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FBI Undercover Operations


Convinced he wanted to become one of J. Edgar Hoover’s celebrated “G-Men,” when the FBI’s New York Office became critically understaffed in 1969, Mr. WEDICK seized the opportunity to join the Bureau’s ranks and after completing his undergraduate studies at Fordham University, in August 1973, became a regularly appointed FBI Special Agent assigned to the Indianapolis Division.

Like most new agents, he chased Bureau-fugitives and pursued bank-robbers, until he grew tired of visiting dingy hotels and conducting late night surveillances and asked to be assigned more complicated investigations. Because he thinks Bureau resources should be used to combat the nation’s most serious crime threats—in particular white-collar-crime, organized crime, and threats to national security—he approached Bureau officials about using agents to penetrate a group of globetrotting conmen thought to be responsible for orchestrating a number of multi-million dollar fraud schemes. Since he cultivated an informant who indicated the conmen were working closely with two New York crime families, he proposed the FBI mount an undercover operation as a means to investigate both organized crime and white-collar-crime. But some old-schooled Bureau officials balked at the operation because any successful operation also mandated agents travel overseas.

Before Hoover’s death, the FBI did not readily use agents for long-term undercover operations—much less send them overseas. And unlike today—in the Hoover era—the Bureau did not have a specialized data-base and/or a pool of instructors where agents could secure help for an undercover role. And although some agents were selectively assigned long-term undercover work—as when agents were asked to penetrate the Weathermen a violent student group opposed to the Vietnam War—most undercover investigations were short-term operations involving classic “buy/bust” scenarios that ended almost as quickly as they began. Today, the FBI has a specialized unit for undercover operations—complete with an agent data-base and trained instructors—that not only trains and recruits agents for operations, but psychologically qualifies individuals for undercover roles.

Despite “not” having a false-ID program to support agents needing a fictitious identity—the FBI approved the operation proposed by Mr. WEDICK and he and another agent were asked to penetrate the group of international thieves. Code named, “OPFOPEN,” the investigation enabled the FBI to develop criminal cases not only in the United States, but in Europe as well and paved the way for a number of successful operations that concerned public corruption and national security in the United States.

Designated “Major Case One,” the OPFOPEN case became a Bureau priority when FBI Director William H. Webster established the FBI’s top priorities as being Organized Crime, White-Collar-Crime and Foreign Counterintelligence. And agents coined the OPFOPEN code name—an acronym for Operation Fountain Pen—when investigators realized many of the crime figures being examined were individuals whose criminal activities had been reported by Jonathan Kwitny, an investigative journalist for The Wall Street Journal who penned, “The Fountain Pen Conspiracy.”

Aside from the OPFOPEN investigation, Mr. WEDICK’s early career included brief undercover roles in the ABSCAM investigation where several members of Congress were found “guilty” of taking bribes; the SKIN BURN investigation that concerned the sons of New York mobster JOSEPH CHARLES BONANNO prosecuted for conducting an illicit wire/mail fraud scheme; and a corruption scandal involving an executive with the California State Teachers’ Pension Fund responsible for orchestrating a $50 million loan to a Denver conman—taking a $1 million “bribe.”

Corruption Involving the California State Legislature

As a result of a 3-year undercover probe involving members of the California State Legislature suspected of soliciting bribes, in May 1994, Mr. WEDICK was awarded the FBI Director’s award for conducting the Bureau's most "Outstanding Criminal Investigation.” The legislative probe code named, "BRISPEC," [an acronym for Bribery – Special Interest] resulted in a number of search warrants being executed inside lawmakers' offices in the Sacramento State Capitol, as well as the prosecution of five [5] California state legislators and an insurance lobbyist who sought to influence workers-comp legislation in exchange for a $250,000 "bribe.” Also prosecuted were nine (9) other individuals, including a member of the California Coastal Commission responsible for "extorting" Hollywood celebrities actor/director Sylvester Stallone, music composer Burt Bacharach, lyricist Carole Bayer Sager, movie-entertainment moguls Jeffrey Katzenberg, Barry Diller and David Geffen, movie producer Blake Edwards and his wife singer/actress Julie Andrews, Sandy Gallin, and movie-producer Irwin Winkler.

