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  • Writer's pictureProfiles in Catholicism

An Interview with Ken Strange



Gordon: When did you attend Le Moyne College and what degree did you earn? Please tell us about your work on the school newspaper.

 

Ken: From 1973 to 1977, I attended a a private Jesuit school, Le Moyne College, in Syracuse, NY as a Modern Language major.  This was coupled with a Junior Year Abroad (1975 to 1976) in Madrid, Spain sponsored by Marquette University. My languages were Spanish and French.  During my tenure at the school, I was not only a Feature and News writer for the school newspaper, The Dolphin,  but an active member of the Modern Language Club.

 

Gordon: When did you attend Stony Brook University, what degree did you earn, and what is one of your favorite memories of when you were there?

 

Ken: I attended SUNY (State University of New York) at Stony Brook from 1978 to 1982 earning a Masters degree in Liberal Studies with a major in English as a Second Language (ESL).  My favorite memory was being asked by my International Studies teacher, a subject matter expert on China, to host a dinner for the first two Stony Brook students from China.  My wife and I became fast friends with these two students--a young man and woman--who were not only interested in learning English but in learning about the United States.  We were just as interested in them as they were with us.  It was the first of its kind experience for the school, a global relations “feel good” story.

 

Gordon: When did you attend Thunderbird School of Global Management, what degree did you earn, what was your favorite course, and why was it favorite?

 

Ken: After returning to the United States from a six year English teaching role in Saudi Arabia, two of those years at a school for the Saudi Arabian Royal Family, I chose to return to the United States and obtain an MBA which I did in 1987. Actually, there were two favorite courses—a Commercial Spanish Class and a Middle East Studies class.  Both were memorable owing to the passion for the subject matter and the good nature shown by the respective professors.  Yes, they were demanding educators but they also made their classes enjoyable.

 

Gordon: Please tell us about your volunteer experiences.

 

Ken:  There have been a number of volunteer experiences ranging from work in an Inner City Youth program while in college to Habitat for Humanity in California as an adult.   My wife and I were also regular volunteers at a monastery bookstore at St. Andrew’s Abbey where we manned the cash register and stocked the book shelves.  My most recent volunteer experience was in 2018 with Lutheran Social Services where I was assigned the role of Intake Counselor for the homeless. That role was both a great revelation and heart breaking.

 

Gordon: What initially interested you in working in the crime field?

 

Ken: That’s a great question. I would have to say the inspiration for a career in law enforcement came from my father who had a 38-year career in the New York Police Department (NYPD). Highly decorated, he rose to the rank of Deputy Chief.  However, my father never pushed me into this field and was actually content to see me to begin a career as a high school Spanish teacher.  When I finally decided to listen to my “inner voice” and opt for a law enforcement career, my father’s only suggestion was to consider a career in federal law enforcement,  which is exactly where I ended up.

 

Gordon: When and where did you serve as Special Agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and what is one of the more interesting cases to which to which you were assigned?

 

Ken: In 1989, as part of the FBI’s Foreign Language Program, I was chosen to attend the FBI Academy in Quantico, VA.  After graduating from the FBI Academy, I was assigned to the FBI Field Office in Newark, NJ landing on the Joint Terrorism Task Force’s (JTTF) C-10 squad.  Most of my work involved Middle East terrorism.  The most interesting case during my federal career took place prior to and during the First Gulf War in 1990. Obviously, I’m not at liberty to disclose ‘sources and methods’ but, according to the US military and the CIA, my participation in this work resulted in “the shortening of the Gulf War by six months.”  

 

Gordon: When were you assigned as Special Agent USAID Office of Inspector General and what were your primary responsibilities?

 

Ken:  In 1992, I accepted a position as Special Agent of the US Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Office of the Inspector General (OIG) where I began working in Washington DC and was eventually transferred overseas to Costa Rica and later, El Salvador.   As OIG investigators, it was our job to safeguard and strengthen the U.S. foreign assistance program by monitoring waste, fraud and abuse. We also conducted investigations into allegations of criminal, civil and administrative violations through the use of interviews, surveillance, electronic monitoring, and undercover operations.

