J.T. Mullen Private Detective Website Background Image
J.T. Mullen Private Detective
J.T. Mullen Private Detective Website Background Image
J. T. Mullen Website Background Image
J.T. Mullen Website Background Image
J. T. Mullen Website Background Image
J.T. Mullen Website Background Image


J. T. Mullen article in the New York Post

Safra's Sleuths

New York Post

PI Joe Mullen saved the reputation of the late Edmond Safra, and has cracked many a case for this decade's famous and infamous.

Joe Mullen is the last gumshoe of this millennium, and while a battered trench coat is replaced by designer suits, he is straight out of Mickey Spillane.

From his offices on the 25th Floor of The Encore on West 53rd Street, Joe Mullen, whom CNBC described as "the No. 1 private investigator in the city of New York," rarely leaves his business address without his heater...a snub-nosed, 38-caliber revolver.

It may sound like something out of a Humphrey Bogart movie, but in the last three weeks, the life and times of Mullen, who started as a PI working for his father at the age of 16, has never been put in more laser-like focus.

When the news flashed around the world that one of the globe's richest men, Edmond Safra, had died a particularly nasty death in his luxury penthouse in Monaco, Mullen's telephone started to ring like the Bells of St. Mary's.

"When I say the telephone and the answering machine never stopped, I mean literally, it never stopped," Mullen says.

And you didn't have to be a PI to work out the reason for the sudden attention.

As Edmond Safra, 68, one of the most fascinating billionaires in the world, lay deep and cold in a grave after an act of infamy by the hand of a trusted aide, it was Joe Mullen who once dramatically rescued the one precious asset above all his billions that Safra valued most -- his dignity.

"In 1986, a mysterious but very nasty smear campaign started to surface in the media through Europe and South America, involving Edmond Safra's empire," Mullen recalls. "Safra had started in the Middle East and built a stunning financial organization throughout Europe and South America.

"He was brilliant but his banking institutions relied on two assets: trust and integrity. That's the way it had to be. It was obvious someone or some people were determined to steal that away from him for financial gain."

What followed, as reported in the best-selling book, Vendetta written by Brian Burroughs of The Wall Street Journal, was an exhaustive investigation by an increasingly frustrated Safra as he saw his reputation being eaten away as if by a plague of termites.

"It was a pretty filthy deal and we had to get to the bottom of it," says Mullen.

The investigation took teams of private detectives from the lush luxury of the French Riviera and the starchy offices of Swiss banks, to the seamy back alleys of Peru and finally to the hallowed halls of American Express at the World Trade Center.

But it took a Bronx-born Irishman named Joe Mullen, a former boxer with a flattened nose, to humble one of the mightiest financial institutions in the world and proved that the almighty American Express was behind the smear campaign to discredit Safra with a venomous overtone of anti-Semitism, according to Vendetta.

"Edmond Safra had been a partner in American Express and when he sold out his share to them, they feared he was going to start up in opposition, "Mullen says.

Crack lawyer Stanley Arkin had been brought in to handle a case that many feared would sink Safra into oblivion and he assembled a cadre of private eyes to roam the world. But by 1987, it was time for heavy artillery. He called in Joe Mullen and his private eye company, which included his two sons, Tom and Mike.

"It took many months staking out a mystery guy who lived in Staten Island called Tony Greco. We found out he'd been planting bizarre stories in Europe and South America for a fee, blackening Edmond's name as a money launderer for drug kingpins, a CIA agent, a man mixed up in the Iran Contra scam. It was ridiculous but some people started to take notice and we had to put a hat on the lies," says Mullen.

Greco was a mystery: no social security number, no record of when he came or left the United States, no past history of employment. Eventually, after Mullen finished the investigation, Greco would end up in a Spanish jail, accused of drug conspiracy. But his poison was lethal.

"The problem was to establish his links to American Express without any suspicion of doubt," Mullen muses.

There followed hundreds of hours of complicated surveillance -- laying in the back seat of a car, shooting pictures through reflections in a strategically placed mirror so nobody would see the photographers, posing as delivery men, and even posing as men who had lost their dogs.

"Then we posed as sanitation men taking Greco's garbage; we found one scribbled note with a telephone number. It paid off. I recognized the first three digits of the number to be that of the American Express office, but so what? We needed a picture, a photograph of Greco with someone from American Express.

"When I called the number, we found it belonged to a senior vice president of American Express. Still, we needed a picture.

"In 1988, Greco traveled into Manhattan for the first time, after all these hundreds of hours of chasing around Europe for him and staking out his house. Then he made contact with a mystery lady who walked away from the American Express building and then they went to a fancy French restaurant called Bouley and had a $500 lunch. We had a huge team on hand and we got pictures of them meeting with the American Express logo over their head and the two of them exchange the envelope."

But who was the lady? Mullen followed her to a Central Park West apartment. Posing as a delivery man, he conned the doorman and established her identity: She was the woman at American Express whose telephone number was retrieved from Greco's garbage and was in the picture with mystery man Greco. It was all over.

Bingo! Some members of American Express had to admit they had been paying Greco for the smear campaign. The company forked out $8 million for their indiscretion, which Safra directed to charity.

But not all of Mullen's cases end up with the milk of human kindness and charity. He represented Johnny Carson, Mike Tyson, and Donald Trump in their divorces, which is public record. He also represented a legion of Hollywood celebrities in bitter divorce and business battles.

If the name of his client is known, he refuses to talk about the details. If not, he will tell stories without names.

"We had this very big Hollywood producer, who has since passed away, who had us running ragged. Hundreds of hours of surveillance. Every time he met an attractive girl he would get us to follow them and report back. Now, these weren't wives or lovers, just attractive girls who he saw, met, or just said hello to. It was exhausting."

Not all of his quarry have been human.

"Franklin Roosevelt Jr., a friend of mine, was talking to me enthusiastically one day, about a super race horse which he bought for $150,000, which should have cost him $500,000. Too good to be true.

"As a favor, I nosed around the New Jersey farms where the horse came from and struck up a conversation in a bar with some veteran stable hands.

"The stable hands said the horse was great. I thought what does 'was' mean? Well, said one of the hands, the horse has cancer and its got three legs in a grave already."

Franklin Jr. got his money back.

Known as the "divorce dick," Mullen covers everything from gutters to Wall Street. He cracked a huge insider trading scam for a prominent Wall Street company and anyone seeing the movie Wall Street might see similarities. The next day he would be on a divorce case.

"One time I was guarding a very rich socialite who in her divorce claimed she was being beaten by her husband," Mullen recalls. "Now the husband's young muscled-up bodyguard arrives and tells me 'take off grandpa.' I love young tough guys. I told him he had it wrong. My name wasn't grandpa, it was grambo."

A rather badly-bruised young Turk never quite lived down how a senior citizen dispatched him.

Mullen has retrieved jewels from unknown sources, and children from the Moonies. A friend of cops and criminals, millionaires and magnates, Mullen has donned his walls with letters from folks coming from every walk of life, including Presidents Reagan, Ford, and Nixon.

One thing is the money. It's good. Another thing is the excitement. It's great.

"But in the case of Edmond Safra, the most satisfying thing was keeping his reputation and dignity intact," Mullen says.

"Mark Twain had it right: 'A lie can travel halfway around the world before the truth is putting on its shoes.' It was a tragedy how Edmond had to go the way he went. But at least when it came to the truth about him, we didn't put on our shoes, we put on big boots and kicked ass."

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