EPISODE 75

THE PHILADELPHIA WIRE

THE PHILADELPHIA WIRE

FBI agent Judy Tyler is on the hunt for a cocaine kingpin on the inner-city streets of northern Philadelphia. It’s 1989. There are shooting and turf wars between gangs and drug dealers. Judy has the Bureau's full arsenal of tradecraft tricks at her disposal from wiretaps to polygraphs and secret cameras, but can she get her man before someone gets hurt?
Read the transcript →

True Spies Episode 75: The Philadelphia Wire

NARRATOR: Welcome to True Spies. Week by week, mission by mission, you’ll hear the true stories behind the world’s greatest espionage operations. You’ll meet the people who navigate this secret world. What do they know? What are their skills? And what would you do in their position? 

This is True Spies Episode 75: The Philadelphia Wire.

JUDY TYLER: The guys on the street got suspicious of that particular van and they went over to look inside. And they started surrounding it and rocking the van. And they started singing a song that was popular at the time that went like: “Bad boys, bad boys, what you gonna do when they come for you?”

NARRATOR: Welcome to Philadelphia. 

JUDY TYLER: At the time of this investigation, it was 1989 to 1998.

NARRATOR: More specifically, welcome to the corner of North 8th Street and Allegheny Avenue, an impoverished neighborhood in the north of the city. Your guide? Special Agent Judy Tyler, FBI.

JUDY TYLER: It's the 3100th block of North 8th Street. And it's a tight little neighborhood and it's not a big street. 

NARRATOR: When English Quakers founded Philadelphia in the late 17th century, they dubbed it ‘The City of Brotherly Love’. Three hundred years later - around 8th and Allegheny, at least - the word ‘fraternity’ was usually prefixed by ‘criminal’.

JUDY TYLER: So there were shootings on the block. Drug dealers are targeted for theft because people know they have a lot of money there, or for the drugs.

NARRATOR: By the early '90s, it’s been around 20 years since President Richard Nixon declared open season on the narcotics trade. The effects of the policies collectively known as the ‘War on Drugs’ are still felt today. Historically, it’s a war that’s been fought on the streets of deprived inner-city neighborhoods like this one. Politics, however, are not on the agenda for the young man making his way past the block’s tight-knit houses. No, he’s got enough on his plate. If you must know, he’s facing a number of criminal charges. But if all goes well today, he might just catch a break. And after the last few weeks, he could really use a break.

JUDY TYLER: So we had somebody who was from the area who had been shot, and he had his arm in a sling and he was willing to go in and make a drug buy.

NARRATOR: He’s a newly minted informant for the FBI on his way to spend the American taxpayer’s money on Philadelphia’s most affordable wrap of cocaine. All for the greater good, you understand. The Bureau needs hard evidence of drugs being trafficked in the neighborhood. This is how these things are done.

JUDY TYLER: He was not an informant before he'd been shot. 

NARRATOR: And this week’s true spy is the one to do it. But he wanted to try and work off some issues he had with his own cases. And so it just worked out that he knew enough about the area, that he could go in and was confident he could make the buys. And if you study this young man’s face - and I mean, really look - you might notice his eyes flickering occasionally to the sling on his wounded arm. 

JUDY TYLER: So we hid the recorder in his sling where he'd been shot and sent him in with the money. And we put a van on the street to survey it and take photographs to document his purchase. 

NARRATOR: At the same time as the informant is making his cautious approach, our agent is at her desk inside the William J. Green Federal Building - an imposing modernist hulk set a few blocks north of the Delaware. This is her case and if things go south on North Eighth Street, it’s her neck on the line.

JUDY TYLER: I'm Judy Tyler. I'm a retired FBI special agent where I worked in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, for a total of 31 years investigating violent drug traffickers. 

NARRATOR: If you’re a long-time listener to this podcast, you’ll know that the FBI contains multitudes. From art theft to international counterterrorism, the Bureau’s remit encompasses the full spectrum of wrongdoing. But whether its agents are routing Soviet moles or busting dealers, they’re highly trained in the art of intelligence gathering.

