An FBI Undercover Agent´s Personal Perspective
true crime · FBI · undercover agent true account · memoir
“Ray’s story as an Undercover Agent is legendary. His experiences while an Undercover Agent are valuable training tools for all new Agents at the FBI Academy. I have the utmost respect for Ray and his many accomplishments as both an Undercover Agent and his eventual rise in becoming the Special Agent in Charge of the Pittsburgh FBI Office.” —Joaquin “Jack” Garcia, Retired FBI and author of the NY Times Bestseller, “Making Jack Falcone, An Undercover FBI Agent takes down a Mafia Family.”
Broken Shield is the remarkable narrative of a young, inexperienced agent who became the primary undercover agent of one of the FBI’s largest police corruption investigations.
Ray Morrow’s fascination with justice and the FBI started as a young boy and was the catalyst for being a major part of the historic undercover operation, SHIRON. The physical and emotional toll that it took upon him and his new family brings to light the devastation that comes with the corruption living inside our justice system.
After years as the primary undercover agent in the Cleveland Police Department, a city previously unfamiliar to him, he was called to lead his biggest operation yet; the undercover investigation was the most important look into police corruption in Cleveland’s history. While gathering evidence that police officers have been accepting payments from illegal casinos and drug shipments, Morrow battles his own doubts and little experience. He also finds himself surrounded by threats not only armed with weapons but with the power and technology of modern policing.
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“Broken Shield speaks volumes to the potentially lethal consequences of his undercover experiences, the success of which have served as a Quantico based teaching prototype for subsequent undercover/sting operations.” —David A. Gentile, President & Chief Executive Officer at Protocol Security Partners LLC
“Broken Shield is an incredibly fascinating undercover FBI story that absolutely captivated me and had me flying through the pages…It's truly an inspirational book that I now keep next to my bed as one of all time favorites…I loved the book and highly recommend that you read it.” —Justin Shenkarow, Emmy Award Winning Actor & Producer
“Readers who love true crime books will be captivated by this intimate tale penned by the FBI agent who actually lived it…This book is a brutally honest look at the personal costs of an investigation not often depicted in other true crime books and movies. I’ve interviewed more than 150 FBI agents about their cases and careers. Few have an FBI story that can compare to Ray Morrow’s.” —Jerri Williams, Retired FBI Agent, Author, & Podcaster
“Ray Morrow’s debut novel is fascinating, gritty, and honest…Broken Shield is a page-turner that pulls you in immediately as you get to know the family man, the G-man, and the honorable man, Ray Morrow.” —Stacey Mitrey, Author & Former Special Agent
“…extremely interesting and newsworthy.” —Herb Cohrs, Retired Former FBI Squad Supervisor
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ray A. Morrow served as the primary undercover agent in a major police corruption investigation that netted thirty Cleveland Police officers yet at the time Ray had only been an FBI Agent for two years and possessed no previous undercover experience prior to taking on this most sensitive and dangerous undercover assignment. As a first time author of Broken Shield- An FBI Undercover Agent's Personal Perspective, he provides details both professionally and personally of the highs and lows he encountered during his time undercover. Ray is an accomplished leader in the FBI having served as the Special Agent in Charge of both the New York and Pittsburgh Field Offices. Ray possesses an all-encompassing background in investigative field operations combined with high-caliber qualifications in executive investigative management. His more than forty-three years of investigations and executive protection highlight his undercover journey. Ray waited twenty-eight years to tell his story, a story even his wife and children never really knew.
SAMPLE FROM BROKEN SHIELD
This is the story of my two great loves. One is my wife (and children). The other, which often took priority, is my love affair with the FBI. As far back as I can remember, I wanted to be an FBI Special Agent. From the time I was a child, I was enthralled with J. Edgar Hoover and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. During the 1960s, he was one of the most powerful men in the United States. He was always meticulously dressed and fastidious when it came to following the law. He held the key to a just and right world. I would watch him on our small black and white television, and I knew that I wanted to be a part of the most exceptional investigative organization in the world.
The path to becoming a Special Agent is never straight, nor is it the same for everyone. But those who make it through Quantico do so out of passion. But it doesn’t take long for a young agent to learn that “you can love the FBI, but it can’t love you back.” Even so, I sacrificed my family to protect my investigations and my FBI family. I often struggled with the demands of my two worlds and realized I had to do whatever it took to maintain my family while also maintaining control of my career and future. I had no idea at the time how difficult a challenge I was about to undertake. It looked so effortless on television and in the movies.