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Prime Time Live and Various Editorial Boards

The BRISPEC corruption case [also named “SHRIMPSCAM” by the media] received national attention and is often credited with term-limits being enacted in California. Aside from the case being featured on ABC's Prime Time Live, several California Editorial Boards praised the Bureau's efforts pursuing the legislative probe, along with the FBI's commitment to investigate and prosecute corrupt public officials. In addition to receiving the FBI Director’s award, Mr. WEDICK was also nominated by the U.S. Attorney, in Sacramento for "Criminal Investigator of the Year,” and his performance was cited in the U.S. Congressional Record.

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Local Municipal Corruption

During 1994-96, Mr. WEDICK initiated investigation code named, "REZONE," that concerned local officials, land owners and developers soliciting, receiving, and/or paying "bribes" in the Clovis/Fresno, California area—all in exchange for favorable zoning. Because the investigation confirmed allegations suggesting “elected” officials were soliciting/receiving “bribes,” Mr. WEDICK sought indictments charging seventeen (17) individuals with corruption and RICO violations, with fourteen (14) defendants pleading "guilty” and two (2) defendants being found "guilty" as a result of a jury trial. Lastly, a third defendant was allowed to enter a plea utilizing the U.S. Attorney’s pre-trial diversion program.

In numerous editorials that appeared in the Sacramento and Fresno Bees, the last dated 7/6/2001, captioned, "Operation REZONE's Painful Lessons,” the FBI was credited with exposing corrupt land-use practices where it was "clear the local political system ha(d) been manipulated for extraordinary personal gain at the cost of public trust."

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Health Care Fraud

Throughout his professional career, Mr. WEDICK has been called an effective crime fighter—someone with a talent for investigating organized crime, arrest public officials, and develop criminal informants. In 1998, when he discovered “millions” were being defrauded by unscrupulous medical providers from California’s Medicaid Program, he alerted Bureau officials about the “explosion” in health care fraud scams and was credited with sounding the alarm and attacking the problem.

Because the FBI in Sacramento also has jurisdiction in Medicaid fraud—since claims are paid in Sacramento—he partnered with California Governor Gray Davis and his office to combat the problem and was recognized for developing an extremely effective white-collar-crime unit used to prosecute the violators. Briefly stated, he was credited with successfully managing three (3) Health Care Fraud [HCF] Initiatives and prosecuting three-hundred-twenty-four (324) providers responsible for defrauding funds totaling in excess of $228 million from California’s Medicaid Program.

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The success of the HCF Initiatives code named, “PHONY PHARM, UNWHOLESUM, and BLOOD SPIN,” attracted the attention of broadcast and print journalists alike, including 60 Minutes’ Mike Wallace, CNN's Wolf Blitzer, and Virginia Ellis at the Los Angeles Times who did a 9-part investigative series detailing the extent of fraudulent abuse in California’s Medicaid Program. And in July 2003, FBI Director Robert Mueller recognized Mr. WEDICK for his “exceptional leadership” investigating health care fraud violators stating, “…if not aggressively pursued … [fraudulent providers can] have a significant detrimental effect on the finances of the Nation.”

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After several state/federal officials recommended he receive an appointment to head California’s terrorism effort, in 2004, Mr. WEDICK became a consultant and, in 2005, he joined the legal defense team representing two Lodi, California men charged with making false statements and supporting terrorism. Reviewing the government’s evidence, Mr. WEDICK said he was surprised to learn the Justice Department had elected to prosecute the Hayats and became an outspoken critic of the investigation. He said a lack of corroboration, shoddy interrogation tactics and a “mishandled” informant contributed to the public’s perception the investigation was mishandled.

Because the Pakistani immigrant turned informant was central to the government’s case, he said the investigation was “flawed” since it was predicated, in part, upon “bogus” information suggesting the informant saw Ayman Al-Zawahiri—Bin Laden’s top lieutenant—in Lodi, California frequenting a local mosque. Testifying in court, the informant said he saw Zawahiri every time he visited the mosque. But when he made the claim, Zawahiri had “not” been seen in California for approximately 10 years—at least according to a Silicon Valley physician who last accompanied him when he visited the San Francisco Bay area in 1991. And during the time since his last visit, Zawahiri had been actively sought for his role in the two American embassies bombings in Africa, in 1998, as well as the attacks on the USS Cole, and later the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Since the Bureau’s flagship office in New York doubted the information—as Zawahiri was thought to be hiding in the tribal area located near the Afghan-Pakistani border—Sacramento agents should have been more circumspect about using the informant, but weren’t. And without some information indicating the informant knew Zawahiri or the two shared mutual acquaintances, Mr. WEDICK said the Sacramento agents should have been skeptical of the informant noting there was little chance he saw Zawahiri and/or knew where he might be located.