JUDY TYLER: I was [conducting] straight criminal [cases] my entire career and, although we may use similar investigative techniques, ours are geared toward prosecution, and we work very closely with the US attorney's office in all of our cases.

NARRATOR: Unsurprisingly, Judy started out as a cop. Her first bite from the law enforcement bug took place in her last semester of college, where she studied criminology.

JUDY TYLER: Somebody broke into the house that I was living in and the police were called, and they were fingerprinting the entry where the burglar came in and landed in a kitty litter box. Fortunately, he left after he hit the kitty litter box, and one of the police officers asked me what I was going to do when I graduated. And at that point, he told me that they were hiring police officers in the Norfolk, Virginia Police Department, and it was the first year women were being considered for that position. So I thought: “Well, let me try that.”

JUDY TYLER:  That was in 1975. 

NARRATOR: Judy enjoyed life on the beat, but before long she was able to hone the investigative skills that would serve her throughout her three decades at the FBI.

JUDY TYLER: I spent one year as a detective investigating sex crimes, and that was where I had my first taste of in-depth investigations, taking a case from the very beginning - when you interview the victim - all the way through the court system, and seeing a case come to fruition in front of a jury.

NARRATOR: And Norfolk, Virginia might have kept Detective Judy Tyler. But fate had other ideas.

JUDY TYLER: One Sunday, I was reading the newspaper and there was an article about women in the FBI. And after I read it, I thought: “I have all the qualifications.” I applied to the Bureau and the minimum age was 23 at that time, so I joined the FBI at the age of 26 in 1979. 

NARRATOR: Eventually, Judy was transferred to Philadelphia.

JUDY TYLER: And once I got there, the squad that I was on initially was a top theft squad that investigated unique thefts. But when the FBI took over the drugs’ investigations, along with the DEA, our squad became one of the prime drug squads. 

NARRATOR: The FBI, unlike local law enforcement, isn’t in the business of taking down small-time drug dealers and their customers - not right away, at least. 

JUDY TYLER: Basically, we targeted drug operations from the organizational perspective, not just a local street buy. When we opened an investigation, we would target the entire organization, so many of the cases were very long-term and involved a lot of different investigative techniques. 

NARRATOR: Investigations like that, including this one, can take years. This is in-depth intelligence gathering, relying on networks of informants alongside cutting-edge technology to target key players in the narcotics business. 

JUDY TYLER: It's much more in-depth than the police departments are equipped to handle, and many of the investigations involve multiple states and other countries. 

NARRATOR: Judy’s specialty is human intelligence, finding a person with the information she needs and convincing them to share it. Journalists run sources. CIA officers run agents. The FBI runs CI’s, confidential informants. Take your pick of the jargon. It’s the same set of skills.

JUDY TYLER: I think the most accurate information is from people.

NARRATOR: Let’s say that the local police have arrested a low-level dealer operating in the orbit of a much larger player, someone like our friend with the sling on his arm. As an FBI agent working a wider case, you’ve identified this person as a potential informant. You make a few calls, and before you know it, you’re across from one another in an interrogation room. He’s a crook. You’re a fed. How are you going to bridge that divide?

JUDY TYLER: Well, in the beginning, you get to know the person and build rapport with them. Usually, when I interview them, I know them pretty well, but they don't know me. 

NARRATOR: That’s a fact that a savvy agent can use to their advantage in the psychological arena.

JUDY TYLER: In fact, I recall arresting somebody and introducing myself. And I said: “You don't know me, but I've known you for the last three years.” 

NARRATOR: Calm, polite, but with a quiet undercurrent of dominance. Now, everyone in that room knows who’s in charge.

JUDY TYLER: And that's how I introduced myself and then got to know him in person and we worked together. My goal was always to get someone to work with me and take the case to the next level. 

NARRATOR: And in 1989, Judy took on a case that would require almost a decade of meticulous investigation to bring to a close. 

It all began with a name. Maurice.

JUDY TYLER: Okay, Maurice Lewis was a person that came up in several interviews as one of the largest drug dealers in Philadelphia with an operation at Eighth and Allegheny that had been going on for probably 10 years, including about a five-year stretch when he was in prison. He would have the drug dealers come and meet him in prison to take direction. 

