Mixed Meta For Stewed Mackerel

In criminal investigation, sometimes you tackle the guy, sometimes you swing-and-miss, and—once-in-a-clue-loon—the guy takes a high dive (when it should've been obvious there's no diving in ice fishing).  This was one of those times.  I recall the strange details of this case as if they unfolded yesterday instead of over a decade ago.  I feel slightly guilty (still) about the dreadful outcome.  It also still makes me giggle a little bit.

1:  While badger hunting, we are gifted with a mackerel stew recipe.

I had three on-the-job-trainee interns: Hughie, Dewy, and Louie.  I tasked Hughie with locating a suspect, Mr Ecks, who did not want to be found.  After two days of flailing, Hughie said he didn't think it was possible to locate Mr Ecks's address without a warrant.

"We can't get a warrant without probable cause, Hughie.  You have to find him first.  Then we talk to him."  I said.

"Everyone I called told me either they didn't have any information on him, or that I needed a warrant before they could give me his information.  I'm no good at this."  He said.

I looked over the agencies he'd contacted.  The local cable provider was the least significant company on his list who said they needed a warrant.  I said, "Call the cable company back.  Ask for the same lady you spoke with the first time.  Once you get her on the phone, explain everything to her.  One hundred percent truth.  Tell her what you know he did and why you know it; also tell her how this suspicion isn't enough for a judge to grant a warrant.  Tell her all you need is his address.  That this guy is going to get away with it if someone doesn't help us catch him.  If she sticks to the warrant-bit, give her your name and number and ask her to call you if she changes her mind and thank her.  Be overly nice to her.  It can't hurt."

An hour later he came back to my office.  "She says if we go down there and show her a badge, she'll give us Mr Ecks's address."

"All that time on the phone!  What the fuck Hughie?  Are you goin steady with her yet?"

"Very funny.  Actually, she and I kinda hit it off and she ... well, she had this complaint.  Kind-of.  Mostly, she wants it to be anonymous cause she's scared as greased hell that the info will point back at her.  But if what she says is real, I think she just gave us a pretty big economic crime case."

As we drove downtown to show her my badge, Hughie explained how, before her divorce, Mrs Cable was the sole bookkeeper for her ex-husband's business.  Mr Cable's company installed large overhead, hinged, and sliding garage doors.  For the last four or five years Mr Cable met about every month or two with Mr Mackerel, who provided assistance in obtaining government contracts.  Although Mrs Cable suspected Mr Cable paid his friend for the inside information, she never witnessed any actual graft.

2.  I compile the stew ingredients.

To provide a smoke-screen, over a period of a few weeks I "conducted a review" of hundreds of various government contracts:  plumbing, electrical, new construction, old construction-repair, siding, windows, roofing, and garage doors.  I learned Mr Cable's company had been awarded 92.5% of all the garage door contracts on the military installation; 37 of 40 in the prior 4½ years.

One person was responsible for representing the government in these contracts: Mr Mackerel.

4¾ years earlier, Mr Mackerel had been promoted to the contracting position.

These contracts were required to be open to the lowest bidder.  The bidding process was always conducted with sealed envelopes.  Between two and five other contracting companies routinely bid.  Mr Cable's bid was the lowest by $10 to $50 on all but three contracts. 

3.  I put the ingredients I found in a pot.

I called Mr Cable and asked him to come to my office.  The day he came for his interview, I sent Dewey and Lewie to go pick-up Mr Mackerel from his office.  I advised both Cable and Mackerel—separately—of their legal rights for the crimes of:  Conspiracy to Commit Fraud, Graft, Theft of Government Funds in Excess of $100,000.00, False Official Statements, and Bribery.

Neither of them said anything incriminating.  Both claimed they only knew each other professionally.

I did not interrogate either of them.

I told Mr Cable that I didn't need a confession because I had a source who'd already provided all the information I needed, and concluded with, "...on the basis of that information, a judge will undoubtedly find you guilty.  And—from my experience with white-collar crimes of this nature—you can look forward to a huge fine, being banned from all government contracts for 3 to 5 years, and probably probation."  I then told Dewy to take his mug-shots and fingerprints.

I told Mr Mackerel that I didn't need a confession because I had a source who'd already provided all the information I needed, and concluded with, "...on the basis of that information, a judge will undoubtedly find you guilty.  And—from my experience with white-collar crimes of this nature—you can look forward to a huge fine, losing your job, being banned from all future government employment and pension, and probably probation."  I then told Louie to take his mug-shots and fingerprints.

