فصل 08

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فصل 08

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Chapter eight

Stephano’s Story

Stephano’s lawyer advised him to accept the FBI’s arrangement. The criminal charges against him would be dropped, and there would be no charges against his clients. He would tell the FBI everything he knew about the search for and capture of Patrick Lanigan.

Stephano had easily persuaded Benny Aricia that the FBI was going to arrest him soon. It was more difficult to persuade Paul Atterson at Monarch-Sierra Insurance and Frank Jill at Northern Case Insurance. Jaynes sent agents to both offices to ask questions about the search for and capture of Patrick Lanigan. Both called Stephano by noon and told him to fully cooperate with the FBI.

For four years Stephano had worked with these men. He’d earned almost a million dollars, he’d spent another 2.5 million of his clients’ money, and he could claim success. They’d found Lanigan. They hadn’t found the ninety million, but it hadn’t been spent. There was a chance of recovering it.


Benny Aricia came to see Stephano in his office. He’d listened to the torture tape three times. He was certain Patrick had told what he knew, and it wasn’t enough. Patrick knew he’d someday be caught; that’s why he’d placed the money with the girl, who hid it from everyone - including Patrick. It was a great plan. “How much will it take to find her?” he asked Stephano.

“I’d guess a hundred thousand, with no guarantees. We have no idea where she is, but we know where she’s from. And we know she’ll probably go to Biloxi.”

“Will the FBI know we’re still looking?”

“No.”

“And if you find her?”

“We’ll make her talk,” Stephano said, and they smiled.

Stephano honestly planned to tell most of what he knew. He knew little - just the name of the Brazilian lawyer who had the money. Now she’d disappeared, and he doubted the FBI would follow her. The money didn’t belong to them. And he wanted the FBI out of his life. Mrs. Stephano was extremely anxious. If he didn’t reopen his office quickly, he’d be out of business. So, he planned to tell them what they wanted to hear, most of it anyway. He’d take Benny’s money and chase the girl. Maybe he’d get lucky. And he’d send some men to New Orleans to watch Lanigan’s lawyer. The FBI didn’t need to know these little details.


Stephano sat at a table in the FBI office, his lawyer beside him.

“What does your company do?” asked Underbill.

“Lots of things,” Stephano said. “Watch people. Get information. Find missing persons.”

“Were you hired to find Patrick Lanigan?”

“Yes. On March 28, 1992.”

“Who hired you?”

“Benny Aricia, the man whose money was stolen.”

“What did you do after you were hired?”

“I immediately flew to Nassau in the Bahamas to meet with the manager of the bank where the theft took place.”

“Why did Aricia have an account outside the US?”

“It was ninety million dollars. Nobody wanted the money to appear in a bank in Biloxi.”

“Where did it come from?”

“Here, in Washington. The wire began at nine-thirty on the morning of March 26, 1992. At fifteen minutes after ten, it reached the United Bank, where it sat for nine minutes before it was wired to a bank in Malta. From there, it was wired to Panama.”

“How did the money get wired out of the bank?”

“Someone, Mr. Lanigan we think, prepared false wiring instructions from my client’s lawyers, his old firm, and rerouted the money. On the morning the money was wired, he presented himself as Doug Vitrano, one of his partners. He had a perfect passport and driver’s license, and he knew all about the money which was being wired from Washington. He had a paper from the office giving him permission to accept the money for the firm and then wire it to the bank in Malta. The other partners, of course, thought he was dead. They had no reason to suspect anyone was after the money. The settlement which produced the ninety million was extremely secret, and only a few people knew exactly when or where the money was wired.”

“So you went to Biloxi to look for clues, and you found that the law offices were bugged.”

“We did. We had two jobs: first, to find Mr. Lanigan and the money, and second, to find out how he’d stolen it. There were twenty-two bugs in the offices - in every phone, in every office, under every desk.”

“Did you find out where the signals went?” he asked.

“No. But I think he rented a boat. He needed a place to hide and listen to the conversations. A boat is simple and safe. The office is only 600 meters from the beach, and there are a lot of boats out there.”

“Do you have any evidence he used a boat?”

“We found a small company in Alabama that rented a sailboat to a man on February 11, 1992, the day Lanigan was buried. We showed the manager a picture. He said maybe it was Patrick, but he couldn’t be positive. The beard was gone, the hair was dark, and he wore glasses and was overweight.”

“What happened to the boat?”

“A kid working at the dock said the man brought the boat back on either March 24 or 25 and was never seen again.” “Where did Patrick go?”

“He left the area. He took the name of Doug Vitrano. On the twenty-fifth he flew to Nassau, using tickets in Vitrano’s name. He was at the bank when it opened at nine o’clock. He moved the money and took a flight to New York at 2:30 P.M. Then he stopped using Vitrano’s name and used another. We lost him.”


While Stephano talked in Washington, Benny Aricia and Guy settled in rooms in Biloxi. They believed the girl would have to come there. Patrick wasn’t going anywhere. She’d have to come to him. And they had to catch her when she did.

Osmar and his boys were still in Rio, watching the same places each day. If she came back, they’d see her.


Benny Aricia had moved to the Coast in 1985 as an officer of Piatt & Rockland, a big defense contractor with a history of overbilling and false claims. One of their small divisions had received a 990 million dollar Navy contract, and Benny was responsible for it. He hated contracting with the government, and he hated living in Biloxi. In 1988 he asked for a different job and was denied. He studied the False Claims Act. This encouraged people to report overbilling in government contracts. Then he went to Charles Bogan for help filing a claim with the government.

The lawsuit was filed in September of 1990 with the allegation that 600 million dollars had been overbilled. If Benny could prove this, he’d receive 15 percent of that amount, and one-third of that would go to the law firm. Bogan gave information to the press, and the company lost business. After a year, Piatt & Rockland agreed to repay the 600 million dollars. Benny got ready to receive his fortune, and Bogan and the partners got ready to spend theirs. Then Patrick disappeared, and so did their money.


Stephano’s next questioner was Warren. “When did your group form?” he asked.

“After we lost Patrick in New York, we waited. Nothing happened. I’d met with Benny Aricia, and he’d agreed to pay a million dollars to finance the search. Then I met with people from Monarch-Sierra and Northern Case. Northern Case had already paid 2.5 million to the widow. They couldn’t sue to get it back because there wasn’t strong evidence he was still alive. They agreed to give us half a million. Monarch-Sierra carried the law firm’s insurance, protecting them from theft by its employees and partners. They had to pay four million dollars to the firm and agreed to pay another million to finance the search.”

“How was the money spent?”

“On salaries, travel, rewards, and the services of my firm. Not much is left.”

“Tell me about the rewards.”

“We immediately offered a 100,000 dollar reward for any, information about the disappearance of Patrick Lanigan. We heard nothing for months, and then in August of 92 Bogan got a call from a lawyer whose client knew something. His client was a young woman who worked in a book store. Sometime in January of ‘92 she noticed a customer in the travel and language section. When another customer entered the store, he tried to hide behind a shelf, but the other man saw him. ‘Patrick, it’s been a long time,’ he said, and the two men talked about their law careers.

“The one called Patrick was anxious and left as soon as he could. Three nights later, he came back, picked out a language course, paid for it, and left quickly. Three weeks after that, the girl saw in the paper that Patrick Lanigan had been killed in a terrible car crash, and she recognized his picture. Then, six weeks later, there was a story about the stolen money. When she learned about the reward, she went to her lawyer.”

“So what was the language?”

“Brazilian Portuguese.”

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