 

Gordon: When and where did you serve as Special Agent in Charge of the Department of Justice (DOJ), Office of Inspector General (OIG), and what was the most interesting case to which you were assigned?

 

Ken:  I served with the DOJ OIG from 1998 to 2010, first in El Paso, TX to 2003, and finally in Los Angeles, CA to my retirement in 2010.  We had a problematic Border Patrol agent working in Texas.  There were rumors this person was ‘heavy handed’ while dealing with illegal aliens from Mexico. Finally, we received information from several credible sources indicating this person had physically assaulted several Mexicans after they had been detained crossing the border.  It became a highly-charged Civil Rights case which was handled with great skill by the case agent.  The investigative case resulted in an indictment, arrest, prosecution and conviction of this Border Patrol agent who was sent to prison.  It was an unsettling case but I believe justice was served.

 

Gordon: When did you serve as Regional Director Compliance Investigations Latin America and what were your primary responsibilities?

 

Ken: Just before retirement from the federal government in 2010, I was offered a job as the Head of Compliance Investigations for a global manufacturing company based in Mexico City.  My primary responsibility was to open the office, hire investigators and work possible fraud and Foreign Corrupt Practice Act investigations. We succeeded on every level!

 

Gordon: When and where did you serve as VP International Operations Inter-Con Security Systems, and what is one of your fondest memories when you were there?

 

Ken: In 2012, I returned to the United States and went to work for a Security company in Pasadena, CA as Vice-President for International Operations.  My accounts included US Embassy and Commercial guard forces based in Africa so my fondest memory would be of traveling to those countries and supporting our personnel in Ghana, Liberia, Benin, Togo, Tunisia, and Guinea. It was the beginning of a fascinating relationship with the African continent.

 

Gordon: When did you serve as Manager Corporate Investigations Corning Incorporated what was one of the most interesting cases to which you were assigned?

 

Ken:  Corning Inc. had some of the most interesting and sophisticated products in the world, products which were highly coveted by companies (and governments) in other countries.  We had one case of corporate espionage where a hostile “actor” recruited a former employee to recruit other employees within our plant in an overseas country.  We were able to identify the former employee and follow his travel to and from several countries.  It was a collaborative effort involving my office, the FBI, and two foreign police forces resulting in two arrests.

 

Gordon: When did you serve as Senior Compliance at Amgen and what were your primary responsibilities?

 

Ken:  I began working as a Senior Compliance Manager at Amgen Pharmaceuticals in California in 2015.   My primary responsibilities included Management and Oversight within Amgen's Worldwide Compliance and Business Ethics function. Our primary responsibility was to ensure internal compliance investigations involving bribery, corruption, healthcare compliance and similar risks were completed to a high standard and in a timely manner.  We were also tasked to conduct triage and investigate activities primarily outside the U.S.

 

Gordon: When and where did you serve as Senior Fraud Investigator Save the Children International (SCI) and what was the most interesting case that you addressed?

 

Ken:  SCI hired me as a Fraud Investigator consultant for a three month period at the end of 2016 based in Senegal.  I traveled to West and Central African countries visiting the SCI offices, reviewing their programs, conducting anti-corruption risk assessments and investigating Serious Cases.  One of the most interesting cases involved a Country Manager (CM) who was discovered filing false claims for his (and his family’s) travel relocation to an African country.  When I presented the CM the authentic documentation and compared it to his fraudulently submitted documents, he resigned immediately.

 

Gordon: When did you serve Senior Consultant Development Fraud Investigations and what were your primary responsibilities?

 

Ken:  After my consultant work with SCI ended in early 2017, a former FBI agent and USAID OIG colleague joined with me in launching an investigative firm Development Fraud Investigations (DFI).  To investigate fraud, NGOs and non-profit organization had no other choice than to contract with large, expensive law and accounting firms. We became the other option—a smaller, less expensive company with investigative experience in that niche and the ability and wherewithal to travel to places that many would not. Over a five year period, we were successful in working fraud and corruption cases in Ethiopia, Ghana and Brazil.

 

Gordon: What are your thoughts about the article by Arvin Alaigh in the Commonweal Magazine--FBI Feared the Catholic Left?

