Why you should care

Because murder is extremely bad for your health.

In this occasional series, OZY takes to streets and neighborhoods across the globe to ask a simple question: “How was your day?”

Dominick Polifrone, retired ATF agent
New Jersey

I look at life differently since I’ve retired. This is so different from what I used to do; I was so involved in my law enforcement career that I really didn’t think about a lot of things. I’ve found that I enjoy being with my family and friends, sipping on Grey Goose and smoking a good cigar. Many times I go to places and people are like, “You’re that undercover cop.”

I was at a wedding and this young lady told me, “You ruined my friend’s life.” I said, “Who’s your friend?” She said, “Kuklinski’s daughter.” I told her, “I don’t want to hear this.” You got these groupies who go to these websites about Richard Kuklinski — the Iceman — and post that I’m the rat who got him locked up, that he’s this honorable man.

That’s bullshit.

I was with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. I had close to 30 years in law enforcement, 15 of that was in the streets working undercover, buying everything from machine guns to explosives, being hired to do contracts and murder people. It’s really a different life, and thank God I can tell the difference between reality and that other life, because I know some guys can get really caught up in it.

I had just finished up a large case infiltrating the five [Mafia] families in New York City, and from that, I had some contracts put on me and I wound up in New Jersey. They needed me to infiltrate the Iceman’s inner circle and make him feel comfortable enough to tell me how he murdered people.

I’d pull into the bar where they hung out, with a brand-new Lincoln and an attaché case. I’m gambling; I got plenty of money and they’re asking me what’s in the attaché case. I’d say that it was for people in New York. They were so interested, I opened up the case and inside were 10 High Standard silencers with no manufacturer or serial numbers and 10 blocks of plastic explosives still in the military packaging. Word was getting out that I was hooked up and that I could get anything.

Really nobody thought that this could be pulled off. But I worked my way in with Kuklinski over the course of 15 months. I meet him at Dunkin’ Donuts. He pulls up in this Camaro, we both get out and shake hands. We go inside and have some coffee. We’re talking, just in general, and he says, “Can you get cocaine?” I say, “I don’t do coke.” He says, “No, can you get it, like a kilo?” I say for about $30,000 a key. He says he got it for $28,000. I say, “If you can get it for that price, don’t go with my guy.”

Kuklinksi says, “The only thing is, I don’t think he can be trusted.” We’re looking at each other for about five seconds, and I say, “You don’t deal with people you don’t trust.”

I knew something was different with Kuklinski because he was murdering people with poison. Bad guys back then weren’t using poison. They would make it look ugly or make it look clean, in the face, or a canary in the mouth.

But Kuklinski was using pure cyanide. The victims would die and it appeared that they died of natural causes. I got Kuklinski to tell me how he used cyanide to kill these people and how he froze a body for two years. When he dumped the corpse in the woods, it looked like it had been dead for only a week. Today, they look for poison in autopsies, but before the Iceman, they never checked.

But, you know, now I’ve been enjoying life. I wake up in the morning and smell the air. When you’re young, you don’t appreciate what it’s like, but as you get older, you see things differently. I’m very fortunate. I have six grandchildren. I’ve been playing a lot of golf and I work out. First thing when I get up, I have a cup of coffee, take a shower and then go hang out with my friends. I’m smelling the roses right now, and luckily I’m healthy, so I can enjoy life.

It’s a lot different from the fast life. The money and women, well, you can really deviate. Working undercover and looking over your shoulder, so many different scenarios. No pain, didn’t give a damn about anything but your career. But make a mistake and you’re dead. I really didn’t look at it like that back then. Thank God, I was brought up in a good Italian home.

You know, when I was working this case, I had no idea that it’d last a lifetime: colleges asking me to talk about the Iceman and discussing my career at different functions for law enforcement and undercovers. Everyone is real interested in Kuklinski. I’m very fortunate that I walked a straight line. To this day, I still have people I arrested who admire the way I did the job and the way I handled it. I respect their position and they respect mine. I was just doing my job, but men like the Iceman belong in prison.

OZYTrue Story

Good stories from around the globe. Essays and immersion, into the harrowing, the sweet, the surprising -- the human.