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Presser Case FBI Agent Takes 5th Amendment

Times Staff Writers

The No. 2 official in the FBI’s Las Vegas field office has refused to testify in two federal investigations of the Teamsters Union on grounds that he might incriminate himself in a related inquiry into how the FBI handled the case of the late Teamsters President Jackie Presser, The Times learned Wednesday.

Federal law enforcement officials expressed “serious concern” over the move by Patrick Foran because of the appearance it presents for an FBI official in a sensitive supervisory capacity. Foran is assistant special agent in charge of the Las Vegas office.

Spokesmen at FBI headquarters here described the refusals to testify by Foran, who supervised Presser as a secret FBI informant, as “very rare.” But citing a 1967 Supreme Court decision, they said that he cannot be removed from his current post because law enforcement officials have the same constitutional rights as other citizens.

Thornburgh Declines Comment

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Atty. Gen. Dick Thornburgh and officials in the Justice Department’s criminal division declined comment on Foran’s move, which came to light in a recent filing in federal court in Cleveland.

Foran was Presser’s Cleveland-based “handler,” or control agent, in the late 1970s while serving as supervisor of an FBI unit that investigated organized crime matters. Presser, then secretary-treasurer of Local 507 in Cleveland, reported to Foran on a regular basis, according to federal court documents.

In his only sworn statement about his dealings with Presser, Foran told federal investigators in 1985 that he advised Presser to keep some Mafia-connected “ghost employees” on his union payroll so that Presser could keep open his channels to organized crime figures. Foran said that this arrangement also would mollify warring mob factions who otherwise might seek to harm the Teamster leader.

Foran’s predecessor, Martin P. McCann, gave a similar statement to investigators who were trying to determine if the FBI had authorized Presser’s hiring of non-working ghost employees over the years.

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Prosecutors Take Action

By early 1986, federal prosecutors concluded that Foran’s and McCann’s statements were untrue and obtained an indictment of Presser and two associates for having misspent $700,000 to pay the salaries of non-working mob relatives. While Foran and McCann were not charged, prosecutors obtained an indictment of a third FBI agent--Robert S. Friedrick--on grounds that he had admitted lying about the sensitive case.

Though the charge against Friedrick was subsequently thrown out by an appeals court, the internal investigation of Friedrick, Foran and McCann by the Justice Department’s office of professional responsibility has not been closed.

Brian P. Gettings, Foran’s lawyer, cited that fact in stating that he had advised his client to invoke his Fifth Amendment right against testifying in the upcoming Cleveland labor fraud trial of the Presser associates. He said that Foran also invoked the right when he was questioned recently in New York in connection with a government civil suit that seeks to remove the entire Teamster international leadership on grounds of alleged organized crime links.

“The bureau recognizes the fact that he has been named as a potential defendant in a criminal investigation,” Gettings said.

Trial Next Week

McCann has taken the same position, although his retirement in the mid-1970s removed him from direct FBI control. Although Presser died last July, his two co-defendants--Harold Friedman, a Teamster vice president, and Anthony Hughes, a former union business agent--are scheduled to stand trial next week in Cleveland.

Foran’s decision to cite his privilege against testifying was revealed in a motion filed by Friedman’s attorney in the Cleveland trial. As a law enforcement officer, Foran is required to testify about all evidence of crime, except for information that might tend to incriminate him.

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“There’s an ongoing (Justice Department) inquiry as to Pat Foran’s behavior,” an FBI spokesman said. “They’re still looking,” which forecloses any FBI action against him now.


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