Transcript of David Long podcast
Cindy O’Dell: Welcome to Brandman Speaks in this episode. Dr. Sheila Steinberg interviews David Long about his career in law enforcement, his concerns about money laundering and real estate, and what his very career brings to his position as an assistant professor at Brandman where he teaches criminal justice and legal studies.
Sheila Steinberg: So Dr. Long can you tell us a little bit about your work as a federal agent before you became an academic.
David Long: Sure. First of all thank you so much for having me, Sheila. It’s a real pleasure to be here. I kind of had a circuitous career and never thought I’d end up where I am now. By training I’m an attorney and after practicing law for several years I actually decided to try my hand in federal law enforcement and back in 1995, I joined the Federal office of Labor Racketeering, which is a relatively small federal agency that employs special agents. Much, much like the FBI. The same training and as a special agent with the Office of Labor Racketeering. I was mainly tasked with investigating the labor union and related pension fund corruption in the United States. I started in the Atlanta office and there’s a relatively small number of special agents with that agency. So back in Atlanta, we were assigned different states. Various agents were assigned to different states and the state I was assigned to was Florida, so I ended up working a lot of labor union corruption particularly at the ports of Miami and Tampa which involved the international longshore men’s association. And then in 2001 I was transferred to the Los Angeles office and in that office the work was completely different and I did some investigations regarding the transportation unions in Southern California as well as the influence of organized crime, Asian organized crime. And I sat on the Asian Organized Crime Task Force in Los Angeles and also had an opportunity to conduct some investigations, believe it or not, involving unemployment insurance fraud involving the Mexican Mafia, massive fraud to the tune of about 40 million dollars.
So that’s a brief sketch of my career as a special agent.
Steinberg: Well it sounds really exciting and it sounds like you’ve worked with a lot of different ethnic groups to Asian organized crime Mexican Mafia Not that you were working with them but you were involved in cases that dealt with them. So what does that look like when you’re a special federal agent? Do you carry a gun? Do you go undercover? Do you wear a uniform? Give us some visuals so we can imagine what it might look like.
Long: A federal agent, a special agent with the government, is a particular type of job. The government, the federal government, actually hires many different types of investigators. The term special agent actually refers to an agent that has as law enforcement authority and it’s a job series, the government has all these series that are designated by a number, and the special agent job is technically called criminal investigator and it’s a job series 1811. So the government has so many different special agents working and so there are so many different federal agencies that even special agents may not know other special agents make when they run into another agent from a different agency. They may say ‘Are you an 1811 agent?’ Because there are so many other different types of agents that have different sorts of authority. But the 1811 special agent carries a gun. You have many weeks of training. My agency actually trained at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in south Georgia. That’s where pretty much all the special agents train except for the FBI, which trains at their own facility in Quantico, Virginia. But other agencies like Secret Service, U.S. Marshal Service, they all train down at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center. So you don’t wear a uniform. You dress pretty much like everybody else and you there are opportunities to do undercover work. I did a small undercover job as an agent nothing really expected extensive. There’s all types of training. My work as an organized crime investigator really allowed me to do a lot of things like consensual monitoring, which generically would be called having people wearing wires, recording devices for you to capture conversations and things like that. And I typically didn’t do that you usually would have confidential informants to do that for us because they’re already inside the organization.
Steinberg: So when that helps us get an image of what it might look like. You know thinking about students, if someone wanted to go into that career, what are some of the skill sets that you need to do it to do a career or job like that?
Long: Almost 100 percent, you need a college degree. So our students that are listening that may be interested in becoming a special agent are in the right places if they’re at Brandman. Often times some agencies are looking for an advanced degree, a master’s degree or a law degree, or if not, they’re looking for some type of language ability outside of the ability to speak English — languages like Spanish, Russian, Arabic are in great demand in various agencies across the federal government. Also backgrounds like accounting and business also can come in very handy for some agents that work what we call books and records cases. Sometimes those cases against hardened criminals are made on books and records, not on not on the types of things we see on TV.
Steinberg: What’s your favorite aspect of being a special agent? What was the favorite part about your job?
Long: I think I really enjoyed bringing down bad guys that thought they were an untouchable. That was just me personally. I have a thing about … with organized crime you often run into kind of bad actors that are very accustomed to getting away with what they’ve been doing because they’ve been doing it for years and they are very arrogant. And I did take special pleasure in conducting those types of investigations and they were usually long-term and they were challenging in the sense that a lot of these types of criminals were relatively powerful people and had money for really good lawyers and that sort of thing so it was a challenge it wasn’t you know like really like arresting somebody that walked in to 7-Eleven with a gun and robbed it. So I found it challenging and very satisfying when sometimes we were able to do some good. And sometimes we were we were not able to get the bad actors for various reasons. But it was a really great feeling when we were able to do so.
Steinberg: I want to talk about something exciting that is kind of a current event that you were involved with. I noticed the other day in the New York Times. You had written a letter to the editor and I was wondering. Maybe you could talk about that, what your letter was about and were you surprised that your letter got printed by the New York Times?
Long: Sure, I’d be happy to talk about that. I guess toward the end of the year, last year, I ran across an article in The New York Times which was, which at the time I didn’t know it was there was the seventh in the series that the Times was running on basically on dark money, money that is being spent in the United States that its sources that are coming from sources that are really unknown. And this particular article focused on real estate money going into real estate in Los Angeles and West L.A. particularly kind of more affluent areas like Beverly Hills and Bel Air and being purchased with money by purchasers that were limited liability companies and the thing about limited liability companies is the way they’re set up.
