CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- For three years, Patrick Cannon was the target of an undercover FBI investigation; of course he didn’t know that until Wednesday, when he was arrested.
There is an art to undercover work. NBC Charlotte talked to several retired agents and investigators about what it takes.
Given the sensitivity of the Cannon case, most of them didn’t want to be quoted, but all of them agreed that winning the trust of the target is the key to a successful case.
Watch Glenn Counts' video above for the whole story
“You see them as people, you don’t see them as defendants, you don’t see them as confidential informants. You see them as friends, as people you work with,” said William Queen, a former ATF agent who infiltrated the Mongols motorcycle gang.
In the Cannon case, agents posed as businesspeople and allegedly gave him $48,000 in bribes, an expensive Las Vegas vacation and a local area apartment in exchange for his influence.
Our experts say that sending high value targets out of town is a common way to win their trust. For example, during the Arizona scam investigation in the early 1990s, the FBI rented a yacht in Miami for months on end to wine and dine Arizona Legislators, many of whom ended up in handcuffs.
Had the former mayor checked the backgrounds of these fake businesspeople, our experts say he probably would not have discovered their real identities.
The agency would have given them fake Social Security numbers, documents, passports anything necessary to play their role.