The CopDoc Podcast: Aiming for Excellence in Leadership

The CopDoc Podcast Ep 59 - Interview with Larry Forletta, retired DEA

February 14, 2022 Larry Forletta Season 3 Episode 59
The CopDoc Podcast: Aiming for Excellence in Leadership
The CopDoc Podcast Ep 59 - Interview with Larry Forletta, retired DEA
Show Notes Transcript

Larry Forletta is a former local police officer, Maryland State Trooper, and Special Agent with the Drug Enforcement Administration. he is now the creator and host of the Forletta Investigates Podcast.  He is the owner of Forletta Investigative/Security Consultants in the Pittsburgh area.

We talked about his experience in local and state police before signing on to the DEA.  The interview focused on DEA investigations, policing, and private investigations.  

[00:00:02.870] - Intro

Welcome to The CopDoc Podcast. This podcast explores police leadership issues and innovative ideas. The CopDoc shares thoughts and ideas as he talks with leaders in policing communities, academia and other government agencies. And now please join Dr. Steve Morreale and industry thought leaders as they share their insights and experience on The CopDoc Podcast.


[00:00:32.070] - Steve Morreale

Hello again, everybody. This is Steve Morreale, and I'm coming to you from Boston, and I have the privilege the honor to talk to Larry Forletta. He is former special agent with the Drug Enforcement Administration. My former organization was a Maryland trooper and now runs Forletta Investigative Services. He also, and really important, has his own podcast. So there's podcasters united here. He's coming to us from the Pittsburgh area. He runs a podcast called Forletta Investigates. Good morning to you, Larry.


[00:01:00.280] - Larry Forletta

Steven, it's also an honor to be on your show. And I appreciate you reaching out to me. And I do it a lot with a lot of different fellow podcasters that are former law enforcement guys like us. I was happy that you invited me.


[00:01:11.570] - Steve Morreale

Yes. Same thing. And what happens is it's interesting, isn't it? I liken  it. It did this, Larry. At some point in time, you buy a new car and you think you're the only person in the world that has that car, and then you drive down the road and you say, Holy shit, they're everywhere. And it's the same thing when you start looking into podcasting. Not that there's a lot, but you begin to find kinship with so many people who are doing this to spread the word about policing and law enforcement.


[00:01:31.750] - Steve Morreale

Would you agree?


[00:01:32.440] - Larry Forletta

Absolutely. And it's a great media platform to get out the information. And mine. We'll talk a little bit about it, but mine was to educate people about DEA and what they really don't know about all the agents that make the sacrifices for this country. So that was part of my reason of opening my own podcast and trying to educate people about them.


[00:01:51.250] - Larry Forletta

And you tell such great stories and you reach out. It's interesting, isn't it? I'm jumping ahead because that's what happens. We know each other because of our mutual experience with the Drug Enforcement Administration. But what happens is I'm finding you reach out for somebody as I reached out for you, and virtually no one has said no. I can think of one person who said, no, I'm not interested. And that was an academic, so I can go. I don't care.


[00:02:11.510] - Larry Forletta

Well, that's understandable.


[00:02:12.840] - Steve Morreale

Yes, I got you. But are you finding the same thing on your podcast?


[00:02:16.210] - Larry Forletta

Well, I've kind of narrowed my guest specifically to law enforcement, so I would say 90% of them are retired DEA guys. And then 10% are like guys were either on the task force or state local law enforcement officers.


[00:02:32.250] - Steve Morreale

Let's talk about your past. And why don't you help the listeners understand where you're from, where you went, where you are now?


[00:02:39.350] - Larry Forletta

Yes, Steve. I guess a long time ago, I began my career in law enforcement. Actually, I started with a small local police Department here in Pennsylvania and then 1978. I started with the Maryland State Police. I was in the police Academy for six months, worked an area, handled every crime known to man, been involved in many different types of investigations. I really got to bug when I got approached and asked me if I would work undercover, work in narcotics. And I said, yeah, I have to think about it for a minute.


