Lenny DePaul, Commander / Chief Inspector U.S. Marshals Fugitive Task Force (NY / NJ RFTF), has worked as a U.S. Marshal for 19 years. In this interview, Lenny gives us insight into his team's strengths, experiences and strategies for catching fugitives.
Chasing the country's most dangerous fugitives is a job that requires the collaboration of many different agencies, both national and international, with a variety of strengths and skill sets. Can you explain how your agency coordinates with the global team to track down fugitives?
Lenny DePaul: The U. S. Marshals Service was mandated by Congress to establish a number of permanent Regional Fugitive Task Forces (RFTFs) throughout the country. Currently there are six. Funding is available for state and local agencies to coordinate and work on cases not only regionally but also globally -- basically anywhere a fugitive may be hiding out. Take my group, the NY/NJ RFTF. It encompasses over 80 federal, state and local agencies. Some of those agencies include: Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, US Department of State, Drug Enforcement Administration, NY State Division of Parole, NJ Department of Corrections, Essex County Prosecutor's Office, Albany Police Department, and Newark Police Department. Collectively we can pool resources and share information. This inter-working of agencies is what we refer to as a 'force multiplier.' All cases are priorities and receive 100% of a Task Force's attention. The presence of USMS personnel in foreign countries further helps to establish a seamless web of fugitive hunters throughout the world making life on the run for fugitives impossible.
It's important for this collective team of manhunters from different backgrounds to train together as a unit. When we "make an entry", we always have to be prepared in case the fugitive -- who has committed a violent crime -- is on the other side of the door. Training is important and paramount when it comes to tactical entries and pursuit of the nation's most dangerous criminals. Our teams regularly train so that they can coordinate and work efficiently, like a well oiled piece of machinery hitting all cylinders.
What are the most difficult kinds of fugitive cases you've encountered in your time with the Fugitive Task Force?
Lenny DePaul: Wanted individuals who actually play 'fugitive' and hide are savvy about modern technologies, and especially those who are financially self-supported can get a little complicated to capture. It may take us a few days, as opposed to a few hours, to catch up to a fugitive who fits this profile.
How does your knowledge of human behavior and your past experience with fugitives help you anticipate how they will behave and ultimately help you capture them?
Lenny DePaul: We often run into fugitives who attempt to disguise themselves while 'on the lam' in a similar way. They tend to follow similar patterns with their money trails or even communications. Knowing a fugitive's behavioral pattern whether it be his/her drinking or smoking habits, physical traits (scars/marks/tattoos), marital status, or health issues . . . all of these factors assist an investigator in establishing a possible routine and profile of a fugitive on the run.
Which case or capture have you learned the most from and what in particular did it teach you?
Lenny DePaul: I have learned things from some cases that have actually assisted me with cracking information on future cases. I once encountered a fugitive who had a phone book where he would add or subtract 5 from each phone number. If the actual number was 5 or greater he would subtract five and if the actual number was under 5 he would add 5. For instance, if your last four digits were 7648 he would have it in his book as 2193. After that arrest, I started to look at other fugitive's contacts in a different way, always trying to decode what might otherwise seem normal and irrelevant to the case.
Over the course of your service, which capture are you the most proud of and why?
Lenny DePaul: I have several cases that I am proud of, whether it's the person wanted for murdering a young child or the cop killer. In all honesty, I really don't have one particular case that stands out.
Some fugitive captures are so important they earn a place in history - Al Capone for example, and Saddam Hussein. What historic capture do you believe was the most memorable and why?
Lenny DePaul: The most memorable case was probably the D.C. Snipers case. We at the USMS Fugitive Task Force provided assistance and throughout the entire investigation it was a collective effort on everyone's behalf. There were already four shootings when we arrived into town. I remember pulling off to get gas in Maryland and saw a terrified woman pumping gas. She was on her knees and her head was turning frantically back and forth, left and right, looking all around. It was unbelievable. The dedication and non-stop work our Task Force gave was above and beyond the call of duty, and I'm so glad that we were a part of it. It felt great to bring that case home.