Confidential Informants are a pain in the behind. Seriously. They are yesterday’s crooks and tomorrows suspects. I still have informants calling me-twenty years later because they are in trouble or need something. It is like having a relationship with a crummy business partner who is a drug addict. You know the one that takes the profits and runs to Vegas with some harpy he met hanging out by the debris box around midnight at some club.
These guys and gals are sketchy. They often think they are smarter than you or that they are living a role in some episode of “The Wire.” The reality is that most are using drugs and are probably doing some petty larceny on the side. That is my experience, of course these citizens may have changed in their pedigree and might just be good honest members of the community now. But let’s face it; even those members of the community go on to other forms of larceny. Take some members of congress, maybe a televangelist or infomercial representative for example.
I can think of a dozen informants that my team saved from long prison sentences to get to the bigger fish. It is a dirty little business and often I went home and prayed to the informant god that they would get a nice canker sore or the split on your fingers –right on the tips, you know -the ones that hurt and are usually related to a really cold day….I’d even settle for a bad case of dysentery with no toilet in sight. Seriously, these people, especially to us Italians, are a necessary, but annoying amoeba on the food chain of life. The mafia is also not so happy with these guys, but then again, according to my pop, the mafia was invented by the late President Nixon and never really existed. Ya, neither did dinosaurs pop.
Informants come in all shapes and sizes. Most were drug addicts or bad business people which is how they came to our attention. Lots and lots of them were scorned women. Guys, if you are a dope dealer, don’t make your female paramours angry.
I had one gal as an informant who was promised a music career with her drug dealer and occasional product sampler and sales associate. This gal and this guy were as exclusive as you can be when you are married hanging out in clubs and dealing dope. I mean he shared everything with her, to include the STD that keeps giving and even the blessing of a pregnancy without the benefit of clergy.
The problem for this guy was that he said a little too much in the pillow talk - “baby I love you” department. After he returned to his wife and kids from a long weekend in Vegas, she would have a little time to think, apply ointment to her new medical condition and make reservations at the local planned parenthood.
I think the deal breaker for this gal was when this guy failed to appear to her “recording session” and pay for it, she was genuinely scorched with anger. That little anger, in my business is key to all good female informants. That little raging inferno of jealousy, STD and financial vacancy is the perfect storm for a good informer. And I was more than happy to help stoke that fire.
I brought my pal and a can of figurative gas with me to douse on this innocent victim of cocaine. (Sorry, huge sarcasm and not an ounce of sympathy assigned to that last morsel.) Each and every time I visited this gal – always with a female partner, I did my best to keep her from feeling sorry for this guy. How do you do that?…Easy, show pictures of him with his beautiful wife wearing a mink. It is a little trick my cousins in Italy taught me. I think a couple of senators in the 70’s went that way.
I would always end the meetings by asking her how her medical condition was and maybe dropping a flier for the free clinic in her mailbox. It worked. Don’t laugh.
My gal was really good a “playing” stupid and was really angry at this guy. So much so that she agreed to introduce another woman to him as a potential drug user and maybe another cocaine induced conquest. Of course she was a well trained and heavily armed undercover cop, but hey, they need a little love too.
Like a dog to a treat, this loser went for it. He did it because the sex / greed reception center in the brain was swollen with narcissism and unhealthy laziness which caused this guy to sell drugs instead of work. I was more than happy to accommodate his delivery and safekeeping to a state run bed and breakfast. And deliver him I did. Nine years later, I understand he has a better appreciation for women. I will write more on this maroon, another day. It is a good story.
And then…there are the control problems. I had to work with a guy once who was a huge control problem. This guy was not a bad guy by design – he was just a selfish petty drug dealing Marin guy who thought everything was owed to him. We developed this guy on a nice sunny afternoon – signed him up went through all the paperwork necessary, ran it by the D.A. and got him out of jail. He was a good informant because he could get us some weight. We were a major unit which meant we were not so interested in the gram dealers. We wanted ounces of cocaine and bigger.
After getting this guy out we had “the big talk.” I told him the rules, reminded him that the money we gave him was not his and was designated to buy drugs. We instructed him how to drive nice so we could follow him and told him to talk so we could hear him in the wire. These were rules that were not so hard to follow. Well, so we thought.
When we turned this guy loose for a planned deal, he drove like a maniac. We had cars on him trying to keep up with him. This guy took his car. Of course we searched it first and him, but we were not prepared for the Indy 500 car race just to get to the deal location. Of course he needed to stop in first for a car wash (with our money) and then dinner – I think it was pasta with scampi (with our money) and then to the meet. We would have usually tried to call this guy or drop in on his dinner, but we had no idea if the dealer was going to meet this guy there, and of course he had the radio on so loud in the car that we could not hear the phone. Personally I wanted to crash into his Mercedes like a kamikaze pilot to teach him a lesson.
