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Any Gumshoe (Detective) who is candid, will readily tell you that “CIs” (confidential informants) AKA:  “snitches” are very necessary and a valuable asset when it comes to solving cases; instigating investigations; developing case leads; providing intel of the latest news on the streets and the “who’s who in the zoo”. Intel makes a detective’s world go round.

It is a fact that CIs can make or break a case that for the most part would end up in the detective’s cold case files for perpetuity.   Physical evidence, DNA, fingerprints, photographs, videos, etc., sometimes lead to dead ends with no further investigative leads. Sometimes, only leads from CIs can crack the unsolvable case.  Where’s Jimmy Hoffa?

Gumshoe learned to seriously work with professional informants when he was a DEA guy (A Special Agent, U.S. Department of Justice, Drug Enforcement Administration). Whew!  The common acronym for DEA was “Don’t Expect Anything” similar to the acronym for the FBI, “Famous But Incompetent”.

Special Agent Gumshoe from the LA Field Office was introduced to several professional CIs who made a pretty good income by making “intro’s” (introductions) to undercover DEA agents to various illicit large-volume drug dealers. The going rate at the time for an intro was $500 bucks.  Ongoing cases that resulted in large drug/asset seizures/arrests could net the CI thousands of dollars.  Occasionally a trip to the U.S. Marshals Witness Protection Program.  Not a bad dig!

These professional CI’s worked with the Feds simply because we had very substantial large PE/PI  (cash payments for buying evidence/payments for information) budgets. The “locals” (municipal police departs paid little or had CIs who were only working off “beefs”. Your tax dollar at work my friends.  Professional CIs gravitated to the money.

Gumshoe’s first use of a DEA CI was when Gumshoe was “intro’ed” to an odd couple of folks who manufactured and sold thousands of microdots of LSD and PCP infused on small cellophane stamps with the pictures of Mickey Mouse on each dissolvable hit.

Product branding counts even in the drug trafficking business. This was Southern California by the way folks and the original home of the mouse, Disneyland — “The happiest place on earth”. This odd duel (comprised of an old guy in his 60s and his 20-some partner; they both wore complete leather outfits with biker chains; would always meet Gumshoe inside of their converted old white Wonder Bread truck to do the deal.  Funny, we would meet inside the public parking lot of the Long Beach Police Department.

Gumshoe figured that these refugees from the Village People thought it was best to hide in plain sight.  It worked since we federal narc’s advised the Long Beach coppers of our undercover operation and we did not want to be interrupted by a suspicious blue suit with a badge and gun.

On another occasion, Special Agent Gumshoe accompanied another DEA guy down to El Centro (adjacent to the U.S. southern border with Mexico) to have a clandestine meeting with a CI.  The CI was providing us info on one of the Mexican drug cartels and the players who were indirectly and directly responsible for the previous kidnapping and murder of DEA Agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena in Mexico. This CI’s decapitated head was later found on the Mexican side of the border by the Federales.  !Lo Siento mucho mi amigo!

Special Agent Gumshoe once met with another “wanna-be” professional CI who had been “black-balled” by LAPD as well as by LASO.  You see folks, CIs were not the most trusty people to invite over for Sunday dinner.  Some CIs would work on both sides of the street.  They were mercenaries who would provide info to cops or crooks depending upon their own lucrative interests.  Buyer beware! These CIs were deemed by police agencies as “persona non grata” and they were placed on a list (by local and federal prosecutors) that was available on a need-to-know basis to police agencies conducting sensitive investigations.

Special Agent Gumshoe met with this “persona non grata CI” inside the CI’s ride in North Hollywood one hot and humid LA afternoon.  The CI promised to make what the Feds call a “career case” for Special Agent Gumshoe. Free intel is free intel even if it was tainted as far as Special Agent Gumshoe was concerned.  There is always some kernel of truth inside a troth of lies.

Gumshoe provided the CI with his professional business card that somehow was stuck in between the front cushion of the CI’s bucket seats. Gumshoe never did use that particular black-balled CI.  Some of the CI’s info was valuable after wading through the bogus.

Now let’s advance the story dear readers . . .