NARRATOR: Maurice Lewis would have liked to think of himself as a local entrepreneur. An aspiring music producer with a number of investments in North Philadelphia, he supplemented his legitimate income stream with a highly lucrative narcotics business.

JUDY TYLER: He would command the room. He's the big man. He'd have his gold chains on and he liked to be the benevolent boss who took care of his men. He bought them all gold keys with diamonds in them. Frequently, drug groups will mark themselves together by jewelry.

NARRATOR: Yes, as long as he was making money, Maurice Lewis was the living spirit of goodwill. 

JUDY TYLER: Maurice would take the guys out to dinner. He had a favorite restaurant. We intercepted one call where he called to make reservations. And the woman said: “Would you like smoking or nonsmoking?” He said: “Do you have a crack-smoking section?” And there was silence on the other end. And then he started laughing, but he was serious. 

NARRATOR: As you can imagine, the charismatic businessman had a lot of friends in the area. As we know, his name began making regular appearances throughout Judy’s working day.

JUDY TYLER: The investigation began after his name surfaced. I went to the Philadelphia police and ordered copies of all arrests within, say, about five, six blocks of 8th and Allegheny and I reviewed all of those arrests and some of them included some pretty detailed statements that outlined a cocaine selling operation that worked from about 10 am to 2 am every day, selling $10 bags of cocaine. 

NARRATOR: Judy had taken the first steps in putting together a picture of Maurice Lewis’s operation. By analyzing reports from Philadelphia PD, she had a rough location, hours of operation, and a product. A surprisingly well-priced product, at that. At $10 a bag, Maurice Lewis’s cocaine was competitive, to say the least. 

JUDY TYLER: And you think: “Well, how much money can that make?” Well, in this case, it turned out to be $40,000 to $60,000 per day. 

NARRATOR: We’ll let you do the maths on that one. But suffice to say, we’re talking about serious quantities of cocaine. 

JUDY TYLER: Maurice ended up building, truly, a drug empire that was very entrenched on that particular street, and yet he's not somebody you would ever see out there selling the drugs. He was like the CEO of the organization. But he would have several drug dealers standing out on the street offering $10 bags of cocaine for sale. You could drive by and buy your drugs and continue on. It was a one-way street. 

NARRATOR: Very efficient. And that spirit of economy was also in evidence when it came to Maurice’s street-level employees.

JUDY TYLER: So this investigation ended up revealing that Maurice used juveniles because, for a lot of the drug sales on the street early on… Their records can be expunged when they get older and they aren't treated as harshly as adults. 

NARRATOR: If one of his underage dealers was picked up by law enforcement, chances were that they’d be treated leniently. And the sooner they were back on the street, the sooner they could get back to work. But at this early stage of the investigation, all Judy had to go on was the word of a few low-level street dealers. If she was going to take down Maurice Lewis, she needed hard proof that he was at the top of the pyramid. So, first things first. Judy needed to prove that drugs were being sold near 8th and Allegheny. And that’s where our first informant comes in. You remember, the one with the hidden microphone stashed inside his sling.

JUDY TYLER: And he went to the block and asked if he could make a purchase and we had a van with two agents sitting in it watching to document it.

NARRATOR: The informant approached one of the suspected dealers on the block. He initiated the transaction. But Lady Luck was yet to smile on our hapless snitch. It was bad news from the dealer.

JUDY TYLER: ”Well, we're out right now. Can you come back in an hour?" 

NARRATOR: Well, it wouldn’t be an investigation without a few hiccups, would it?

JUDY TYLER: So he left. And we had a car, picked him up, and took him out, but left the van with the agents in it too, because we didn't want it showing up only when he showed up. And the driver had dropped the van off and left, so we observed them use the phone to make the call to get more drugs. And we were documenting the phone use for potential wiretap if the investigation went that way. And so we documented the phone call. We knew what time and what phone it was made from. 