Reviewing court documents concerning money disbursed, Mr. WEDICK said payments made to the informant totaling almost $235,000 were also excessive. Prior to working for the FBI, he said the informant earned minimum wage—selling gasoline and cigarettes at a local convenience store. Agreeing to become an informant, Mr. WEDICK said he nearly doubled his income—receiving approximately $60,000 per year. The hefty increase left Justice Department officials subject to criticism the informant had an ongoing interest promoting the investigation and some questioned how he could be paid since he was wrong about seeing Zawahiri.

Because he has an extensive background handling FBI informants and conducting Bureau undercover operations, Mr. WEDICK said he is extremely familiar with FBI Policies & Procedures concerning utilizing informants and conducting undercover operations. He said paying an informant who has provided “erroneous” information is contrary to Bureau policy and violates the spirit of the Attorney General’s Guidelines. And not documenting an informant’s failures and/or shortcomings such as being wrong about a fugitive’s identification or worse not admonishing an informant for providing false or misleading information is contrary to regulations. And left unchecked, an unsupervised informant can easily undermine an investigation or cause damage to innocent third parties.

Examining audio files reflecting recorded conversations between the informant and the two defendants, Mr. WEDICK said the conversations suggest the FBI failed to control the informant. Rather than ask simple questions to find out what the young Hayat might be planning—since agents need to be mindful about entrapment—he said files reflect an informant urging the defendant as when he said, “You told me ... [you were] going for jihad” and “You’re sitting idle. You’re wasting time.” And while Hayat responded, “I’m ready. I swear.” He also later dismissed the idea stating, “… but when does my mother permit it,” explaining they were separated for 10-years and she refused to let them be separated again.

But the young Hayat did make some comments suggesting at times he approved of Muslim extremists, as when he talked about the murder of Wall Street Journalist Daniel Pearl commenting, “They killed him so I’m pleased.” But analyzing his statements, court observers said the informant only succeeded in getting the defendant to make gratuitous and inflamed remarks about the slaying without producing any independent or objective evidence indicating Hayat planned to be a terrorist or was someone who wanted to commit jihad in the United States. And when the defendant went to Pakistan to get married—except for conversations with the informant—despite having plenty of resources [because the Bureau has an office in Islamabad], strangely the FBI did “not” intercept and record Hayat’s conversations and/or try to surveill his activities.

Because the Bureau did “not” monitor his activities in Pakistan, Mr. WEDICK said the FBI obviously didn’t consider Hayat a serious threat. Because the Bureau limited its investigation to information generated by the informant, he said the investigation lacked depth. Had the Bureau really been concerned about Hayat being a jihadist, he said FBI executives would have demanded the case agent pursue parallel lines of inquiry permitting agents to not only corroborate the informant when possible, but independently assess the defendant’s activities and identify his associates. Mr. WEDICK said he was astonished when he learned the case agent testified he didn’t conduct any overt investigation in Pakistan, preferring instead to rely on the informant for information.

Following his return to the United States, the FBI said Hamid Hayat reportedly made two admissions to agents—both not recorded—suggesting he visited some sought of training facility in Pakistan, but fled. In the 1st reported admission, Hayat said following a long bus-trip, he ended up at a location where he thought he heard noises suggesting weapons and explosives, but fled. In the 2nd reported admission, he said following a long bus-trip to Balakot for religious instruction, he ended-up in what he thought might be a jihadist training camp, but again fled.

