The FBI's Most Wanted Agent

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

Sullivan's job was about to end. Around the time he sprang Laratro, he also entered the remaining Corozzo money in evidence, just $30,064 of the original $129,324. On May 30, Sullivan was called into Sanchez's office, prompting Sullivan's solitary drive to Marco Island, and the long and terrible marriage between Sullivan and the FBI was finally over.

Paul Mallett sits in his office in the FBI building, along with Miami FBI chief Hector Pesquera, special agents Brian Jerome and Mike Fabregas, and an FBI lawyer. They've come together -- for the first time publicly -- to try to explain their side of what Mallett calls the "Sullivan betrayal." It just so happens that the morning they came together, last Friday, was the very morning Sullivan turned himself in to U.S. Marshals and was transported to Georgia to serve his time.

Mallett, a gray-haired FBI long-timer, says he's been criticized by FBI higher-ups about his own role in the Sullivan affair but declines to get specific about it. He says numerous FBI agents have been criticized or disciplined for their shortcomings in regard to Sullivan. He won't say specifically whether or not Smith was punished.

The Sullivan case has, in fact, led to numerous nationwide policy changes in the FBI. Accounting policies have become more stringent, Mallett says. "The procedures were flawed," he acknowledges. "Changes have been made.... We now do our financial dealings with a degree of thoroughness we didn't have before."

Sullivan is simply a criminal to him now. He says he believes that the former agent did have psychological problems but doesn't excuse him and is angry that Sullivan didn't just admit "that he's a dumb shit, and say, 'I lied and I stole and now I have to pay for it.'"

Mallett points out that Sullivan never complained about undercover work and that nobody forced him to go undercover in the first place. The former agent McCrary, however, says FBI agents, no matter how bad the circumstances, rarely ever complain. Agents "have a tendency to want to project a certain image of being sort of invulnerable to the normal stresses," he says. To protect that perception, they develop "image armor" that keeps agents from from asking for help. They act as if they are impervious to human frailties.

Mallett says it was a human trait that was the FBI's greatest weakness in the Sullivan case: too much trust. They depended on Jerry Sullivan, and now they're paying for it. "He's tarnished every badge in this building," he says.

But isn't saying there was too much trust just a euphemism for the fact that there was a breakdown in supervision? Mallett concedes that there's not much difference between the two. It's the final admission of the day. Mallett and the others have image armor, too.

And they may need to keep it on for a while. Sullivan told his psychologist that he's thinking of writing a book about all the "illegal activities" he saw as an agent. And he's not talking about his own or the mobsters'. He's talking about the FBI's. And he has five years in front of him with nothing else to do.

Contact Bob Norman at his e-mail address:

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