Who Doesn't Like Jeff Del Fuoco?

Key Player in Holder Case Has Made Unusual Enemies

The buzz for months around the Hillsborough County Courthouse and Tampa law offices has been: Who wants to destroy Circuit Court Judge Greg Holder? Corrupt judges? The mob? Or (and this is a zinger) the U.S. Attorney's Office?

Overlooked is another enigma: Who wants to undermine Jeffrey Del Fuoco, the federal prosecutor who played a pivotal — albeit, he claims, unwitting — role in the Holder case? Only in Tampa could you get such a bizarre roster of suspects with reasons to "get" Del Fuoco. Are Irish Republican Army supporters to blame? Or a Plant City phosphate company? Could it be the Manatee County sheriff?

Del Fuoco for years prosecuted public corruption cases. Among his high-profile successes, he has nailed a number of bad cops — six Manatee County deputies and three Plant City police officers.

But he also started running afoul of colleagues, especially a former friend, Robert "Bobby" O'Neill, the criminal division chief in the U.S. Attorney's Office. Del Fuoco has filed a complaint with the Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility over O'Neill's part ownership of a popular Hyde Park bar, Four Green Fields, according to Craig Huffman, a Tampa attorney who represents Del Fuoco.

The Irish bar has been the scene for fundraisers for Sinn Fein, the political arm — or front, to use a popular G-man term — for the ultra-violent Irish Republican Army. Events at Four Green Fields have twice featured Gerry Adams, the congenial head huckster for Sinn Fein and the IRA.

The Weekly Planet five years ago disclosed O'Neill's relationship to Four Green Fields at a time when the prosecutor was heading the investigation against Sami Al-Arian, the now fired University of South Florida professor suspected then of having ties to the terrorist Palestinian Islamic Jihad. The irony is that the prosecutor had links to Sinn Fein and the IRA similar to the hazy suspicions then directed at Al-Arian.

Those who have suffered IRA violence regard Adams with about as much love as Israelis feel for Yassir Arafat. There are, indeed, many parallels between the two men and their organizations. The IRA is responsible for killing more than 650 civilians since it began its campaign of violence in the early 1970s.

The State Department's 2000 report on "Patterns of Global Terrorism" says of the IRA: "Terrorist group formed in 1969 as clandestine armed wing of Sinn Fein, a legal political movement." Activities by the Irish bad boys fighting for "the cause" are described by the State Department as: "Bombings, assassinations, kidnappings, punishment beatings, extortion, smuggling and robberies."

The IRA faction that's affiliated with Sinn Fein also has been accused by British and other authorities of aiding terrorists groups from Palestine to Latin America. U.S. law enforcement agencies reported in 2002 that Niall Connolly, Sinn Fein's official representative for Cuba and Latin America, was one of three IRA members arrested in Colombia on suspicion of providing explosives training to terrorist groups. British newspapers reported in 2002 that seven known IRA members, including two top leaders, had trained Colombian drug-running terrorists in explosives and urban warfare.

Those facts about Sinn Fein/IRA bear a striking resemblance to the U.S. Attorney's allegations that Al-Arian's involvement in legal organizations was a front for supporting terrorism. Moreover, there are more than casual similarities between Palestinian and Irish terror groups that may prove embarrassing to Tampa's U.S. Attorney's Office.

In April 2002, the London Daily Telegraph reported: "The IRA has been teaching Palestinian terrorists to build booby-trap bombs for use against Israeli soldiers, according to a British explosives expert working in the Jenin refugee camp."

The State Department has reported that the Irish groups are "suspected of receiving funds, arms and other terrorist-related materiel from sympathizers in the United States." In July 2002, the IRA "apologized" to the families of its non-combatant victims — a move regarded as an effort to boost lagging fund raising among Americans, who after 9-11 were resistant to overtures from any groups with violent agendas.

Prosecutor O'Neill's partner at Four Green Fields, Colin Breen, in 2001 told the St. Petersburg Times: "Am I pro-IRA? Absolutely." Four Green Fields' walls are plastered with virulent anti-British slogans and literature — similar in tone to the propaganda found among, say, anti-American Arab groups in the Middle East.

Washington, D.C., lawyer Bill Moffitt, who represents Al-Arian, says the disparity in how the U.S. Attorney's Office has chased his client while ignoring a similar involvement by one of its own staff "certainly" raises the question of selective enforcement of the law.

O'Neill and Breen also are involved in other ventures, according to documents obtained by the Planet. These include entities called Dublin Investments LLC and DPI Inc. O'Neill did not return a detailed message asking about his relationship to Sinn Fein and Breen. U.S. Attorney Paul Perez — who in the last week has refused to let Del Fuoco and his supervisor, Jeff Downing, testify in a state investigation of Holder — responded to our inquiry about O'Neill and Holder with an e-mail message that stated: "Your questions do not warrant a response or any comment what so ever [sic]."

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