The FBI's Most Wanted Agent

When Jerry Sullivan was arrested for criminal behavior, he chose to blame an unexpected source: the FBI

Sullivan met Accetturo only once, at the Mob boss' birthday party at Tiberio. Sullivan's testimony about the meeting during an unrelated 1998 trial in New Jersey was captured in a book entitled The Boys From New Jersey, by Robert Rudolph. Sullivan told the jury that he kissed Accetturo's hand out of respect. On cross-examination, Accetturo's lawyer asked Sullivan to demonstrate the kiss, which gave the proceedings a humorous twist. Sullivan, playing the part of Accetturo, "resembled that of a royal princess waiting to be acknowledged," wrote Rudolph. It was humiliating for Sullivan, as the scene was "less like a scene from The Godfather, and more like an episode of The Three Stooges Meet the Mafia," Rudolph surmised.

Seely testified that the Shockwave case drove Sullivan into serious mental illness:

"Here he had no supervising entity and probably, as he first began with [Mordini and Mistri], felt that he could join them easily because he was an alcoholic at that point and this assignment involved drinking.... He was enabled to become a pathological gambler. But most importantly, his obsessive-compulsive traits evolved at that point into a borderline personality disorder."

That disorder is marked by instability of character, dramatic shifts in perception of others, impulsivity, paranoia, and a frantic fear of abandonment. But if Sullivan was unstable, nobody at the FBI seemed to notice.

The FBI did know, however, about the psychological dangers of undercover work. McCrary testified that a 1978 FBI report "said that undercover had sort of a corrosive effect on the values of agents... that there may be some agents who are more vulnerable to this and that it needed to be looked at more carefully, because if we put the wrong agents in an unsuitable role, it seemed to be that there is a high probability that we would have personal and professional tragedy."

Yet in 1984 the FBI still had no comprehensive program set up to help agents cope with undercover work. The FBI now has what is called an Undercover Safeguard Unit, and agents today are sent to Quantico for evaluation by professionals and require certification to begin such work.

"Undercover work is a total mind-fuck -- you get crazy as a loon," says former FBI agent John Hanlon, who now prosecutes public-corruption cases in Broward County. Hanlon says he's seen undercover agents not only go crazy but also become corrupt. Sullivan, whom he knew and liked, is another name on the list.

"It's very tense, very, very tense work," he says. "You're all by yourself. The whole case depends on you. At any time you can be discovered, and that is dangerous."

Shockwave, according to Breen, became extremely dangerous. Breen's book -- which Sullivan says is accurate -- tells the story of how the FBI, through lack of communication and questionable decisions, nearly got Sullivan killed.

First the FBI refused to finance a large cocaine buy -- even though Sullivan's assigned role was as a cocaine dealer.

"With the Bureau unwilling to finance a major buy and the undercover operation still turning up new targets, all Breen and Sullivan could do was stall, although this made an already difficult and dangerous game a little short of suicidal," Goddard wrote.

Then the Washington office, after a falling-out with Breen, suddenly pulled the plug on Breen's FBI phone line, which forwarded his calls and helped maintain his cover. So when mobsters called his line, he'd suddenly disappeared. With the phone line gone, Goddard wrote that Breen's "cover story was as good as blown. So was Jerry Sullivan's -- and he was lucky to survive." According to Breen the Washington office never notified Fort Lauderdale that the line had been disconnected. Instead Sullivan found out something was wrong from Richard Del Gaudio -- a reputed mobster and alleged enforcer for Accetturo. Del Gaudio, according to Breen, poked his finger into Sullivan's chest and said, "Asshole, you'll take us up to D.C. and we'll fix Breen's head."

"Sullivan managed to fob Del Gaudio off, but it was all over," Goddard wrote. "In the middle of a brilliantly daring undercover run, he and Billy had been brought down by a twitch of petulance in Washington -- and without an arrest to show for it."

Both Mordini and Mistri, who say the FBI's allegations against them are untrue, were later convicted of minor gambling charges in an unrelated state investigation. Santillo, who also maintains his innocence and says he never bet with Accetturo, is now retired on Miami Beach. He was never charged with a crime and says that the FBI "exaggerates everything. They turn a dollar into a million dollars and small talk into big talk."

The FBI's Mallett says virtually the same thing about Breen, eventually deeming him "out of control" and forbidding him to work with the FBI. Breen obviously embellished the facts of the investigation to sell books, Mallett says, adding that Sullivan was never in any real danger and that if he had been, he never documented the threatening meeting he had with Del Gaudio, who was charged two years ago in the 1984 killing of a federal informant and is awaiting trial.

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