It was about no two years later when Gumshoe had left the DEA and was working as an undercover narcotics detective for the Santa Ana Police Department;  Gumshoe received a call from an LAPD Homicide Detective.  He asked me if I knew a certain individual who was now one of his deceased clients. Gumshoe learned that a very battered and very dead individual was discovered taking up residence inside a dumpster.  Found inside the mouth of this dead dumpster denizen was DEA Special Agent Gumshoe’s business card.

Go figure?  The long-ago black-balled CI had been permanently black-balled.

Well my gentle readers that’s one of Gumshoe’s stories about dealing with double-dealing CIs.

Always remember to love the ones who love you and even try to love the ones who don’t.

Coram Deo!

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Danny Pitocco
Danny Pitocco
RETIRED (as a Detective with the Snohomish County Sherriff’s Department, Washington State), Danny has over forty years of law enforcement experience across city, county, state and federal levels of government, including service as a Special Agent for the DEA, US Department of Justice. He’s a decorated law enforcement veteran, and recipient of the "Detective of the Year" award for Snohomish County, Danny is a certified composite artist and has testified as an expert witness in the field of narcotics and modus operandi of particular crimes in state and federal courts in California, and has given testimony before federal grand juries. Danny served four years of active duty in the US Marine Corps and loves Jesus as his personal savior.

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8 CONVERSATIONS

  1. Great story Gumshoe. Unfortunately there are times when you have to use a Informant or a Credible Reliable Informant. When I worked in what was then called “The Organized Crime Division” working under cover narcotics, gambling, prostitution it was necessary to use individuals to help further your investigation or make a drug buy etc. When I first started working there my brother who was getting transferred back to the regular world of police work (that is a story that I have been working on) told me use your CI’s to your advantage but be careful. Which brings me to this story.

    On October 30, 2022 it will be 32 years since the Murder of Syracuse Police Officer Wallie Howard. Wallie was a Undercover Syracuse Police Officer who was also a sworn DEA Task Force Officer, was murdered during a Buy Bust in the parking lot of a grocery store on the City’s South Side. The story goes that the Buy Bust was a result of Wallie’s CI having set up a meeting of two individuals from NYC for the purchase of $43,000 worth of Cocaine. Wallie was shot in his car by a shithead named Robert ” Bam Bam” Lawrence who was 16 years old at the time and another accomplice. Lawrence was sentenced to Life In Prison but as usual the United States Supreme Court in 2012 ruled that lifetime in prison for anyone under the age of 18 was unconstitutional. Lawrence appealed and a Federal Judge reduced his sentence from Life to 31 years and he was paroled 2 days before the 30th Anniversary of Wallie’s Death. It was never determined if Wallie’s CI played a role in the attempted Robbery and Murder that day.
    If you get the opportunity Google “Wallie Howard” and you can read the entire story.
    CI’s are a important part of Police work but as my brother told me, use them to your advantage but be careful they will use you as well.
    Semper FI

    • Your so right Tom; it is definitely “Who do you trust” when it comes to CI’s. Thanks for the story about Wallie Howard. On another note, I knew a few UC’s who crossed the line and they actually fell in love with their female CI’s. One actually started “using” and that started the demise of his career and his life. Just another facet of police work that the general public is oblivious about. Semper Fi!

  2. Having worked some undercover assignments during my time in LE, I learned to expect the unexpected through the CI’s that were involved, however, never did the thought come to my mind to hand them my business card, but then again, the Gumshoe is unique!

    • Well my Nightingale, my business card ended up in many unusual places as I traversed through different careers. Sometimes it acted as a “get out of jail card” after a jail house meeting; sometimes from a referral from a known vetted CI to a new CI and sometimes as a death warrant. It also created a network between us fellow “Gumshoes” to share info on CI’s to check their pedigrees.

  3. I’m sure there are many that would look down on using such individuals as sources of information. However, I think a prudent person would use any and all sources to solve a problem even if that source is not cristal pure. After all, when the objective is to drain the swamp it doesn’t really matter who pulls the plug or how they do it.

    • Absolutely Ken. It takes a crook to catch a crook when it comes to investigating a criminal enterprise that are hard for law enforcement to penetrate.

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