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This week’s Chicagoan: Jennifer French, FBI special agent/wedding coordinator

"We come across a mob. Not mob like ‘organized crime’; mob like ‘a group of folks.’ Which you have to clarify when you talk about Cicero."



A first-person account from off the beaten track, as told to Anne Ford.

"I investigate white-collar crime—bank fraud, money laundering. I was on the wire team for the Blagojevich case. I always find it funny when people go, 'God, I've never met an FBI agent before.' That's, like, the only people I know.

"I don't look the part, which is kind of fun. My first bureau car was a minivan. I had a guy who wouldn't give me documents for a subpoena. He was like, 'I'm going to need some confirmation that you're an FBI agent.' Seriously? I have the badge, I have the gun, give me the docs.

"If we're arresting one guy, we take at least seven people. We go in really early, like 6 AM, so hopefully they're still in their boxers. Nobody has ever tried to run. We have people on the back door anyway.

"I was investigating this guy in Des Plaines. He was the former head of security for a bank, and he was taking kickbacks. We knew that he had guns in his house. I called him out and asked him to meet us on the driveway, rather than break down his door. He did, and I said, 'I understand you have some weapons. Can you tell me where they are?' He said, 'Oh yeah, I have three guns.' Seventeen guns later, we're like, 'How did you forget about these?'

"I've only drawn my weapon once. We were in Cicero at 2 AM. My partner was a big guy named Otto. We're doing surveillance, and completely unrelated to that, we come across a mob. Not mob like 'organized crime'; mob like 'a group of folks.' Which you have to clarify when you talk about Cicero.

"Anyway, this group of kids was beating up on another person. So Otto and I stopped. We had one guy we arrested. I'm making sure the rest of the folks leave the scene, and Otto has the guy spread-eagled, and he goes, 'Hey, you got any cuffs?" He had forgotten his. Now whenever I see him, I go, 'Hey, got any cuffs?'

"We have a strict gift policy. There's regulations on who can buy you lunch, how much lunch can be. When we travel overseas, they want to know, 'Did anybody give you anything?' Let's say you were walking down the street and somebody approached you and wanted to buy you a cup of coffee—you have to report that. Because anybody can be turned.

"I'm the wedding coordinator for my church. A lot of my job as an agent is talking to my witnesses, educating them and making them comfortable. It's the same thing with bridal folks. How can I help you? How can I make this easier on you? During the ceremony, I sit in the back and make sure that people don't walk in or decide that that present's for them. It's like a mini protection detail. I don't have my weapon, but I'm not above confronting somebody."

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