More than 40 Guild members learned how to perpetrate ATM and art fraud. No, it wasn’t some Fagin-like school for criminals, but rather, “FBI 103: A Seminar for Script and Screen Writers” presented by the WGAE and WGAE Foundation, along with the FBI Office of Public Affairs. After passing advance background checks and being screened through on-sight metal detectors at the agency’s Manhattan office, the writers learned about procedures and operations from some of the FBI’s top operatives working in Corporate/Securities Fraud, Cyber Crime, Gang Squad and The Art Theft and Jewelry and Gem Theft divisions of the Major Theft Squad.
Not only did the special agents discuss how their departments worked and answer questions, but many of them also shared, and occasionally pitched, interesting case stories. Austin Berglas, of Cyber Crimes, explained the elaborate workings of a major Eastern European backed American ATM fraud case. Dan McCaffrey, the former head of Tiffany’s security, and now an agent dealing with Gem and Jewelry Theft, discussed the extensive crimes of the former 47th Street jeweler, Joel Spigelman. Art Crimes agent Jim Wynne illustrated his talk by bringing in actual forged paintings from FBI cases, as well as the fake provenances which were used to try and authenticate them.
This interesting and informative seminar was obviously beneficial to the many screenwriters researching and writing FBI related projects, but WGAE members learned that this exchange was also important to the Bureau. Our hosts explained that ever since the G-Man days of J. Edgar Hoover, the FBI has been concerned with the image or “brand” it presents to the world. If society sees the FBI in a positive light, citizens are more likely to aid agents in their work fighting crime. The FBI representatives explained that while they knew that not all fictional portrayals of their organization would be accurate, they hoped that WGAE writers would depict them positively, as the hard working protectors they are.