Chasing Phil: The Adventures of Two Undercover Agents with the World's Most Charming Con Man

In 1977, two ambitious young agents in the Gary, Ind., FBI office stumbled on a potential career-making lead to bring down the swashbuckling financial swindler Phil Kitzer. Jim "J.J." Wedick and Jack Brennan had little in common except a drive to climb the Bureau ladder. Fast-talking Kitzer convinced financially desperate small business marks that his various shell banks would provide the funds they needed--for a fee. By the time the shady paper he arranged was exposed as worthless, he had moved on to a new sham bank and new victims. At the time, the FBI was into old-school crimes like kidnapping, extortion and interstate stick-ups. White-collar crime and undercover agents with wiretaps didn't get the big federal bucks.

Chasing Phil is the story of how Wedick and Brennan broke out of the FBI administrative handcuffs to weasel into Kitzer's global circle of financial con men called "The Fraternity"--and got convictions on 50 of them. David Howard (Lost Rights) has combed trial archives and newspaper stories, and interviewed many of the key players. He sketches the late nights of booze, broads and high-end dinners where Kitzer worked out his scams and schemes. As Wedick and Brennan become more deeply enmeshed in Kitzer's world, the crimes escalate from two-bit cons to million-dollar fraudulent international bonds. The FBI takes notice and bumps the investigation to Major Case Number One. When the FBI finally pulls the trigger on Kitzer after eight months of undercover work, Wedick and Brennan are relieved--but sad to see their adventure close. A colorful bad guy is always more interesting than an office full of suits. --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.

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