 

Ken:  I think my Jesuit background including my Ignatian principles (critical thinking and striving to make good decisions) will influence my answer.  First, I would like to believe I’m a relatively unbiased, even-handed person. For example, I worked for the FBI combatting terrorist groups including the IRA, Jewish Defense League, Black Liberation Army, Muslim Brotherhood and many other violent groups, then ended up investigating FBI agents. I grew up in a Brooklyn, NY neighborhood with Orthodox and secular Jewish neighbors and traveled to Israel; yet I lived in Saudi Arabia for five years making many close friends in the Muslim and Palestinian community.  My Jesuit education at Le Moyne College (where Fr. Daniel Berrigan taught theology) brought me into contact with he and his brother’s activist history which included civil disobedience. Though their principles were well meaning and their cause laudable (protesting the Vietnam War), they did, in fact, break into government buildings and destroy government property. 

 

However, the author is absolutely spot on in saying that no one can deny these men had the courage of conviction and commitment. They should certainly be mentioned in the same breath as a Mahatma Gandhi or a Martin Luther King.


The former FBI Director’s morbid obsession with the Berrigans is well documented as is Hoover and his FBI also spying on the Kennedys, Martin Luther King, and anybody else he perceived as a threat to the establishment.  Fortunately, those days are well behind us. 

 

So, credit Arvin Arlaigh with writing an ‘almost’ excellent article relating to a not too distant history. However, where the author lost me was the abrupt transition to what he referred to as “the bombing  of a captive population in Gaza.”  But nowhere in this article does he mention what caused the bombing—the deliberate surprise attack and slaughter of 1000 plus innocent civilians by a brutal terrorist group known as Hamas.  As we know, Hamas is a calculating group of “true believers” who was well aware of how the Israel government would react (or overreact)—which was the plan all along. 

 

“Soaked in Kissingerian realism”—the words are impressive and sound good but I’m not sure the current Administration would agree with the author.  Finally, I came away with the impression Arlaigh is shoehorning his perception of the Catholic Left’s legacy into a situation (Gaza) that may not be entirely appropriate.

 

Gordon: Please tell us about your book “A Cop's Son: One G-Man's Fight Against Jihad, Global Fraud and the Cartels”

 

Ken:  It would be my pleasure.  This true crime, Best-Selling memoir is my second book and comes in three parts plus an Epilogue.  In the first part, I introduce the reader to C-10, a Joint Terrorism Task Force squad where the agents are working on counter-terrorism matters involving significant terrorist groups at that time—the IRA, Abu Nidal, Al-Qaeda as well as various domestic terror groups. The reader soon realizes he/she is witness to a high-octane group of men and women handling issues of great concern and consequence.  The second part of the book takes the reader overseas, mostly in Central America, where the author recounts handling a number of fraud cases.  Finally, Special Agent Strange is assigned to the DOJ OIG office in El Paso, Texas, on the Mexico-US border, where his role is to ferret out federal corruption in all its forms.  Thus begins a high risk game of ‘cat and mouse’ between our federal ‘gatekeepers’ and the Cartels. 

 

Gordon: Some might be surprised that a former FBI Agent would write It’s Your Camino: One Couple’s 500 Mile Pilgrimage Across Spain. What is one of your happiest memories when you were there?

 

Ken:  Yes, sometimes it surprises me!  But in many ways it makes sense.  My background in languages, in this case Spanish, coupled with my relationship to Spain, its people and culture, made this pilgrimage inevitable.  My wife and I, both practicing Catholics and long-time hikers, were born to make this 500-Mile journey across Spain.  There were so many happy memories but the one that stands out is meeting Russell and Lorie, a blind American couple walking the Camino de Santiago.  Both were professionals, loved the outdoors and had children.  They were an incredibly joyful couple—it was an honor to share many beautiful moments and miles with them. Prior to the Camino experience, we had little to no contact with blind people but we learned so much from Russell and Lorie and about ourselves. The most moving, the most profound moment during the Camino was when we were approaching a small Roman bridge and stream and Russell asked me, “Ken, what do you see?”  That question still hokes me up.

 

Gordon: Thank you an exceptional  and fascinating Interview.


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