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Famous FBI Agents Who Went Rogue
The FBI is perhaps the most recognizable law enforcement agency in the world. It uses the motto “fidelity, bravery, and integrity” to describe the men and women who work for it. But as with any institution, the FBI has its fair share of rotten apples that go against the grain and become the bad guys.
From espionage and greed to corruption and gross negligence, the stories of the FBI's rogue agents are as scandalous as any crimes they've prosecuted. Here are 10 agents who went rogue.
1. James Connolly
Connolly was a decorated FBI agent before he was convicted of racketeering and obstruction of justice stemming from his special relationship with the infamous Winter Hill gang and mobsters James “Whitey” Bulger and Steve Flemmi.
Connolly and Whitey had grown up together as neighbors and friends, but the relationship took a different turn when Connolly accepted a two-carat diamond ring worth $5,000 from Whitey in 1976. The ring had been stolen from another man, John Martorano, an accomplice of Whitey.
A few months after this exchange, Connolly tipped off Whitey about Richard Castucci, a bookmaker who was providing information to the FBI about two members of Whitey’s gang. Shortly after, the bookmaker was killed on the orders of Whitey. From then on, Connolly continued to protect Whitey.
During the trial, Connolly claimed that the highest levels of the FBI knew Whitey was an informant, yet let him go on with his business. In addition to this, Robert Mueller, an assistant U.S. attorney at the time, branded Whitey a top informant and often resisted prosecuting him.
At first, Connolly was convicted of a 40-year prison sentence; however, the verdict was recently voided after it was discovered the FBI had wrongly included firearm charges.
2. Earl Edwin Pitts
Earl Edwin Pitts was charged with spying for the Soviet Union. He began his espionage career in 1987, when he offered his services to the Soviets while he was working on an assignment to hunt and recruit KGB officers at the FBI’s New York office.
While working at the New York office, Earl had access to a wide range of highly classified and sensitive documents. His liaison with the KGB lasted for about five years. He received payments of over $224,000.
Pitts’ double agent status was revealed when his KGB handler, Alexander Karpov, defected to the United States and named Pitts as his secret mole. Once he was outed, the FBI began a 16-month sting operation which involved convincing Pitts that the Russian government wanted to reactivate him as a spy. When he was arrested, Pitts cited various grievances with the FBI and said he wanted to “pay them back.” He even implicated Robert Hanssen, but no action was taken.
It turns out that even Pitts' own wife, a former FBI employee, suspected he was a spy and told the FBI. Even after his wife kept confronting him with suspicions of being a spy, Pitts continued trying to sell U.S. secrets.
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3. Robert Philip Hanssen
Robert Philip Hanssen was an FBI agent who began his 22-year espionage career only three years after joining the FBI when he approached a Russian agency and offered his services, for which he received more than $1.4 million in cash and diamonds.
In fact, Hanssen had several close calls where he could have easily been apprehended. In 1981, his wife Bonnie caught him writing a letter to the Soviets, but he claimed he was passing false information so his wife let it slide.
Again, in 1990, Hanssen’s brother-in-law, Mark Wauck, also an FBI agent, recommended that Hanssen be investigated following the discovery of a pile of cash at the Hanssen home by Bonnie’s sister, but they did not take any action.
He went as far as hacking his own and a colleagues’ computer, but somehow evaded detection or disciplinary actions. The FBI turned a blind eye, even when Edwin Earl Pitts, a convicted FBI agent, told the agency he suspected that Hanssen was dirty.
The smoking gun proved to a secret audiotape of Hanssen and his KGB handler delivered by a turned Russian spy. A trap was set and he was finally captured when attempting to drop off some information. When he was arrested, he asked “What took you so long?” In the end, he took a plea deal that helped him avoid the death penalty.
4. Scott Armstrong
Scott Armstrong was a special FBI agent who had recently become a member of Cybercrimes Task Force at the Boone County Sherriff’s Department. The role of the task force was to protect against child pornography.
On March 1, 2014 at around midnight, Armstrong put a 13-year old boy in a choke-hold that ended up with the boy losing consciousness. The boy’s parents later took photos of their son’s neck, which had signs of being choked, including redness and fabric patterns.
He pleaded not guilty to a misdemeanor third-degree assault charges during an arraignment on June 24, 2014. While in court, Armstrong claimed to have only “placed his arms” around the boys neck until the teenager lost consciousness, but did not provide a reason as to why he choked the boy.
A report at the Calloway County Police department does mention the time and date of the incident, but fails to mention why the boy was at Armstrong’s residence at the time and why he choked the boy. It also doesn’t detail whether or not his wife was home at the time of the incident.
He was eventually sentenced to one year probation, mandated to complete 25 hours of community service, and fined $325.39.
5. Carlos Ortiz
Carlos Ortiz had clocked in 21 years at the FBI before he was arrested on charges of trying to acquire a .50 caliber rifle, which he was planning to use in the murder of his ex-wife and Robert E. Casey, a special agent of the FBI Dallas office who had suspended Ortiz on the suspicion of domestic violence towards his estranged wife.
In fact, he had been involved in two separate incidents: a 1992 incident where Oliver Revell, a former Dallas FBI boss, wanted to fire him but was overruled by his superiors in Washington; and a 2004 incident where hiss boss at the time, Guadalupe Gonzalez, allowed him to keep his job.
In the months leading up to the assassination attempt, Ortiz was abusing anxiety medication and was struggling financially as a result of an expensive divorce and custody battle over his son. He had even applied for food stamps.
