Outgoing Baltimore FBI chief talks big cases, police cooperation

Though his tenure as the special agent in charge of the FBI's Baltimore field office wasn't long - just under three years - Richard A. McFeely helped oversee investigations that took out high-profile targets that had been on the radar of law enforcement long before he arrived. 

As he moves on to FBI headquarters to become assistant director of criminal and cyber operations, McFeely agreed to discuss some of those cases with The Sun, including the Baltimore police towing scandal and drug-dealing cop Daniel Redd, violent drug trafficker Steven Blackwell, founder of the Dead Man Inc. prison gang Perry Roark, and Antonio Martinez, who tried to blow up an Army recruiting station in Catonsville. 

On his priorities as special agent in charge of Baltimore: "In the past 10 years, the FBI's focus has been on national security. One of the things when I got here that I noticed was there was an imbalance in terms of the amount of resources tied to the national security threat. We swung the pendulum back. We're not changing the priorities, but we put a lot more resources into corruption and gang programs especially."

On the Baltimore Police Department and whether the indictments against officers indicated systemic problems:  "When you talk about systemic issues of corruption, I look at that more as corruption from the street level guy up through leadership. We're not seeing that. We have no indication right now that there's any corruption within the leadership of the Baltimore Police Department. That doesn't mean there's not isolated incidents. I think it's more that there were an isolated group of officers working to their own benefit, and it wasn't being directed by a larger leadership segment. These guys were trying to profit by themselves."

"We rely on our ability to develop informants. ... I think a lot of people knew Dan Redd was dealing drugs, but didn't have enough information to come forward. A lot of people said before and after [the indictment], we knew he was doing it but didn't know how he was doing it. I'm confident that if it was more blatant, and people were witnessing things going down, a lot of cops would've stepped forward."

On the Antonio Martinez case, and questions of entrapment [Martinez was provided a non-functioning bomb by undercover agents, which he attempted to detonate at the Catonsville Army recruiting center]:  "His original intention was to walk into that recruiting station and shoot as many people as he could. He had reached out to get other people to go in with him. ... That was a scary situation. Until he came up with another idea, our concern was that he could, on his own, without contacting one of the cooperating people or undercover agents, go get a gun from somewhere else and do it without our knowledge. Once he became sold on the idea of a bomb as the way to go, we were confident he didn't have the resources to produce a bomb of that caliber, and he asked the undercover to provide that to him. Our ability to control the situation through an undercover is what lessened the risk to public safety."

"We had to be very careful because it can't be our idea. There's a lot of careful manuevering to make sure we weren't walking him down the path he wouldn't otherwise have walked down. [But] we were happy that he came up with the idea that maybe guns weren't the best way to do it. Our job getting an undercover in there is to talk him out of doing any of this stuff. When you look at the options - bombs or guns - bombs are easier. We can control the situation much better."

On why crime is down in Baltimore: "The FBI tends to look at crime as cyclical. That's well-borne out by statistics. We"re on a downward trend, but there are cities that are on an upward trend. One of the areas that law enforcement in this state has really come together on is gangs." For an investigation into the Bloods, "there were 10 to 15 police departments from Cumberland to Salisbury working together. We were sharing information real-time, with a virtual website set up where the Cumberland guys were putting up the results of surveillance, and the Salisbury guys could see it in real time. What's happened is that sharing of information has dismantled a lot of these gangs.

"Take for example Steven Blackwell. There's a guy who was eluding law enforcement for years. We heard he had ties to the Police Department, homicides. That was a concerted effort by us, the state, the county, basically finally getting our act together, getting intel in one place and targeting him. Historically, we couldn't go back and charge him [for past crimes.] But we were able to do a drug case that put him away."

Perry Roark "was basically running this huge gang [Dead Man Inc] out of the state prison system, and had eluded law enforcement forever. The police departments [in the area] had an informant or intel, but nobody had sat together and said, 'Let's get together and see what we can do. Because of that, his entire command and control, they're off the streets forever."

On the takedown of Prince George's County Executive Jack Johnson, whose wife was caught stuffing money into her underwear: "[U.S. Attorney] Rod [Rosenstein] and I were basically on the phone as this was going down, trying to figure out what to do. We had no intention to arrest him that day and certainly had no intention to arrest her that day. We generally like to gather evidence and get indictments. It was so out of the ordinary and unbelievable. He's driving to the house, she's telling him the FBI is outside, 'What do I do with the money, what do I do with the checks?' I can hear the agents through the phone, banging on the door. I'm thinking, they need to get into that house before she disposes of that money and that check. In retrospect, I'm glad they didn't go in right away - we got such a good conversation and locked her into it. Even though we never recovered that check, we got dynamite, dynamite evidence. But we didn't have an active indictment on him. I'm talking to Rod, and he's saying 'Let's go ahead and arrest him based on this. He's destroying evidence, this could be a problem for us.'"


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