[00:03:05.500] - Larry Forletta

But without a doubt, one of the best career moves in my life and taking that uniform off and seeing the way the world operates and the criminal element operates. Really? So I learned a lot working narcotics and working undercover.


[00:03:18.960] - Steve Morreale

And so that was why you were with the Maryland State Police. Is that where you got the bug?


[00:03:22.310] - Larry Forletta

Absolutely. That's where I got the bug. And then some friends of mine were telling me, hey, why don't you look at this federal law enforcement agency? Sometimes even back then, some people didn't even know who DEA was. And that's because of the low key nature, the way they did things. But it took me about 18 months to get on the job, and I loved every minute of it. I couldn't wait to go to work. I started with DEA in 1985, and then I retired in 2006. And as you know, you meet so many great people, you learn so many things.


[00:03:52.540] - Larry Forletta

And to me, it was just one of those career moves that I've never looked back on.


[00:03:56.880] - Steve Morreale

I'd have to say the same thing. It's interesting, too, Larry. That what many people do not know. I mean, I think part of the reason that DEA was sort of underestimated and underserved in many ways is because at first, when we first started or within five or ten years, there was only 23 or 2400 agents. And very quickly, probably in our years, they were trying to ramp up to 7000 agents and comparing that with the FBI that had 13,000 with 2300 agents. It was a very small BNDD before, but a very small agency.


[00:04:25.200] - Steve Morreale

But I'd love to kind of Hone in on your experience as a local police officer. How that prepared you for the state police for state police job, and then how both of those prepared you better for a federal agency?


[00:04:38.310] - Larry Forletta

Well, working on a local level. And I was only there for several months before I entered the Maryland State Police Academy. It still gave me some perspective what local police officers have to deal with every day dealing with domestic calls and things of that nature. We did that, too, in the state police. But on a local level, it just seemed that you've got just about everything handed to you that you could try to handle in certain circumstances. And I think that was a good start for me and started developing and then I go into a state organization, a very professional organization, moral state police.


[00:05:08.700] - Larry Forletta

And I developed more as time went on with them. And so if you start looking back at the steps, local state, and then we'll talk about federal. The state police organization was more of a paramilitary organization. It was like me being in the military, even though I was never in, because the way they trained you was like the military. I mean, you're up early in the morning, you're running, going to Calisthenics to PT, you're making your beds, your room, everything has to meet certain criteria. You got to have a dollar bill for the bed in the quarter, and it goes on.


[00:05:39.460] - Larry Forletta

And then you have to clean your room. And it really structured me. I would say, with discipline. I think that's one of the key factors that you were taught was discipline, because at the end of the day, once you were released from your training officer, you're on your own. And I think I was better prepared being trained by them to be on my own, being able to handle situations without a backup than five minutes, our backup half hour, 40 minutes sometimes. So you develop a sense of how to handle situations.


[00:06:10.360] - Larry Forletta

And once I learned that, I think then it became easier for me as I applied this into my career, part of a tactical unit that handled rides and disturbances. And on. This was all prior to SWAT teams. So we were like a central troupe. I trained specifically to handle rides and disturbances, et cetera. So all this training all gave me that ability to handle things, really by myself.


[00:06:34.850] - Steve Morreale

So you probably were back then, one of the few that had a college education, because that's the only way you could make it to DEA. Where did you go? And how did that help?


[00:06:43.980] - Larry Forletta

Well, it helped a great deal. I went to Youngstown State University in Youngstown, Ohio. It's about a 15 minutes drive for where I live. I actually live closer to Ohio than I do to Pittsburgh. So I went to YSU. They had an excellent criminal justice program. I got my bachelor's degree in law enforcement administration. And the one thing interesting about YSU's criminal justice program. We had a lot of police recruiters back then that were looking for college educated police officers. That was the deal. Back then. There was a lot of incentive for law enforcement agencies to get, quote, unquote, better educated police officers who went to College got exposed to a variety of different people.


