extortion of a figure in the motion picture industry.

Although prosecutors did not identify the extortion target in the indictment, Nasso’s lawyer said after court that Seagal is the film figure. “It’s definitely Steven Seagal,” said Nasso’s lead attorney, Barry Levin. “Steven Seagal has been seen talking to the grand jury.” Nasso had a 15-year business relationship with Seagal until a bitter falling-out. In March, Nasso filed a $60-million lawsuit against the actor, alleging the star of such films as Under Siege had backed out of a contract to perform in four movies. The two have not spoken in more than a year.”

In her follow-up article the next day, Anita, without the participation of Lieberman, wrote: “The alleged extortion attempt was caught on FBI wiretaps. The wiretaps recorded a conversation between Nasso and Gambino associate Anthony ‘Sonny’ Ciccone in which Ciccone 3 allegedly chastised Nasso for trying to share some of the extorted money with others without ‘prior approval.’”

Anita and Lieberman co-authored a third story on June 12, adding: “The Mafia captain who rules the Staten Island waterfront threatened to kill an entertainment figure, identified previously as actor Steven Seagal, as part of a multimillion-dollar extortion scene. . . . “Anthony ‘Sonny’ Ciccone ‘demanded millions of dollars from this individual and threatened his life,’ Assistant U.S. Atty. Andrew Genser said at a court hearing for the accused Gambino family docks boss.”6 However, Anita did not appear to trust her partner. In her personal notes, she wrote: I am sharing information with the reporter I’m working with, Paul Lieberman. But something doesn’t smell right. Lieberman is too close to these guys, I believe. He’s going out drinking with them.

Read more »

Joe Rannazzisi, Retired DEA Official, Named ticklethewire.com Fed of The Year for 2017

Joe Rannazzisi (Photo grab from 60 Minutes)

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

For the first time since the awards were given in 2008, a former, rather than current federal law enforcement official has been named ticklethewire.com Fed of the Year.

Joe Rannazzisi, a retired DEA deputy assistant administrator with a law degree and a pharmacy degree, has been named Fed of the Year for 2017, the result of his persistent and ongoing crusade against dangerous opioids and his criticism of Congress for protecting manufacturers.

As head of the Office of Diversion Control for the Drug Enforcement Administration, he led the crusade to clamp down on doctors, pharmacies, drug manufacturers and distributors.

He was aggressive, resulting in some of the biggest companies paying huge fines for failing to report suspicious orders. Not everyone was pleased.

He clashed with Congress, which he felt wasn’t being tough enough on drug companies. Some Congress members came after him, and in 2015, under pressure, he retired.

But that didn’t stop him from speaking out.

In October, he appeared in the Washington Post and on “60 Minutes” to tell his story how the DEA’s war on opioids got derailed by pressure from Congress and the drug industry.

He’s also a consultant for a team of lawyers suing the opioid industry.

His efforts in the battle against the opioid epidemic, particularly in light of the powerful opposition on Capitol Hill and from the drug industry, makes him worthy of the award, which is based on outstanding public service.

Previous recipients of the ticklethewire.com Fed of the Year award include: Chicago U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald (2008):   Warren Bamford, who headed the Boston FBI (2009), Joseph Evans, regional director for the DEA’s North and Central Americas Region in Mexico City (2010);  Thomas Brandon, deputy Director of ATF (2011); John G. Perren, who was assistant director of WMD (Weapons of Mass Destruction) Directorate (2012); David Bowdich, special agent in charge of counterterrorism in Los Angeles (2013);  Loretta Lynch, who was U.S. Attorney in Brooklyn at the time (2014); John “Jack” Riley,  the DEA’s acting deputy administrator (2015) and D.C.  U.S. Attorney Channing Phillips (2016).

