“We have a search warrant for the house,” the agent said. “We need to talk with you about what we found in the master bedroom walk-in closet.”
When Verceles pulled up the driveway, three stern agents were waiting for him. They walked him into the house. According to Verceles, one of them said, “You’re at a crossroads. You can either go down Enrico’s path, or you can go down the path you’re on, with an unblemished record.”
“I don’t want to do anything illegal,” Verceles said. So he led them to his gun safe and started telling the story.
The agents stayed for roughly four hours, taking pictures of the money. Verceles’s story matched up with what the agents were seeing, so they didn’t arrest him. (The FBI, the U.S. Attorney’s office, and Ponzo’s lawyer declined to comment on the second safe.)
That night, Verceles kept going over what one of the agents said to him before leaving: “The guy that you call your friend was one of the most wanted people in America.” Had Verceles had his friend all wrong? Had he been defending a monster? That money could be drug money, or worse: money from a hit. Was his friend Jay Shaw really nothing more than a wanted criminal? And though it chilled him to think about it, he wondered what all of that might mean for his own safety.
The next morning, he saw that he’d missed a call from Ponzo. He didn’t want to return it. After what had just happened, he was nervous and a little scared to confront Ponzo. But he decided that he owed it to his friend to call him back. So he dialed Ponzo’s holding cell in Massachusetts.
When Ponzo came on, Verceles rushed through the whole story: the safe, the FBI visit. All of it. Then he stopped, waiting to see whether it was Shaw or Ponzo who would respond.
“All I want to tell you is that I’m sorry I put you in that situation,” came the reply. “Don’t worry about it. And I love you.”
On April 15 Kelly Verceles was arrested along with two men who prosecutors say helped him break into the safe. They were charged with, among other things, criminal conspiracy.
Listen to Paul Kix as he talks about his experiences researching Enrico Ponzo and reveals snippets of his interviews from his Idaho visit.