[00:07:23.500] - Larry Forletta

And I think it worked well. For example, we had the Baltimore Police Department come, and a lot of different agencies come. So that, to me, was really a great opportunity to expand where I really wanted to go.


[00:07:36.100] - Speaker 2

So you already went through as a local police officer and Academy. And then you have to go to another Academy that is probably more stringent, more strict, more discipline oriented with the Maryland state police. And you were there for six months.


[00:07:48.940] - Larry Forletta

Yeah. But let me just back up on the local and we didn't have a training Academy set up to go.


[00:07:55.070] - Steve Morreale



[00:07:55.330] - Larry Forletta

So I was already on the street working. We were trained by some of the local guys in the area before they would start. Then you go to training. So that was a whole different challenge because I went from the way it was and then getting back into the state police organization, the training was totally different. It was the OJP on the job training. And that's the way they did it back then. I go into a structured program. And that's where I really learned a lot of things about law enforcement.


[00:08:24.150] - Steve Morreale

That's interesting, because right about the same time in 78, you said you got on in Pennsylvania locally. I ended up coming out of the Army going back to school, but finding a job in New Hampshire, in Dover, New Hampshire. Exactly the same thing happened right? In that period of time, they couldn't get me into an Academy. So we're going to put you in a field training officer. You had already been an MP. No big deal. But within six weeks, you're on your own with no formal training, which was absolutely crazy.


[00:08:47.270] - Steve Morreale

Right. So I got hired in November. I know I got hired in November, didn't go to school until July to the Academy, and that was only a ten week or twelve week Academy. It strikes me when I've said this over and over again on the podcast. What I feel is missing. We cannot be in law enforcement for as many years as we are and not pay attention to what's going on around us. With all of the problems that have happened, the issue of defunding and reform and all of those kinds of things, it really is crazy.


[00:09:12.830] - Steve Morreale

I think there's no standard for training. Some places can be eight to ten weeks, twelve weeks, others will be six months. And don't you want how the hell can that police officer be as well trained as I was with Maryland after six months, it doesn't make sense. And it seems to me there should be a standard that at least says here's what you need. At a minimum, you need 20 weeks.


[00:09:31.580] - Larry Forletta

Right. Well, I think a lot of the things have changed since the 60s, 70s and 80s, even in law enforcement. I think we as a career have really adjusted to society. I think when you look back, I had some family members that were police officer. My one cousin was a cop in Chicago. His mentality was a lot different than ours, and they did things differently. Law enforcement in general really has adjusted the society. We went from minority recruiting. We have minorities in charge of large city police departments.


[00:10:00.750] - Larry Forletta

So I think there's been a big adjustment. We need standardization. There's no question about that. But even the screening should probably we'd look to improve it because some of them do fall through the cracks. They're the ones that cause us the changes with policies and procedures. And they do some really stupid things, even when all of us look at what happened in Minnesota, which was a tragedy. And I think 99.9% of people in law enforcement were against what happened to that individual in Minnesota. But I think when you look at the whole thing, that's one bad Apple versus over a half a million cops throughout the country.


[00:10:35.660] - Larry Forletta

And so the other thing that people don't understand is that police today are under more scrutiny than they ever have been. I think a lot of that now with the cameras on their bodies. And I think what has happened is some of the credibility we've lost that. So then I had to put cameras on the officers. But for me, and as I tell some of these younger guys, if it was me, and today's time, I'd want to body camera on, because at the end of the day, the video is not going to lie.


[00:11:00.990] - Larry Forletta

It's going to show exactly what happened. And so there's no question, even though there are people who try to put their own spin on some of these videos that we see. So I think overall law enforcement has adjusted. I don't think society has adjusted because I think what we're seeing now is the bad behavior that's going on. And when you look at crime right now, it's out of control. We're back into the 70s and 60s when crime was out of control. So it's like that revolving door.


[00:11:27.650] - Larry Forletta

I think we have to get people to step up and take a big look at this ideology of defunding the police because we know it doesn't work.


