Superagent for FBI here takes aim at D.C. bunch

This Just In . . .

September 29, 1997|By DAN RODRICKS

Bill Clinton, Al Gore and the rest of the bunch who play fast and loose with campaign contribution laws are hereby warned: Dudley is on the case. Actually, friends and felons know this Dudley by his extremely appropriate nickname -- Butch.

I haven't conducted an extensive survey of field offices, but, based on what I know of Dudley F. B. "Butch" Hodgson's long career, I'll bet he is one of the top FBI agents in the country. If there's such a thing as a super-agent -- uberagent? -- he is one. He's a tough guy with a baby-pie face who's done just about everything an FBI man can do -- from bank robbery to organized crime to espionage cases -- and lived to talk about it. (Not that he talks about it that much.)

Now he's retiring after more than two decades in the Baltimore field office to take a new assignment. (And it's not front lobby security at T. Rowe Price.)

The former U.S. attorney here, Dick Bennett, just hired him as chief investigator for the Government Reform and Oversight Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives. Bennett is the committee's chief counsel; he's looking into campaign fund-raising abuses. Hodgson starts work Wednesday, and his first assignment takes him to Florida for a jail house interview with a certain Venezuelan who is believed to know something about questionable contributions to the Democratic National Committee.

Hodgson, 55, leaves behind a solid and diverse record as an FBI agent.

A graduate of The Citadel and a twice-decorated, two-tour veteran of the Vietnam War, Hodgson joined the bureau in 1969. In Ohio and Michigan, he did the usual grunt work, bank robbery investigations, aircraft hijacking cases, fugitive apprehensions.

Then, in the mid-1970s, he pioneered one of the FBI's first political sting operations -- a precursor to the famous Abscam investigation -- right here in Baltimore. He and another agent, Ron Miller, spent nearly two years posing as contractors bidding for jobs through the city Department of Public Works. They paid bribes and nailed corrupt public officials.

Hodgson's success at "long-term deep-cover" investigations, rare in FBI field offices at the time, got him several bookings as a lecturer and new assignments, including a hairy hitch as an ex-con biker looking to arrange mail-order drug buys through the San Francisco Hell's Angels.

One gray day about a decade ago, I made eye contact with a hairy, bulky, tattooed biker in the parking lot of a Baltimore County supermarket. "Hey you," he yelled, and I inexplicably walked closer. The biker wore a T-shirt, jeans, a leather vest and an earring or two. It was Butch. He'd just biked back into Maryland after visiting with targets of another undercover investigation -- drug-dealing Pagan motorcycle gang leaders in Pennsylvania.

"I was lucky," Hodgson says. "I had 28 years with the bureau and, during that time, worked with great people and, for the most part, supervisors who believed in me and believed I could do what I said I could do."

Spy cases? Hodgson was there, too. He and comrades bagged Cold War spies -- John Walker, the Navy turncoat, and Ron Pelton, the National Security Agency spook -- during the mid-1980s.

Since then, Hodgson has been working with the city's Violent Crimes Task Force, assigned to the unit's cold case squad and thriving in the shoe-leather police work. He and city detectives cracked a few nice ones over the last few years, too, solving, in one instance, a murder from 1974. Hodgson seems to have a lot of success getting people who know about crimes to share their information. I've heard the tapes. I've read transcripts from wiretaps. Hodgson can make the jailbirds sing.

Now he's off to have a little sit-down with a certain Venezuelan. Vaya con Dios, Butch.

He's not a she

This correction appeared in the Florida Times Union of Jacksonville: "Because of a writing error, an editorial Sept. 19 on page A22 referred to U.S. Rep. Steny Hoyer (D. Md.) as a woman. He is not." And never was, for the record.

Raven dreams

Art Modell should get a smile when he hears that kids in my neighborhood are now calling out the names of Michael Jackson, Jermaine Lewis and Vinny Testaverde when they pass around the football Mondays after school.

Rigorous research

I spent a good part of the summer sampling all the fine microbrews produced in Maryland, but I'm still not ready to declare the best of the bunch. Further research will take me well into the fall and well under the table. ... I discovered another good reason to take vacation in August: You're not home when your neighbor comes by with surplus zucchini.

Eyes on O's

A show of hands, please. How many of you thought the Orioles would have three 20-game winners this season? ... Ever notice how Mike Mussina hangs his head in disgust when he knows he's thrown a home-run pitch? Lots of pitchers do it, but Mussina's head-drop is particularly impressive. I swear he's doing it before the ball leaves his hand. (Hey, Mike, don't telegraph 'em! Especially in Seattle!) ... I hope the Orioles are lining up world-class tenor (and Pikesville resident) Chris Merritt to sing the national anthem for the playoffs. ... Robert Merrill is famous for singing it in under a minute. (Last year during the playoffs, I timed him at : 59.) But check him out if he pipes up before a Yankee game. He gives up his New York accent by singing, "bombs boisting in air."

Dan Rodricks gets e-mail at TJIDAol.com, voice mail at (410) 332-6166 and letters at The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore 21278.

Pub Date: 9/29/97

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