NARRATOR: Are you paying attention? Every little detail could be a key piece of evidence. Unfortunately, the agents in the van wouldn’t be able to concentrate for long. Eighth and Allegheny is not the kind of place where a conspicuously inconspicuous unmarked van escapes scrutiny.

JUDY TYLER: After, I don't know how long, but before we sent the informant back, the guys on the street got suspicious of that particular van and they went over to look inside. I don't believe they were able to see the inside, but just in case they wanted to scare whoever might be inside. And they started surrounding it and rocking the van. And they started singing a song that was popular at the time that went like: “Bad boys, bad boys, what you gonna do when they come for you?”

NARRATOR: Just in case your knowledge of early ’90s network television is a little patchy, those are the lyrics to Bad Boys by Inner Circle. It’s best known as the theme to the long-running documentary series, Cops. The dealers were sending the FBI a message: “We’re on to you.”

JUDY TYLER: And so, believe me, the agents were not happy when that happened, but they never gave it up. And we got the driver to get back in and drive the van away.

NARRATOR: Clearly, a less hands-on approach was in order. 

JUDY TYLER: So at the time that this investigation began, we did have a long-range camera set up in the vicinity so that we could watch what was going on on the street. 

NARRATOR: The long-range camera allowed Judy to train in on one crucial feature of the urban landscape: a payphone. Remember, it’s the early ‘90s. At this stage of the investigation, cell phones were still a long way off being a must-have item.

JUDY TYLER: This group used payphones. There's one payphone at 8th and Allegheny that was treated essentially as a personal payphone for the drug organization. If a regular citizen walked up and tried to use it, they'd shoo them away. It was like you walked right into their living room because they had to keep the line open for their communications with Maurice. That camera ran 24 hours a day and we had the ability to zoom in and zoom out and see who was on the phone and record it on VHS tapes at the time. 

NARRATOR: But the footage was just one part of a two-pronged approach. Judy and her team needed to know the content of those conversations to prove any connection to the drugs business. If they wanted Maurice Lewis, they needed a wiretap.

JUDY TYLER: The fact that they surrounded the van and rocked it showed that the neighborhood was so tight you really couldn't do surveillance easily. So that was one of the criteria to get the wiretap. In the federal system, you have to show that you've done every other investigative technique available before you apply for a wiretap. You've done it through informants, surveillance, interviews, record subpoenas, things like that. And in order to show the scope of this, we needed to hear those conversations. Because Maurice was never out selling the drugs. It's kind of like the CEO of McDonald's. He's never there serving you your hamburger at the grill.

NARRATOR: At the same time, Judy also applied for a tap on Maurice’s personal cell phone. Maurice, as you can well imagine, had the funds to invest in new technologies. Now, she could see who was calling him from the payphone and when, and confirm that data with visuals from the long-range camera.

JUDY TYLER: And that was the key to everything, was that cell phone that was talking to all the workers. So you look at the phone records and look at the volume of calls, and who the calls go to and get the subscribers and learn who the ‘Who's Who’ of your inner circle, the people you're closest to are going to have the highest volume of calls. 

NARRATOR: As the investigation continued, Judy was able to begin to piece together the various moving parts in Maurice Lewis’s outfit. On the lowest rung were the lookouts, the neighborhood’s early-warning system for troublesome white-hats like Judy and her colleagues.

JUDY TYLER: We had people who were paid lookouts and they would yell codes to alert the workers on the street that the police were in the area. They would yell 'Frankie on the A!' or 'Frankie on the eight'. And 'A' was for Allegheny, eight was 8th Street. And depending on which code they yelled, that meant the police were approaching from that direction. 'Frankie' had turned out to be the name of a police officer from years ago that used to patrol that area, and that's how they developed that code. 

NARRATOR: It was all very well listening in to the dealer’s conversations with their boss, but the FBI aren’t the only ones who deal in codes and jargon. As we just heard, The Eighth and Allegheny operation had its own secret language. Judy had to learn it but she needed willing teachers, which takes us back to Judy’s favorite place - the interrogation room. 

JUDY TYLER: How do I interpret all their unique drug language? I always interview people. What do they call a kilo? What do they call an ounce? 

