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FBI Agent in Presser Case Reportedly Failed Lie Test

May 23, 1986|ROBERT L. JACKSON and RONALD J. OSTROW | Times Staff Writers

WASHINGTON — FBI agent Robert S. Friedrick, who has been charged with lying to try to prevent Jackie Presser from being indicted for labor racketeering, failed a lie detector test four months ago and then told authorities that he had met secretly last summer with the Teamsters chief and Presser's attorney, sources close to the case said Thursday.

The sources, who spoke on the condition that they not be named, said that Friedrick removed sensitive FBI files on Presser without authorization from his Cleveland office last June and took them to a hotel, where he met with John R. Climaco, Presser's lawyer. But Friedrick insisted to authorities that he did not show the documents to Climaco.

The meetings and the removal of the documents suggest that Friedrick, one of the agents who initially argued that Presser should not be indicted because of his role as a government informant, may have had a relationship with the union leader and his lawyer that went beyond normal FBI procedure for handling informants. Through his attorney, Friedrick refused to comment.

Friedrick's meetings with Presser, Climaco and Anthony Hughes, recording secretary of Presser's hometown Local 507, were mentioned last Friday in Friedrick's federal indictment on five counts of making false statements. But no details about the meetings were contained in the indictment, nor had it previously been disclosed that Friedrick had provided the first information about them.

The indictment charged that Friedrick participated in the meetings "to discuss a strategy . . . which would avoid an indictment of Jackie Presser," who was a long-time informant for the FBI in Cleveland.

No charges have been brought against Presser or Climaco in connection with their alleged discussion with Friedrick and Hughes of strategy for heading off Presser's indictment by contending that the FBI had authorized union payments to so-called "ghost employees" who did no work for the Teamsters.

However, sources familiar with the investigation said that federal grand juries in Cleveland and Washington are looking into the matter.

Attorney Won't Comment

Climaco, who is the union's general counsel as well as Presser's attorney, refused to comment Thursday on meetings with Friedrick.

Friedrick, 42, has been placed on 30-day paid leave from his job as supervisor of the FBI's organized crime squad in Cleveland and is to be fired after that, the sources said. But his attorney, William D. Beyer, has asked FBI Director William H. Webster to review the matter personally.

The FBI agent, indicted separately from Presser last week, is accused of having falsely stated that it was his belief that FBI agents had authorized Presser to make the "ghost employee" payments at a cost of more than $700,000 to his Cleveland Teamsters local.

Statements by Friedrick and his two predecessors, Martin P. McCann Jr. and Patrick Foran, allegedly led the Justice Department last July to temporarily abandon any prosecution of Presser.

Failed Key Question

The sources said Thursday that, after he had flunked several questions during a lie-detector test, Friedrick told of five meetings with Presser, Climaco and Hughes. The central question, they said, was whether he had personal knowledge that Presser had received authorization for his actions. When Friedrick answered "yes" to this and similar questions, the polygraph showed that his answers were untruthful, according to the sources.

At one point, Friedrick acknowledged that, in retrospect, he had made some serious mistakes because he found himself "more on Presser's side than on the Justice Department's side," one source said.

Sources said that FBI labor racketeering chief James Moody in Washington informed Friedrick late last May or in early June that the Justice Department had decided to seek an indictment against Presser.

Such warnings are "normal and customary" when FBI informants are to be charged, the sources said, adding that Friedrick was instructed to ask Presser if he wanted physical protection. If so, Friedrick was to tell Presser that the FBI would do everything in its power to guarantee his safety.

Advice to Presser

Friedrick told authorities, according to the sources, that he advised Presser that the only way an indictment could be prevented was for his attorney, Climaco, to seek to convince Justice Department officials that Presser's otherwise illegal acts had been authorized by the FBI, which Friedrick said he himself believed to be the truth.

Climaco subsequently met in Washington on June 11, 1985, with Deputy Assistant Atty. Gen. John C. Keeney and David Margolis, chief of the department's organized crime and racketeering section, according to a report issued by the Senate Governmental Affairs permanent investigations subcommittee.

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