By Terrence McCoy
By Scott Fishman
By Deirdra Funcheon
By Allie Conti
By New Times Staff
By Ryan Pfeffer
By Deirdra Funcheon
By Kyle Swenson
When he returned to Fort Lauderdale after Pizza Connection in late 1983, the FBI put Sullivan into one of the most unstructured environments imaginable: undercover, infiltrating the Mafia in South Florida.
Billy Breen was a certified lunatic and convicted felon who had, in late 1983, made a career as a professional rat for the FBI. Agents worked with him on a regular basis and occasionally gave him a paycheck, which supplemented his income from illegal rackets. In return Breen, an ex-cop and ex-con who was on permanent psychiatric disability from the government, served as an informant. The FBI's relationship with Breen could be seen as a deal with the devil, but it was also extremely effective. Breen, who died in 1992, had an uncanny knack for getting inside criminal organizations and helped to crack numerous cases and jail hundreds of criminals.
Breen was Sullivan's undercover partner in a case dubbed "Shockwave." Its chief target was Anthony Accetturo, a New Jersey Mob boss then living in Broward County. FBI agents testified during the Sullivan hearings that the bureau believed a restaurateur named Giulio Santillo owed $1 million in gambling debts to Accetturo. The FBI planned to use Santillo to get to Accetturo.
Breen quickly infiltrated Santillo's D.C. restaurants, while Sullivan, posing as a cocaine dealer, was assigned to Tiberio, a Santillo-owned restaurant in Miami. Breen found Sullivan to be an "amiable, hard-bitten Irishman," according to the book The Insider, on which Breen collaborated with author Donald Goddard. Breen introduced Sullivan to a Santillo associate named Valentino Mordini, who also "took an immediate shine to [Sullivan]."
Sullivan, who grew a beard and let his hair grow long, was also introduced to Dario Mistri, a restaurant owner and alleged bookie. According to the FBI, Sullivan began buying small amounts of cocaine from Mistri and Mordini, transactions which were recorded in the case file. The agent also worked at Dario's restaurant and helped run the bookmaking operation. Sullivan was quite successful in "tunneling into the Italian network," Goddard wrote.
"Mordini was now begging Billy and Sullivan to take any quantity of uncut cocaine they wanted," according to the authors. "As much as 500 kilos was mentioned -- with no money up front. [Mordini's] principal source was [Medellin cocaine cartel kingpin] Carlos Lehder Rivas."
While Sullivan seemed to be adept at undercover work, he states he was drinking up to 35 beers a night at the time, and, in addition to taking bets, he was making hundreds of dollars in bets of his own on ball games. He said he bet both his own money and the FBI's money, but records show he was never officially authorized by the FBI to make bets during Shockwave.
"This was my early exposure to gambling," Sullivan told Ryan, adding that he enjoyed the thrill of it. "These guys bet on anything and everything. My drinking also expanded, as I was always out at night and hanging out at all the wrong places for me."
He told psychologist Harley Stock, who testified for the prosecution, that one reason he gambled was that it would be "peculiar" to the crooks he was befriending if he didn't.
The introverted, obedient Sullivan was now a party man.
"All he was interested in was drinking and going out and dancing," says Mordini, who now runs an upscale restaurant in Tampa called Donatello's. "He was drinking like a fish. This guy is one after another. He played big shot with Billy Breen."
Former FBI agent Gregg McCrary, now a consultant hired by Sullivan's attorneys as an expert on the bureau, says he too spent a lot of time in bars undercover.
"It seemed like I was a different person," he recalls. "I'm convinced I don't have the predisposed genetic structure to be an alcoholic, or I would be one after that."
McCrary says the FBI has "pockets" of alcoholism, and it seems Sullivan was in one of those during the Shockwave case. Sullivan told his psychologists that he met his contact agent at a bar where they drank heavily together. One of the contact agent's most important duties, meanwhile, was to make sure his undercover agent wasn't drinking too much. Mallett says that the contact agent on the case never exhibited signs of alcoholism. If they drank together during meetings on the case, it was wrong and shouldn't have happened, he says.
Sullivan recalled one standard "counseling" session during the undercover operation, which involved two other agents and occurred over Heinekens. The two other agents now deny that any alcohol was present during the meeting, says Special Agent Brian Jerome, who investigated Sullivan.
As the drinking increased, so did Sullivan's conflicts between his two families, the Mafia and the FBI. He personally came to like Mordini and Mistri, did consider them friends, and feared he was entrapping and betraying them. It's called overidentification with targets, and it's a common malady for undercover agents.
"You don't do anything but hang out with these guys," McCrary says. "You get twisted."
At times Sullivan had a "loss of identity, forgetting who he was," psychiatrist Richard Seely testified for the defense, saying Sullivan "was caught, in my estimation, between two families that he idealized in different ways."