Upon hearing the admissions, the FBI re-interviewed Hayat and his father with each interview being video recorded. Examining the video tapes, courtroom observers and media personnel described the sessions as being both confusing and nonsensical. Although the undercover operation had been ongoing for almost 4–years, Mr. WEDICK said agents were unfamiliar with the territory where Hayat resided and were confused about the holy month of Ramadan. And instead of having surveillance photographs and other documents indicating the FBI conducted a thorough investigation [in both the United States and Pakistan]—suggesting maybe the Hayats should consider cooperation—he said the Sacramento agents appeared inexperienced, ill-informed, and unprepared.

As an example, Mr. WEDICK said the FBI knew the younger Hayat had a limited 6th grade education and might have trouble with the English language, yet agents made no effort to obtain the assistance of an interpreter. And when questioned about weapons—Hayat ridiculously responded he saw two rifles, a pistol, and a knife used to cut vegetables. And when asked to describe the camp he visited, on 11-separate occasions, said he visited 8 different locations commenting he thought he went to Balakot, the North-West Frontier Province, Kashmir, Afghanistan, Mansehra, Tora Bora, Dohum, and Peshawar.

Equally disturbing and just as nonsensical, the older Hayat described the training camp as if he were watching a cartoon commercial telling agents he saw a large “underground” complex where he observed 1000 men or more wearing “ninja-turtle masks” and vaulting an underground river that stretched in excess of 100-feet. But since agents didn’t monitor either Hayat, the FBI didn’t know if the defendants were telling the truth or simply making up a story in an effort to satisfy investigators [and go home]. Seasoned agents familiar with the investigation said it made no sense the FBI did “not” conduct any electronic and/or physical surveillance of the defendants—particularly if the Bureau suspected the younger Hayat wanted to become a jihadist.

But nothing is more revealing concerning the government’s case than the informant’s last recorded telephone conversation with the defendant—still in Pakistan. Angry because he thinks the investigation might be coming to an end, the informant accuses Hayat of being a “loafer guy,” commenting he does nothing, but sleep, smoke cigarettes and eat food. Trying to deflect criticism, Hayat asks the informant what else he can do. Cursing the informant responds [urging Hayat], “You sound like a f--king broken b-tch. Come on. Be a man. Do something.” Again, trying to sidestep the verbal assaults, Hayat replies, “Whatever I can do, I’ll do that man.” Frustrated the informant threatens Hayat, “When I come to Pakistan … I’m going to f--king force you, get you from your throat and f---king throw you in the Madrassa.” The conversation ends with Hayat commenting he’ll continue with his studies and maybe become a scholar.

Despite the horrific nature of the September attacks, Mr. WEDICK states the informant’s “threats” were grounds for the FBI to “immediately” terminate the undercover operation. Because he threatened the defendant with physical violence, he said the informant not only broke the law, but violated Bureau admonitions concerning committing “unlawful acts,” taking “independent action,” and “witness intimidation.” Mr. WEDICK said when the informant made the threats he was angry. Based on conversations he with the defendant, the informant realized Hayat had no intention of going to a terrorist’s camp and unless he sought training as a jihadist, he suspected the undercover operation was conceivably over. Not surprisingly, he had become accustomed to the Bureau picking-up his living expenses and driving a new Dodge Durango SUV so he didn’t want to return to the days of earning minimum wage. And contrary to the government’s theory of prosecution—suggesting the defendant wanted to commit jihad—Hayat, in fact, had fallen prey to an overly aggressive informant whose FBI handlers conveniently looked the other way when he threatened he was going to “force” and take the defendant by the “throat” to a Madrassa.

The controversy surrounding Mr. WEDICK’s expected testimony in the Hayat case was widely reported and in May 2006 became a “cover” story that appeared in the Los Angeles Times Sunday Magazine. Mr. WEDICK’s criticism was also featured in a PBS FRONTLINE documentary titled, “ENEMY WITHIN” that aired in October 2006. Following lengthy deliberations, however, jurors ultimately sided with the prosecution and the younger Hayat was found guilty of making false statements and supporting terrorism. His father was released when the trial judge declared a “mistrial” in his case, and he later pled guilty to a currency violation—receiving credit for time served. Following the younger Hayat’s conviction, Mr. WEDICK secured affidavits suggesting racial basis and juror misconduct contributed to the one “guilty” verdict and an appeal was later filed with the 9th Circuit, in San Francisco.

