..."She was the ultimate 'go-to' person at the bureau"... "Wendy would never hear the word 'no'"... "Wendy left a very important legacy of her work"...
TOP FBI AGENT IN L.A. PLACED ON LEAVE: Sources say division chief Jim Sheehan is being transferred to Washington after the suicide of his former girlfriend, a colleague.
Los Angeles Times
By Greg Krikorian And Christine Hanley
February 3, 2005
The head of the FBI's criminal division in Los Angeles has been placed on administrative leave pending a reassignment to the bureau's headquarters, law enforcement sources said Wednesday.
The transfer of veteran FBI Special Agent in Charge Jim Sheehan comes amid an internal investigation into the recent suicide of a longtime agent, Wendy Woskoff, with whom Sheehan had been romantically involved until several months ago, sources said.
Woskoff, 54, died of a self-inflicted gunshot Jan. 23 at her Santa Monica home. A 24-year veteran of the FBI, Woskoff was most recently assigned to an intelligence squad in the Los Angeles division.
Sources said Woskoff left two notes at the scene of her suicide. One was addressed to her immediate supervisor. The other made reference to her relationship with Sheehan.
Because the agent used her FBI-issued weapon in the suicide, sources added, the FBI - as is customary - launched an internal investigation with agents from Los Angeles and bureau headquarters. Five days after the shooting, the FBI also placed a security hold on the coroner's report in the case.
Sheehan, who is single, didn't supervise Woskoff, who was separated from her husband, and their relationship apparently did not violate FBI regulations. But several FBI sources said that bureau officials concluded that it was in the best interest of the office to transfer Sheehan.
"There are a lot of problems in the L.A. office ... and a lot of personnel issues," said one FBI source who spoke on condition of anonymity. "And this shooting unleashed everything in the way of rumors."
Sheehan could not be reached for comment.
Woskoff's mother, Helene, had little comment Wednesday about her daughter's death. "This was a tragedy. She was a beautiful, brilliant young woman. And right now I really don't want to talk about it," she said.
Services for Woskoff will be held today.
Times staff writer Scott Glover contributed to this report. [Original link]
By Daily Press staff
Authorities on Monday confirmed that an FBI agent committed suicide in Santa Monica over the weekend by firing a single gunshot to her head.
An autopsy report completed Monday showed Wendy I. Woskoff, 55, shot herself with a handgun of an unknown caliber, said LA County Department of Coroner's Lt. Fred Corral, who works in the investigations division.
The Santa Monica Police Department responded to a call at 11:30 a.m. in the 1100 block of 17th Street, between California Avenue and Wilshire Boulevard. Officers found Woskoff lying in her apartment, SMPD Lt. Frank Fabrega said.
Unnerved residents witnessed authorities combing the streets throughout the day and evening Sunday, raising concerns that the area was a crime scene.
Nick James, 41, a filmmaker who grew up on 17th Street and has lived there nearly 30 years, said for some reason Woskoff s car alarm had been set off frequently in recent days.
He and his neighbors watched as several SMPD squad cars surrounded the scene, with uniformed officers, SMPD detectives and FBI investigators scouring the scene.
"They immediately came and taped it off," said James, who lives with his wife and young son.
"There were two couples out on the street that were just crying...
"First of all, you're thinking, 'Did somebody get attacked?'" James added. "And a lot of the neighbors were concerned. Nobody expected anything like this [suicide] to happen.
They think it was a robbery, and everybody's speculating what it could be.
"There's a lot of single moms around. It was frightening."
FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller couldn't confirm or deny the incident, and said the agency declined to comment.
FRIENDS, COLLEAGUES RECALL VETERAN FBI AGENT AT MEMORIAL: Wendy Woskoff is remembered as a valued 'go-to' person. She took
her life two weeks ago.
Los Angeles Times
By Henry Weinstein
February 4, 2005
Veteran FBI agent Wendy Woskoff, who committed suicide two weeks ago, was eulogized Thursday by friends, colleagues and relatives as an intense, highly dedicated, creative agent who saved lives and had a significant impact on improving the agency's technological capability.
"She was the ultimate 'go-to' person at the bureau" in Los Angeles, said Dennis English, a detective with the Los Angeles Police Department's Robbery Homicide Division, during a memorial service at the Skirball Cultural Center.
English, who worked with Woskoff on a variety of cases, told mourners in a packed auditorium how she artfully followed a would-be bomber and then, by posing as a helpless customer in an electronics store, got the man to talk to her. The conversation enabled her to see what he purchased, information that played a role in his arrest and conviction before he could commit another crime. The 54-year-old Woskoff weighed just 90 pounds.
Assistant U.S. Atty. Lisa Feldman and FBI agent Scott Gariola talked about Woskoff's love of the work she did as a technology specialist during the last decade of her 23-year FBI career.
Both remembered how Woskoff, a USC graduate, mastered the techniques of how to trace phone calls to their origin, with the help of phone company employees who initially were reluctant to provide information.
