Robert S. Friedrick, one of three FBI agents who dealt with Teamsters Union President Jackie Presser as a long-time government informant, admitted to Justice Department investigators earlier this year that he had lied about authorizing Presser to commit crimes, federal court records showed Monday.
"It's true--I lied," Friedrick said in a transcript of his answers to Justice Department attorneys during an interrogation last Jan. 9.
Recanting a previous statement that he had given Presser permission to put mob-related "ghost employees" on the Teamsters payroll, he said: "I'm telling you there's lies in the statement of the 19th (of June, 1985) as compared to the statement that I'm telling you now. I'm telling you that. Now where do we go from here?" Friedrick said.
A partial transcript of Friedrick's interview with investigators, introduced into the court record in a Washington federal court, is significant because Presser has indicated that he will defend himself against federal payroll-padding charges by claiming that the FBI allowed him to do it.
Friedrick's on-the-record admissions also pose serious problems for Friedrick himself, because he is to be tried next month on federal charges that he lied about his dealings with Presser. He has pleaded innocent.
The charges stem from a four-year Labor Department investigation of the Teamster leader's involvement in labor racketeering. Government prosecutors allege that some FBI agents sought to protect Presser from charges initiated by another agency because Presser had been a long-time FBI informant.
Pressed by Attorneys
The transcript was filed by government attorneys to rebut defense arguments that Friedrick's indictment should be dismissed for lack of evidence. It shows that Justice Department attorneys Robert R. Chapman and Richard M. Rogers pressed Friedrick repeatedly to tell them the full truth about statements that Friedrick and two other FBI agents made last year in support of Presser's claims that the agents had approved Presser's hiring of so-called "ghost workers" to maintain his credibility with organized crime elements.
In the new statement, Friedrick said he was no longer "holding back" information about his actions or those of two former colleagues, Martin P. McCann and Patrick Foran.
But Friedrick, who was fired last August by FBI Director William H. Webster, said he had "a tremendous reluctance" to think that he might "have to testify against these guys," especially because he had originated the claim of authorization.
'I Got This Thing Going'
"The reluctance, of course, is not only based on friendship--that's part of it--but the reluctance is also based on the fact that I got this thing going," Friedrick said, according to the transcript.
"You know, I feel like dirt," he added. He did not say in the transcript why he had lied.
McCann, now retired, and Foran, currently the assistant agent in charge of the Las Vegas FBI office, have not been charged with any crimes.
Friedrick, who served 13 years in the Cleveland FBI field office, is scheduled to go on trial Dec. 2 on five counts of making false statements to the government. Presser will not be tried until after the first of the year. He was indicted in May on charges alleging that he siphoned off more than $700,000 in union funds over a 10-year period in his alleged payroll-padding scheme.
William D. Beyer, Friedrick's attorney, has charged in court papers that government lawyers tricked Friedrick into making incriminating statements and did not allow him to remain silent or to hire defense counsel at an early date.
But the transcript showed that Friedrick said at one point: "What you're saying is, I can remain silent on this stuff if I want to . . . and that there's a potential here for prosecution."
U.S. District Judge George H. Revercomb has granted a defense motion that Chapman and Rogers, the government attorneys, cannot handle the prosecution of Friedrick because they may be called as witnesses at Friedrick's trial. Revercomb said Monday that he will rule on defense motions to suppress evidence in Friedrick's case just before the scheduled trial date.