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Mercenary for Justice

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“How about $10,000?” said Joseph.

“Maybe you’ll have a dinner with him.”

“If you need the money that bad,” Joseph said, “how about we go to Atlantic City? You know how good I am. I gamble, I give you the money.”

On February 3, Dennis and Loretta and Joseph and Rachel drove to the Trump Taj Mahal. The FBI bugged Joseph’s van for the trip—and even paid for the hotel rooms. Listening in on the car ride, the FBI learned that Loretta used a Yahoo! account to communicate with Kopp. At the Taj, Rachel went shopping, Dennis stayed upstairs with the boys, and Joseph and Loretta went to the casino to gamble.

After a short time, Loretta left the table to see Luciano Pavarotti perform at the Taj’s theater. Loretta had given Joseph her things to hang on to. For the next two hours, Joseph was alone with Loretta Marra’s wallet. Joseph rifled through everything, searching for addresses, phone numbers, anything that could lead to Kopp. His heart pounding, he called Michael Osborn from a pay phone. To make the search seem legal, he said the wallet had fallen to the ground accidentally.

“I read every single note,” Joseph says, “and one of the numbers was in Ireland. It was James Kopp’s phone number in Ireland.”

“Help me, help me!” Dennis was calling. “The FBI’s all over! They’re on the roofs!”

The FBI secured a warrant for the Yahoo! account, giving them a window into almost every communication between Kopp and his friends. They learned that Kopp was planning a return to the U.S. or Canada, and on March 21, they spotted a message from Kopp saying he was not in Germany but in Dinan, France. All they needed was an exact location to make the arrest. The FBI listened on bugs as Loretta and Dennis fretted about the logistics of bringing Jim Kopp home: money, phone calls, e-mails, wiring instructions, travel from Montreal into the States.

Dennis was unusually nervous. “You shouldn’t stay online so long,” he said. “Who else is using the account? And who established it? We have to get rid of the papers. I’ll wrap them in newspapers and throw them in the recycling boxes in the subway.”

On March 24, Kopp e-mailed Loretta three times about wiring arrangements: “Can’t get the $20 without the control number. Send the number on the e-mail account right way [sic] and then send $50 after that and $600 after that.” That same day, Loretta called Joseph. “I need you to come down here. Dennis is not here. I want to send some money.”

With her children in the back seat, Loretta and Joseph drove through a drizzling early-spring snow to a Western Union office near Jamaica Avenue. Loretta had everything written down. She handed him a sheet of paper with the address of a Western Union collection point in Dinan, France.

“Do me a favor,” she said. “I’m here with the kids. Why don’t you take this in?”

Joseph was shaking. Here was hard evidence linking Dennis and Loretta to Kopp—and a written record of where Kopp would have to be if he wanted to pick up his money. He could see now the whole thing would be over soon. He handed the forms to the clerk.

“Could you send $300?” And then, trying to sound nonchalant, “Could you make a copy, please, for me?”

Joseph folded over the copied papers a billion times and stuffed them into his sock, right under his foot. He put his boot back on and pushed his foot and almost cried out. It felt like a rock. Later, Joseph would call Osborn and read him the information. He thought he could hear the whole Earth stop on the other end of the line. He imagined Osborn was happy.

Back in the car, Loretta seemed to understand that Joseph had crossed a line of some sort. “We’re both into it,” she told him. “Anything that happens, we’re in it now together.”

five days later, on March 29, 2001, Joseph was supposed to meet with Dennis and Loretta for breakfast. As he was about to leave his apartment, his phone rang. It was Osborn.

“Where you going?”

“I’m going to meet Dennis.”

“Where is she?” Meaning Loretta.

“He says she’s at the laundromat,” said Joseph. “She’s doing laundry.”

“Under no condition go to see Dennis today.”

Joseph called another friend right away, taking him up on an offer he’d made to spend the day in Brighton Beach. The friend picked him up at about 10 a.m. On the way, the news radio station ticked off the headlines: James Kopp, the suspected abortion assassin, had been captured in Dinan, France.

Joseph’s phone rang. Dennis.

“Help me, help me! The FBI’s all over! They’re on the roofs!”


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