[00:11:35.340] - Steve Morreale

It's almost like history repeats itself. We don't learn from the past. We're talking to Larry Forletta, and I'm talking to him in the Pennsylvania area, Pittsburgh area. He is the host of Forletta Investigators. Let's talk a little bit about that because it plays right into your private investigative career. Now talk about what caused you to do that and how the two interrelate.


[00:11:54.700] - Larry Forletta

Well, after I retired from DEA, one of us look at other opportunities out there, and I decided that I wanted to go in my own business. I turned down some jobs. I didn't want to go back into law enforcement. I had enough is enough. So I figured it out. A lot of guys when they get ready to retire, they're nervous about finding a job and what they're going to do and how they're going to support their family. Let's face it, we still have to have supplemental income to our retirement.


[00:12:20.580] - Larry Forletta

It's just the way it is. It's not that we make all this money, then we retire. So I was looking for that option. I took a chance. But here's my philosophy about that. I took a chance every day when I went on the street, worked undercover, bought drugs, broke into somebody's door at 06:00 a.m.. In the morning, almost being shot. So I know what taking a chance is all about. And for me, taking a chance and going into my own business was a no brainer because I knew what my career had.


[00:12:44.800] - Larry Forletta

And I learned to become a good investigator. I've worked with some of the best in the world. So I did learn that I had the investigation skill set. So the only thing that I was lacking was a business skill set. And so again, I learned as the process went and how to become a business person, a retired DEA agent. So there's a big distinction there, because now you're here about running a business and you're going to do things a lot differently.


[00:13:09.360] - Steve Morreale

You've got a PI, in essence, the PI business that has grown. You're doing investigations. I presume that you're working for corporations, you're working for lawyers for both sides. I presume. And that has kept you going. So let's talk about the investigative skills that you use virtually every day.


[00:13:25.130] - Larry Forletta

Well, I guess one of the things that I learned working not only with the Maryland State Police but with DEA, was a skill set of developing and learning how to interview people. And I'm not on any ego trip. I think I'm one of the best interviewers because I learned from the best of people that conducted interviews. And then you learn how to testify in court and you become an expert. So that's how I developed and brought those skills into the private investigation business, because one of the things that you learn, sometimes investigators, especially if there's a crime that has been committed.


[00:13:57.000] - Larry Forletta

Sometimes, somebody may have missed something and you may know what they missed. And sometimes it's the obvious to you, but maybe not the obvious to them. And then you look at their skill set as investigators. And then you begin to question their ability. And it's not just to criticize, but to really enhance an investigation. And that's what I do on some of my cases. And I've had a variety of cases, from homicide, sexual assaults into families. The victims of overdose lost a child to an overdose death, which should have been charged as a homicide.


[00:14:29.190] - Larry Forletta

The case was dropped, I got it reopened, and we ended up getting an aggravated assault leap.


[00:14:34.930] - Larry Forletta

So those are the things that you look at.


[00:14:36.840] - Steve Morreale

So very often it sounds like you are being called upon knowing your skill set and your previous experience by families or friends to say, I'm not sure this was handled right. I'm not sure this was coded right. I'm not sure that they didn't miss something. And so you're walking in to a police investigation and reopening it. That must cause at times, because first thing you need is let me look at the data. Let me look at the evidence.


[00:14:59.760] - Steve Morreale

Let me look at the reports. And I'm sure you're starting to irritate people, and people get nervous. Like, what are you doing coming behind us? And I saw you smirk and smile so clearly that's upsetting to police agencies. And so that in itself seems to me to be an uphill battle.


[00:15:14.040] - Larry Forletta

Well, it is. But so what I do is when I work with families, I gather all the facts and information that's available. Then we look at if there's some potential witnesses that might have been missed and not talked to, I'll go interview them. And then when I feel it's right, contact the law enforcement agents to handle the case. Then I'll reach out to them. And fortunately, I'm in an area where I'm pretty well known and had to think I have a good reputation with most of the law enforcement agencies.


