Anyone coming here would know that I’d like the story of Lonnie Mason and his dedication to pursuing his skill long after he retired. If you’ve been coming here for a while you’d understand that I believe one of the worst things that has happened to law enforcement is the extensive reliance on informants. I’ve often called them the lazy cop’s tool.
Last Sunday I wrote about Robert Blakey and how he was instrumental in getting law enforcement the wiretap statute and the RICO law. How he worked at doing it is spelled out in the book Five Families written by Selwyn Raab. Once those laws were enacted, the federals were able to go about busting up the New York Mafia. What I found intriguing about the story that Raab tells is that this was done without any “high level informants.” It was mostly accomplished by hard and determined police work.
That’s why I have long maintained that the FBI’s top echelon informant program was misguided. That this is the case is well documented by what we saw in the Whitey case. It wasn’t high level informants that led to the destruction of the Whitey and his friends. It was a solid investigative plan and hard work.
The top echelon informant program came about because J. Edgar Hoover panicked. He’d just lost his ability to use bugs and phone taps, ELSUR in the FBI language. His brain trust convince him that using top gangsters who hung around with the top gangsters as partners with the FBI would replace the bugs. He gave up his forebodings that having his agents deal too closely with top criminals would result in them being corrupted. Old and losing it, he decided to let them partner with them. Even though it is abundantly clear the program doesn’t work, the FBI still uses it today.
The way crime is solved is not by going into business with the criminal but it’s through the hard detective work as shown by Lonnie Mason the retired New Jersey detective that enabled the police to nab a clever silver thief, Blane Nordahl. Mason had previously arrested Nardahl a couple of times . He spent his career tracing his movements. He convinced a group of southern detectives that the silver thefts were the work of Nordahl and to catch him they had to be prepared to run a marathon, that they needed patience and dedication.
Nordahl, 51, has been stealing silver pieces since he was 21 years old. It is suspected that he has stolen silver worth in the many millions of dollars and some pieces that are priceless. This case aside from showing that the tedious work of doing the job right and following leads can solve crimes, it also shows some of the other things I have found disheartening.
It should have been obvious to people that Nordahl would continue to commit crimes as soon as he was back on the street. Although he’s not violent, he does put himself in a position where violence could occur, breaking into private homes. He does violate one’s feeling of safety and well-being. He does take irreplaceable treasures from people that had been in their family for generations. He’d be someone I’d characterize as a bad person who having shown his true colors should be sentenced to the maximum amount of prison time each time he is convicted.
The NY Times article noted this: “In 1998, Mr. Nordahl, in return for a lighter sentence, made a deal with federal prosecutors that involved detailing how he had burglarized more than 100 homes.”
Now I ask you, does that sound like effective prosecution work? They have this lifelong burglar cold and tell him that if he tells them how he did it they’d let him do easy time. It’s not like giving some computer genius a break because he knows how to invade the banking system and by doing so you’ll learn something that will stop others from doing it. Nordahl’s style was unique to him so his disclosure of his methods leads to nothing other than satisfying some prosecutor’s curiosity.
As part of the deal with the federals, he avoided charges in 50 burglaries in 5 states. He got 5 years from the federals in 2000 and was released in 2001. He continued to burglar places. In 2004 he got grabbed again and got 8 years. He was out in 2010 and continued to burglar places until caught on Monday.
It’s worth considering his case. There were no informants, he worked alone. Hard work and patience brought him down. Prior deals with him led to more people being violated because he wasn’t recognized for what he is. It seems its another case of federals giving deals to bad guys that make no sense. We’ve got a long way to go.