DEA Agents and Drug Lords: The 50-Year War on Illegal Drugs
Marking the 50th anniversary of the Drug Enforcement Administration, a diverse panel of former agents will share stories of undercover intrigue and dangerous operations from the agency’s tumultuous history. President Richard Nixon established the DEA on July 1, 1973, consolidating the drug-related work that was being done by several federal agencies. Over the past five decades, the DEA has engaged in a vast array of operations to stem the tide of drug trafficking in the United States and around the world.
Pierre "Pete" Charette
Pierre “Pete” Charette, born in Valleyfield, Quebec Province, became a key figure in the war on drugs in the United States and Europe. His adventures spanned a heart-pounding 33 years as a police officer, undercover detective, and DEA Special Agent throughout the United States and around the world. His newest book “One Hell of a Ride 2: From the French Connection to Operation Southern Comfort” chronicles Charette’s fascinating, high-stakes and impactful career first-hand. It includes some of the most famous cases ever developed by him, his colleagues, and the DEA.
His investigative ability and imagination in numerous undercover roles took him from the United States into the French criminal underworld (including the French Connection), the Iron Curtain, and across the planet to untangle and uncover some of the largest criminal organizations. He and his team took down major domestic and international drug traffickers. His life is filled with cunning intrigue and white-knuckle courage. He risked his life on numerous occasions, in order to effect the arrest of these major international drug traffickers.
He was instrumental in the takedown of Harold Rosenthal, head of the largest cocaine conspiracy organization in the United States. Codenamed Southern Comfort, Pete, and his fellow agents were in constant threat of assassination before the case was finally closed.
Throughout his career, this special agent received numerous awards for his bravery and accomplishments in the war on drugs against the United States. In this book, Charette offers first-hand accounts of investigations that have paved the path for the development of new and innovative techniques for undercover work and investigations in narcotic enforcement.
Frank Panessa was a Drug Enforcement Administration agent for 28 years. He had numerous undercover roles in the United States, Europe, Asia, and Central America. He infiltrated the Sicilian Mafia in the infamous “Pizza Connection” case that resulted in the conviction of high-level Sicilian wholesale distributor of heroin. He retired from the DEA in 1995 as the Assistant Special Agent in Charge of the Philadelphia Division where he was responsible for the day to day activity of 300 law enforcement personnel. He also served in the U.S. Embassy in Rome as the government’s chief liaison to Italian police agencies on narcotics and organized crime. He is the recipient of numerous awards including the Award of Honor from the International Narcotic Officers Association. He testified before the President’s Commission on Organized Crime as an expert witness on the Mafia. He is Trustee Emeritus of the Sons and Daughters of Italy in America having served for the past 20 years in various positions including National Treasurer and National Financial Officer. He lives in Annapolis, Maryland.
Retired DEA Special Agents Steve Murphy and Javier Pena were at the center of the largest, most complex, multi-national, high profile investigation of its time. Working with an elite Colombian Task Force, Murphy and Pena were responsible for the downfall and capture of the world’s first narco-terrorist, the infamous drug cartel leader, Pablo Escobar, following his brutal reign as head of the Medellin Cartel in the 1980s and early 1990s. Because of their efforts, Escobar offered a $300,000 bounty for the death of each of them. Now, these true American heroes take audiences beyond the history books as they reveal inside stories from a good-versus-evil battle that seems too wild to be true, along with lessons learned on teamwork, leadership, and overcoming what some might see as overwhelming challenges. Javier and Steve use humor and rarely seen visuals to entertain and enlighten audiences, and their presentation is followed by a Q&A opportunity.
Patricia Naughton began her career in law enforcement as a police officer in 1974, graduating as Indiana’ s first female class President, and worked undercover narcotics for both. her own agency and other jurisdictions throughout the state. In 1978 she’d became part of the 1% of female agents for the Drug Enforcement Administration. She began working clandestine labs and then by creating extensive roles in undercover work including outlaw motorcycle gangs and organized crime. She went on to become DEAs first female weapons instructor, training her own division as well as guest instructing FBI and DEA agents in Quantico, while serving as her own hazardous response team’s weapons trainer and serving on that team as well. She assisted in the creation of DEA’s National Trauma Team and served as one of its first members, responding to all critical incidents in the field. Second paragraph should read: In 1978 she joined DEA, becoming part of the 1% of female agents in the agency. She first worked in one of four specialized clandestine labs groups in the country and then went on to extensive undercover roles targeting a variety of groups including outlaw motorcycle gangs and organized crime in Detroit.
William "Bill" Bodner
William “Bill” Bodner, a 31-year veteran of the Drug Enforcement Administration, assumed the role of Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration, Los Angeles Field Division in June, 2019. As the Special Agent in Charge, Mr. Bodner is responsible for overseeing the daily operations of 14 offices located in Nevada, Hawaii, Guam, Saipan, and the seven Southern California counties which make up the greater Los Angeles area.
Mr. Bodner previously served as a Deputy Special Agent in Charge of the Los Angeles Field Division from June, 2017 to May, 2019 and an Assistant Special Agent in Charge of the Los Angeles Field Division from April, 2009 to May, 2017.
From 2006 to 2009, Mr. Bodner served as a Staff Coordinator at the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Special Operations Division, in Chantilly, Virginia. While assigned to the Special Operations Division, Mr. Bodner coordinated several high-level, multi- jurisdiction investigative operations and worked on high value target capture operations and classified projects. Between 1992 and 2006, Mr. Bodner worked the streets of Los Angeles as a DEA Special Agent and Group Supervisor.
