Raymond Felice, a Suffolk County police detective who posed as hit men and drug dealers over 38 years in law enforcement, died Dec. 2 after a long battle with cancer. He was 67.
Felice, a lifelong Patchogue resident, stood at 5 foot 9 inches, with a pockmarked face and, in his younger years, shoulder-length black hair. "He looked like a down-and-out bad junkie," said his longtime partner, Det. Charles Bartels.
That allowed him to play hard-bitten undercover roles.
In 2006, Suffolk police got a tip that a New York City police cadet wanted his fiancee killed. Felice posed as the hit man, persuading the Selden resident to put part of the murder payment on a credit card and securing the conviction. "Anytime they needed something serious done, they'd tap Ray," Bartels said.
Ray Perini, a defense attorney and former prosecutor who started the Suffolk County District Attorney's Narcotics Bureau, said, "He was one of the best undercover detectives I worked with."
In the late '70s, four men, including an organized crime figure, wanted to buy drugs from Colombia. Felice played the role of the seller.
During the trial, "Ray must've been on the stand for seven days. He took a blistering cross, and he did a great job," Perini said. All four suspects were convicted.
He also worked on the East End Drug Task Force on heroin cases in Riverhead.
"He had an extraordinary career," said Ray Wempe, another of Felice's former partners. "Not that many cops had as varied and versatile a career."
Felice joined the police department in 1970. He eventually was assigned to the Suffolk County district attorney's office, working in narcotics and rackets, including investigating labor issues and organized crime. He retired six years ago.
During his career, he also ran chop shops undercover. Before meeting with a target, when he was supposed to be a truck mechanic, he'd rub his hands on the backs of tires, Bartels said.
But "he'd melt around his wife, kids and grandchildren," Bartels said. "He was a teddy bear. A lot of his toughness was all a front."
He met his wife, Laurie, also of Patchogue, when they were 14 years old.
The son of a plumber, "he hated plumbing," said Laurie Felice, 67. But that didn't stop him from helping out friends, family and other cops with their plumbing work, always refusing money.
For their six grandchildren, he would cut up sandwiches into cartoon character shapes, using olives for eyes and pickles for a mouth. He would get his two daughters to post pictures of the sandwiches on Facebook to see how many "likes" they'd get.
He was an avid hunter of rabbits and deer, and dreamed of buying a single-pump gas station in New Hampshire with a pot belly stove, where he would tell stories, his wife said.
Besides his wife, he is survived by his daughters, Danielle Masem of East Patchogue and Jessica Butler of Patchogue.