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Tracking a Corporate Spy

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Sunday, September 28, 2008

May 1988: On behalf of the U.S. Surgical Corp., Mary McFate begins monitoring an animal rights group protesting the company's use of dogs in surgical training at its Connecticut headquarters. As an undercover agent, McFate meets activist Fran Trutt at a rally and records her making threats to kill company president Leon C. Hirsch. McFate reports the threat to Hirsch and begins extensively monitoring Trutt.

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November 1988: McFate plays a key role in uncovering a plot by Trutt to plant a remote-controlled pipe bomb near Hirsch's company parking space. Police arrest Trutt and charge her with attempted murder.

March 1989: Trutt's attorneys allege that McFate and other agents encouraged her in the plot and gave her money for bomb-building supplies, which McFate denied. Another undercover operative said he drove Trutt and the bomb from her home to the company's offices.

April 1990: Trutt agrees to a plea bargain of one year in prison and three years of probation.

August 1998: McFate recruits and trains a Louisiana man to infiltrate an environmental activist group protesting a chemical leak at a plant there. She passes the information he gathers on to a Maryland detective agency, which forwards it to the chemical company.

October 1998: The operative is appointed to the governing board of the environmental group Clean and a Conoco citizen advisory panel. "Then I will be in the 'inner circle' and included in all planning meetings," the operative wrote in an e-mail to McFate.

2000: McFate volunteers with gun control's Million Mom March.

2001: McFate is named to Ceasefire Pennsylvania's board of directors. Her biography on the group's Web site states that she has been involved in the movement since 1994.

2005: McFate runs for a spot on the board of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence but loses.

August 2008: After reports of connections to the NRA, gun safety advocates try contacting McFate. Unable to do so, they expel her.

SOURCES: Media reports and Beckett Brown Intl. documents


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