Pete Twardowicz, investigator, helped topple Agnew, Mandel

December 10, 1992|By Joe Nawrozki | Joe Nawrozki,Staff Writer

Eugene P. "Pete" Twardowicz, the indefatigable federa investigator whose work helped lead to the downfalls of Vice President Spiro T. Agnew and other top political figures during Maryland corruption probes in the 1970s, died Wednesday from an apparent stroke.

Mr. Twardowicz, who was 55, died at Howard County General Hospital after playing cards at Bippy's Pub in Ellicott City.

A Mass will offered at 10 a.m. Saturday at the Church of the Resurrection, Paulskirk Road, Ellicott City. Burial will be in Crest Lawn Cemetery.

From 1961 through 1977, Mr. Twardowicz worked for the criminal investigation and intelligence divisions of the Internal Revenue Service in Maryland.

The following year, a special position of chief investigator was created for him in the U.S. attorney's office in Baltimore, from which he retired in 1987.

"He was the best investigator I ever knew," said Barnet D. Skolnik, who along with assistant U.S. attorneys Timothy Baker and Ronald Liebman forced Mr. Agnew to plead no contest to tax evasion in October 1973 and to resign.

Typical of Mr. Twardowicz's work, the former prosecutor said, was his dogged work in another famous case -- his discovery of a crucial letter written by a secretary of a friend and associate of Gov. Marvin Mandel.

Mr. Mandel was convicted of mail fraud and racketeering in 1977 and served 19 months in federal prison. That conviction was later overturned by a lower court and upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.

"Pete was the one who really made the Mandel case through that letter," said Mr. Skolnik.

"He noticed the date, then the indentation, the format, the punctuation. He kept going over that document, over and over. It took him an equally long time for him to convince us on the prosecution team.

"Finally, we hit ourselves in the foreheads and asked why we didn't see that. We got the secretary to admit in grand jury that the letter was written after the investigation began," said Mr. Skolnik, an attorney in Portland, Maine.

Mr. Skolnik also remembered Mr. Twardowicz as a "mean poker player, a guy we called the Polish Prince . . . we all loved him."

Mr. Twardowicz was born in Irvington and was graduated from Baltimore Polytechnic Institute and Loyola College where he majored in accounting. His father, Eugene "Utz" Twardowicz, was a noted athlete at Loyola College and for many years directed the Red Shield Boys Club on Clinton Street in Highlandtown.

The playing field at Patterson Park is named in the father's honor.

After a stint in the Air Force, the younger Mr. Twardowicz joined the IRS, where he worked on a variety of investigations dealing with bank fraud, bribery, income tax evasion and money laundering.

"He was the consummate Baltimorean," said former U.S. Attorney for Maryland George Beall.

"Pete had this incredible knack for finding pools of cash in a fraud case," Mr. Beall said.

"Above all, he wanted to be here, working in his home town. He was extremely proud of his work, that it was accomplished in Baltimore."

Besides working on the Agnew and Mandel cases, Mr. Twardowicz was the lead investigator in the successful corruption prosecutions of Baltimore County Executive Dale -Z Anderson and Anne Arundel County Executive Joseph Alton.

Mr. Twardowicz was also responsible for unraveling the illegal finances of Maurice "Peanut" King, a major heroin dealer in Baltimore who was sentenced to 50 years in prison in 1983 for violating federal narcotics laws.

Survivors include Mr. Twardowicz's wife, Linda, of Ellicott City; a daughter, Susan Bradley of Catonsville; two sons, Michael of Catonsville and John David of Ellicott City; two sisters, Ella Mae Hule of Ellicott City and Louise Hicks of Baltimore; and three grandchildren.

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