 

Book Excerpt: The Spy Who Couldn’t Spell: A Dyslexic Traitor, an Unbreakable Code, and the FBI’s Hunt for America’s Stolen Secrets

Before Edward Snowden’s infamous data breach, the largest theft of government secrets was committed by an ingenious traitor whose intricate espionage scheme and complex system of coded messages were made even more baffling by his dyslexia. His name is Brian Regan, but he came to be known as The Spy Who Couldn’t Spell. The hunt that led to Regan’s arrest began in December 2000 when the FBI was tipped off to an anonymous package mailed to the Libyan consulate in New York. The following is an excerpt from the first chapter of the book, “The Spy Who Couldn’t Spell.”  Reprinted by arrangement with NAL, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC. Copyright © 2016 by Yudhijit Bhattacharjee.  Links to purchase the book are at the end of the excerpt.

 By Yudhijit Bhattacharjee

On the morning of the first Monday in December 2000, FBI Special Agent Steven Carr hurried out of his cubicle at the bureau’s Washington, D.C. field office and bounded down two flights of stairs to pick up a package that had just arrived by FedEX from FBI New York. Carr was 38 years old, of medium build, with blue eyes and a handsome face. He was thoughtful and intense, meticulous in his work, driven by a sense of patriotic duty inherited from his father – who served in World War II – and his maternal and paternal grandfathers – who both fought in World War I. Because of his aptitude for deduction and his intellectual doggedness, he’d been assigned to counterintelligence within a year after coming to the FBI in 1995. In his time at the bureau – all of it spent in the nation’s capital – he had played a supporting role in a series of high profile espionage cases, helping to investigate spies such as Jim Nicholson, the flamboyant CIA agent who sold U.S. secrets to the Russians.

spy-who-couldnt-spell-cover-jpg

But like most agents starting out in their careers, Carr was keen to lead a high stakes investigation himself. A devout Catholic, Carr would sometimes bow his head in church and say a silent prayer requesting the divine’s help in landing a good case. That’s why he had responded with such alacrity when his squad supervisor, Lydia Jechorek, had asked him to pick up the package that morning. “Whatever it is, it’s yours,” she had said.

Carr raced back to his desk and laid out the contents of the package in front of him: a sheaf of papers running into a few dozen pages. They were from three envelopes that had been handed to FBI New York by a confidential informant at the Libyan consulate in New York. The envelopes had been individually mailed to the consulate by an unknown sender.

Breathlessly, Carr thumbed through the sheets. Based on directions sent from New York, he was able to sort the papers into three sets corresponding to the three envelopes. All three had an identical cover sheet, at the top of which was a warning in all caps. “THIS LETTER CONTAINS SENSITIVE INFORMATION.” Below, it read, in part:

“This letter is confidential and directed to your President or Intelligence Chief. Please pass this letter via diplomatic pouch and do not discuss the existence of this letter in your offices or homes or via any electronic means. If you do not follow these instructions the existence of this letter and its contents may be detected and collected by U.S. intelligence agencies.”

In the first envelope was a 4-page letter with 149 lines of typed text consisting of alphabets and numbers. The second envelope included instructions on how to decode the letter. The third envelope included two sets of code sheets. One set contained a list of ciphers. The other, running to six pages, listed dozens of words along with their encoded abbreviations: a system commonly known as brevity codes. Together, the two sets were meant to serve as the key for the decryption.

Carr flipped through the letter, skimming the alphanumeric sequence. It looked like gibberish, like text you might get if you left a curious monkey in front of a keyboard. There was no way to make sense of it without the code sheets and the decoding instructions. By mailing the three separately, the sender had sought to secure the communication against the possibility that one envelope might get intercepted by a U.S. intelligence agency. Carr saw that the sender had included a message in typed, plain text in each envelope, informing the consulate of the other two envelopes in the mail and instructing the receiver of the message to place a car ad in the Washington Post if any of the other envelopes failed to arrive. The sender had not anticipated that all three envelopes could fall into the FBI’s hands.

FBI New York had already decoded a few lines of the letter. Carr’s pulse quickened further as he read the deciphered text.

“I am a Middle East North African analyst for the Central Intelligence Agency. I am willing to commit espionage against the U.S. by providing your country with highly classified information. I have a top secret clearance and have access to documents of all of the U.S. intelligence agencies, National Security Agency (NSA), Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), Central Command (CENTCOM) as well as smaller agencies.”