NARRATOR: Without this information on record, the recordings from the wiretap were, more or less, gibberish. Through her conversations with human intelligence assets, Judy began to uncover the keys to these extremely localized ciphers.

JUDY TYLER: They usually have different names for different quantities of drugs. And they are so funny because when I've worked a number of wiretaps in a number of cases, I've heard a half a kilo being called ‘half a car’. Now, who buys half a car? Or how about a zebra? How many times do you buy a zebra? That's an ounce of cocaine. And their language is always unique to their organization. And in Maurices, he referred to the $1,000 as ‘bitches’. 'How many of them bitches I got left?' 

JUDY TYLER: And you do that through interviewing people. What does he call the drugs? And it was all verified in the wiretap that he always asked how many ‘bitches’ he had left when he was referring to his cocaine.

NARRATOR: The case was starting to gain some real traction. But a thorough understanding of the organization’s hierarchies and codewords still wasn’t enough to bring before the courts, not if Judy wanted these charges to stick. Lewis could afford a good lawyer. What the FBI needed were numbers. Numbers don’t lie. You can’t accuse them of confessing under duress or trying to save their own skin. If they could prove that Maurice Lewis and his underlings were making illicit income, then their chances of prosecution would soar. And the key to those numbers was clipped to the belt of the kingpin himself.

JUDY TYLER: At the time of this investigation, it was 1989 to 1998. Cell phones were in their infancy. Beepers were very popular. Most drug dealers had beepers. Very few had cell phones.

NARRATOR: A beeper, in case you’re too young to remember, is a small device capable of sending short alphanumeric text messages. Since the widespread adoption of cell phones, they’ve gone the way of the dodo. But at the time, they were a must-have for any upwardly mobile professional. Maurice Lewis was no exception.

JUDY TYLER: In fact, he owned his own beeper company. Maurice relied on a beeper for his financial system too. 

NARRATOR: Luckily for Judy, the FBI of the 1990s knew their way around a beeper. 

JUDY TYLER: It had never happened before, but we did a clone beeper.

NARRATOR: The Bureau’s technical whizzes had whipped up a beeper which shared the call number of Lewis’s device.

JUDY TYLER: So we were reading his beeper [in] real-time as he was. 

NARRATOR: What the cloned beeper revealed was nothing less than the backbone of the FBI’s case against Lewis. Hard currency.

JUDY TYLER: And the way it worked is, in this drug organization, they had $1,000 units of cocaine broken down into $10 bags and they were called a ‘G-pack’. So every bag, a $1,000 bag, would have five sub-bags full of the $10 bags. When a G-pack sold, Maurice wanted to have a text on his beeper of how much money was available for sale. For example, a kilo of cocaine at that time cost $20,000. So he would have $20,000 worth of cocaine available. There would be 20 G-packs. And when one sold, they would have to say: “Starting at $20,000” - and he insisted they send it twice - $19,000, $18,000, $17,000, and that was so he knew how many drugs were left for sale and how much cash he should have. As the drugs went down, the cash went up. And he'd know then when he had to send more drugs down to the block and he was obsessive about it. So he kept very detailed records, which allowed us to see how much he was earning.

NARRATOR: Well, he didn’t keep the records, exactly. But someone did. 

JUDY TYLER: We had the stash house, the cutting, bagging, weighing, the lookouts, the salesmen. We had a record keeper and that was an elderly couple that lived on the block who allowed their house to be used to store the drugs. They lived on the block. Frank Lopez and Evelyn Torres. And everybody on the block knew what was going on. And Maurice approached them to make some money by storing the drugs there and keeping records. And they agreed. 

NARRATOR: The Lopez-Torres household also served as a drop-off point for the dealers’ earnings. At the end of each day, Maurice Lewis’s employees would make a healthy deposit in their bosses’ coffers.

JUDY TYLER: And Maurice only had one point of contact then to get the money.

NARRATOR: Judy had uncovered the elderly couple’s role in the organization in another crucial human intelligence coup.

