Michael Taylor's friends say he is a top undercover man. Critics say he is out
of control -- and that federal agents are protecting him. One thing is certain:
the government doesn't want you to read this story.
by Tim Sandler
The drug trafficker hadn't seen the briefcase for months. Facing charges that
he led a sizable marijuana-smuggling ring, he knew the evidence against him was
overwhelming. So he agreed to cooperate with authorities and to turn over $2.1
million in drug proceeds. And that meant surrendering the briefcase, which
contained tens of thousands of dollars in a secret compartment.
It was a crowning moment for Massachusetts state trooper Robert Monahan. A
member of the state police's Asset Forfeiture Unit, he had been brought in on
the case by the US Attorney's offices in Colorado and Florida to help
investigate the trafficker's Massachusetts connections. Later, Monahan would
receive a federal award for his five years of work on the smuggling case. But
on this humid and sunny day in the fall of 1992, Monahan, a muscular,
spit-shined trooper, stood in a spare conference room at the US Attorney's
office in Jacksonville, Florida. And he watched the drug trafficker dial the
combination lock on the brown plastic briefcase.
When the briefcase popped open, the trafficker scanned the contents and
paused. "Uh-oh," he muttered. He had forgotten what else was inside.
Alongside the money, Monahan says, were numerous documents referring to a
Boston-based private investigator named "Mike." There were letters and memos
indicating that, for $120,000, Mike had helped provide the trafficker with
falsified Greek passports and back-up identification. There was paperwork
showing that Mike had been paid $40,000 to use his connections in the federal
law-enforcement community to warn the smuggler of any pending indictments or
warrants. And there was evidence that this same Mike and a Lebanese man had
embezzled some $300,000 the trafficker had entrusted to them for
After several lengthy interviews with the drug trafficker, during which the
trafficker told Monahan that he had paid Mike up to $30,000 to organize a
Florida jailbreak -- and that Mike had said he could arrange to kill anyone
outside the US -- Monahan knew he was on to something.
But what he didn't know at the time was that following Mike's trail would
lead him into a shadowy world of international intrigue -- a world inhabited by drug
smugglers, covert military operatives, and agents of virtually every branch of
the federal law-enforcement community, including the FBI, the US Attorney's
office, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF).
Because as it turned out, "Mike" was Michael L. Taylor, a former Green Beret
with deep personal ties to the Middle East and to federal law-enforcement
agents. And it was those same authorities who -- despite Taylor's questionable
background -- paid Taylor hundreds of thousands of dollars for his work as an
Mike Taylor had helped the US Attorney's office in Boston break one of its
largest cases: a huge hashish-smuggling case that, in turn, shed light on a
shady Middle Eastern criminal enterprise producing billions of dollars' worth
of counterfeit $100 bills of such stunning quality that they threaten to
undermine confidence in the nation's currency. US government officials, in
fact, all but deny the existence of these "Supernotes" -- but that doesn't mean
they aren't grateful to the man who helped them zero in on the counterfeits.
Tim Sandler can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.