When Ed Tickel was installing F.B.I. wiretaps, he led a secret life as a burglar. He was the son of a respected FBI agent and well-liked by his coworkers. I found a report about this secret life in a book titled The Secrets of the FBI by investigative reporter Ronald Kessler. He was known as a guy who could defeat any lock, crack any safe and make any covert entry required. Many agents attended lavish parties held at his 5-acre horse farm in Virginia. They all supposed this lavish lifestyle that included Porsche automobiles was paid for by a unique lock he invented. he was the guy who worked on ensuring the Director’s home was burglar-proof.
Ed Tickel led this secret life until one night on April 16, 1980, Earl Thorton, an FBI janitor, caught him while cleaning FBI Headquarters after hours. Like Frank Willis, the night he discovered the locks of the Watergate complex taped open, Earl Thorton stumbled into something that did not rock the nation, but it did rock the FBI. At 5:30 p.m. Earl Thornton opened the door to the Federal Credit Union on the eighth floor of FBI headquarters. He turned on the lights. Thornton was about to start vacuuming when he saw crouching behind a counter a stocky man with brown hair in front of an open safe. After a pause, the man behind the counter jumped up and yelled, “Freeze FBI!” Mr. Thorton was looking at Ed Tickel holding a pistol, and immediately behind him was an open safe door. Tickel would claim he had received a call for help at the Credit Union and while inside he saw this black man enter, and he was merely making an arrest. The problem with this story was he remained hidden behind the counter for several minutes until Mr. Thorton spotted him and more importantly, the purported person calling for help could never be produced. Tickel subsequently failed a polygraph test. When the FBI’s head polygraph examiner told Tickel he was not truthful, Tickel replied, ” I knew this would come down to a contest between experts, and I respect you very much.” In the examiner’s mind, Tickel admitted he was not telling the truth, and the polygraph examiner was correct in his interpretation.
When this investigation was referred to the Department of Justice, John Hume, U.S. attorney, learned this was not the first FBI investigation of Ed Tickel. He found that Tickel had been investigated for using his FBI position to help a friend under investigation for a $200,000.00 jewelry store burglary and theft in North Carolina. Hume re-opened that case, and his investigation determined that Tickel’s credit card had been used in the area of this diamond theft at the time of this theft. He kept digging into Tickel’s activities and found he was suspected of many crimes.
One strange crime was the misappropriation of government property, to be more precise, FBI radios.
Ed Tickel was a member of Richard Petty’s pit crew in the late 1970’s early 80’s. He can be seen at the celebration of Petty’s 1979 Daytona 500 win! If you watch any video’s of the end of that race, you can see Ed on the hood of Petty’s car (the guy with the curly dark hair) as Richard drove the crew into Victory Lane. The radios mentioned earlier were used during some of the NASCAR races that Ed was a part of. These radios helped usher in the now standard two-way communications between drivers and crews during races and practice seen in NASCAR today.
An investigation determined that Tickel had been selling stolen rings and loose diamonds aside from his activities in the credit union. He also sold stolen cars and stole two-way FBI radios for friends.
Tickel was acquitted in federal court in Washington of burglarizing the FBI credit union. However, he pleaded guilty to having misappropriated the radios. After a nine-day trial, Tickel was also convicted in Alexandria, Va., of charges connected with a jewelry theft from a jewelry store — interstate transportation of stolen goods, making false statements, obstruction of justice, and tax evasion. For these charges, he received a prison term of eight years.
During his trial, Tickel, a 14-year FBI veteran, denied wrongdoing and said that he was the victim of a government “vendetta” because he had informed FBI Director William H. Webster that secret entries, known in bureau parlance as “black bag jobs,” to install FBI eavesdropping equipment had been conducted without court permission.
At sentencing, 42-year-old Ed Tickel showed remorse and stated, “I’m sorry to cause all of these problems. I’ve made some bad judgments.” A spokesman for the FBI said, “As far as we know, this is the stiffest sentence handed out to an agent convicted of criminal charges in the modern history of the FBI.”
Tickel appealed and during a hearing for an appeal bond reduction to keep him on the streets during his appeal, prosecutors alleged that during his trial Tickel had been driving a stolen van. it seems that a van he drove to the courthouse was towed for a parking violation near the federal courthouse, impounded and then found by Alexandria police to be stolen. His lawyer said he was convinced Tickel did not know the vehicle was stolen.
A federal judge sentenced the former FBI agent to eight years for fencing stolen jewelry and obstructing justice.
He was acquitted of six other charges.
In a Virginia state court case, Tickel was convicted of receiving $120,000 in stolen cars and other items.
Then, when this is all done, Ed Tickel is charged again. Tickel was charged in Prince George’s County outside of Washington with second-degree rape for having sex with a daughter of one of his many lawyers. The daughter, who was 20 then, had a learning disability and epilepsy. Tickel pleaded guilty to a second-degree sex offense — having sex with force or the threat of force. His 20-year sentence for that crime ran concurrently with the federal sentences he was already serving.
Unnoticed by the press, the notorious FBI legend died last March.
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