Monday, April 7, 2014

Edwin P. Wilson: CIA Agent, Flamboyant Con Man/Arms Dealer

As I've noted before, I'm always intrigued by the under-reported epilogues to famous stories. 

A reference in THIS article from the New York Post yesterday caught my eye. Its focus is on the debauched life of deposed Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi. ("Sex dungeon!") But a passing reference suggests that former CIA operative Edwin P. Wilson once ran a murder-for-hire squad for Gaddafi.

I first heard of Edwin P. Wilson when I read a 1986 book about him titled "Manhunt" by Peter Maas, which profiled him as a former CIA agent/con man who had 'gone rogue' and gotten involved in big money arms dealing with the Libyans while leaving business associates with the impression that he still worked for the CIA. He was arrested in 1982, and ultimately sentenced to over 50 years in prison.  That's where the story had ended for him, I assumed.

But it didn't end there, apparently.  Wilson died in September 2012 in Seattle at the age of 84, a free man. According to his New York Times obituary, in the end he served only 22 years of his 52 year sentence and, after a successful jailhouse appeal ("they framed a guilty man"), was released in 2004. 

His obit calls him 'the spy who lived it up.' "He showered minks on his mistress, whom he called 'Wonder Woman.' He owned three private planes and bragged that he knew flight attendants on the Concorde by name. His preferred habitat was a hall of mirrors. His business empire existed as a cover for espionage, but it also made him a lot of money."

For such a flamboyant character, the last years of his life following his 2004 release apparently passed anticlimactically. "Since then he had lived in Seattle on a monthly Social Security check of $1,080. He died of complications from heart-valve replacement surgery, his nephew Scott Wilson said."

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