JUDY TYLER: I found out about it when one of Maurice's - I'd call him a lieutenant, the overseer, one of the managers - was arrested by Philadelphia police with a gun. 

NARRATOR: When opportunity knocks, a good investigator answers. Time to put on the thumbscrews - metaphorically, I mean.

JUDY TYLER: And we adopted the gun charge and interviewed him and told him the gun charge is only one of your problems. You have a drug case that's going to be a bigger problem for you. And he agreed to cooperate. And in that thorough debriefing, he filled in the mortar between the bricks for me on this case. He identified that house. And based on what was happening in that house, I was able to get a search warrant the following day and execute it and retrieve the notebook and the packaging of the drugs. 

NARRATOR: That’s right - like a lot of things in this story, Lewis’s record-keeping was charmingly analog. 

JUDY TYLER: The notebook that had the drug records and it was sort of like an Excel spreadsheet before computers, handwritten, there would be a category with all the workers listed on the left and the days of the week across the top. And then in each entry would be the amount of money they turned in. 

NARRATOR: This is the kind of killer evidence that someone like Judy lives for. Well, usually. It’s been too long without a stumbling block, don’t you think?

JUDY TYLER: When we seized the records, what we found was every week at the end of the week, they'd settle up and she'd rip out the page. 

NARRATOR: Ah. Well that’s not ideal, is it? One week’s worth of records does not a federal case make. So take a minute. Hold the image of that notebook in your head. Note the texture of the paper, the shallow grooves of pen on pulp. What do you see?

JUDY TYLER: And so we have a record analysis unit at the lab in the FBI and we can send drug records down for analysis, for fingerprinting. So the fingerprinting would always happen first.

NARRATOR: Okay, so you’ve got prints. What does that give you, that you don’t already know? You need to look deeper. Unlike typing on a computer screen, the act of writing is truly physical. And the physical always leaves a trace. Can you see it?

JUDY TYLER: We had what's called indented writing underneath that page because when you write in a notebook, you're pushing the pen down on the pages below it. 

NARRATOR: The records analysis unit was able to identify weeks worth of entries in the notebook, hidden in the faint imprints left on the blank pages. Judy brought the elderly couple in. It was time for a friendly conversation.

JUDY TYLER: I interviewed the couple. They would not cooperate. They weren't interested in working with us. I think they were afraid.

NARRATOR: They were right to be. Once Maurice Lewis heard that the FBI had taken an interest in his recordkeepers - the people who held the keys to his kingdom - he was moved to act fast.

JUDY TYLER: He was worried that they would cooperate and he was vulnerable through them and he knew it. So he asked them to move to Puerto Rico. He'd give them a paid vacation to get out of town. 

NARRATOR: After years of incremental progress, the game of cat-and-mouse between Maurice Lewis and the FBI was coming to a close. The stakes had always been high - they were about to get higher.

JUDY TYLER: They didn't want to leave and they stayed there for a while and eventually they moved out of the neighborhood and Maurice knew that they could hurt him in the court, so he asked one of his closest workers to get rid of them. And he understood that to mean to kill them.

NARRATOR: It’s the dead of night. Frank Lopez and Evelyn Torres are sleeping. After their brush with the law, they’ve taken up residence in a quieter part of town. It’s not quiet enough. They’re jolted awake by a hail of broken glass. It comes from downstairs, the living room. A break-in? No. There are no voices, no tell-tale shuffling of feet. Cautiously, they make their way to the source of the noise. The dim reflections of street lights glow warmly on the shards of what used to be a window. And nestled in amongst the wreckage, a little black ball. About the size of a man’s fist.

JUDY TYLER: So two of the workers threw a hand grenade through the window of their new house, and it's an old Army hand grenade, which looks like a cannonball with a handle on it, basically. 

NARRATOR: Frank and Evelyn freeze. Time stops. And the grenade… well, the grenade doesn’t do much of anything, actually.

JUDY TYLER: And fortunately, there was a second safety on that hand grenade. They pulled the pin on the first one but didn't notice there was a second one. And the hand grenade landed in their living room and they called the police. The police responded and took the hand grenade. It was live. Instead, had that second pin been pulled, it would have taken out more than their house.

