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From mobbed up unions to Cold War spying

By Ron Fino

As you all know, I’ve done a lot of work with the FBI in helping them dismantle the Mafia’s control over unions. Having grown up as the son of a mob capo I was privy to many of the illegal dealings that went on and decided to put a stop to it. But that is only part of my story. The other story takes place in Russia, where I investigated the Russian Mafia and inevitably came into contact with Russian politicians, businessmen, and spies. All of those memories came back to me in December at a book party where I met some of the players involved in Cold War espionage.

This past month, my friend Jim Grady and his beautiful wife Bonnie hosted a party to celebrate Danny Moldea and his wonderful new book “Confessions of a Guerilla Writer.” Jim Grady is well known for his memorable novel “Six Days of the Condor” which became not only a best seller but also a smash hit film “Three Days of the Condor” starring Robert Redford.

Dan Moldea is a highly regarded author whose works include the best sellers: The Hoffa Wars, The Robert Kennedy AssassinationInterference: How Organized Crime Influences Professional Football and so so many other great books. His new work: Confessions of a Guerrilla Writer is the exciting story of his life detailing all the acolades he received for his works as well as the demeaning remarks about him he has had to weather. I can tell you firsthand that most authors face people that will attack them and do anything to put them down and criticize the revelations that they make available to the public. That’s life and their right; even when they know what you are saying is correct.

My wife and I had a wonderful time and I introduced her to some of my colleagues that I have worked with and for. She has heard me talk of them but had never met them. They included former CIA officers Jack Platt and Ben Wickham, former chief investigator for the Senate Phil Manuel, and former KGB colonel Gennady Vasilinko, together with many others.

Gennady Vasilenko is a Russian patriot who resisted America's bid to make him a double agent. Intensely pressured by my close friend, CIA Agent Jack Platt, Vasilenko never caved in and remained loyal to his homeland. At the same time, Vasilenko, who was assigned to the Russian Embassy in the United States, was trying similar tactics by flipping his American counterpart.

The struggle went on for years and after a while both would visit a nearby restaurant, chat and joke and eventually a close friendship developed between the two Cold War warriors.

FBI Supervisory SA Robert Philip Hanssen was recruited by the Soviet Union in 1979, and provided them with highly sensitive secret and confidential information. Even after the collapse of the Soviet Union Hanssen continued his traitorous ways until he was finally arrested on February 18, 2001. In one of his reports submitted to his Russian handlers, he stated that Gennady Vasilenko was working for the CIA. In January 1988, Vasilenko was arrested in Cuba on espionage charges and sent back to the Soviet Union, where he was imprisoned for six months and expelled from the KGB.

Even though this was not the case, Vasilenko had remained loyal to Moscow, the damage to this man's reputation was done. After his release, he started a private business with his American colleague Jack Platt who had retired from the Agency. In 2005, he was again imprisoned in Russia on trumped-up weapons charges. These new charges were nothing more than a setup to punish the KGB colonel who the Russians still believed was a traitor. Gennady had in his possession 500 rounds of .22-caliber ammunition that he used for hunting.

By this time I had pretty good relations with the Putin Administration and I was asked to see if I could assist the beleaguered and innocent Vasilenko. I did my part, but it wouldn’t be until 2010 when a deal could finally be reached.

On June 27, 2010, on suspicion of working for the “Illegals Program spy ring” under the Russian Federation's external intelligence agency, the SVR; Anna Chapman along with nine others was arrested by US authorities. On July 08, 2010, a spy swap took place that included my friend Gennady Vasilenko.

It was great meeting Gennady in the relaxed party atmosphere rather than in the high-pressured world of international espionage. At the party Jack Platt, Gennady and I talked about the trials we had in getting Gennady out of a cold Russian cell and the hard time the Russian authorities gave him. We all plan to get together right after the New Year.

Jack Platt served 25 years in the CIA as an operations officer with an extensive information collection and counterintelligence background in a variety of assignments overseas and was awarded the CIA's Career Intelligence Medal. He directed a CIA training program which prepared Agency officers and their families to live and work productively in hostile countries. Platt is the Vice President of Hamilton Trading Group which provides instruction on surveillance, surveillance detection, and counterterrorism measures to the government and private sector.

Today, Gennady lives in the United States together with his family. I have included a photo of Gennady (middle) and Jack Platt (far right) with yours truly.

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