Mr. Bodner has leveraged his extensive career in Los Angeles to develop and improve upon partnerships with state, local and other federal agencies. Mr. Bodner’ s vision is to conduct very impactful investigations on the most significant Drug Trafficking Organizations posing a threat to our region, keeping in mind the goal of improving the quality of life for those in our communities.
Mr. Bodner’s sees the mission of DEA as keeping communities safe and healthy, while reducing drug-related violent crime. Mr. Bodner reminds all, drug trafficking is not a victimless crime. The best way to avoid becoming a victim is to find something in life you are passionate about, don’t let drugs distract you from that passion and don’t ever let drugs become your passion.
James "Jim" Conklin
James “Jim” Conklin was born in Boston and grew up in Detroit Michigan. The second of five children, his father was an FBI agent and his mother a stay-at-home Mom. He attended St. Bonaventure University in upstate New York graduating in 1965 with a degree in philosophy. He completed Officers Candidate School with United States Marine Corps and served as an infantry platoon commander in Vietnam. He was awarded the Purple Heart for wounds received during operation Hastings.
Afterwards, Jim Conklin had a 26-year career in federal law enforcement as an agent and supervisor with the U.S Drug Enforcement Administration. Domestic assignments included New York, San Diego, and Washington DC and foreign assignments Bangkok Thailand and Rangoon Burma (Yangon Myanmar).
While assigned to the Bangkok County office from 1985 to 1991, Jim Conklin was a Program Coordinator supervising international drug investigations conducted by the Thai National police. His responsibilities included training and funding of the Thai police and coordinating large-scale investigations of heroin and marijuana trafficking organizations. He implemented programs that oversaw the collection of drug intelligence facilitating US-based drug seizures and the arrest of drug traffickers.
In 1991, he was reassigned to San Diego California, where he supervised the clandestine laboratory enforcement team, which conducted drug raids of illicit laboratories producing methamphetamine and other illegally produced drugs. In 1996 he was assigned to DEA headquarters as a staff coordinator with the Foreign Operations Division.
Afterwards Jim Conklin worked three years as an agent with the Nevada State Gaming Control Board. And since 1999, has been a President of Exfed Investigations, Inc., a private investigation, and security consulting corporation in Las Vegas, NV. Exfed Investigations specializes in domestic and corporate investigations both in the US and internationally.
Craig N. Chretien
Craig N. Chretien is a senior executive with extensive experience in both the US government and private sector. He spent over 25 years as a Special Agent with the DEA, reaching Senior Executive Service (SES-6) level positions. Throughout his career, he held key roles such as Chief of International Operations and Chief of Intelligence. Craig founded Chretien International Consulting, providing investigative consulting services to law firms and private clients.
His notable positions include Senior Manager for Investigations & Intelligence at Symantec Corporation, Vice President of Special Operations at PRO-Telligent, Deputy Director of the Counter Narcotics Task Force at the US Department of State, Vice President of International Operations at IPSA International, and Vice President of Patrol Operations at Protection One Alarm Monitoring.
Craig’s accomplishments range from managing global safety programs to providing strategic guidance on counter-narcotics strategies in Afghanistan. He has received numerous awards and commendations for his work. Craig holds a B.A. in Philosophy & Psychology and has pursued advanced studies at Harvard University.
He is fluent in Portuguese and Spanish, holds a Top Secret security clearance, and is affiliated with various professional organizations, including ASIS, AFNA, IACP, and OSAC.
Prior to his private sector experience, Doug Wankel served 26 years in the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), where he retired as Assistant Administrator and Chief of Operations (SES-6) in 1996. During his tenure with the DEA, Mr. Wankel served as the Deputy Assistant Director for Organized Crime and Drugs while assigned to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in the early 1990s. He also served as the senior counter-narcotics and security advisor to three successive U.S. Ambassadors to Afghanistan. Mr. Wankel has more than 14 years of OCONUS experience, including extensive in-country work in Afghanistan and the surrounding region.
While in the DEA, Mr. Wankel spent six years in senior management and diplomatic positions in Afghanistan and Pakistan. During a senior executive exchange program with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), he served as the FBI’s Deputy Assistant Director for Organized Crime and Drugs. In fall 2003, the DEA asked Mr. Wankel to return to active duty as the Chief of Intelligence. In summer 2004, he was selected by U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad as the Director of the Kabul Counter-Narcotics Task Force at the American Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, where he reported directly to the U.S. Ambassador and was responsible for the oversight, integration, and coordination of all U.S. government counter-narcotics programs in Afghanistan.
Mr. Wankel’s extensive leadership experience and lengthy in-country perspective on drugs and insurgency in Afghanistan have made him an in-demand expert for numerous media programs and publications, including CNN International, BBC, Voice of America, WTOP Radio, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The New Yorker. He has been a panel expert at a number of major government and private sector discussion groups focusing on narco-terrorism in Afghanistan.
Anthony Ricevuto started his law enforcement career with the Chicago Police Department and worked as a task force officer assigned to high crime suppression with a special operation group. In 1973, he became a special agent of the Drug Enforcement Administration, investigating international drug traffickers and money launderers. He was the senior inspector in charge of the DEA’s Office of Professional Responsibility and retired as the assistant special agent in charge of the Los Angeles DEA office. He traveled extensively throughout Latin America conducting sensitive investigations involving government personnel. Upon retirement, he worked for the Los Angeles METRO as a senior investigator with the Office of Inspector General investigating management and contractor fraud. He was a teacher at the University of Phoenix/Chaffey Community College and a lecturer for various colleges and organizations. Ricevuto is currently the Western Vice President for the Association of Federal Narcotic Agents and Vice President of the Las Vegas Italian American Club. He lives in Las Vegas.