The deal never happened and he was the recipient of an index finger in the chest coupled with a couple of motivating if not cathartic words from me. (Expletives deleted.) We made him pay us back, set up another deal and quickly learned that he was not able to pull off a good case for us. I think he was annoying to the dealers too. We fired him. I am not so sure what happened to this guy, but it would not surprise me if he ended up in a ditch.
Now I did have a couple of informants who were unbelievable. Some had to work off a little trouble and I had one that just wanted to help. He/she was surrounded by drug dealers and just wanted to get rid of them. Another was a nice person who worked at a place where lots of mail was handled and was exposed to package after package of drugs. This person just thought it was wrong.
So here is how is worked back then. I suspect that the informant enrollment program is still the same or very similar. 1) Select a nice target to be an informant, or sometimes they come to you via a nice note from the jail or a call to the tip line. 2) Check on their background. Lets face it…they are usually troublemakers. It’s a dirty business. 3) Meet them, make no promises and run them by the D.A. 4) Make no promises (yes again) and get them out with a court order or work with them when they get out. 5) Find out the motivation. Some people you can’t work with and you put them on the shelf. The whole deal thing on TV is a fallacy. No one really gets to walk. They get convicted and do their time. The judge and their attorney’s can make that a variable based upon their cooperation. Sorry, no free rides. I left a lot out on purpose…there is way more but it’s boring and top secret. And I’d have to kill you.
There were always female informants (Usually ex-wives or ex-girlfriends) that wanted to use their wily ways to perhaps convince you they had more to offer than working a deal. There were the strippers and adult film stars who came to the meetings dressed provocatively and had that apple in their hand. (Genesis – old testament)
We never met these gals alone and in private on purpose. Ever. Some have suggested naughty unlawful behavior as proof of their commitment. (Punishable by death in some countries) Of course later on they could potentially exploit this to get themselves out of trouble. I had one gal ask for consent to have sex with her dealer apparently to close the deal. She explained that this was part of her routine. We, of course said NO in about every language we knew. I was not so sure how I would explain the child support payments from the County of Marin to the taxpayers, I but I knew it would be on page 1 of our local paper. I have never wanted that kind of fame. But some went that way. I had a guy from one of my dope schools end up going to prison because he played house with an informant. Of course she snitched on him the second she was caught with drugs.
I met one young lady who was barely 18 and dropped out of school. She did not have a clue how to buy drugs but thought she could because it seemed cool on TV. I used her once to call a wanted felon. I had his phone number but knew he would not show up for me…presumably because I was not his type…at least until he went to prison. I had her put on her best squeaky voice and had her call him. It was beautiful. She called and gave him her first name.
When he drew a blank…she worked him over. “What you don’t remember me?” He took the bait like a trout at the fish hatchery. He suddenly “remembered.” Of course he was right, they had never met, but again, the greed / sex center of the male mind is unbelievably transparent, shallow and malleable. She suggested they have a nice pizza together and perhaps do something naughty afterwards.
The primal caveman response in his brain took over. This guy had pin wheels in his eyes. The trance was almost audible. He was like a cartoon zombie walking with his hands up toward his hypnotist. He was a prisoner to his privates and the direct hormonal conversation between them and his sex /greed center, leapfrogged over the “common-sense too good to be true” portion of his brain and delivered him to our humble and wanting hands.
Of course we arrived two hours early to have a pizza – part of our “cover.” This guy was disappointed when six of us introduced ourselves inside the pizza joint after we sat next to him at his table. After a year on the run, he was captured and taken to the big house. And, of course, he had some party dust in his pocket for the after show with his date. Sucker. God I love this job.
…Back to our interview with the young woman and about what she was going to do with her life. She told us that one day she wanted to be an adult film star. Seriously. Again I was looking around for the Candid Camera and “gotcha!” I forgot about her until a year later when a nice package was delivered to the PD in a paper bag with my name on it. The package was delivered to my then den-mother at the PD, Nellie who was working in the front office. I was back in patrol from my time in the Task Force and received the call to the station. Sweet Nellie handed me the package and I pulled out the box inside right in front of her.
The box was a commercial videotape that displayed a number of unclothed men and women in geometric and may I add non-ergonomic positions doing unimaginable and transformative things. I think Nellie saw it as I jammed the box back in the bag quickly and ripped the bottom out as I was so embarrassed and a little scared at what I saw. I slowly removed the video tape box far enough to see the autograph and note from my former wanna-be informant wishing me well and announcing her triumphant arrival in the adult film business. Of course I had to watch the video in the privacy of my home with a number of my friends and had to self medicate my self with a foamy beverage as I witnessed the depravity and exploitive script for this young lady. Some excerpts were reviewed a couple of times to validate her acting skills. Of course all of us had this look like a dog that hears a strange sound, head tilted to one side, eyes wide open.
Well that’s it for now. I have to send a “Oy!” to SRPD Pal Marina Simoncini with the Australian Federal Police- a reader, Suzi Kim with Santa Monica PD also a reader and of course all of my new pals from the SMILE conference weeks ago in Santa Monica. I also want to recognize Jimmy Hoffa, not a reader, as far as we know. Stay safe. Ralphy.