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When Private Equity Came for the Toddler Gyms - The New York Times

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The flight tracker that powered @ElonJet has taken a left turn | Ars Technica

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In recent years, the Saudi government has tried to push international aviation regulators to forbid or prevent the public dissemination of ADS-B data, though that proposal hasn’t gone far. Musk, on the other hand, has threatened legal action against those sharing the location of his private jet.

Stanford says their position has always been to oppose any censorship, regardless of the reason. “How do you make that decision, that one person is good and one person is bad?” he says.

Being independent and decentralized has come with significant advantages. Stanford says they have been contacted by law enforcement and the US military to provide surveillance where there have been gaps in the government-owned systems. “In Arizona, there’s been accidents where we’ve had better data than the FAA,” he says.

As hosting and server costs mounted into the tens of thousands of dollars, ADS-B Exchange moved to commercialize to cover its costs. While it is free to use, the website sells ads and offers paid access to its full suite of data for flight enthusiasts and commercial clients. 

“It was getting so big and expensive we had to commercialize it somehow,” Stanford says. Even then, he adds, ADS-B Exchange is a fraction of the price of its competitors.

Revenue has increased significantly in recent years, Stanford says. “Our plan was to run it until we can quit our full-time jobs, and run it into retirement.” But as revenue has shot up, ADS-B Exchange has had a core organizational problem. “It’s owned by one person,” he says.

Last month, as the site was getting headlines for being banned from Twitter, rumors swirled that Dan Streufert, the site’s founder and sole owner, was planning to sell the website to Jetnet. It led to anxiety among the administrators who were being left out of the discussions.

“My fear has always been that someone comes in and destroys everything we’ve built,” Stanford says.

Stanford told WIRED in December that, if a deal went through, ADS-B Exchange’s users would revolt. When the press release went out Wednesday morning, he led the mutiny.

Shortly after the deal became public, Streufert was removed from the Discord as the site’s users contemplated their next move. “ is done,” Stanford wrote to his fellow users, before posting instructions on how to unplug from the website’s network. Many followed those instructions, with some flipping over to some smaller alternatives, like Airframes. “We were 11,000 [feeders], we’re now at 9,500 in the span of a few hours,” Stanford says.

“Today is a sad day,” Jack Sweeney, who ran the @ElonJet Twitter account that earned him legal threats from Musk himself, wrote on Mastodon following the acquisition announcement. His efforts to track an array of private jets, including that of the Tesla and Twitter CEO, relied on ADS-B Exchange. “If you feed ADSBexchange we encourage you to stop feeding. ADSBExchange was founded on the principles of hobbyists community not for-profit PE firms.”

In a statement to WIRED, Derek Swaim, Jetnet’s CEO, said ADS-B Exchange’s users shouldn’t expect much of a change. “At present, we have no intentions of changing the core way ADS-B Exchange does business,” Swaim says. “Jetnet is excited to offer its resources to Dan Streufert and ADS-B Exchange to grow the receiver community, extend coverage, provide customers with the same data and solutions it does today, and accelerate ADS-B Exchange’s growth.”

Asked specifically whether Jetnet would make the website exclusive to subscribers, or whether it would begin blocking the tracking numbers of private aircraft on request, Swaim says no. But users are far from convinced. “PE’s don’t just hand out $20 million checks out of charity. They usually want a return,” one user wrote.

ADS-B Exchange may have seen its revenue shoot up, but Stanford says recouping a significant investment—he says Jetnet’s opening offers was seven figures, but that he estimates the final deal went down for around $20 million—could take a decade. A quicker route to profit would be to raise prices, make some data available only to paying subscribers, and to charge plane owners to hide information about their aircraft. These are all tactics that have made FlightAware and FlightRadar24 successful.

“FlightRadar, FlightAware win. Elon wins,” Stanford says. “All these guys who were out to get us win.”

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How a Drug Company Made $114 Billion by Gaming the U.S. Patent System - The New York Times

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Albanian Firm Ties Indicted Former FBI Official To Yet Another Disgraced Former Agent - TPM – Talking Points Memo

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Indicted former top FBI official Charles McGonigal is a partner in an Albanian firm along with another disgraced former FBI agent, records obtained by TPM show.

