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The Digital Detectives

The Burgeoning World of Corporate Security Has Gone From Cloak and Dagger to Computers and Databases
Daren Fonda
From the Print Edition:
Denzel Washington, Jan/Feb 98

(continued from page 4)

Kroll's Ernest Brod says that the new company plans to "leverage off some of the security systems and security hardware O'Gara is known for." The combined agency will still be an industry force--with 950 employees at 39 offices worldwide and an estimated annual income of $200 million.

In the weeks preceding the O'Gara merger, Jules Kroll and his secret agents remained characteristically low-key. Calls to Kroll's office over a period of six weeks were not returned. When asked why he was unavailable for interviews, the firm's spokeswoman, Elizabeth Hunter, said the agency was in a "quiet period."

However, if Jules Kroll's work is the stuff of spy stories, his reticence with reporters doesn't seem surprising. Kroll's dealings have made him a very wealthy man. (He already owns an estate in Westchester County, New York, and stands to reap at least $50 million worth of O'Gara stock once the deal is finalized early in 1998. Why should he shed the classic gumshoe's anonymity now? Hammett's Continental Op would probably have just tipped his fedora and walked quietly away.

Daren Fonda is a writer living in New York. One Tough Cop

"Put 10 cigars in front of me and I'll pick out the Cuban," ventures detective Richard "Bo" Dietl. "The other night someone gave me a Montecristo No. 2. I looked it over and could tell immediately it was counterfeit. I can always tell the difference."

If Bo Dietl weren't earning his living as a sleuth, his claim might sound a bit brash. But he's spent decades busting cons, first as a New York City street cop then as a private detective, and he could probably finger the phony Cuban cigar if only because he channels that sixth-sense of the professionally suspicious. Dietl carries a silver humidor in his trunk, packed with Hoyo de Monterrey Double Coronas, Partagas Lusitanias and Montecristos. He hands them out to friends and clients. But he has little patience for smokers who can't tell the difference between a robusto and a panatela.

"I'll test the person first, ask him questions before I give out one of my babies," he says. "I get the best cigars in the world at this little place in New York. But what I think I should do is carry the bad cigars in one pocket and the good ones in another. I can't stand giving a good smoke to someone who doesn't appreciate it."

Dietl is talking cigars as he drives uptown in his BMW 740i. He's heading to Rao's, the East Harlem Italian restaurant where Mafia legends such as Lucky Luciano once dined, and where Dietl entertains clients and friends at his front table at least once a week. Tonight's entourage includes the actor Chris Norton, a screenwriter, some "business associates" and, later in the evening, a tall, attractive blonde woman Dietl would only identify as an "acquaintance." On the wall by the bar, amid the photos of celebrity diners, is a shot of Dietl with President Bush, who appointed him co-chairman of the National Crime Commission in 1989. "I did security for Bush at the 1992 Republican National Convention," he says proudly.

Bo Dietl exudes what fellow detectives call "bragging rights." As a street cop in the 1970s and '80s, he cracked some of New York City's most publicized homicides. Working during his off hours and outside his beat, he developed leads that resulted in the capture of two thugs who had raped and tortured an East Harlem nun. Three years later, in 1984, he helped collar the culprit of the "Palm Sunday Massacre," in which eight children and two adults were found shot dead in their apartment. By age 35, he'd made more than 2,000 arrests and was mugged more than 500 times, posing as a subway drunk in a decoy unit. The rest of the Bo Dietl story--the subject of the upcoming Stephen Baldwin film, One Tough Cop--is by now well documented. Dietl's Dirty Harry tactics didn't ingratiate him with police officials. He once impersonated a judge and humiliated a defendant in a mock trial. And his off-hours gambling fueled suspicions that his private life encroached on his job. Dietl retired in 1985 following an ankle injury he suffered on vacation that would have required him to take a desk job. He co-authored a book about his life on the force, One Tough Cop.

Today, Dietl operates his own private investigative agency, called Beau Dietl and Associates. He started out solo from his home in Queens, and in 12 years has turned his practice into a $10 million-a-year enterprise based in Manhattan. He's lent bodyguard muscle to a slew of celebrities, among them, Charlton Heston, Paul Simon and Richard Pryor. And he's handled security for political conventions and foreign dignitaries such as the royal family of Saudi Arabia.

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