It Takes One to Know One

A Nashville shopping mall was an odd place for the skein of corruption scandals that have ensnarled New York City and Chicago to begin unraveling. But that was where police picked up Michael Burnett, a corpulent ex-con, swindler and murder suspect who was to provide important evidence in corruption investigations in both cities. Burnett, police said later, had stopped at the mall to make last-minute preparations for a burglary. Inside his van, officers found a submachine gun, ammunition and an automatic pistol.

The arrest, in July 1984, came just six months after Burnett's parole from a federal prison on charges of...

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