[00:15:38.930] - Larry Forletta

So I think we have a mutual respect for each other. And one of the difficulties in cases like that is that the family is really criticizing the authorities. And so I try to be that advocate for the family, but trying to keep this what is the goal here is the goal to continue to criticize the police, or are we here to solve a problem and hopefully it'll be solved.


[00:15:59.680] - Steve Morreale

So does it help that you were prior law enforcement?


[00:16:02.870] - Larry Forletta

Absolutely. It does. The thing, too, is it's on how you approach things, but let's face it, we all have egos, and some of these people have bigger egos than one can imagine. And so you have to deal with those egos as well as trying to resolve an issue. So I look at it this way. If I don't get the response from the investigator, then I'm going over their head. And sometimes I can pick up the phone and call people. Hey, do you know who the captain is or who the chief is going to give me an introduction so I can talk to them?


[00:16:32.290] - Larry Forletta

And it's not to criticize the Detective, but it's basically to get a general understanding. Hey, we're here basically to help the police, in a sense, to enhance their case. I had the case that I was talking about where family lost the sun. He was hitting the head with a blunt object. I'm not going to get into all the details, but at the end of the day, the guy had blood splatter on the ceiling of the bedroom. It was just unbelievable. They closed the investigation. I had to do some digging into that.


[00:16:57.480] - Larry Forletta

And so I got the case reopened. But it was through my contacts that I actually got them to reopen the case because I had to go to certain people and say, hey, look, I need you to see if you can introduce me to this person. I met with the chief and the Detective, and eventually the prosecutor in that particular case, they were helpful to a certain extent, but it was going nowhere. So I had to go over their heads.


[00:17:18.870] - Steve Morreale

Basically, were you trying to approach it to say, listen, this could be very embarrassing for you. I'm trying to avoid that.


[00:17:23.880] - Larry Forletta

Exactly. So I threw some other suggestions and saying, Well, look, maybe the coroner ruled this way. It didn't rule it as a homicide, but ruled it as maybe the guy died of pneumonia. But my question was, how did he get to the hospital? He got hit in the head. It might have been those other circumstances, but I had them try to look outside of this and say, Well, what about aggravated salt? This is a Crystal clear case for AG assault. And you just closed the case and some others didn't do their job, in my sense.


[00:17:51.800] - Larry Forletta

And eventually we got the right investigator. Another prosecutor reopened the case, gave them more witnesses to talk to, and eventually it all worked out. They indicted her and she pleaded guilty and got six months. And to me, that was a win for the family. At least they know that she didn't get away. What she should have been charged.


[00:18:10.690] - Steve Morreale

Well, and you got a clearance for the police Department and saved some aggravation. Let's talk a little bit about that. So here you are. And by the way, we're talking to Larry Forletta in Pennsylvania right now. He owns, to be specific, what's the name of your company?


[00:18:22.540] - Larry Forletta

It's called Forletta Investigative/Security Consultants.


[00:18:25.330] - Steve Morreale

And you are in the Pittsburgh area?


[00:18:27.480] - Larry Forletta

Yes, we're in the Pittsburgh area. And so we work a variety of cases with law firms, some corporate stuff. We do individual family stuff. We do a variety of things and even do background investigations for businesses that need it. The way I developed the business, it was more structured after law enforcement because I brought in experts from all over. I have an individual that does DNA. As a DNA expert, I have a handwriting expert. We even do technical surveillance countermeasures. I have actually a retired DEA guy that I work with.


[00:18:56.470] - Larry Forletta

We look for hidden cameras, different recordings, and that's more towards the corporate level and some private businesses and residents. We've done. So I designed it that way so that if you need something like a lawyer, for example, calls me, I can get them that resource because we have a well established resources that we set up for the business.


[00:19:16.780] - Steve Morreale

That's great. When you were saying that. I'm thinking you remember the black bag squad coming in and having to break in and make the key beforehand? There's things that you and I immediately know what that means. Let's break into the car, we'll steal the car, we'll put another car in its place, we'll put the bug in. We didn't do that. But we had the backpack squad, what we used to call crazy stuff, isn't it?