An Albanian corporate filing ties McGonigal to Mark Rossini, a flamboyant figure who left the FBI amid scandalous 2008 charges and who currently faces separate bribery-related charges in an August 2022 federal indictment in Puerto Rico.

The previously unreported business connection links McGonigal to another former agent with a similar profile: a high-flier at the bureau with experience in counterterrorism and counterintelligence, and one who appears to have engaged in business with an eyebrow-raising array of foreign clients after leaving federal law enforcement. 

The nature of the Albanian company — called Lawoffice & Investigation — remains unclear. Why and how McGonigal apparently got involved with the firm, and how he may have met Rossini, are also unknown. 

Albanian journalists have published a series of articles since September 2022 highlighting McGonigal’s presence at the company, which they tie to the country’s oil industry.

Prosecutors accused McGonigal this week in separate federal indictments in D.C. and Manhattan of concealing cash he received from a former Albanian intelligence employee totaling $225,000, and of evading sanctions for work he performed for Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, a paymaster of former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort.

But the Albanian corporate document connects McGonigal to the murky world that led Rossini to not just one, but two run-ins with federal law enforcement. Federal prosecutors charged Rossini in August 2022 over his alleged involvement in a bribery scheme involving the former governor of Puerto Rico. That came 14 years after Rossini’s first scandal, which involved actress Linda Fiorentino and notorious Hollywood fixer Anthony Pellicano, and quickly became tabloid fodder.

“It just violates the basic precepts of why you sign up to take these kinds of jobs, or your focus on the mission and serving the U.S. government and the American public,” Javed Ali, a retired FBI senior analyst and former senior counterterrorism director at the National Security Council, told TPM of the allegations. “These are the kind of things that, at a really idealistic level, should be motivating you to do the work. … But what we’re seeing is one of the worst case examples of someone abusing their position and trying to leverage it for a different purpose.” 

Ray Batvinis, a former supervisory agent for the FBI and an ex-counterintelligence course instructor at the FBI academy, said that the bureau would now likely be investigating the extent of the damage that McGonigal had done. 

“The FBI would be very concerned about what he gave up,” he told TPM. “He had access —  he knows a little bit of everything that the FBI is doing nationwide, but he also knows a great deal of information about what other intelligence agencies are doing.”

TPM obtained the corporate record from Albania’s corporate registry, and then paid a translator to translate the document into English.

TPM was unable to verify what the purpose of Lawoffice & Investigation was, beyond the description that it offered for itself in corporate records: that it’s a law office which also conducts investigations.

McGonigal’s link to the Albanian company surfaces a cast of characters who appear to be connected to the series of events that purportedly led to his indictments. 

The corporate filing for Lawoffice & Investigation shows four partners:  McGonigal, Rossini, Agron Neza, and Shefqet Dizari.

Social media posts show Rossini in a 2014 photograph with Neza, years before the point when federal prosecutors allege that McGonigal became involved. Rossini also checked in on Facebook in Tirana, Albania’s capital, in February 2019. 

Throughout 2019, Rossini became outspoken about internal political issues in Albania, criticizing political parties opposed to the country’s prime minister as pro-Russian. 

Rossini, Neza, and Dizdari are not named and have not been accused of wrongdoing in the two McGonigal indictments. Rossini and his attorneys did not return multiple requests for comment from TPM. Neza and Dizdari also did not return requests for comment.  

The corporate records are attached at the bottom of this article.

Flashback to Hollywood

The story of Rossini’s downfall from the FBI begins in the late 2000s. 

A star FBI agent who helped track Al-Qaeda before 9/11, Rossini had spent the years after playing a major role in trying to refit the agency to handle counterterrorism. 

Rossini, who was on detail to the CIA’s counterterrorism center at the time of the attacks, was no stranger to sensitive assignments. Then in 2006, amid an acrimonious divorce, Rossini began to date a Hollywood actress: Men in Black star Linda Fiorentino. 

“He was like a moth to a flame,” Jeff Stein, editor-in-chief of Spytalk and a longtime friend of Rossini’s, told TPM of the relationship. 

Fiorentino was friends with an LA fixer named Anthony Pellicano, who the New York Post dubbed “Hollywood Hitman” for his uncanny abilities as a private eye.

