Working With Killers

Reporter Peter Lance explores the secret world of FBI informants.

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How common is it for the FBI to use informants who are violent criminals?

Brad Heath did a fantastic piece several weeks ago in USA Today, and he found out that there are currently more than 15,000 criminal informants working for the federal government across the country. And in one year, they were allowed to commit 5,658 crimes. There were attorney general guidelines that were set up years ago that say no confidential informant can commit more than a misdemeanor to protect their cover. Violent crimes are completely forbidden, and murder is absolutely off the table. And yet, I documented 26 separate homicides, so obviously these rules are being violated with impunity. And even today, we don't know how many of those 5,658 crimes were felonies. Because of secrecy, the public is in the dark.

What surprised you most in your research?

How brilliant Scarpa was. What a Machiavellian strategist he was, what a chess player. If he had gone straight, he would have been the CEO of a major corporation.

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