4.  I turn on the heat and stir.

Hughie was sent to interview some government co-workers of Mr Mackerel:  Mr Ahe, Miss Bee, Mr Cee and Mrs Dee.

Louie was sent to interview a handful of construction employees of Mr Cable:  Mr Eff, Mr Gee, Mr Ache and Mr Eye.

Dewy was sent to interview other owners of garage door installation companies:   Mr Jay, Mr Kay and Mr Elle.

They were given a small list of questions to ask, like:  Did you ever see Mr Cable and Mr Mackerel together outside of a professional setting?  Did either Cable or Mackerel ever confide their fraudulent activities to you or anyone you know?  None of the interviewees provided any information.

I met with the Director of Contracting.  I briefed him on the facts of the case and recommended that he remove Mackerel from all duties involving contracts.  He concurred, immediately suspended Mackerel and turned him into a high-paid receptionist.

5.  I put a lid on the pot.

Mrs Cable called me.

"You are going to get me killed!" She said, "My ex was just here and he is going ape-poop-crazy.  He accused me of turning them in and told me that if he finds out I turned him in he would kill me an bury me in the woods where nobody would ever find me!  You said they would never know it was me.  But I told you they would suspect me and now look, I don't know..."

"Mrs Cable.  MRS CABLE!  Calm down.  Caaaalmmm dooowwwnn."

"Okay, sorry."

"What did you tell him?"

"I told him it wasn't me.  That I had no reason to turn him in.  I told him that we'd been divorced for over a year, so why would I turn him in now?  Which did calm him a bit; but then he just got more worked up and he pointed outside at a dark sedan and said they were following him.  Are you following him everywhere?"

"No. No, we don't have any reason to conduct surveillance on him.  But I'm glad he's upset.  That's a good thing.  If he gets in touch with you again, just continue to deny, okay?"

6.  The pot begins to boil. 

"Hello, Mrs Cable?"  I said, "Have you heard from your ex-husband since I spoke with you last week?"

"No."

"Good.  I want you to call him and tell him you just got a phone call from the cops.  That we asked to schedule an interview with you, but you told us that you couldn't until Saturday because of work.  Then I need you to convince him that you are in a panic, that you don't know what to say or do.  That you need his help.  You need to convince him to come to your house on Saturday before noon and wait in the next room when we come to interview you at 1230.  We'll act like it's the first time we've spoken; we'll ask all about your work as the company bookkeeper. . . you'll deny any knowledge.  He'll overhear.  Can you do it?"

7.  I take the lid off the pot.

"How did everything go?"  I asked Mrs Cable.

"Fantastic.  He coached me on how to act and what to say.  Then when your guys left he came out and I could see immediately that he no longer suspected me.  He thought of me, more, as a co-conspirator at that point."

"So you don't feel in danger any more?"

"Nope.  Not at all."

8.  Mackerel stew is served.

"Special Agent Glines?"

"Speaking."

"This is Lieutenant Colombo from the Downtown Police Department.  I've got a guy who confessed to shooting and killing your confidential informant in a case you're investigating where ... ummm, he ... they ... were doing some kind of contracting fraud?"

"Ahhh... umm, this is the first I've heard.  I ... I'm ... sorry lieutenant—yes, I have an investigation of that nature.  Who is the suspect?  Can you tell me the name of the man who confessed to the shooting?"

"Yes, it's a Mister Mackerel.  He says the guy he killed last night, around 2am, was your informant and I..."

"Is he sitting within earshot?"

"No.  He's in another office."

"Well I can tell you he didn't murder my informant, because my informant is not a he.  Obviously, Mackerel can't learn about this."

"Right."

"What was the name of the victim?"  I asked.

"Ahhh....Mister Gee.  He was a sub-contractor of his friend's, a Mr Cable.  Mr Gee supposedly worked with them installing doors and, supposedly, knew all about their under-the-table stuff.  Mackerel said he followed Gee to a Waffle House after a night of drinking and as Gee exited the restaurant Mackerel pointed a .22 caliber pistol at him, threatened him, and then shot him four times.  Mr Gee was dead at the scene."

Leave us not jump to seclusions. — Popeye the Sailor

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

A bird in hand is worth two in the bush................