Agent of Deception

Jerry Sullivan's descent into gambling, alcoholism, and crime began and ended with the FBI.

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 one million dollars 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, which Breen wrote 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 Mistri'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."

Although Sullivan appeared to be adept at undercover work, he states he was drinking up to 35 beers per night at the time, and, in addition to taking bets, he was betting hundreds of dollars on ball games. He said he wagered both his own cash and FBI money. But records show he was never officially authorized by the bureau 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 seem "peculiar" to his cohorts if he didn't.

The introverted, obedient Sullivan became 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, also spent a lot of time in bars working undercover. He 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 both drank heavily. 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 imbibed during the meeting, says special agent Brian Jerome, who investigated Sullivan.

As the drinking increased, Sullivan became more conflicted. He came to like Mordini and Mistri personally, considered 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," says psychiatrist Richard Seely. "[He] was caught, in my estimation, between two families that he idealized in different ways."

Sullivan met Accetturo only once, at a birthday party for the mob boss at Tiberio. Sullivan's testimony about the meeting during an unrelated 1998 trial in New Jersey was captured in a book titled 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 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 as a result of the Shockwave case, Sullivan's mental condition became much more serious: "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 important, his obsessive-compulsive traits evolved at that point into a borderline personality disorder."

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