Retired agent John Chesson served with the FBI for 25 years. During most of his Bureau career, John primarily worked cyber crime as an investigator and supervisor investigating computer intrusion cases and coordinating the Philadelphia and San Francisco Bay Area InfraGard Programs. However, in this episode of FBI Retired Case File Review, he is interviewed about a hate crime/civil rights matter from his early days in the FBI. The case involved the investigation of six South Philadelphia men suspected of violating the civil rights of an African American woman by vandalizing the home she had just rented on their block. The case was assigned to John and his co-case agent, Christina Kibbey. Mike Kates (also spelled Cates), a wheelchair-bound man who lived on the street, agreed to become their cooperating witness and to help them gather the evidence needed to prove that damaging the house was a racially motivated scheme to make the house uninhabitable and to intimidate and discourage the woman from moving into the neighborhood. Kates courageously recorded consensually monitored conversations with the subjects of the investigation and testified as the star witness in the subsequent trial. All defendants were found guilty. On October 21, 1999, FBI Director Louis Freeh awarded Mike Kates the 18th Annual “Louis E. Peters Memorial Service Award” for his selfless commitment to protect victims of crime. This citizens ward was sponsored by the Society of Former Special Agents of the FBI (read citation below). The case review includes two surprising happily-ever-after conclusions and an unexpected tragedy.
Retired agent Doug Hess served with the FBI for nearly 21 years. He was assigned for a short time to a satellite office out of the Tampa Division, but spent most of his career in the Philadelphia Division. As a licensed pilot, Hess was initially assigned to the surveillance squad, Special Operations Group (SOG). Later, he returned to working his own cases on a squad handling major theft and interstate transportation of stolen property crimes. Hess is interviewed about his investigation of a scheme conducted to defraud 150 coin dealers and collectors, known as numismatists, of $1 million in gold coins. During the investigation, Hess discovered a second scheme involving lead filled bars of silver that potentially could have been damaging to the precious metals industry. For his efforts in these matters, Hess received the Sol Kaplan Award from the Professional Numismatists Guild.
Retired agent Cary Thornton served in the FBI for 21 years. He spent his career working undercover on Bureau cases throughout the country and as a technically trained agent. Cary is interviewed about an undercover sting and insurance fraud investigation he worked in Detroit for nearly three years where he and two other undercover FBI agents played the roles of owners and operators of an auto wrecking company willing to dispose of cars for cash so their owners could file fraudulent insurance claims. The case was given the Bureau code name Operation Steamclean, which incorporated the term, steaming, slang used to describe dumping a vehicle for the insurance payoff. The case resulted in more than 50 indictments charging individuals with fraudulent claims exceeding $100 million.
Retired agent Bob Bazin served in the FBI for 28 years. He spent most of his career working property crimes cases and developed a specialized interest in art crime. He talks about studying the “masters” at the Barnes Foundation and investigating and recovering stolen art from all over the world while assigned to the Philadelphia Division. He reviews a case he worked with the Philadelphia Police Department of the armed robbery by gunpoint from the Rodin museum of the priceless sculpture—Mask of the Man with the Broken Nose.