[00:19:34.270] - Larry Forletta

Yeah, it is.


[00:19:34.920] - Steve Morreale

It really is. Thank you. So let's talk about your podcast. What the hell got you involved? I get that question all the time. What the hell are you doing? Because this is not an easy thing, right?


[00:19:42.430] - Larry Forletta



[00:19:42.430] - Steve Morreale

This is a love. It's a chore. It's a hobby, and it takes an awful lot of time. By the same token, it is extremely fulfilling. So talk about your experience with the podcast and what you're doing with it.


[00:19:52.220] - Larry Forletta

Well, the reason why I started the podcast, as I mentioned to you, one of the principal reasons was to educate people about law enforcement and educate them specifically about DEA. And also, I thought it was a good marketing opportunity for me, for my business. So with those combined, to me, it was a no brainer. I found the right producer who handled everything for me because some of us guys are technologically challenged as we were in the beginning of this.


[00:20:18.700] - Larry Forletta

But we got through it.


[00:20:19.680] - Steve Morreale

We muddled through it together, didn't we? Yes.


[00:20:22.040] - Larry Forletta

So I rely on those experts to handle that. And I started reaching out to some old friends of mine, some of my old bosses and say, hey, what about this guy? What about that guy? In fact, the first one I had was Steve Murphy and Javier. Yeah, Narcos, they did Narcos. And I think of, man, what a great way to start my podcast, having these two guys talk about Pablo Escobar. And so as I began to look at the different agents that were doing all these major investigations, I'm thinking, Man, I want people to really hear sacrifices and the danger involved in these cases.


[00:20:54.830] - Larry Forletta

And no matter if you work in a national or domestic, our job is dangerous, period. There's no other job. I mean, law enforcement is dangerous in a great sense. And then when you start doing some of these major traffickers, that danger really starts to increase. And sometimes you don't even know what you're up against. Just like what happened to Camarena and Mexico and some of the other agents who have given their lives for this country. So I felt that this was a good way to educate people.


[00:21:19.040] - Larry Forletta

And one of my guests, I don't know if you heard of Joe Persante. Joe was wounded in Afghanistan. He went blind, he was on a fast team. And so I had him as a guest. And he did a great job. In fact, he participated in a bodybuilding contest. The guy's blind, and he actually took first place, his division. It was awesome.


[00:21:37.820] - Steve Morreale



[00:21:38.260] - Larry Forletta

It was awesome. Just listen to this guy's talk. And when you think that you have issues and problems in your life and you're depressed, listen to him because he's an upbeat person and relatively young guy at 51 and blind, and he's living his life to the fullest.


[00:21:54.290] - Steve Morreale

That's terrific. And you do when you see people who have been injured, loss of limbs in this case, loss of sight or even friends that you have are fighting cancer and their attitudes are so positive. And you think to yourself, what the hell is wrong with me? What do I have to worry about or complain about.


[00:22:09.940] - Larry Forletta



[00:22:10.620] - Steve Morreale

So where were you stationed during your term with DEA?


[00:22:14.090] - Larry Forletta

My first office was in Washington, DC. I was there for about three years, and I ended up transferring up to Baltimore. And then from Baltimore. I went to Pittsburgh, wanted to get my family back home. And so we did. We had the kids were still young enough to be around their family. Our job is very challenging and trying to keep your family intact and try to do the job we all do. We have a good support system. My wife was there from the beginning. Without her, we wouldn't have been successful in doing what we do.


[00:22:41.340] - Steve Morreale

That's interesting that you say that, Larry, because I think so many married agents, whether it be FBI, ATF, DEA, ICE, whatever it is you just said that the support system, the independence that we have to give. I want to ask a question. I'll tell you my quick story is, I'll never forget, I was in Hudson County, New Jersey. It's a Friday afternoon. It's Memorial Day weekend. And we're on a four to twelve, and we're doing surveillance off of a wire. And the boss calls me and says, Steve, get to the airport.


