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F.B.I. agents listening

During the time 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 life style that included Porsche automobiles was paid for by a special lock he invented. he was the guy who worked on the ensuring the Director’s home was burglar proof.

Ed Tickel led this secret life until one night on April 16, 1980, Earl Thorton, FBI janitor, 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, this was Tickel admitting 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, the U.S. attorney assigned learned this was ot 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 of 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 really curly dark hair) as Richard drove the crew into Victory Lane. The radios mentioned earlier were used during some of the NASCAR races which Ed was a part of. The use of these radios helped usher in the now standard two-way communications between driver and crews during races and practice seen in NASCAR today.

An investigation determined that, aside from his activities in the credit union, Tickel had been selling stolen rings and loose diamonds. He also was involved in selling stolen cars and stealing 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 also was 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.

In the end at sentencing a 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 in prison on charges of 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 at the time, 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 federal sentences he was already serving.

Unnoticed by the press, the notorious FBI legend died last March.

Below, I have a short video from Richard Petty’s win with Tickel as part of his pit crew.

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This show is about F.B.I. Black Bag operations and the men who do this. Without the skill of the “bag men” the important microphones would not have installed and the Mob control over the Tropicana and Stardust Casinos would never have been uncovered.

In this episode, I tell about an FBI agent that went bad, Ed Tickel. In the 1970s, this agent made many surreptitious entries inside and outside the country. He was what is known as an expert in NDE (non destructive entry). He was a legend within the Bureau. One time, the story goes, he was sent to Tehran, Iran to break into our embassy to retrieve some hidden documents after the hostages were released. He was an expert lock picker. For some locations, the Bureau wanted to have their own key, in that case, the lock expert used a technique called lock impressioning. The first method of impressioning occurs by stealing the key and using a soft substance like clay or wax to make an impression of the key. A duplicate can be made from the impression. The other more difficult is known as “manipulation based impressioning” a key. Ed Tickel was an expert in this technique. The target lock manufacturer is identified and a blank key that fits that lock is purchased. The hard metal blank is then copied onto a softer metal. The bag man needs some time in front of the lock. He inserts the specially made blank and manipulates it to get an impression of the pin location and depth. The blank is withdrawn with almost unseen impressions of the lock pin locations. The locksmith uses an ultraviolet light or maybe a microscope to identify the pin locations. He then files away the pin areas creating a duplicate key.  Ed Tickel once hid inside a large refrigerator box placed in front of the door in a highly traveled area to impression a key. He used this refrigerator box again to protect himself from a guard dog while he made a key impression of the front door lock of a mob guy’s business.

In Kansas City we had three well known microphones installed. One was inside the Villa Capri tavern, the second was inside the law office of John Patrick Quinn and the third was inside the house of Josephine Marlo. The first two, being a business were relatively easy. Just watch the owners at home, in case they have a sudden notion to go back to the business. The third was at a private home located in a neighborhood populated by KC Mob boss Nick Civella and his friends and relatives. Our friend and sometimes guest, retired agent, Bill Ousely called this putting a microphone inside the Lion’s Den. Tickel and local the back bag expert conferred and came up with a plan. They created a telephone problem. They responded disguised as telephone repairmen to survey the residence and place a microphone inside the telephone. They realized the telephone mike was not placed close enough to any meetings. Listen for the rest of the story.

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Gangland Wire
To hear premium podcast click here.

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To subscribe on iTunes go to, give me a review and I will send you a link to see the film for free.

In this episode, Tropicana Casino Skimming, Aaron and I talk about how KC boss Nick Civella used Joe Agosto to infiltrate the Tropicana casino. I use the below actual wiretap audio to help tell the…

During the Casino Skimming investigation known as Strawman, Kansas City Mob boss,  Nick Civella and Carl “Tuffy” DeLuna (Artie Piscano played by Vinny Vella) were discussing where or not Nick could call Lefty Rosenthal (Ace Rothstein played…