It all came crashing down for Pellicano in 2006, when federal prosecutors hit him with an 110-count indictment for illegally accessing police records from the LAPD and Beverly Hills Police Department, and for allegedly tapping Sylvester Stallone’s phone.

Things got weirder.

All of a sudden, Pellicano’s attorneys produced internal FBI records to accuse prosecutors of failing to turn over evidence to the defense. At first, it was unclear how they obtained those records.

But the trail led back to Rossini. It turned out that Rossini had passed FBI records to Fiorentino, who in turn gave them to Pellicano’s defense. 

“When the document that he gave her was introduced at Pellicano’s trial, DOJ was like, ‘what the fuck?’” Stein, Rossini’s friend and the Spytalk writer, recalled. “But you can’t go in and out of these files without hitting a mousetrap, so the idea he thought he could get away with it was pretty stupid. But love is blind, as they say.”

The Pellicano case brought Rossini down, forcing him to leave the FBI amid charges of illegally accessing bureau computers. Rossini was ultimately sentenced to one year probation, but that was the end of his 17-year career in federal law enforcement. 

Pellicano was ultimately found guilty at trial on more than 70 charges including racketeering, wiretapping, and wire fraud. He was sentenced to 15 years in federal prison, before being released in 2019. 

Stein told TPM that, after the scandal, Rossini needed money to keep funding his lavish lifestyle.

“He likes to have a nice, flashy lifestyle, and that costs money,” Stein said. “So he was prey to getting involved with people he shouldn’t be involved with, because he needed the money.”

To Puerto Rico

Flash forward to August 2022.

Federal prosecutors charged Rossini with conspiracy, federal programs bribery, and honest services fraud over his alleged involvement in a graft scheme involving Puerto Rico’s governor. 

Per the allegations, the leadership of a bank that Rossini was consulting for allegedly promised to fund the Puerto Rico governor’s 2020 re-election campaign in exchange for her allowing the bank’s leadership to name the head of the island’s bank inspection commission, which was reviewing the lender.

Rossini has pleaded not guilty. 

Stein described it as a “sad story.” 

“He had to make a living, right? And his star had been badly tarnished by what happened at FBI,” he told TPM. “Fortune 500 companies are not gonna hire him.”

McGonigal Indicted

So, how did Rossini end up a partner in an Albanian company? And how did McGonigal go from being a senior FBI agent to a partner in the same firm as Rossini?

The two indictments outline part of what prosecutors believe to be McGonigal’s journey.

In August 2017, McGonigal allegedly asked a former Albanian intelligence employee referred to as “Person A” for money.

The description offered in the indictment suggests that the person is Neza, one of the co-partners in the firm with Rossini. In September 2022, Business Insider published a subpoena issued in the McGonigal investigation which named Neza. Neza was quoted this week in Albanian media as admitting to giving the money to McGonigal, but denying any wrongdoing associated with it. 

Batvinis, the former FBI counterintelligence official, told TPM that many similar cases he investigated ended up being motivated by “simple greed.” 

“Something triggered him to accept this or seek out the Albanians to get cash or get money,” he said of McGonigal. “You’re not gonna find anything exotic here at all — maybe it’s as boring as a midlife crisis.”

McGonigal purportedly traveled to Albania with Neza in September 2017, where he met with Albania’s prime minister and, per the FBI, urged the Albanian government to “be careful about awarding oil field drilling licenses in Albania to Russian front companies.”

“Person A and Person B both had a financial interest in the Government of Albania’s decisions about awards of oil field drilling licenses,” the indictment reads.

Lawoffice & Investigation, the Albanian firm in which McGonigal appears as a partner with Neza and Rossini, also lists an Albanian attorney named Shefqet Dizdari as a partner.

Dizdari did not return TPM’s requests for comment. A Switzerland-based firm — Terraoil Swiss — that describes itself as an “onshore Albanian oil producer” says on its website that Dizdari controls one-third of its shares.

The exact nature of the scheme that McGonigal was allegedly involved in remains unclear from the indictment. Lawoffice & Investigation was “suspended” in November 2019, per the corporate records.

Prosecutors said that McGonigal hid the extent of his work with the Albanians until after his September 2018 retirement from the bureau. Before then, the person matching Neza’s description allegedly gave McGonigal $225,000 in cash. The indictment leaves it unclear whether it was a payment, or if McGonigal was expected to return the money.

