GREG McARTHUR AND TU THANH HA
From Tuesday's Globe and Mail Published on Tuesday, Jun. 05, 2007 4:45AM EDT Last updated on Friday, Apr. 03, 2009 12:18PM EDT
Lloyd Kolokoff, a Miami stockbroker, figured he knew his best client, Arthur Kane, well enough. He had seen him five days a week for 10 years, when Mr. Kane would walk into the offices of Merrill Lynch, grab a diet cola from the vending machine and fix his gaze on the ticker tape until the markets closed.
Mr. Kane's afternoon routine was like clockwork, until the day he pulled a .357 magnum out of his briefcase. "I thought he was just a government worker playing around with his wife's money," Mr. Kolokoff said in an interview. "Looking back, I was so naive not to dig a little further."
It had only been a week since Black Monday, the October, 1987, stock-market crash, and Mr. Kane had lost all of his investments, about $2-million (U.S.).
The distraught investor arranged for a meeting with Mr. Kolokoff and his manager, and when the manager stood up to shake Mr. Kane's hand, Mr. Kane pulled out the gun and fired. He hit the manager directly in the heart, killing him. Mr. Kolokoff was paralyzed by a bullet to his back. Then Mr. Kane turned the gun on himself and ended his own life - and with it, an identity that was the creation of the U.S. Department of Justice.
The day after the rampage, officials in Washington, D.C., felt compelled to come clean about a discreet relationship they had struck up with Mr. Kane and made an announcement to the media.
Mr. Kane's real name was Arthur Katz - a corrupt lawyer who the government had rewarded with a new name and a new life in return for testifying against his former Mafia associates. Mr. Katz, his wife and three daughters had been relocated from Kansas City.
The U.S. government has had to make many such embarrassing admissions to victims of crime and grieving family members: Just so you know, the person who just stabbed you or murdered your relative was an agent of the state.
The admissions have sparked lawsuits, congressional hearings and demands for the government to justify the protection of certain mobsters and killers.
The RCMP has not been as forthcoming.
The Mounties insist that a provision in the Witness Protection Program Act forces them to hide problem cases. However, other witness protection programs - including the provincial one in Quebec and the U.S. federal program - are quite public about their mistakes.
The RCMP program, which came into law in 1996, has helped the Mounties and other police services infiltrate the Hell's Angels, the Mafia and most recently, an alleged terrorist cell. About 1,000 people - 700 RCMP witnesses, and about 300 from other police services - have been admitted to the program and disappeared into new communities with new identities. It is a criminal offence to knowingly reveal, directly or indirectly, anything about their new identities.
Because of this Canadians have been barred from seeing the dark side to protecting known criminals. For instance, one family somewhere in Canada has no idea their loved one was killed by protected witness, a man who some lawyers have argued didn't deserve a new identity or the more than $100,000 he was paid.
In March, The Globe and Mail, in conjunction with the Ottawa Citizen, published the story of RCMP Agent E8060, a Victoria, B.C., man named Richard Young, who was allowed to remain in the witness protection program even though it emerged in court that he concocted evidence. Then, under his new identity, Mr. Young was convicted of killing someone.
The RCMP has fought hard against revealing Mr. Young's new identity, arguing that it would be illegal under the Witness Protection Program Act and that it would scare off potential witnesses in other cases.
But that hasn't happened in the United States, said Gerald Shur, the founder of the U.S. federal witness protection program, which is known as WITSEC.
"I always felt strongly that we needed to explain our actions to the public, especially when we made a mistake," Mr. Shur said in his 2002 book WITSEC: Inside the Federal Witness Protection Program. "I also thought we had a responsibility to listen, if for no other reason than to let someone who had been victimized say their piece. "
The United States has a provision in its Witness Security Reform Act that allows the victims of protected witnesses be compensated up to $25,000.
The Quebec government takes a similar approach and has an official policy of outing protected witnesses who commit major crimes.
Sabin Ouellet, a lawyer in the Quebec Crown Prosecutors Office, said: "It is done so that the public knows that those who have new identities aren't protected if they commit serious crimes again." Those protected people are given yet another new identity once they finish serving their new jail sentences, Mr. Ouellet said.
And then there is the case of Arthur Kane, the disgruntled investor who shot up the Merrill Lynch offices in Miami. His only living victim, Mr. Kolokoff, is still a stockbroker, but now he wheels into his office.
The bullet to his back left his spinal cord hanging by a thread, and he is classified as a T-6 paraplegic. On a good day, he has a little feeling in his lower stomach, but below that there's nothing.
He's still bitter that such a program exists and says the program does more harm than good. He's also launched a few lawsuits against the U.S. government. But at least, he says, the justice department told the whole story of Mr. Kane.
When he was told that, had Mr. Kane been a protected RCMP witness, it would have been illegal for anyone to tell him the truth, he replied:
"You might as well be in Russia."
The following are just some of the cases in the U.S. program and Quebec program - which doesn't fall under Canada's witness protection law - where witnesses have been exposed for using their new lives for crime:
April, 1981: Charles Pearson walked into a New Mexico sheriff's office claiming that a badly burned corpse found in the desert might be his wife. Police suspected Mr. Pearson was responsible, but before they gathered enough evidence to charge him, he fled. Over the next seven months, Mr. Pearson went on an interstate crime rampage, robbing six banks, two 7-Elevens and murdering four clerks. Along the way, it emerged that Mr. Pearson's real name was Marion Pruett and that he and his wife had entered the witness protection program after he gave evidence about a jailhouse murder. The case prompted a congressional investigation that toughened the screening process and required a thorough psychological assessment of every person who enters the program.
1997: A Quebec antiques dealer disappeared after he went to meet a man named Michel Simon who wanted to sell him some furniture. Mr. Simon later confessed that he killed the dealer and robbed him of $5,000. Mr. Simon was Michel Blass, a Hell's Angels hit man admitted to the program after he agreed to testify against other bikers in the 1980s.
February, 2000: On a well-to-do street in Tempe, Ariz., an entire family - husband, wife, daughter and son - were arrested in a raid and accused of running a drug ring, primarily selling ecstasy. It turned out that the husband, who identified himself as Jimmy Moran was actually Salvatore (Sammy the Bull) Gravano, the Mafia informer and former hit man whose testimony brought down New York mob boss John Gotti. The truth about the Morans hit the newsstands immediately, and Mr. Gravano and his son were eventually convicted.
July, 2004: A short man with a greying beard walked into a Quebec courtroom and was sentenced to four years in jail for molesting a 14-year-old boy. He used the name Denis Côté. But the police and the Crown prosecutor revealed Mr. Côté's previous identity - Yves "Apache" Trudeau, a Hell's Angels hit man who cut a deal with investigators in 1986. In exchange for his testimony against his biker associates, he was allowed to plead guilty to 43 counts of manslaughter and enter the province's protection program.