I was not prepared for the case that would change the trajectory of both my career and family. I had only been in the Bureau for two years when a lead undercover position became available in Cleveland, Ohio. To say I was inexperienced would be an understatement; I hadn’t even assisted on an undercover case. But I had just read Joe Pistone’s book, DONNIE BRASCO, and had the undercover itch. I knew that this was the direction I wanted my career to go, and I was willing to do whatever it took to get it there. Even with all my enthusiasm and training, I could never prepare myself for what lay ahead. But part of me thought, ‘Hey, I just read Donnie Brasco, I should be able to pull this off.’
For two years, I served as the Primary Undercover Agent on one of the most significant police corruption investigations in history. During that time, I became engrossed in a world so vastly different from my own that I had no choice but to detach. When I signed on, I never realized what an emotional toll the investigation would have on my life. Most people, even FBI agents, don’t understand the depths you must dive into becoming someone else. The waters get murky and dark, and only the strong can resurface after sinking so deep.
My FBI undercover investigation targeted the Cleveland, Ohio Police Department. SHIRON, as the case was named, began in May 1989 and ended in May 1991. During my undercover operation, I made over 1,000 audio body recordings, over 500 video and telephone recordings of conversations with corrupt police officers involved in numerous criminal activities such as dealing in stolen property, bookmaking operations, narcotics, assault, and battery, and money laundering.
The investigation concluded with the indictments of forty-seven individuals, thirty of whom were police officers. Three trials followed immediately after that, and all were completed by 1992. I was incredibly proud of what we (the Cleveland FBI Field Office and United States Attorney’s Office in the Northern District of Ohio) had accomplished in our undercover operation. I hope this story depicts the sacrifices made by the members of the FBI and their families in order to keep the world a safe and just place to live.
April 21, 1966
“I am looking for information about a fugitive named Larry Drake,” Inspector Lewis Erskine said, his voice commanding.
“Why you lookin’ for him?” the man said, taking a drag of his cigarette.
“He’s an escaped prisoner who murdered three law enforcement officers in cold blood during his escape, and one of those officers just happened to be one of my closest friends,” the Inspector replied.
I leaned in closer towards the little black and white television. I was just eleven years old with my face inches from the tube. My chubby fingers grasped the long strands of our tan shag carpet. Inspector Erskine’s eyelids dropped, and a fierce look crossed his handsome face. I twisted my face to try to match the Inspector’s signature look. I was captivated. The “The FBI” starring Efrem Zimbalist Jr. aired for the first time in 1965, and since then, I never missed a weekly episode. I could not get enough of the Agents and their cases. “The FBI” followed Inspector Lewis Erskine’s investigations very carefully, and I was right there, hanging onto his coattails.
I was fascinated by his dapper and sophisticated dress and appearance. I had never seen anyone quite as refined as Erskine. And I certainly had never met anyone busy saving the world. On top of the mystery and adventure, I loved the structure and guidance the show depicted. I became enthralled with those that strictly adhered to and upheld the laws, regulations, policies, and procedures. I was already in love with the FBI.
I lived in Hopewell Township in western Pennsylvania, a classic blue-collar mid-America town. There wasn’t much to do or much around other than the steel mills, factories, and hills. My father worked at the J&L Steel mill and my mother at the Phoenix Glass factory. They were hard-working people that couldn’t even imagine leaving their hometown. Western PA was filled with hard-working, dedicated blue-collar workers, who took great pride in what they did for a living. This work ethic and pride were instilled in all of us, especially some of my closest friends from junior high and high school. Friends like Ed Wilamowski, Danny Raines, Joe Durinsky, Bob Rosati, Bill Sosko, Jeff Hineman, Ed Burak, Gary Ciccone, Tony Dorsett, and others. All of my friends and I competed in high school athletics. Most of us played high school football and baseball. There wasn’t much else to do at the time, and this is what was expected of boys. Joining the FBI was a dream that most people from our small town would never consider pursuing. That was for big-city folk. Most of the residents of Hopewell ended up working in the steel mills or other factory jobs that were in abundance. The mills offered a great way to make a living just like our fathers and their fathers before them. But I knew that it was not for me. I had to be an FBI Special Agent.