In August 2007, Mr. WEDICK was retained by lawyers representing the “Liberty City Seven,” also charged with terrorism in Miami, Florida. Reviewing the evidence, Mr. WEDICK discovered one of the FBI informants was found deceptive in a previous investigation—failing a Bureau polygraph examination. He “opined” the FBI violated the Attorney General’s [AG] Guidelines using the informant because of the failed polygraph. He said, generally, the FBI will not use an individual who has lied or testified falsely and he suspected segments of the informant’s background were omitted when agents sought permission to operate the informant. Following deliberations, he said U.S. District Court Judge Joan Lenard declared a “mistrial” when jurors couldn’t render a verdict—although they did “acquit” one defendant. In 2008, the government again tried to prosecute the defendants, but again the trial judge had to declare a “mistrial.” In 2009, the government said they would try the case yet again for a third time.

In October 2007, Mr. WEDICK was asked by the American Civil Liberties Union [ACLU], Harrisburg, Pennsylvania to assist with the representation of Faysal Snoussi—a Moroccan immigrant who recently completed a prison sentence because of a drug conviction. Following his release from prison, the Justice Department wanted to deport Snoussi, but he was seeking asylum claiming if returned to Morocco he would be tortured as a suspected terrorist. The ACLU wanted Mr. WEDICK to testify as an expert witness concerning Bureau investigations conducted overseas.

Because Snoussi claimed legal protections citing the UN Convention against Torture, the Board of Immigration Appeals remanded his case to U.S. Immigration Court, York, Pennsylvania for adjudication. Accordingly, Mr. WEDICK reviewed information concerning Snoussi’s drug conviction and the fact the New York Joint Terrorism Task Force [NY JTTF] suspected he was importing “explosives.” He also testified as an expert witness. Following the hearing, Immigration Judge Walter Durling refused the government’s request to deport Snoussi stating he gave great weight to WEDICK’s testimony. Judge Durling said if returned to Morocco, he thought Snoussi would be “tortured” and in accordance with the treaty denied the request.

In his decision, Judge Durling said in part:

“[A]s former Special Agent Wedick testified, it would have been ‘criminal negligence’ for the FBI in the United States not to follow up with its foreign counterparts as part of such an investigation. Being a special agent with the FBI for 35 years, the court gives significant weight to such testimony.” (pp. 3-4).

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FBI Interrogations

In a recent capital murder trial held in 2008, Mr. WEDICK testified contrary to the FBI’s Policies & Procedures he found a local FBI agent had made repeated threats in an effort to persuade a witness to identify two suspects. Testifying in Yolo County Superior Court before Judge L. Stephen [in People vs. Guillermo Ramirez and Candelario Garza III], he said the FBI agent told the witness she had a choice to make commenting she needed to identify the suspects. Because the agent made statements suggesting her children were in jeopardy—as well as she was protecting someone at her children’s expense—he “opined” the FBI agent used “coercion” and/or “threats” in an effort to persuade the witness to identify the suspects, in violation of Bureau policy, as detailed in FBI’s Legal Handbook for Special Agents, Section 7 titled, “Confessions and Interrogations.”

Following his testimony, both defendants were acquitted.

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Professional OrganizationsScale of Justice

For almost 7-years Mr. WEDICK represented Sacramento agents before the FBI Agents Association [FBIAA], a national professional trade organization representing more than 11,500 FBI agents. He is also a Certified Fraud Specialist [CFS] and member in good standing with the Association of Certified Fraud Specialists [ACFS] and Association Certified Fraud Examiners [ACFE], both national trade associations. And he is a member of the Sacramento County Bar Association.

At the request of a number of professional organizations, including the National White Collar Crime Center [NW3C], Association of Certified Fraud Specialists [ACFS], Association of Government Accounts [AGA], and the Attorney General for the State of Alabama, Mr. Wedick has made a number of appearances and presentations concerning Organized Crime, White-Collar-Crime, and Public Corruption.

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And when requested, he has made himself available to both Television news crews and cable TV networks—looking for commentary—concerning ongoing investigations involving either the FBI and/or “other” components of the U.S. Department of Justice.

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Disclaimer: Because Mr. Wedick retired from the FBI in 2004, he does "not" have any current affiliation or connection with the U.S.
Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and/or the United States Government.

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