One of our favorite cop-show cliches is the one about the streetwise detective who’s consigned to desk duty after committing some grievous procedural sin. The implication is that doing paperwork is significantly less useful than pounding the pavement, not to mention less manly. “Pencil pusher,” after all, is invariably an insult, is it not?
In reality, however, well-done paperwork can often do far more to crack a case than roaming the streets in search of clues. That’s the lesson we took away from this excellent account of the life and crimes of Joe Luis Saenz, a Mexican-American gangster who now resides on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted list. According to the piece, Saenz was comfortably on the lam for years, crossing the border at will and partying at ritzy Southern California bars with near impunity. But then an FBI agent decided to turn up the heat by breaking out his trusty pen:
The Los Angeles FBI office jumped into a hard-fought nationwide contest in 2009: They proposed Saenz for the government’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitives List, and Special Agent Scott Garriola submitted a detailed five-page application to compete against 55 other FBI offices that insisted their fugitives were the baddest.
Garriola had a major edge. For nine years, he and his Fugitive Apprehension Team had been tracking a guy on the Top Ten, a man who had shot and seriously hurt an L.A. County Sheriff’s deputy. That fugitive was caught in a rural town in Mexico last year, meaning Garriola was among the first to know that a spot on the Top Ten was about to open.
“The early bird catches the worm,” laughs the 22-year-veteran agent, who, at any given time, tracks 40 to 50 rapists, murderers, dope dealers, and gangsters. “Who else knew there was going to be an opening but me?”
We look forward to the film version of the Saenz manhunt, in which the plot turns on an agent’s mastery of both form completion and bureaucratic minutiae.
Bonus Video of Saenz preparing to murder an associate here. The victim made the mistake of losing over $600,000 of Saenz’s money during a Missouri traffic stop. And then he compounded the mistake by letting his “friend” in the front door.