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Man of danger

December 05, 2004|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.VA. - He was shot at, his dogs were killed and corrupt city officials put out contracts on his life. And that was just in one remote town in Alaska - a small dot on the map of Nick Mangieri's life.

Mangieri, who moved to Berkeley County earlier this year after three large oak trees fell on and nearly destroyed his home in Maryland, has written and published three books about his life experiences.

Titled "Broken Badge: The Silencing of a Federal Agent," "Frozen Shield: Alaska Cover-up" and "Passport to Danger: The Diary of an Adventurer," Mangieri's self-published books are all nonfiction.

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It's been said that everyone has the makings of a book within them. Mangieri has at least the three and plans early next year to start working on a fourth - this one about his days as a private detective in New York City.

Mangieri, 75, spent part of his career investigating various forms of corruption throughout the country.

His first book, "Broken Badge," details his experiences working as a special agent in Washington, D.C. One of the 22 "targets" he was investigating was then-Mayor Marion Barry.

Although he did not hesitate to "name names" in his books, Mangieri said he has not heard from any of the people mentioned.

"No one's ever said boo. No one's threatened to sue me. No one's said anything," he said.

His second book, "Frozen Shield," details Mangieri's experiences in the small town of Palmer, Alaska.

The book begins: "On November 4, 1975, an Alaskan town lost its Police Chief, a Police Department was thrown into turmoil and municipal corruption would soon make a mockery of justice. ...

"That day, however, no outward signs of what was to happen emanated from either the City Hall or from the town itself. The weather, while not atypical for early November in Alaska, portended an ominous foreboding of events to come. Increasingly dark heavy clouds rolled in over the frozen fields and tundra of the Matanuska Valley. Light northerly winds compounded the outside bleakness by intensifying the biting cold of the minus four-degree low of the previous night. Even the gray low-lying buildings of the small rural town of Palmer, seat of the Matanuska-Susitna Borough 40 miles from Anchorage, contributed to the somberness of the atmosphere. City Hall, too, normally a center of activity for that time of day, was still - too still."

While investigating corruption in Alaska, Mangieri's dogs were killed, there reportedly was a contract on his life and he was shot at, he said.

He started carrying a shotgun and a handgun with him whenever he left his home and kept a loaded gun under his mattress.

For his most recent book, "Passport to Danger," Mangieri put aside tales of investigating corruption and focused instead on his explorations into jungles, up mountains and to prospective diamond mines in the 1950s.

Chapter Eight begins: "The boat slowed, and as it approached the riverbank, I saw numerous kerosene lanterns being held by small groups of natives crowding around the docking space. Behind them were wooden shacks with faint illumination coming from inside. It looked to be slightly larger in area than Tumureng, but at night it was hard to discern.

"Once we pulled up to the muddy bank, all of the occupants scrambled off. I was one of the last to leave. I had no idea where I was headed. I hadn't made any specific plans as to what I would do next. I only knew that Kurupung was where the diamonds were - and that's where I wanted to be."

Mangieri listed as his most frightening moments not those caused by man, but those caused by nature, such as the time he stepped on a boa constrictor in Costa Rica.

"He didn't like that," Mangieri said of the snake.

Jaguar hunting at night, with a flashlight in one hand and a shotgun in the other, also could cause fear, he said.

Overall, Mangieri said he would rather face unknown natural enemies than enemies who walk on two legs.

"I prefer physical (fear) rather than psychological," he said.

Mangieri said he decided to retire after his governmental investigations caused superiors to destroy evidence he had gathered and file "trumped-up, phony" charges against him.

"I'm one of their own and they're going after me for doing my job," Mangieri said.

He then began writing "Broken Badge."

Mangieri's books - which are available at local bookstores or can be purchased on-line from Amazon.com - contain copies of newspaper articles, memos, court records, letters, photographs and other documentation. One of the walls in his computer room is filled with framed certificates, photographs and articles written by him or about him.

Writing, for Mangieri, was therapeutic.

"I had to do it. Luckily, I save everything," he said.

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