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FBI says farewell to a renaissance man

It's easy to judge an FBI agent by the people he's put in prison.

By that standard, the 30-year career of Alfred W. Scudieri, who was instrumental in convicting oil company executives, Hillsborough County commissioners and Mafiosi, would be considered a success.

But Scudieri, 48, also wants to be known for the people he did not arrest.

One of those people came to Scudieri's retirement luncheon Friday at the Sheraton Grand to pay tribute to an agent who is widely regarded to be one of the finest ever to work in the Tampa office.

"He's a good agent," said Tampa Mayor Dick Greco, who in 1982 found himself embroiled in the Metropolitan Bank scandal, at the time the largest bank failure in Florida history. "He's a very fair, very good person."

Greco was exonerated in the federal investigation, which is perhaps why he could smile Friday in a room full of nearly 150 current and former federal prosecutors and agents.

"We did the right thing by him," Scudieri said. "He's really a good guy. He just got caught up in it."

Of course, there were some people, like Allen Z. Wolfson, the convicted con man in the bank scandal, who didn't make it to the luncheon.

Nor did Joseph Kotvas, for that matter, or Jerry Bowmer, the two surviving Hillsborough County commissioners who were convicted of taking bribes in a 1983 corruption case.

Chris Hoyer, who was a federal prosecutor at the time and intimately involved in the investigations, remembered those heady days fondly.

"During one eight-month period, we worked a complex case involving a major bank, an illegal railroad takeover in New Jersey, did an $80-million fraud in Miami, another $120-million fraud in Colorado and busted three of the five county commissioners," he said Friday.

Though he turned out to be adept at uncovering fraud, that was not Scudieri's ambition as a young man growing up "in the shadow of Shea Stadium" in New York City. He first joined the FBI in 1965 as a clerk in the cryptography department. It was a summer job, a way to pay for history textbooks at City University.

The Bureau encouraged him to take foreign language courses and ultimately offered him a chance to train to be an agent. Three weeks after he was married at age 22, he began a 15-week course at the academy in Quantico, Va.

Since then Scudieri has been posted to Washington, D.C., where he investigated Vietnam War protesters for links to the Soviet Union, and San Juan, Puerto Rico, where he worked on anti-terrorism cases and busted a casino operator with ties to the Bonnano crime family.

But it was in Tampa that he made his mark.

In 1977, he was assigned by Phil McNiff, then-special agent in charge, to what would become known as the Florida Power "Daisy Chain" case, a complex price-gouging scheme that cost utility consumers $8.5-million. It was the first time Scudieri was partnered with Ron Jordan, an accountant by training who was as good with the details as Scudieri was with mustering resources.

"They did an outstanding job, got convictions on everyone," McNiff said.

On that and subsequent cases, Scudieri proved himself to be meticulous and focused, an important quality on investigations that might drag on for months. Five years ago he was promoted to the head of the white-collar crime team. It was an unusual occurrence in the Bureau, which is known for bringing in supervisors from other offices.

No one ever regretted the decision.

Scudieri was driven, but never robotic. Always impeccably dressed, he didn't come across as unapproachable.

"He could interview a banker or a police officer and

then go out and talk to a bank robber or a prostitute," McNiff said.

Richard Witkowsky, who worked with Scudieri on the white-collar task force, called him "a renaissance man."

He loves the Yankees and cheered as a boy for Mickey Mantle and Duke Snider. But he has an equal passion for opera, particularly Puccini's La Boheme.

He plays softball avidly and headed the FBI's local SWAT team, but he can quote 19th century French authors with ease. Court reporters, who must record thousands of hours of sometimes poorly phrased trial testimony, loved him for his articulateness.

In his emotional farewell speech Friday, Scudieri thanked a host of people, including his father, Fred, and his former bosses. He also mentioned Chris and Judy Hoyer, husband and wife, who were federal and state prosecutors together and who now have their own private practice.

Scudieri, like Ron Jordan, his former partner, will join the Hoyer firm Wednesday as an investigator.

Friday, Scudieri tried to express the bittersweet feeling of leaving a lifetime's work and the prospect of a new job with old friends.

He quoted Honore de Balzac, who ruminated on the death of his wealthy, but long-suffering uncle, and the distinct possibility that he would receive a tidy inheritance.

"Yesterday at 5 a.m., my uncle and I passed on to a better life," Scudieri quoted.

"It's hard to say goodbye to the past, but I can't wait to begin the future," he said.

Minutes later, Jordan smiled and said, "It's kind of like the old partnership's back."