My father was on the same page as me, at least as it came to my future in a factory. Although he did the backbreaking work and knew it put plenty of food on the table, he wanted more for me. He was a huge proponent of my getting a college education and was tough on me when it came to my studies and, most importantly, my grades. There was no way I was not going to college on his watch. But we didn’t necessarily see eye to eye on what my future had to hold.
“I’m gonna be an FBI agent,” I announced as my father walked into the living room.
My father gulped his coffee and wiped his mouth. “Son, you ain’t going to do no such thing. You are going to be a pharmacist, end of story.”
I wasn’t even sure what a pharmacist did at the time, but I knew that was not what I wanted to do. But I also knew better than to argue with my dad. He was a strict disciplinarian, and his word was gospel. His personality made him seem far larger than his slight 5’9’’ frame. His dream for me to receive a college education and have a good white-collar job, contradictory to his upbringing. He had dropped out of school at 14 to help support his mother, father, and six siblings. He later joined the Navy, where he learned numerous trades such as carpentry, auto mechanics, electrical wiring. He could fix any piece of machinery or a small appliance.
My mom, on the other hand, was a typical Italian Catholic mother. She was dedicated to her family. She loved to cook, clean, socialize, and play cards with family and friends. While she couldn’t imagine me leaving Hopewell, because no one ever did, she wanted me to have the world. “You go on believing you can do anything, Ray,” she would say, her smile sincere.
My mother licked her hand and wiped it across my brown hair, tapping down the straggling strands of my colic. “You look so handsome, Ray,” my mother said as she stepped back to look at me in my suit and bow tie. I looked at myself in the mirror and gave each side of my plaid bowtie a tight tug. I smoothed down my blonde hair. I was pretty proud of my appearance, a dapper man like Inspector Erskine, I thought to myself.
“We need to get to church now,” my father hollered from the other room.
“I’m ready,” I yelled back. I straightened my blue jacket and smiled at my mom.
“You will do great,” she said.
We got in our 1966 Chevy Impala and headed down Brodhead Road towards Center Township. It took 15 minutes for us to arrive at St. Francis Cabrini Church in Center Township. St. Francis was the only catholic church in Center Township. Our Lady of Fatima was the Catholic Church in Hopewell, but my mother and father were good friends with Father O’Connell at St. Francis Cabrini, so that’s where we attended mass every Sunday. St Francis Cabrini was a simple building with an elementary school and social hall. As we pulled up into the parking lot, I saw all of my friends and their families gathered outside. It was my Confirmation day.
I had attended church and catechism classes every week from the time I was five. My mom’s side of the family was a strict Italian Catholic family, and my Confirmation was a big deal. We greeted everyone and then quickly entered the chapel and found seats as close as we could. I slid into the sixth row; first, my entire family sat with the rest of the families towards the back of the church.
I felt the nerves rise in my belly, and I fiddled in my seat.
When my name was called, I humbly approached the bishop. I was nervous. I glanced at my mother; she was beaming, her hands clutching her rosary. I moved forward in the line, my head slightly bowed as I waited for my turn. Finally, it was my turn. I stood in front of Bishop John Joseph Wright. He gave me a warm smile and then crossed my forehead with his cross.
“Ray Anthony Joseph Morrow, may you be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
“Amen,” I replied.
“Peace be with you,” he said.
I bowed my head in respect and made my way back to my seat for the Priest to conclude Mass. After Mass, my mother and father came up to the altar to say a few words to me.
“Ray, your mother, and I are so proud. We want you to keep the values of the church in your heart. And remember that the right decision is often the hardest one to make, but by doing do so, you are building character,” my dad said, his voice full of emotion.
My dad reached into his pocket and pulled out a small box. He opened it, and my mom reached in and pulled out a medallion, the face Jesus carved in the center.
“May you continue to walk in the light of Jesus,” my mother said, kissing the medallion and hanging it around my neck. “I love you, Raymond.”
I was playing shortstop and pitcher on my little league baseball team, had lots of friends, was doing well in school, and active in my church. But despite my full life, the mystique of the FBI. was always with me. I wouldn’t say I was obsessed, but I was probably close to it.
“Ray, are you ready?” my father called from downstairs.
“I am,” I said excitedly.
I skipped down the steps in my white and red little league uniform. I was ready for the first game of the season.
“I need to stop at the Township building before the game. We can walk over to the field right after,” my dad said. My dad had to make his quarterly tax payment, a task he did in person.
