Retired FBI Agent talks about undercover operations - WBTV 3 News, Weather, Sports, and Traffic for Charlotte, NC

Retired FBI Agent talks about undercover operations

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CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) -

The criminal complaint in the Patrick Cannon case laid out a list of accusations, including a $20,000 cash payout in the mayor's office last month and a total of five cash bribes in just the past 15 months.

But how did agents gain such close access to Cannon?

A source said the FBI goes through a lot of effort to set up an undercover operation and that agents pay attention to the details.

The people who spoke to WBTV did not speak specifically about the case against the now former mayor, but they did speak in general terms and were careful not to reveal well-kept secrets.

FBI surveillance videos have destroyed political careers like in the 1990s when Washington, D.C. Mayor Marion Barry was arrested on drug charges.  

Video of former Louisiana Congressman William Jefferson showed him taking a briefcase full of money. Later, $90,000 was found hidden in his freezer.

The 42-page affidavit filed in the Patrick Cannon case reveals conversations with undercover agents and states that a luxury apartment where several meetings took place was rigged with cameras, but no video has been released in the case.

According to the affidavit, undercover FBI agents established themselves as commercial real estate agents and investors. Investigators said they built their relationship with Cannon over three and a half years starting in 2010.

Former FBI agent, Edgar J. Hartung explained why FBI investigations can take that much time.

"It could last from six months to four years or more," said Hartung. "To me I salute the FBI for that because besides the Bureau who else is going to go after a politician? Certainly would be difficult for the local police or even the state police.  It's better handled by the FBI."

Ed Hartung is now head of the Criminal Justice Department of Alvernia University in Pennsylvania. He worked 27 years for the FBI and said that during that time he investigated another mayor in a small town.

"I enjoyed the guy I put in jail," said Hartung, "I enjoyed arresting him because he was a crook despite being mayor of a town, he was a crook.  We don't need crooks for mayors."
 
Hartung had no comments on the FBI's case against Cannon.  He did say in general the bureau is very sophisticated in creating a history for undercover agents in case anyone would check.

"Just rest assured they can create a very believable background employment personal history," said Hartung.

Hartung said that, in his experience, corrupt politicians don't always check someone's credentials.

"And frankly," he said, "Politicians sometimes aren't that smart."

Hartung's only comment about Cannon - "We can't say he's guilty or innocent. That's for a jury to decide."

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