To prove that this wasn’t a bluff, the sender had included in all three envelopes an identical set of government documents, 23 pages in all, some marked “CLASSIFIED SECRET,” some “CLASSIFIED TOP SECRET.” Most of them were aerial images taken by U.S. spy satellites, showing military sites in the Middle East and other parts of the world: air defense systems, weapons depots, munitions factories, underground bunkers. Some of the documents were intelligence reports about regimes and militaries in the Middle East. It was evident from the markings on these images and reports that they had been printed after being downloaded from Intel Link, a classified network of servers that constituted the intelligence community’s Internet.

There were some additional documents. One was a monthly newsletter of the CIA, circulated internally among agency employees.  Another was the table of contents of the Joint Service Tactical Exploitation of National Systems, a classified manual to help the U.S. warfighter take advantage of the country’s reconnaissance satellites and other intelligence-gathering technologies. The manual had been compromised before by another spy – an NSA cryptologist named David Sheldon Boone, who had sold it to the Soviet Union a decade earlier. In the years since, as the United States reconnaissance capabilities had evolved, the manual had been updated a number of times. The table of contents the sender had included in the package were from the manual’s most recent version. It would be valuable even to an adversary already in possession of the JTENS that Boone had given away.

Also among the documents were aerial photographs of Gaddafi’s yacht in the Mediterranean Ocean. They had been taken from a low-flying aircraft deployed not by the United States but by a foreign intelligence service. How the sender of the package could have acquired them was unclear.

Carr studied the pages in stunned silence, oblivious to the comings and goings of colleagues around him. He had never seen anything like this before. Since joining the squad, he had followed up on dozens of letters tipping the FBI off to potential espionage. Most came from anonymous sources at U.S. intelligence agencies accusing a co-worker or colleague of being a spy. Rarely did such “point and pin” letters lead to the discovery of a real threat: more often than not, they turned out to be a case of erroneous judgment by the tipster, or a case of bitter workplace jealousy.

What Carr had in front of him seemed anything but a false alarm. The sender of the envelopes was no doubt a bona fide member of the U.S. intelligence community, with access to “top secret” documents, intent on establishing a clandestine relationship with a foreign intelligence service. The person had, in fact, already committed espionage by giving classified information to an enemy country. Carr might as well have been looking at a warning sign for a national security threat flashing in neon red.

The book can be purchased at Amazon.com, Indiebound and Barnes and Noble.

Book Excerpt: ‘Missing Man: The American Spy Who Vanished in Iran’

Ex-FBI agent Robert Levinson became a private investigator. He also had another life —  a consultant for the C.I.A. In 2007, Levinson, then 59, disappeared on Kish Island, in the Persian Gulf off the coast of Iran. He has been missing ever since. Barry Meier, a veteran New York Times reporter, has written a compelling book on the case. The following is an excerpt.

Prologue
November 13, 2010, Gulf Breeze, Florida

By Barry Meier

Rain splattered against the windshield of her silver- gray BMW as Sonya Dobbs pulled up to a security gate blocking the street. It wasn’t much of a gate, at least by Florida standards, just a long, rolling fence stretching across a road. She punched a code into the gate’s keypad.

After two unsuccessful tries, she used her cell phone to call her boss, David McGee, who opened the gate from inside his house. It slid back and Sonya drove through, a laptop resting on the passenger seat.
Sonya’s Saturday night had started very differently.

missingman (1) (1)

She had planned to spend it sorting through photographs. Sonya worked as Dave’s para legal at a large law firm called Beggs & Lane located in Pensacola, a city at the western end of Florida’s Panhandle, the narrow, two- hundred- mile- long coastal strip tucked between the Gulf of Mexico and the states of Alabama and Georgia.

Sonya wanted to carve out a second career as a photographer, and she had been on a chase boat the previous day in Pensacola Bay, snapping pictures of a new oceangoing tugboat, christened Freedom, as it went through test maneuvers. The photos showed the big black and gray tug slicing through the foamy water under a blue sky filled with white, puffy clouds. A maker of some of the boat’s parts had ordered pictures, and Sonya was happily spending her Saturday evening playing with different ways to crop the images.

