WASHINGTON — A former FBI supervisor accused of lying to block the indictment of Teamsters President Jackie Presser has admitted that a top Presser aide promised him financial support if he were fired from the bureau or sent to jail, according to newly filed court papers.
Robert S. Friedrick, who was fired by the FBI last year, also admitted that he and Presser concocted a story used by the union leader's lawyer to persuade the Justice Department to abort a Presser indictment in 1985, prosecutors said in the papers. Presser, who served as a secret FBI informant in organized crime investigations, was supervised by Friedrick.
Friedrick also told of accepting "innumerable" personal favors from Presser and his aide, Anthony Hughes, in the five years that he handled Presser's informant work, prosecutors said. Hughes also served as an FBI informant.
Friedrick made the admissions during questioning by federal investigators early last year. The Justice Department disclosed the statements in recent days in urging the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to reverse a lower-court ruling that threw out many of Friedrick's damaging admissions, contending that they were involuntary and the result of government coercion.
Friedrick is charged with lying to Justice Department investigators in claiming that he and other FBI agents had authorized Presser to pay "ghost employees" of his hometown local, a payroll-padding scheme that provided salaries for people who did no work. His trial has been delayed until the appeal is decided.
In disclosing new elements of Friedrick's admissions, the government for the first time indicated what it believes motivated the veteran FBI agent to try to block the labor fraud indictment of Presser.
"With respect to his motivation, Friedrick explained that, in the five years that he had 'handled' Presser and Hughes (as informants), they had developed a very close personal relationship," prosecutors said.
"In Friedrick's view, he had lost his objectivity and 'was identifying with these people now,' espousing their 'cause.' The Justice Department had become 'the bad guys,' and 'the good guys were Jackie Presser and Tony Hughes,' " the government told the appeals court.
Meanwhile, the separate trial of Presser and two Teamsters associates on charges of misusing $700,000 in union funds in the "ghost worker" case is expected to be postponed until the fall, sources said. That trial had been scheduled to begin in Cleveland next month.
In August, 1985, when investigators began probing the alleged cover-up by the FBI agent, "Hughes assured Friedrick that he would be taken care of financially if he lost his job or were sent to jail," prosecutors said. "Over the years, Presser and Hughes had performed innumerable personal favors for Friedrick, some of which were of monetary value."
William D. Beyer, Friedrick's attorney, charged in an interview Monday that department lawyers "are firing some cheap shots at Bob Friedrick."
"Friedrick considered Hughes' assurance of financial support to be a nice gesture," Beyer said. "But Friedrick never considered it to be serious, and it has not, in fact, happened."
Beyer also minimized Friedrick's receipt of personal favors from Presser and Hughes, describing the gratuities as such items as Teamsters salad bowls at Christmas and tickets to the circus and an amusement park. He said Friedrick gave away such gifts to neighborhood children.
Statements Under Seal
The bulk of Friedrick's interview statements remains under seal. Government sources have said they want to avoid disclosing the information because it could hamper investigation of others for possible involvement in the alleged cover-up.
Friedrick used techniques he learned as a skilled FBI investigator in attempting to cover up the fact that he and Presser had concocted the story later used by Presser's lawyer in efforts to dissuade the government from indicting Presser, his admissions showed.
In meeting with the lawyer, John Climaco, "Friedrick took various steps including falsifying his expense vouchers and internal memoranda and closing each meeting with Climaco with the warning, 'These meetings never occurred,' " prosecutors said.
He chose Cleveland's Bond Court Hotel for his meetings with Climaco and then met there with Martin McCann, a former FBI agent who had earlier supervised Presser's informant work. If Friedrick's presence at the hotel were later discovered, the government filing contended, he could have used "the McCann meeting to conceal the meeting with Climaco."
Climaco has repeatedly scoffed at government claims that FBI agents fabricated a story that they had approved Presser's hiring of "ghost employees."
Climaco has told U.S. District Judge George W. White in Cleveland that he will prove the FBI advised Presser to keep Mafia-related "ghost employees" on the union payroll to enhance Presser's value as an FBI informant and to prevent the retribution against Presser that might result from his firing them.