[00:23:06.490] - Steve Morreale

The principal is gone. They went to Florida. Okay. What do I do with my car? Just leave it out front. Leave the keys underneath. If you see a Port Authority cop, just tell them that we're coming to pick it up and get on the next plane. So I end up on the next plane. And you've got stories like this. And the next thing you know, I've got company coming. It's Memorial Day, right? I got company coming. And I'm in Miami within the next 3 hours. And I call my wife and say, I'm in Miami.


[00:23:25.800] - Steve Morreale

What? I've got nothing. I have no underwear. And the next thing for ten days, we're chasing Benjamin. I know the last name. I won't give it. But all over the Caribbean for ten days, it was a crazy time. And so I'd ask one of your silly stories about one of those things, like, how the hell did I get here?


[00:23:44.740] - Larry Forletta

Well, I mean, there's so many I know. I try to think back of some of the stuff that you did. And I was in Guatemala for about ten days on a hunting a fugitive. And so what I didn't know was that where we were going was a very dangerous area of Guatemala. We were in Guatemala City. And then we went to an area called Rio Duce, Sweet River.


[00:24:06.240] - Steve Morreale

And we were working with there's your Spanish coming out, huh buddy.


[00:24:09.290] - Larry Forletta

Oh, yeah.


[00:24:10.410] - Steve Morreale

Rio Duce.


[00:24:11.710] - Larry Forletta

I picked up a couple.


[00:24:13.180] - Steve Morreale

Go ahead.


[00:24:13.680] - Steve Morreale

So La Guardia Di Hacienda was the National Treasury police. They were our counterparts there, and they still had wheel guns. As I called them, the revolvers?


[00:24:23.140] - Steve Morreale



[00:24:23.600] - Larry Forletta

And they got really ported by us. And that's how they got the better weapons. And the training, et cetera. So I met this major. He's a great guy. Funny. So we had to get up early in the morning. I had to go to the Guatemalan Supreme Court. I had a dress, clothes on, blah, blah, blah. And then we had to get beat feet because we had asked them not to publicly release the information. And we had a fugitive on the run. And we were worried about this guy picking it up through the news media outlets.


[00:24:49.660] - Larry Forletta

So one of our aircraft come in, we go and land in a private airstrip, and the majors telling us that my people are on the other side. They'll meet us from point A to point B because it was all water. It was a big River, Rio Duse. So there was a family there that kind of watched aircraft. And the guy come out and he said, yeah, I can get you guys. So we had, like, eight guys with us. So we had to go two at a time in a canoe with a motor.


[00:25:14.070] - Steve Morreale

The things we do.


[00:25:15.990] - Larry Forletta

We get on the canoe with the motor, and I'm drenched from head to toe because of the ways. Okay. I'm just drenched. I didn't bring a change of clothes. Nothing. Okay. It was like your story. We get across. And they were afraid of the military down there because military is still running the country. So he takes us to his police station to meet his other people. So when you look at the police station, you see this outer show, you go through the door. There's nothing behind it.


[00:25:43.340] - Larry Forletta

It almost looked like a Three Stooges movie. The guys were sleeping on bunk beds with nets. So what happens was me and one of the agents go over to a village. We buy these clothes, which were a T shirt and shorts. My shoes were. So I got these flip flops on. I could tell you.


[00:25:59.930] - Larry Forletta

I looked like . . .


[00:26:01.790] - Steve Morreale

That's a great outfit. Oh, boy.


[00:26:05.440] - Larry Forletta

So as the time went on, the bad guy finally showed up on his dinghy. He had his boat docked. There's a lot more to the store. But anyways, here I am, leading a group of this national treasure place to arrest the knucklehead. And he's in a TKF. They arrested him, blah, blah, blah.


[00:26:20.170] - Speaker 2

But you've got to get him across the river again.


[00:26:22.120] - Larry Forletta

Yeah. And it was on his boat.


[00:26:25.350] - Steve Morreale

That's, like seizing somebody's car and then arresting him with it again.


