|The Irish Times
July 3, 2003
Rupert Admits He Was Investigated For Fraud By FBI
FBI agent Mr David Rupert was investigated for fraud amounting to $655,000 in the early 1990s, the Special Criminal Court heard yesterday .
But he told the court: "As they say in the States, it's just zeros." Mr Rupert (51) the key witness against alleged leader of the "Real IRA" Mr Michael McKevitt, told defence counsel Mr Hugh Hartnett SC that, although aware of a law suit by the firm of B & W, Carthage, he had no idea he was under investigation by the FBI for "wire fraud" until some years later when he was informed by agent Mr Mark Lundgren.
Asked by Mr Hartnett to explain the meaning of wire fraud, he replied it was the illegal movement of money via mail or wire services. Mr Rupert said the amount started off at $50,000 but "every time I got a letter from them it seemed to go up 50,000". He said he heard from people in the trucking business that B & W turned the $655,000 into a claim against its insurance company and subsequently received a large sum of cash. He told the court that the people who owned B&W were "federal felons themselves".
Mr Rupert also told the court that when FBI agent Mr Ed Buckley first came to his Chicago office in 1994 seeking to recruit him as a spy, he thought the visit was in connection with his trucking business. He had 30 or 40 "blacks" and "Serbs" drivers working for him and said that "every type of scam", including freight theft, was commonplace.
"That was what I was concerned about" he said. "When the FBI shows up at your door you pay attention."
"It never entered your head that he could be there about the wire fraud," counsel enquired. No, the witness replied, the first he heard about the investigation was when Mr Lundgren told him in 2000.
Earlier, Mr Rupert admitted hiding money from the US Internal Revenue Service arising from employee tax. "I believe in the end it w as $750,000," he said.
He claimed that two revenue officials called to his office and suggested that he could make an offer of settlement or, if he wanted to avoid paying altogether, he could simply sit it out for ten years.
Questioned by Mr Hartnett, Mr Rupert admitted lodging money into an account in his wife's name to avoid the revenue. At one point prosecuting counsel Mr George Birmingham SC said he was worried that the trial would become a judicial inquiry into the life and times of David Rupert.
However, Mr Hartnett replied that the "character and credibility" of the witness were a crucial factor in the case.
Earlier, it emerged that a journalist and newspaper are to be investigated for contempt of court in the reporting of the trial.
Mr Birmingham told the court that he wanted to refer to a series of articles "under the byline of one particular individual in one particular publication."
Mr Birmingham said that these articles seemed "designed to prevent a fair trial" and he added that "concerns have increased with the publication of two articles in the course of the trial by the same particular individual in the same publication." Counsel said: "They seem to constitute clear criminal contempt and the matter will be investigated when the trial concludes."
Mr Hartnett said he "agreed entirely" with Mr Birmingham and he added that he had been very concerned at certain reporting of the case.
It was the ninth day of the trial of Mr McKevitt (53) , of Beech Park, Blackrock, Dundalk.
He is charged with membership of an unlawful organisation styling itself the Irish Republican Army, otherwise the IRA, otherwise Óglaigh na hÉireann, between August 29th, 1999 and March 28th, 2001.
He is also charged directing the activities of the same organisation.
The trial continues today.
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