"Wendy would never hear the word 'no,' " Gariola said. He said he often called her late at night during a crisis and that she always came up with information that helped other agents.
"Wendy left a very important legacy of her work," Feldman said.
Woskoff developed specific forms for each of the phone companies, Feldman noted, in order to satisfy them that a law enforcement agency was entitled to get information rapidly. "She made them perfect," Feldman added, and now law enforcement agencies around the country are using the forms Woskoff developed.
On a more personal note, Feldman said she regretted not having talked to Woskoff more in the weeks just before she killed herself. Woskoff's untimely death, Feldman said, is a reminder that "casework will always be there but friends may not be."
The final speaker was John Hoos, who was an FBI agent for 30 years and Woskoff's ex-husband. They were married for more than 20 years. They met in 1980, when Hoos spoke at a class Woskoff taught at University High School in West Los Angeles. Soon after, she telephoned him and asked how she could become an agent. She said she had read an article in Cosmopolitan Magazine in 1981 that said FBI work was an up-and-coming career for women.
That story elicited laughter, as did several others Hoos told. He read at length from a memo Woskoff wrote to her FBI supervisor telling him she needed a better car for her surveillance work and that it needed to have a mirror that would hide her wrinkles and say in English, Hebrew and Yiddish, "Mirror, mirror on the wall, Wendy's the fairest agent of them all."
Hoos concluded his remarks by reading "What it takes to be Number 1," the epistle of legendary Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi, and telling the crowd that Woskoff personified the traits Lombardi described, even though she watched only one football game a year - rooting for USC to beat UCLA.
"I firmly believe," Lombardi wrote, "that any man's finest hour -his greatest fulfillment to all he holds dear - is that moment when he has worked his heart out in a good cause and lies exhausted on the field of battle - victorious."
Hoos said that Woskoff had done that many times, and as Lombardi had said, "she had what it takes to be number 1, and to number you have to pay the price." [LINK]
MEMORIAL CELEBRATES LIFE OF FBI AGENT: Friends, Colleagues Recall Veteran FBI Agent at Memorial. Wendy Woskoff is remembered as a valued 'go-to' person. She took her life two weeks ago.
By Joyce Tse
February 4, 2005
Wendy Woskoff, an FBI agent who took her life in her Santa Monica apartment last month, was remembered at a memorial service Thursday as a tiny but tough agent with a "wacky" sense of humor.
The 200 fellow officers, family and friends who filled the Skirball Cultural Center auditorium recalled a self-described "Jewish American Princess" who took herself lightly, but was dead serious about a job dedicated to catching the bad guys and saving the victims.
"She was whenever, wherever, whatever," said Scott Garriola, using the first and last letters of Woskoff's name to describe how she was always available. "She was wacky at times, wild at times, warm some of the time and wonderful all the time."
The 5' 2" Woskoff could shoot with the best of them and do more pushups than her larger more muscular colleagues, fellow agents recalled. She was also a mean driver who once tracked down a crazy motorists in three minutes, leading to jokes about her own skills behind the wheel.
Even on her time off, Woskoff was eager to help, sometimes stepping out from a movie showing to call fellow agents and check if they needed help.
"She was the ultimate go-to person in the bureau," said Dennis English, a detective for the robbery homicide division, who described Woskoff as an agent who got information about suspects so quickly she sometimes beat the machines that trace calls.
Although there were some tearful moments, there was mostly laughter, as speakers took turns sharing anecdotes that encapsulated the humor Woskoff exuded.
Woskoff, who loved shopping at Nordstrom's, liked poking fun at her feminine side. She compiled fake Christmas letters touting outrageous accomplishments and adventures, and she once wrote a fake memo requesting a car "that compliments my hair color," which she changed several times, requiring a number of cars to match.
During an especially poignant part of the service, Woskoff's sister was presented with an Award of Excellence by Lisa Feldman on behalf of the United States Attorney's office for all of the contributions that Woskoff made to solving countless cases.
A former special education teacher, Woskoff decided she wanted to become an FBI agent after reading an article in a magazine about top new professions for women. Becoming a female FBI agent was one of them.
In April 1981, Woskoff was sworn in as a new agent to the bureau, where she worked for the last 23 years -- moving from the surveillance team to the tech team.
Many described her as a natural for the job, capable of working faster than others, while still getting results. She was also described as always ready and willing to assist new recruits.
On January 23, Woskoff, 55, was found dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head in her Santa Monica apartment.
The Los Angeles Coronor's Office told The Lookout that Woskoff had become depressed and frequently talked about suicide for some time before her death.
Woskoff left two notes behind, according to a recent article in the Los Angeles Times.
The first note was reportedly addressed to Woskoff's immediate supervisor, while the other note made references to FBI Special Agent in Charge Jim Sheehan, a colleague and an ex-boyfriend.
The memorial comes at a time when the FBI has made plans to reassign Sheehan to the bureau's Washington office, according to the Times. [LINK]
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