McGonigal is also alleged to have opened an FBI investigation into a lobbyist who had been hired by a political party other than that of Albania’s prime minister. The lobbyist, according to prosecutors, is an American citizen.

When Rossini became involved in the firm is also unclear. In a December 2014 Facebook post, Rossini appeared in a photo with Neza. 

In recent years, Rossini has also begun to speak out about Albania. 

Specifically, Rossini has taken positions about the country’s internal politics, accusing opponents of the country’s prime minister of being connected to the Russian government. He spoke out frequently against the Albanian opposition party after his February 2019 visit to the country. 

It’s not clear if it was related to his work with the Lawoffice & Investigation. 

View the corporate records here, in Albanian and translated into English:

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As the son of an Albanian, I’m not sure this is an improvement of being known for that turn of the century Ponzi scheme.
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Opinion | Women in South Korea Are on Strike Against Being ‘Baby-Making Machines’ - The New York Times

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Inside Cash-Fueled Double Life of Charles McGonigal, FBI Spy Hunter Accused of Russia Ties

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One morning in October 2017, Allison Guerriero noticed something unusual on the floor of her boyfriend's Park Slope, Brooklyn, apartment: a bag full of cash. There it was, lying next to his shoes, near the futon, the kind of bag that liquor stores give out. Inside were bundles of bills, big denominations bound up with rubber bands. It didn't seem like something he should be carrying around. After all, her boyfriend, Charles F. McGonigal, held one of the most senior and sensitive positions in the FBI.

"Where the fuck is this from?" she asked.

"Oh, you remember that baseball game?" McGonigal replied, according to Guerriero's recollection. "I made a bet and won."

McGonigal had two high-school-age children and a wife — or "ex-wife" as he sometimes referred to her — back at home in Chevy Chase, Maryland. He would return there once or twice a month. But McGonigal had led Guerriero to believe that he was either divorced or soon would be. She didn't question his story, nor did she question the story about the bag full of cash.

A few days before, Guerriero had sat on the couch with McGonigal in the one-room garden sublet to watch McGonigal's Cleveland Indians beat the Yankees. Much later — after Guerriero's cancer diagnosis, their breakup, and McGonigal's retirement from the FBI — McGonigal would be indicted on suspicion of, among other things, accepting $225,000 in cash from a former employee of Albania's intelligence agency. That total includes one $80,000 chunk that was allegedly handed over in a parked car, outside a restaurant, on October 5, 2017. October 5 and 6 also happened to be the days when the Indians beat the Yankees in the first two games of the American League Division Series. Today, Guerriero no longer believes the bag of cash contained winnings from a sports bet.

One of McGonigal's attorneys, Seth DuCharme, declined to comment.

Guerriero was 44 when they met, a former substitute kindergarten teacher who volunteered for law-enforcement causes and was working as a contractor for a security company while living at home with her father. McGonigal, then 49 years old, had just started his new job at the FBI's New York office.

Guerriero says their affair lasted for a little more than a year. McGonigal's Brooklyn sublet may have been modest, but he lived large. He courted Guerriero at high-end restaurants. He would give her gifts of cash — $500 or $1,000 — for her birthday and for Christmas. He once joked about framing his divorce papers for her, as a Christmas gift, but those papers never materialized. He took her to watch New Jersey Devils hockey games in a private box. She recalls that McGonigal once gave a hundred-dollar bill to a panhandler on the street. "I'm a little better off than him. I can spare a hundred dollars," Guerriero remembers McGonigal saying, after she expressed astonishment.

That day in October wasn't the only time that Guerriero remembers McGonigal carrying large amounts of cash. After he brushed her curiosity aside, she tempered her suspicions. She told herself it was probably "buy money" for a sting operation, or a payoff for one of McGonigal's informants. She had dated federal law-enforcement officials before. She knew not to ask too many questions about work.

"Charlie McGonigal knew everybody in the national security and law-enforcement world," Guerriero said, in an interview with Insider. "He fooled them all. So why should I feel bad that he was able to deceive me?"