Ortiz was finally arrested when a friend contacted the FBI after Ortiz asked him for the .50 caliber rifle. After the arrest, agents searched his home and found more than three dozen weapons and an envelope marked “DAD TAKE TO THE PRESS.” He was eventually sentenced to two years in federal prison.
6. James J. Smith
James. J. Smith was a special FBI agent who let an informant he was in charge of steal classified information that she passed on to China.
Smith was, at the time, in charge of informant Katrina Leung, a businesswoman and political fund-raiser who also happened to be a double agent for Beijing and the United States. Smith engaged in an affair with Leung that lasted two decades. He allegedly brought classified documents to their trysts, which Leung stole from his briefcase while he visited her at home.
Even more shocking is the ignorance of the agency itself about Leung’s activities. In a previous incident, another FBI agent had found that Leung had passed on sensitive information to a Chinese handler code-named Mao, but surprisingly the FBI continued to use her for 11 more years.
Smith was arrested in 2003 and is accused of repeatedly lying about his affair with Leung and failing to report that Leung had refused to take a polygraph test. Smith did, however, manage to avoid jail time by striking a plea deal, which meant he only served three months of home confinement and 100 hours of community service.
7. Richard Miller
Richard Miller was a 20-year FBI veteran who holds the distinction of being the first member of the FBI to be indicted for espionage. On October 3, 1984 Miller was arrested with two Russians, Svetlana and Nikolai Ogorodnikov, who were posing as refugees but were actually access agents for the KGB.
In exchange for classified information, Miller asked for $50,000 worth of gold and $15,000 in cash from the Ogorodnikovs. He was also having an affair with Nikolai.
After Miller’s arrest, a previously conducted psychiatric evaluation showed he was unstable and recommended that he be kept in a harmless post until retirement. However, the FBI kept him in a position where he had continuous access to national defense and espionage information.
Miller was also overweight and had been repeatedly asked to lose weight. He could not lose weight, considering he took three-hour lunches gorging on stolen candy bars while reading comic books.
Miller claimed that he was only trying to reinvigorate his lagging FBI career by recruiting the Ogorodnikovs in an attempt to infiltrate the KGB. He was sentenced to 20 years, but his sentence was later reduced to 13 years. He was finally released from prison on May 6, 1994.
8. Dan A. Mitrione Jr.
Mitrione had already worked for the FBI for around 10 years when he was assigned to “Operation Airlift” in 1982, an undercover operation meant to break up the distribution channels of cocaine that was coming into the US through Miami.
Mitrione was working with Hilmer Sandini, an FBI informer who was still active in the narcotics trade scenes. However, within months of working with Sandini, Mitrione became influenced and begun accepting bribes to overlook drug deals that Sandini was making with the drug ring that was supposedly being investigated.
The agency first became suspicious in a March 1993 incident where he was sent to collect 235 kilograms of cocaine from Memphis, Tennessee, but came back with only 193 kilograms of cocaine.
He was investigated and shortly thereafter arrested. He was charged and pled guilty for taking $850,000 in bribes and payoffs from the drug deals. Prior to sentencing, Mitrione told the judge “I’m not denying my guilt; I just feel that the government should not deny theirs. There are no guidelines to follow, no schools to attend, it was play-it-by-the-ear. I had become a double agent, serving two masters and every day as a survival course in a closed world.”
9. Mark Putnam
Putnam is the only FBI agent to ever be charged with a homicide. On June 8, 1989 Susan Daniel Smith, an FBI informer, disappeared. While her family and friends agonized over her whereabouts, Putnam knew what had happened to her and kept quiet.
A year after the crime, Putnam confessed, claiming he was haunted by guilt. In 1989, Putnam had just been transferred to the FBI Miami offices and began an illicit relationship with his informer.
The relationship took a sour turn, according to Putnam, when Smith begun to threaten him about telling his wife and supervisors that she was expecting his child. Putnam said he had offered to adopt the baby, but Smith wanted him to leave his wife.
In a fit of rage, Putnam then strangled Smith, dumped her body at a coal mine road, and returned home to his wife and two children. An autopsy found that Smith was not pregnant.
For his cooperation, he was allowed to plead to a lesser charge of first degree manslaughter instead of murder, where he received a 16-year prison sentence. The former agent was, however, let out after serving only 10 years for being a model inmate.
10. Leandro Aragoncillo
Leandro Aragoncillo was not an FBI agent, but an FBI intelligence analyst and deserves special mention for being the only known espionage case involving the White House.
Aragoncillo was a naturalized U.S. citizen of Filipino origins who had previously worked at the United States Marine Corps and White House before becoming an FBI intelligence analyst. It is believed he was recruited as a spy in 2000, when President Joseph Estrada first visited the White House. He continued with his espionage career even after joining the New Jersey FBI office in 2004.
With the help of accomplice Michael Ray Aquino, a former deputy director of Philippines National Police who was living in New York, Aragoncillo began sending classified information to the Philippines using email, text messages, and CDs. The leaked classified information then found its way to opposition leaders in the Philippines in an attempt to oust President Gloria Arroyo.
Aragoncillo came into suspicion when he intervened in the deportation case of his accomplice, Aquino. Suspicious U.S. immigration officials then alerted the FBI, who began auditing Aragoncillo’s computer activities and found that he had been downloading and printing classified documents that were Philippines-related. Shortly after, he was arrested and sentenced to 10 years on July 16, 2007.