Then the phone rang, and she heard a familiar voice on the other end of the line. Over the past three years, she had spoken to Ira Silverman hundreds of times, if she had to guess. Most days, the retired televi sion newsman phoned Dave at least once.

Their conversations were always about a mutual friend, Robert Levinson, a former agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation turned private investigator. Sonya had never met him, though she felt as if she had.
Bob disappeared in 2007 while on a trip to Iran. Dave and Ira, who had both known Bob for years, were trying to help his desperate family find him. Months after the investigator went missing, Dave convinced Bob’s wife, Christine, to ship his work files to Beggs & Lane. Sonya had read through them and or ga nized the reports. She was a natural snoop, at ease with computers. Before long, she had tracked down Bob’s email accounts and figured out the passwords.

Robert Levinson

Robert Levinson

As she walked through the record of his life, she learned a secret that Dave, Ira, and Chris already knew: the explanation that U.S. government officials were giving out publicly to explain Bob’s reason for visiting Iran wasn’t true, at least not the part that really mattered.

Since the investigator’s disappearance, there had been reported sightings of him in Tehran’s Evin Prison, the notorious jail where political dissidents are tortured or killed. Some tipsters had come forward
to claim that the Revolutionary Guards, the elite military force aligned with Iran’s Islamic religious leaders, were holding him at a secret detention center. His family had made public pleas for information about him, and the FBI had assigned agents to the search.

But the hunt for the missing man had gone nowhere.

Ira’s call was about an email he had gotten earlier that Saturday containing a message that read like a ransom note. He had received similar emails before and had passed them on to the FBI. But this one
wasn’t like the others. This email had a file attached to it. Ira told Sonya he couldn’t figure out how to open the attachment and was forwarding it to her to see if she could. The email read: This is a serious message
Until this time we have prepared a good situation for Bob and he is in good health. we announce for the last ultimatum that his life is based on and related to you You should pay 3000000$ (in cash) and release our friends: Salem Mohamad Ahmad Ghasem, Ahmad Ali Alarzagh, Ebrahim Ali Ahmad.

 

We are waiting for your positive answer without any preconditions. We would announce our way to receive the money. Sonya clicked on the email’s attachment, but nothing happened. She didn’t recognize the file’s extension, the three- letter code that tells a computer which program is needed to open a file. She suspected the extension—.flv— signified it was a video file, and she hunted around on the Internet for information about a recommended player.

Finding one, she downloaded the software and clicked again on the attachment. This time, the file launched and a man’s gaunt face appeared, seemingly staring out at her. He had closely shorn gray hair,
a moustache, and sunken cheeks covered by stubble. He started speaking in a deep, raspy voice. Strange music played in the background, rhythmic instruments accompanied by a singer’s droning call.

After a few seconds, the camera pulled back and Sonya could see that the man was sitting in front of a gray stone wall in what appeared to be a stark prison cell. The polo shirt he wore looked threadbare and hung on his frame as though it was several sizes too big for him. Part of the shirt’s right sleeve was gone. There was nothing immediately threatening about the video. Masked jihadists weren’t standing over the man brandishing guns or swords, and there wasn’t a black political banner hanging behind him. Still, the video was disquieting.

The man’s arms didn’t move as he spoke, suggesting that his hands, which couldn’t be seen in the video, might be lying manacled in his lap. He struggled to stay calm and to keep his words mea sured.

Occasionally, his voice came close to breaking and he would briefly close his eyes, pause, or gesture by turning his head.

He said: For my beau— my beautiful, my loving, my loyal wife, Christine  .  .  .and my children . . . and my grandson . . . and also for the United States government . . . I have been held here for three and a half years . . . I am not in very good health  .  .  . I am running  .  .  . very quickly out of diabetes medicine . . . I have been treated . . . well . . . but I need the help of the United States government to answer the requests of the group that has held me for three and a half years . . . And please help me . . . get home . . .
Thirty- three years of ser vice to the United States deserves something . . . Please help me.

Dave McGee opened his front door and ushered Sonya out of the rain. They went into the kitchen, where the lawyer’s wife, Joyce, was waiting. Sonya put her laptop on the table, opened it, and launched
the video. Dave wasn’t positive that Bob was the man on the tape.

