Agent of Deception

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

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

The FBI knew, however, about the psychological dangers of undercover work. McCrary testified that a 1978 FBI report "said that undercover work 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 there was 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 the perils of undercover work. The FBI now has an Undercover Safeguard Unit. Agents 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 ex-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.

"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 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 him, it seemed 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. Breen says Del Gaudio 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 after an unrelated state investigation. Santillo, who also maintains his innocence and says he never bet with Accetturo, is now retired and living in 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 Paul Mallett says virtually the same thing about Breen. Breen obviously embellished the facts of the investigation to sell books, Mallett says, adding that it's unlikely Sullivan was ever in real danger. Or if he was, he never documented it. The FBI has no record of the threatening meeting between Sullivan and Del Gaudio, who was charged two years ago in the 1984 killing of a federal informant and is awaiting trial.

Having to deal with men like Del Gaudio took its toll on the unstable Sullivan, his psychologist testified. He was deeply paranoid and had dreams of killers stalking him. One psychiatrist, Richard Seely, testified that Sullivan even developed posttraumatic stress disorder from his time undercover.

The agent wouldn't go undercover for another nine years, but that didn't keep him from cracking up. The last straw may have come when Sullivan's friend was killed in a deadly battle on a residential street in Kendall.

On April 11, 1986, two FBI agents were killed, five were injured, and two bank robbers fatally shot during a gun battle near Suniland Shopping Center. Agt. Ben Grogan, one of the slain agents, was a good friend of Sullivan, who was transferred from Fort Lauderdale to Miami after Shockwave. Hanlon was one of the injured: He was shot several times and helplessly watched Grogan die.

Sullivan wasn't there when Grogan perished. He didn't hear the gunshots or feel them ripping through his skin. But the killing of 53-year-old Grogan had a terrible impact on him. In a reaction reminiscent of his youthful sobbing spells, Sullivan took on the habit of getting drunk at home, drinking until he began crying about Grogan. Then he'd get into his car in his closed garage and repeatedly play an audio tape of a telephone call then-President Reagan made to Grogan's wife. Sullivan also taped a television movie based on the shootout and, in a state of depression, watched it over and over until his wife threw it away.

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