The Hopewell Township Building was a 10-minute drive from my house. It was located in the town square. The baseball fields were behind the Hopewell Junior High School next door to the Township Building. And across the road was a snow cone stand that made the best snow cones. I was looking forward to my cherry snow cone after my game today!
When we arrived, I went in with my father, but he asked me to wait in the lobby area while he went into one of the offices. As I waited, I noticed a group of Hopewell Police officers gathered around a gentleman who was leading the conversation. This gentleman was well dressed in a dark blue suit and red tie, dark-colored fedora hat, and his shoes were shined. His chiseled jaw and broad shoulders reminded me of Inspector Erskine. And he had the complete attention of the Officers. I stood in awe of the gentleman.
My eyes adhered to the man like they did to the television when watching THE F.B.I. I knew there had to be something special about him. We didn’t see a lot of suits in Hopewell, and even when we did, they weren’t like the one this man was wearing. I wasn’t sure how much time had passed until my father emerged from the office.
My father gave a wave towards the group of police officers. My heart stopped, did my dad know the well-dressed man? The excitement started brewing in the back of my throat but quickly dissipated as one of the cops headed towards my father and me.
“How ya’ doing, Clancy?” the cop asked my dad.
“I’m good, Mitch. This is my boy, Ray,” my dad tells the cop.
“Nice to meet you, Ray,” the cop says, sticking out his hand.
“Nice to meet you, too,” I replied.
My father and the cop began shooting the breeze. I waited quietly for the conversation to end. I had made up my mind that I was going to ask Officer Mitch about the man. I needed to know!
“Nice to see you, Clancy,” the cop said, getting ready to walk away.
“Excuse me, Officer Mitch,” I said, my voice quiet. My dad had his stink eye glued to me as soon as the first word left my mouth.
“Yes, Ray?” the cop replied.
“Who was the man in the suit you were speaking to?” I asked, my eyes low.
“The man with the hat?” I nodded.
“He is an FBI Agent from the Pittsburgh FBI Field Office,” he said.
My eyes widened, and a smile crossed my face. I had just seen the real-life Inspector Erskine, and I knew right then that I was absolutely going to be an FBI agent! The excitement that filled within me was something I had never experienced before. It was like seeing Superman up close and personal. I wanted so badly to go over and introduce myself to the FBI Agent, but I knew my father would have none of it, and I needed to get to the baseball field to get ready for my game.
“You’re home! You’re home!” my 8-year-old sister, Violet, squealed from down the hall.
I hopped off my bed and sprinted to the back door. “Dad!”
We both ran towards him, full speed ahead. My mom jumped in front of us, blocking our furious hugs.
“Gentle with your father. He is still frail,” mom said, her tone calm.
“I’m okay, Margaret. Hugs won’t hurt me,” my father said.
“Clancy, you heard what the doctors said.”
My father opened his arms wide. Violet and I slowly approached our father and simultaneously hugged him. He had spent the week in the hospital from a back injury at work. He was placed in traction while in the hospital. Spinal traction was a form of decompression therapy that relieves pressure on the spine. It can be performed manually or mechanically but always by medical professionals. Spinal traction is used to treat herniated discs, sciatica, degenerative disc disease, pinched nerves, and many other back conditions.
My mom and I helped my father to the couch. “Can I get you anything, Clancy?” my mom asked.
“I’m just going to take a little rest here on the couch,” he said. This was the first time in my life that I saw my father look weak and frail. He could barely hold himself up. My father laid on the couch and fell asleep. He had always been the most strong-willed and strong-minded person I had known; thus, his current condition was very unsettling to me. I sat on the floor in front of the couch and watched him sleep. After a half-hour or so, my mom sent me to my room to play with Violet.
Even though there was an eight-year age difference between Violet and me, we got along well. I was happy to play games with her, often letting her win. We were in the middle of a game of Candyland when I heard the bathroom door shut. I figured my dad was awake. I headed out to the living room. I was anxious to spend some time with him. I walked into the hallway just in time to see my father stumble out of the bathroom.
“You okay, dad?” I asked.
He fumbled forward. I reached out and grabbed him before he hit the floor. As I lowered my dad to the ground, I screamed, “MOM!”
The bathroom floor was covered in blood. I couldn’t tell where the blood had come from. My mom ran into the room, and she screamed, “Call an ambulance!”
The ambulance arrived and rushed my father to the hospital. My father had a bleeding ulcer. Once at the hospital, after they were able to get him stabilized, they operated and removed 2/3 of his stomach. After that, his health began to deteriorate. My father was never the same.
