Another Mess In Motown
In Detroit, the world of federal law enforcement has taken on an Alice in Wonderland quality, albeit with a nasty edge. A landmark terrorism prosecution may be collapsing amid a host of recriminations ("A Real Case of Snakebite," March 22-29), and in a separate case, U.S. News has learned, federal prosecutors in Detroit made plans to arrest the head of the FBI's Detroit field office without corroborating allegations made against him-- allegations that turned out to be entirely false.
The latest episode began last May, when an FBI informant--convicted felon Myron "Big Man" Strong--claimed he had penetrated a drug ring with ties to the terrorist group Hezbollah. The FBI launched a probe and intercepted phone chats between Strong and two men he had fingered as traffickers. They discussed plans to import cocaine and implicated a Detroit FBI agent named "Willie," or "Hu," in the leaking of information to them. The FBI special agent in charge in Detroit, Willie Hulon, was then temporarily relocated to Washington, and the Justice Department's inspector general began investigating.
Sham. Before the IG could complete his inquiry, FBI sources say, the counterterrorism chief of the Detroit U.S. attorney's office, Robert Cares, backed by first assistant U.S. attorney Jonathan Tukel, set in motion plans to arrest Hulon. The IG quickly found that the drug ring was a sham and that the allegations against Hulon were unfounded; in fact, Hulon had cut off payments to Strong.
Strong and his two accomplices have now been charged in connection with the fraud. Strong's FBI handler, Robert Pertuso, retired. Pertuso's wife, Karen, who also worked the case, has been reassigned. A Hulon deputy, Larry Kuhl, who authorized some of the $164,000 the bureau paid to Strong, has stepped down. And FBI Director Robert Mueller has ordered an investigation into the Detroit office's handling of informants.
A Justice official confirmed that there was "contemplation" of arresting Hulon, describing it as a natural progression in the investigation. But the official said no warrant was drafted and denied that Cares or Tukel was involved. Detroit FBI agents, meanwhile, are furious with the U.S. attorney's office there; sources say Hulon made it clear Cares was not welcome in the FBI building. FBI agents nationwide are also angry with headquarters for pulling Hulon out of Motown before the IG's investigation was completed.
To contact the author: Ragavanc@usnews.com -Chitra Ragavan
This story appears in the April 19, 2004 print edition of U.S. News & World Report.