By Ray O’Hanlon
A Massachusetts man wanted for murder by the FBI, and who is traveling the world with an Irish passport, might be in Ireland, the FBI believes.
James Vincent Sullivan, who allegedly hired a hitman to murder his wife 14 years ago, secured an Irish passport in 1994 at the Irish Consulate in New York.
He was able to do so by virtue of having grandparents from Donegal.
Sullivan has been on the FBI’s Most Wanted List since 1988 and could be anywhere in the world.
But the FBI’s web page this week states that Sullivan carries an Irish passport as well as an American one and "may be in Northern Ireland, Costa Rica or Thailand."
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He is also described as being armed and dangerous.
Sullivan, 59, who was a millionaire at the time his wife was murdered, secured the passport in New York because his application met all the rules for obtaining an Irish passport, a Consulate spokeswoman told the Echo.
Sullivan’s status as a wanted fugitive was unknown to the Consulate at the time of his application. By 1999, however, Sullivan’s profile as a fugitive was dramatically raised when he was featured on the TV show "America’s Most Wanted."
His profile in Ireland was also boosted last weekend when the Sunday Independent ran a front page story on the circumstances surrounding Sullivan’s flight from the law and his securing of an Irish passport.
The story did not, however, mention the fact that the FBI believes that Sullivan might now be in Ireland, albeit north of the border.
The report did state that gardaí have been asked by the FBI to keep a lookout for Sullivan, a request that indicates that the FBI also believes Sullivan might be in the Republic.
Sullivan allegedly hired the hitman to kill his wife, Lita McClinton Sullivan, in early 1987. The couple was going through a turbulent divorce at the time and while Mrs. Sullivan was at the family home in Atlanta, James Sullivan was living in North Carolina.
For a time he was not suspected of being involved in the fatal shooting, which took place on Jan. 16 of that year.
Mrs. Sullivan came to the door of her home on that day to take delivery a of flowers, but was shot by the phony delivery man.
The man, later identified as Phillip Harwood, shot Mrs. Sullivan once in the head with a 9mm pistol. Harwood was subsequently arrested and charged.
Sullivan, by contrast, has been able to elude law enforcement in any number of countries since a warrant was issued for his arrest in 1988.
His ability to elude capture had undoubtedly been enhanced by his holding an Irish passport, a travel document widely prized around the world because Ireland is seen a small, non-threatening neutral country with few axes to grind with other nations.
The FBI’s belief that Sullivan might be in Ireland comes only days after the U.S. and Ireland signed a treaty in Washington that will increase cooperation between both countries in the battle against crime, drug trafficking and so-called "white collar" crimes in particular.
The treaty was signed in the waning hours of the Clinton administration by Ireland’s minister for justice, John O’Donoghue, and outgoing U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.