One year later, my father had open-heart surgery; this was a difficult time for all of us. My dad was only 43 years old at the time, and due to the operation was forced to take a disability retirement from J&L Steel. The doctors had told us that his demeanor might change, and it did. He went from being an outgoing, personable individual to a more introspective
and quieter individual who was, at times, quick to anger. It was a hard adjustment for all of us, especially for my father.
As my desire and passion to become an FBI Special Agent continued to grow throughout my high school years, I was determined that I was going to college to get a degree in law enforcement. However, my father’s desire for me to go on to college and become a pharmacist was steadfast. There were numerous conversations between my father and me regarding this, and I never won any of those conversations.
“Dad, I really want to be an FBI agent,” I explained calmly.
“Son, life is not one of your silly television shows. The FBI is a pipe dream. You will be a pharmacist. It is a great profession to support a family, plus it is a vital job for the community. Look at Mr. Reynolds at Crest Cut Rate Drugstore. That is what you want to be!”
That was the last thing in the world I wanted to be, but I also didn’t want to upset my father. Thus, I never argued, but from time to time would remind him of my desires, especially as I entered my senior year in high school, and it came time to apply to colleges.
Finally, I said to myself I have got to get this situation under control and convince my father that law enforcement was my career choice. Time was running out, and applications for college admittance would soon be upon us. For days I practiced, researched, and rehearsed what I was going to say to convince my father. I went to the library for days and researched the ins and outs of the FBI. I put together a solid pitch for my father. I certainly did not want to disappoint him as I was going to be the first in his family to go to college. He was incredibly proud of that, and I wanted him to be proud of what I was choosing to do. After several days of preparation, I was ready.
I hemmed and hawed for days on the best time to approach my dad with my pitch. I had to get him when he was in a good mood, but I wanted to catch him off guard and unprepared. I wanted him to listen to me. I just wanted an opportunity to get it all out. Hell, I had been working on this for days. The least he could do was listen.
I thought the best time for the attack would be right after dinner when he sat down to read the paper and watch the news on TV. I figured his mind would be elsewhere, and maybe just maybe I could slip this by him.
“How was your day, Violet?” my dad asked.
“It was good. I ate lunch with my friend Sarah, and then we played hopscotch at recess,” Violet said, taking a bite of spaghetti.
“How about you, Ray?” he asked.
“Good. Got an A on my English test,” I said.
“That’s my boy,” he said, taking a bite of the meatball.
“Dinner is wonderful as usual, Margaret.”
My mom smiled. She was a fantastic cook and made the best Italian dinners. We had dinner as a family almost every day. After dinner, we would all go our separate ways. My dad, like usual, headed to his favorite chair to read the paper and watch the news. I walked to my room to gain my composure.
I took a deep breath, walked out of my bedroom down the hall to the living room where my dad was sitting. I was nervous as hell but kept saying to myself calm down, relax; you can do this. This is your future, not his. But in a way, I knew it was my father’s future as well. He worked so hard to give me everything he could, and now it was my turn to repay him. To make him proud of me. And I knew that if I explained how much I wanted to be an FBI agent if I could sell that to him, he would agree with me. At least that’s what I thought. Or should I say hope? My mother had joined him in the living room and was seated on the couch.
“Dad, we need to talk.”
My father folded down the top of his newspaper, peered over the now bent newspaper, and was looking right at me.
“Dad, I know you want me to go to school to be a Pharmacist, but have you seen any of my science grades. I’d never make it. Besides I want to go to school for law enforcement, I want to be an FBI agent. That’s my dream. That is what I am most passionate about.”
My mother started to cry. She was extremely emotional and would cry at the drop of a hat. This time I think she was crying because she thought my father and I were about to have one big hullabaloo. I was hoping that her crying just might help.
“Well, you know, a Pharmacist is a very admirable career,” he said, his eyes peering over his paper. I was about to jump in and go further with my plea, I was loaded for bear filled with facts about a career in the FBI, but my father continued, “but, if you love what you do, you’ll never have to work a day in your life.” He flipped his newspaper back up and went back to reading.
What the hell just happened, I thought to myself as I walked back to my room. I had plenty more to say, all that research and preparing down the drain. But I guess it didn’t matter. He just said I could pursue my dreams. I was ecstatic, as I walked into my bedroom, I looked in the mirror and said, “Ray Morrow, FBI, you’re under arrest.”