NARRATOR: The record-keepers had had a lucky escape. And Maurice Lewis had shown his hand. 

JUDY TYLER: The couple was interviewed by the police and the police said: “Do you have any idea who might have wanted to do this?” He said: "I think it was the FBI. "They wanted me to cooperate on a drug case." And so the police notified us immediately about what had happened and we eventually got them to cooperate when they realized that we knew who had done it.

NARRATOR: Judy’s team was also able to pick up the man who had thrown the grenade on Maurice Lewis’s behalf. 

JUDY TYLER: Ubaldo Lebron was the one. We had to polygraph him. It's the only time I ever used a polygraph in my entire career.

NARRATOR: When you’re as good with people as Judy, there’s usually no need for a polygraph. But in this case, the barriers between her and her target were built up high. Ubaldo Lebron had known Lewis since childhood. He refused to admit that he had been the one to throw the grenade. Of course, the FBI already knew that he had. The man that had accompanied Ubaldo on the night of the attack had already co-operated with Judy’s team and given them a sworn statement to that effect.

And so it was that Ubaldo Lebron found himself hooked up to a lie detector across from Special Agent Judy Tyler. Game over.

JUDY TYLER: Unless he admitted it, he wasn't going to be able to get a cooperation agreement. So he took the polygraph with his attorney present and did not pass it. And at that point, he agreed to be interviewed. The tears started. I understood where he was coming from and I understood how much he loved him. And so you have to acknowledge that and move forward from there and look at… Are you willing to go to jail for the rest of your life for him? He's the one that asked you to do it. He put you in that position and at the end of the day, his own lawyer convinced him that [he] really should tell them or [he’s] going to face 20 or whatever. He would have been in jail for a very long time. 

NARRATOR: Just like that, Maurice Lewis had lost. But it would be a while before he knew that for sure. Because now, Judy had to undertake the most important, if unsexy, tradecraft of all - paperwork.

JUDY TYLER: So. After the search warrant, at that point, I make sure I have to have all of the conversations that I'm going to use for the indictment transcribed and I have to review them all for accuracy. I have to listen to every conversation - and we recorded hundreds. So we had to pick out all the conversations for every participant that showed that they were part of the conspiracy. That took a long time. And we had a financial investigation going on at the same time tracking Maurice's assets. And so we, as part of it, tracked $1.9m in assets that the judge ordered forfeited to the government at the end of the case.

NARRATOR: After more years of meticulous case building, Judy finally let the hammer fall.

JUDY TYLER: The indictment took place in, probably 2002, I believe it was, and it indicted 19 people in this organization. And so each person had to be arrested. And the day of the arrest, I stayed in the office and managed the teams that went out for each one. Then we had a few that weren't picked up that day and I got to go on one of the arrests. When we got one, the follow-up, and he's the guy who I recall saying: "You can't arrest me for this. You didn't catch me. I did that two years ago!" And I went: “Thank you for that confession.” 

NARRATOR: Now that’s job satisfaction. In the end, Maurice Lewis pled guilty on the 7th of April, 2003 - 14 years after the FBI had set the wheels of his demise in motion.

JUDY TYLER: He pled to life. He's serving life at a federal correctional institute in Maryland now. 

NARRATOR: Today, Judy lives a less dangerous life but with 30 years of experience in the interrogation room, it’d be a shame not to share her expertise with the next generation.

JUDY TYLER: I do some training for the FBI now on, basically, how to handle and operate informants. And I babysit my grandchildren. 

NARRATOR: I'm Vanessa Kirby. Join us next week for another glimpse into the shadows with True Spies. We all have valuable spy skills, and our experts are here to help you discover yours. Get an authentic assessment of your spy skills, created by a former Head of Training at British Intelligence, now at SPYSCAPE.com.

Guest Bio

Judy Tyler served 31 years in the FBI chasing drug dealers and other criminals and still trains agents how to develop informants and confidential sources as part of a specialized Bureau program.

Resources
Listen on Youtube
No items found.
No items found.