When a crooked private detective worried his life was threatened by a brutal loan shark, he turned to IRS Special Agent William Paulin — and wound up helping the feds uncover some of the deepest secrets of mobbed-up Cicero.
When a bookmaker got jittery while secretly recording mobsters for the feds and worried Outfit guys would throw him out a high-rise window, Paulin was sent to calm him down.
For roughly a quarter century, Paulin, 54, has been a go-to guy for the feds as a top mob investigator, uncovering millions of dollars in rip-offs and taking down top Outfit bosses.
Next week, Paulin will retire.
It's a loss to the federal team that battles the Outfit, authorities said.
"I consider him a legend for what he accomplished," said Bob Fuesel, a long-time Outfit fighter, now retired, who once ran the organized crime group for the IRS.
Colleagues describe Paulin as a rare triple threat.
The son of a truck driver and a homemaker who grew up on the South Side, Paulin is known a street-smart agent who brings an analytical mind to reviewing mounds of evidence. He has a reputation on the street for keeping his word, colleagues said
So when a bad guy decided to flip and cooperate with federal investigators, he knew he could rely on Paulin.
Paulin has pulled mountains of evidence together for trials — from the case of Cicero Village President Betty Loren-Maltese to the Family Secrets trial involving 18 mob murders.
Those trials demand brutally long hours that take a toll on personal lives.
"Some people talk about it, Bill has done it," said former colleague Thomas Moriarty, a retired IRS special agent famed for getting bookmaker William "B.J." Jahoda to cooperate against top mobsters.
"When Bill Paulin is in the room, he gives you a confidence that things are going to go right," Moriarty said.
"He had this confidence, and it put Bill Jahoda at ease, because he knew we had the A-Team in there with Bill Paulin."
What's more, Paulin has been able to adapt with the times as criminals have gotten more sophisticated, colleagues said, whether it's cracking an early Internet gambling case or uncovering sophisticated financial fraud by a mobbed-up insurance company ripping off Cicero for millions of dollars.
"As the bad guys got smarter, we tried to keep up," Paulin said in an interview last week.
The Outfit "is a more subtle organization," Paulin said. "In the 70s and 80s, there were bodies all over the place. They've become a more financially savvy organization."