The last time he had seen the former FBI agent, he resembled a big, overweight teddy bear with a mop of hair. The man on the tape was so thin that the skin on his throat sagged. Dave realized that the only
way to know for sure was to call Christine. Sonya dialed her number, and when Chris answered, she put her cell phone next to the computer and clicked on the video. A few moments passed.

“That’s Bob’s voice,” Chris said. “That’s Bob.”

Since the appearance of the 2010 video and some photographs that followed, Bob Levinson has not been seen alive. His fate is unknown. The Iranian government continues to claim that it knows nothing about his him.The Obama Administration, despite having evidence pointing to Iran’s likely role, has yet to publicly confront Tehran. 

Excerpted from “Missing Man: The American Spy Who Vanished in Iran” by Barry Meier, published May 3 by Farrar, Straus & Giroux. You can purchase the book by clicking here , at book stores or Amazon.

Nine Years Later, Ex-FBI Agent Robert Levinson Still Missing After Visiting Iran

Robert Levinson

Robert Levinson

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

This past Wednesday marked the ninth anniversary of the disappearance of  ex-FBI agent Robert Levinson, who vanished after going to Iran. In hopes of keeping the issue at the forefront, the White House, State Department, FBI and family issued statements this week.

“Bob’s wife, children, and grandchildren have waited nine long years for the release of their loved one. Nine years is an incomprehensible amount of time for him to be missing without any word of his whereabouts,” FBI Director James B. Comey said in a statement. “The FBI family feels personally connected to ensuring Bob’s safe return and we are doing everything in our power to investigate all leads.”

In 2013,  the Levinson family acknowledged he was actually working as a freelance “spy” for a rogue CIA operation. The Iranian press initially reported after his disappearance that he was being held by Iranian authorities, but since then, the Iranian government has denied even knowing his whereabouts.  Some are skeptical of that, and some have wondered whether he’s still alive.

Still, the FBI has been operating under the assumption that he is still alive.

Levinson’s wife, Christine, issued a statement:

A few days ago, hundreds of people from around the country came together with our family in Florida to demand “Where is Bob Levinson?”  and ask how it is possible that, 9 years after being taken hostage in Iran, this wonderful man is still not home.  My children and I ask those same questions every day.

These past 9 years – 3, 288 days – have been harder for our family than anyone could ever imagine.  But, as difficult as it has been for us, we know that Bob is living a nightmare that is 100 times worse.  We need the United States government and the country of Iran to work together to resolve what happened to Bob and return him safely to his family.

The White House said:

“Today marks the ninth year since retired FBI agent Robert Levinson disappeared during a trip to Kish Island, Iran. We continue to call upon the Islamic Republic of Iran to provide assistance in his case, as agreed to as part of the prisoner exchange finalized earlier this year, so that we can bring Mr. Levinson home.

“Finding Mr. Levinson remains a top priority for the United States, and we continue to spare no effort to bring him home. Today the United States renews its unrelenting commitment to securing Mr. Levinson’s return. Our hearts remain with the Levinson family. They have endured the pain and suffering of his disappearance for far too long.”

And Secretary of State John Kerry said:

On the anniversary today of Robert Levinson’s disappearance from Kish Island, Iran, nine years ago, I want to underscore our commitment to locate Bob and bring him home.

For almost a decade, a beloved husband, brother, father, and grandfather has been kept from celebrating family milestones most take for granted. No one should have to endure what Mr. Levinson and his family have endured for so long.

As the President has said, and as I have told the Levinson family when I have met with them, we will never forget Bob, and we will not rest until the Levinson family is whole again.

The U.S. government in its entirety will continue all efforts to locate Bob and bring him home. The Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran has committed to cooperating with the United States to determine the whereabouts of Mr. Levinson, and we are holding Iran to its promise.

In March 2015, the FBI also announced a $5 million reward for any information that could lead to his safe return. We call on anyone with information about this case to contact the FBI at http://tips.fbi.gov or email the FBI at levinsonfbireward@ic.fbi.gov.

Information will be kept confidential and can be provided anonymously.