The dual indictments lodged against McGonigal earlier this week in New York and Washington, DC, are the culmination of a grand-jury investigation that Insider exclusively reported on last year, and they lay out breathtaking allegations of subterfuge and corruption. But Guerriero says that McGonigal's deceptions extended beyond his duties as a counterintelligence chief and into their personal life. Two sources who knew both McGonigal and Guerriero in New York told Insider that they believed Guerriero's account of the relationship, including her claim that McGonigal had led Guerriero to believe that he was effectively single. And Guerriero's father told Insider that McGonigal would regularly drive to his house, where Guerriero lived, to pick her up.

"I was deceived about it," Guerriero's father said. "He seemed to be a straight shooter. If I'd had known he was married, I would have said something."

Federal prosecutors charged McGonigal with money laundering and making false statements in his mandatory employee disclosures to the FBI. He was also charged with taking money from a representative of Oleg Deripaska, a Russian oligarch who McGonigal had once himself investigated, in violation of US economic sanctions against Russia; the indictment alleges that Deripaska paid him to investigate a rival oligarch. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

McGonigal was not an ordinary FBI agent. He led the WikiLeaks investigation into Chelsea Manning as well as a search for a Chinese mole inside the CIA. While working at FBI headquarters in Washington, he played a role in opening the investigation into the Trump campaign's Russia contacts that was later dubbed Operation Crossfire Hurricane.

But it was McGonigal's final FBI job, special agent in charge of the counterintelligence division at the FBI's New York field office, that was his most important assignment at the bureau. It was his job to find enemy spies and recruit his own.

"New York City is a global center for espionage and counterespionage," says one senior law-enforcement insider who was closely familiar with the specifics of McGonigal's role. "You have visits from foreign business elites and politicians. You have the United Nations. You have ethnic populations. Who runs the pitches to recruit spies from all those other countries? The FBI. So the access you get in that job is extraordinary. It's almost bottomless. So if you're running FBI counterintelligence in New York, you can get your hands on almost anything you want, and you don't always have to make excuses for why you're asking for it."

The impact of the McGonigal indictments is still rippling out through the law-enforcement world. The charges accuse an official at the heart of the Trump-Russia investigation of secretly selling his own access, accepting bundles of cash in surreptitious meetings with someone who had ties to Albanian intelligence. McGonigal, a top-tier member of the city's law-enforcement community, a man who had fully integrated himself into a powerful circle of trust where favors get swapped and sensitive intelligence gets circulated, is accused of himself being on the take. If the indictments are correct, McGonigal was leading a dangerous double life, right under the noses of some of the sharpest cops in America.

But what might be most striking about the case against McGonigal is how cheaply he is alleged to have rented out his law-enforcement powers. One indictment suggests that for $225,000, McGonigal's associates got him to lobby the Albanian prime minister about the awarding of oil-field drilling licenses and then open an FBI investigation connected to a US citizen who had lobbied for one of the prime minister's political opponents. Arranging a meeting for an executive from a Bosnian pharmaceutical company with a US official at the United Nations was said to be a pricier item — $500,000, one indictment claims. It is unclear whether that money ever materialized.

In September 2018, McGonigal left the FBI to work as a vice president at Brookfield Properties, a multibillion-dollar real-estate company. His salary there was most likely higher than what he made inside the government, but it wasn't anywhere near the C-suite or oligarch-scale money that courses through New York's penthouse condos and boardrooms. One law-enforcement source estimated that McGonigal stood to make roughly $300,000 to $350,000 a year, including annual bonuses. "He said he needed to make more money," said Guerriero, who was still in the relationship with McGonigal when he left the FBI. "He had two kids to put through college."

The value that McGonigal is accused of providing — his access and his pull — are clear from the indictments. One of them alleges that he arranged for the daughter of a foreign contact, a college student, to get a VIP tour from the New York City Police Department. The indictment identifies that foreign contact as "Agent-1," an agent of the Russian oligarch Deripaska, former Russian diplomat, and rumored Russian intelligence officer. That description matches Evgeny Fokin, who works for En+, a Deripaska-owned energy company, and was already linked to McGonigal and an associate in a Foreign Agents Registration Act filing from November 2021.

Agent-1's identity remains unconfirmed. Neither Fokin nor En+ responded to requests for comment. A person familiar with the NYPD's arrangement said the daughter was a guest, not an intern. She didn't have independent access to police facilities, they said, and was given no work to do.