One can set up a LLC without revealing the true owner or beneficial owner of the company. All that needs to be revealed is a person that represents the company like a registered agent should the company get sued, that person who would maybe often be a lawyer or somebody like that, would agree just received the lawsuit on behalf of the company but it does not reveal who actually is behind the company who is the true beneficial owner. And so in L.A. as a as well as in cities like San Francisco and in the Silicon Valley and in New York, LLCs are buying lots of prime real estate and it’s unknown who are the owners and the articles really resonated with me because one of my many careers was as a California real estate broker once I left federal law enforcement. I became a California real estate broker and I primarily worked in commercial real estate. However I did remember this being a real problem in the Frank Gabriel Valley which is not like Bel Air but certain parts of the valley are very desirable to certain people and so I would hear and I would experience that — buyers who are just regular people you know working families who were in the market for a home who were planning to put a down payment put down a down payment and we’re going to finance the rest mortgage consistently getting beat out by LLCs that were buying these homes all cash with nobody known knowing even the even the agent representing them knowing representing the LC knowing who really was buying the property.
And so I strongly suspected that much of that money were coming from illicit funds and so the point of my letter to the editor was to kind of point out that it’s this phenomenon is not just going on in a really wealthy areas like West L.A. but it’s also going on in more middle and upper middle class places like the San Gabriel Valley.
Steinberg: Can I go back to something? You said illicit funds. Can you elaborate. Is that like mafia money? What’s illicit funds?
Long: Just refers to funds that come from any time type of crime whether it’s drug trafficking or political corruption or human trafficking and what people in those criminal organizations need to do, is once they get that money, they need to make that money somehow look clean and that’s where the crime of money laundering comes of comes into play. And so one thing, one way money launderers, one M.O. they have is to park money into real estate. So they’ll have a couple of million dollars in cash and what they’ll do is go buy a home or even a business so that they parked it affectively there. They may be content to leave it there forever and then once they sell the home then there’s a layer between the criminal proceeds and the sale of the property and that’s a simple form of money laundering but it’s very common. There’s other ways of laundering money. For criminals that want to get their hands on it … to remain liquid in the money, because if you put your money if buying real estate is not a real good way to be liquid because once you put it into the real estate you won’t get that … you don’t have access to that money. The criminal doesn’t have access to that money until the property sold.
But they don’t often, you know they may have so much money that they’re just interested in putting it aside for now and so that’s a very common problem and that was at the heart of my letter to the editor. As far as getting it published, I really didn’t anticipate that the New York Times was going to publish it. I really wrote the letter to the editor because I felt passionate about the issue.
It’s one that really hit close to home and really bothers me and that’s maybe my passion came through in that letter.
Steinberg: You know I think it did and I think that’s a good lesson for our students out there, too, that, you know, if there’s something you care about. You know write to the newspaper, you know, blog about it because that’s part of being in society.
Long: Absolutely I agree completely.
Steinberg: So I want to for a second turn our attention to your involvement here at Brandman and the kind of classes you teach. Can you tell us a little bit about what you teach here and what are some skills you try to impart to students when they’re part of your program?
Long: When I began as a full time faculty member in the 2010-11 academic year, I was a an adjunct faculty member beginning in 2008, and when I joined Brandman as full-time in 2010, I was assigned to the criminal justice and legal studies faculty. At that time actually, I was the sole full-time faculty member in either legal studies or criminal justice. So I really had a lot of responsibility at that time and that was a time when Brandman had first gone to this blended model and so it was a really hectic time. Since that time we have hired another full-time faculty member for criminal justice, Dr. Karen Storm, and she’s devoted solely to criminal justice. And then we’ve also hired a full-time faculty member devoted solely to legal studies. And that’s Dr. Melissa Meyer.
My time is split between criminal justice and legal studies at this point and I really like it the way it is now. As far as teaching is concerned, I am a big advocate of assisting students into really being able to develop their skills of critical analysis and really understand what we’re talking about something like criminal justice, really understand what they’re seeing in the world around them as far as criminal justice policy is concerned, whether it’s a police shooting or whether it’s a more macro look at the prison system and why we have so many prisoners. And is that a good thing or is there some policy flaw at work that may be driving the number of prisoners in the United States? Because we do have a lot of prisoners we have more prisoners in the United States, people incarcerated, than in Russia and China combined. And so there’s reasons for that and I really like students to, when they find out the reasons, really critically analyze whether it’s a good thing and maybe a good thing. However it may be a bad thing. So that’s kind of my teaching philosophy .., not to spoon feed but rather to get students to really start thinking, thinking on their own and outside of what they hear in the news.
Steinberg: That’s great. Well that about wraps up our podcast for this evening. But I’d just like to say thank you, Dr. Long. Brandman is very fortunate to have professors of your caliber working here. Thank you very much.
Long: Thank you for having me. I really enjoyed joining you. Thank you.
Brandman Speaks is a production of the Communications Department of Brandman University. More information about the university can be found at www.brandman.edu. More episodes of Brandman Speaks can be found at nimbler.brandmannews.sachiel.xyz or on iTunes.
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