CRIME

Deep Cover: Oxford man Spills details of his life as an undercover agent

This is a photo of Charlie Spillers best-selling book, "Confessions of an Undercover Agent". Photo by Cole Catalano.
Charlie Spillers’ best-selling book, “Confessions of an Undercover Agent.” Photo by Cole Catalano.

Cole Catalano
Oxford Stories
Jccatal1@go.olemiss.edu

Warriors come in many different forms. Charlie Spillers is an unassuming man, but a warrior on many different playgrounds. From Vietnam, to undercover agent, to prosecuting the highest level criminals on the planet, he’s also an author.

Spillers was born in Louisiana, but moved around south Mississippi frequently following his father’s job in the oil field. While visiting his great-grandparents in southern Louisiana growing up, his grandparents served as translators because they only spoke in French.

“My grandmother tried to teach me, but I was a poor student,” he said. “I couldn’t understand what they were saying, but I paid attention to their body language. I think that later on that helped me in my undercover career because I learned to pay attention to body language. When I would walk in, I could immediately pick up on what the person was feeling.”

After high school, Spillers enlisted in the Marines. He served three years and the last 10 months in Vietnam. He credits the Marines for helping him gain maturity.

After one year in North Carolina, Spillers said he joined the Baton Rouge Police Department, where his undercover career began. He did his job well enough to garner attention.

“I had someone tell me to watch out for me,” Spillers laughed. “Obviously, he didn’t say me directly. He told me to watch out for Rick in the red Camaro. Thankfully, that day I was Mike driving a green Volkswagen. I didn’t even put my name on the reports; I just put a number. And that was my number. It was deep cover.”

After his cover was busted with the Baton Rouge Police Department, Spillers said he worked undercover for the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics, or MBN. He spent 13 years with MBN, the first five undercover, and rose to regional commander for the northern third of the state.

His final undercover job was in 1981 in Houston, Texas. He dressed up as a wealthy businessman and negotiated with criminals to purchase 3,000 pounds of marijuana. Spillers said it was “quite a way to go out.”

The undercover “game” is one of the most dangerous jobs in law enforcement. Spillers said he seized 200,000 pounds of marijuana in one of the pictures hanging in his office.

“You see that man to my right?” Spillers said. “He had four months left to live. He was on a drug raid in the New Orleans area, and he was shot and killed. He was 25, left behind a wife and two kids.”

Events like that make you think. Spillers has a family of his own. His son, Terry Spillers, said his father spent most of his childhood working for MBN.

“He was gone a lot,” Terry Spillers said. “He might be gone for a few days at a time working in other parts of the state.”

This is a photo of the courthouse in Oxford, MS. Charlie Spillers practiced law in Oxford for 23 years. Photo by Cole Catalano.
Charlie Spillers practiced law in Oxford for 23 years. Photo by Cole Catalano.

Even in a serious profession, Spillers has funny stories. While fleeing a scene, he ran into low barbed wire fence. His front leg went between the top and bottom strand. This led him to get a tetanus shot at 2 a.m. in Grenada, Mississippi.

Later that same day, his finger was shut in a car door. That wound spelled the same fate as the fence. While the first tetanus should would have sufficed, the doctor did not believe Spillers when he said he had already gotten a tetanus shot that morning. Spillers might be the only person to ever get two tetanus shots within 18 hours.

“That’s the kind of story you’d rather not have to tell, right?” Spillers said smiling.

Today, Spillers is an author. His book “Confessions of An Undercover Agent” was released in 2016, and he said it spent most of the year, and some of the next, on Mississippi’s top selling list.

The book is filled with stories from his undercover days. He also wrote “Whirlwind,” a novel that came out in 2018. He is now working on the sequel, and has ideas for a third. He is also a self-proclaimed “part-time babysitter” of his grandson.

“He definitely likes to stay busy,” said Terry Spillers. “The only difference from when I was growing up is that he mostly works from home now. Growing up, he might be gone a few days around the state. Now he only has to leave for speaking engagements around the state. I’m sure he’s just as busy, but the difference is it’s mostly at home.”

Charlie Spillers’ life is difficult to sum up in a short article. That’s why he wrote his book.

Spillers also spent 23 years with the U.S. Attorney’s office in Oxford. Two of those years were spent in three tours of Iraq. Spillers said he advised the court that tried Saddam Hussein.

When asked for advice, a smile crept across his face and he offered a simple answer.

“Expect the unexpected,” he said.

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