Guerriero recalls McGonigal using the FBI's resources for their relationship. Once, they had sex in an SUV that she understood to be federal government property. After she was found to have breast cancer, Guerriero recalls, McGonigal would occasionally send a junior agent in an FBI sedan to give her rides from New Jersey to her cousin's apartment in New York. Despite the ongoing deception about his marital status, McGonigal was "caring, loving, and concerned" during the period of her illness, she says.

In late 2018, McGonigal and Guerriero broke up. She remembers receiving an anonymous and hostile note in the mail. Soon after, McGonigal told her he was still married and had no plans to divorce his wife. "I was shocked," she said. "I was very much in love with him, and I was so hurt." She started drinking heavily to cope. A few months later, Guerriero, after a bout of drinking, dashed off an angry email to William Sweeney, who was in charge of the FBI's New York City bureau, and who, she recalls, had first introduced her to McGonigal. She remembers telling Sweeney in the email that he should look into their extramarital affair, and also McGonigal's dealings in Albania. McGonigal had already befriended Albania's prime minister and traveled to the country extensively, dealings that would appear later in one of his indictments. Guerriero told Insider that she had deleted the email.

Sweeney didn't reply to a request for comment made through Sweeney's current employer, Citigroup. Insider couldn't confirm that Guerriero had sent the email or that Sweeney had received it. Regardless, by November 2021, the FBI was looking into McGonigal. Two agents showed up at Guerriero's door, she says, showed her a picture of McGonigal with the Albanian prime minister, and interviewed her about their interactions. She also received a grand-jury subpoena requesting all of her communications with McGonigal as well as information about any "payments or gifts" he may have given her.

Guerriero acknowledges that the combination of her alcohol abuse and her health problems led to some extreme behavior, including her sending hostile emails to McGonigal's family, the contents of which she says she cannot recall. "I really did go overboard," she said. "I harassed them. I'm not going to deny that. I was horrible to them."

By her own account, Guerriero contacted one of McGonigal's children despite being prohibited from doing so by a court order, an incident that led to her spending the night in a New Jersey jail. The court order stemmed from a 2019 police report, obtained by Insider, that McGonigal's wife, Pamela, filed with the Montgomery County Police Department in Maryland. The report states that McGonigal and Guerriero "had a relationship" and that Guerriero had repeatedly harassed her with unwelcome emails and phone calls — including 20 calls in one day — despite her asking Guerriero to stop.

Guerriero confirmed that her contact with the McGonigal family led to a separate restraining order issued in New Jersey. "I am ashamed and embarrassed and sorry for my actions during the time that I was drinking," she said.

Guerriero's troubles worsened in early 2021, when she was badly burned during a fire at her father's house. She asked friends for help through a GoFundMe. Former Mayor Rudy Giuliani of New York City, whom she knew from law-enforcement circles, let her stay in a guest bedroom. Since then, Guerriero has been a frequent on-air caller for Giuliani's radio shows. She maintains that the 2020 election was marred by widespread voter fraud, a belief pushed by Giuliani that has been repeatedly debunked. "Whatever Giuliani says about the 2020 election is what I believe," she said. During her relationship with McGonigal, Guerriero says, they never talked about politics. "I thought he was apolitical," he said, "which is something I continue to believe."

The FBI declined to address the specifics of Guerriero's story. Instead, it sent a statement from Director Christopher Wray, who said the FBI holds employees to "the highest standard" and treats everyone equally, "even when it is one of our own." Insider spoke with three of McGonigal's former law-enforcement colleagues who expressed shock about the indictments. "It's heartbreaking," said one, who had worked alongside McGonigal at the FBI. "This is an incredible organization filled with truly dedicated men and women. This sets our image and reputation back."

Guerriero's father said his view of the FBI had already been tarnished by the way that McGonigal treated his daughter. "I've always had huge admiration for the FBI," he said. "I idealized the agents that I saw in the movies. I thought these people were gods, that they never did anything wrong. It was so disappointing." He did say, however, that McGonigal had called him after the relationship ended to apologize for his behavior, and that he had accepted McGonigal's apology.

Mattathias Schwartz is a senior correspondent at Insider and a contributing writer at the New York Times Magazine. He can be reached at <a href=""></a> and <a href=""></a>.

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