[00:26:29.850] - Larry Forletta

We took his boat and the break of dawn, the police took him in custody, and we still had our little outfits on me and the other agent. We laughed at about it. I still have a video of it. It's just incredible. And then we were able to get in touch with our pilots. They came and picked us up. The next morning, I went to bed and crashed and didn't wake up till the next day because we were up 24 hours trying to capture this guy.


[00:26:52.490] - Steve Morreale

I mean, and there's the story you never give up, which I think is so amazing. And you really are independent. There's a two or three of us that are in a foreign country or wherever. And that exactly happened with me. We finally got our guy like, you got your guy. I'll never forget. I called the one person. I won't even say what country it's in. But I called the one person who was the Country Attaché for DEA. And I say, this is who we're looking for. They finally found the guy.


[00:27:14.170] - Steve Morreale

You know how this is like we were 4 hours behind this guy. Every time we were behind me, he was throwing crumbs behind him. And ultimately, we found him in this country. And the Country Attaché calls the general of the National Police and says, We're looking for this person. They go find him. He's in the wrong hotel because he gets into the country late. You understand what I'm saying? So he has to declare he's going to stay. He's supposed to be at a Sheridan, but he's in Hilton, and they basically PNG him persona non-grata.


[00:27:39.850] - Steve Morreale

They put him on a plane, the general comes with them, and I'm on the plane. And then we get to Miami, and I step in front and say, Benjamin boo, boo boo. I'm a Special Agent Morreale, welcome back to America, you're under arrest, those silly stories that you and I know hundreds of them, right?


[00:27:54.720] - Larry Forletta

Right. Yeah. Well, the unfortunate part in our case, the person that we captured down in Guatemala, he wouldn't give the State Department his real name. And eventually he got a bacteria infection in jail waiting to be extradited. And he ended up dying in Guatemala. So the agents had called me as soon as I got back in Pittsburgh. And I said, oh, you better go to the autopsy. Let's make sure that this is the guy because he got information. He was trying to bribe the jail guards about getting out.


[00:28:20.800] - Larry Forletta

The person did die in prison down there.


[00:28:22.980] - Steve Morreale

What do we call that? Larry? Exceptionally cleared!


[00:28:25.320] - Larry Forletta

Yeah, exceptionally cleared.


[00:28:27.230] - Steve Morreale

We couldn't try them, but he died anyway. That's great. We've been talking to Larry for a letter, and we're running out of time, as you know, because there's attention spans with these podcasts. I'd like you to close by, sort of reflecting on your career and the pride that you have in what you did, what they asked you to do and how your local and state police experience made you a better agent.


[00:28:50.240] - Larry Forletta

Well, that's really a great way to end the show. The one thing that I learned is sort of work up the ladder in law enforcement. Let's call it. I began to learn how to deal with people to a very great extent. Even before that, we're taught from our families about respecting people and how to treat people. I went to a Catholic school, even an altar boy. So I knew how to treat people because that's the biggest thing in life, no matter what neighborhood you work or who you are involved with.


[00:29:14.450] - Larry Forletta

If you showed people respect 99 times out of ten, you're going to get the respect back, because now you've earned their respect. And that makes you successful, especially in a local and state level, in dealing with people, because if you want information about somebody who may have committed a burglary or somebody who may have done a robbery or shooting or whatever, they begin to trust you to that extent. And I think sometimes what has happened is our law enforcement in today's world has kind of stepped away from that.


[00:29:39.610] - Larry Forletta

There used to be old, beat cops walk around talking to people, going to businesses, things of that nature and developing a relationship with them. I think we've missed some of that. And I think some places still do that. But I think overall, as law enforcement people, we need to be out there on the streets more now than ever to keep the perspective of what law and order is all about. And it's really helping people who really need the help and help protect them. Because we talked about the funding of the police, the communities that suffered the most and still do to this day are the poor communities that can't have their own police force, don't have their own private security.


[00:30:17.310] - Larry Forletta

You hear these politicians, they talk about the police, and then you come to find out they got Executive Protection. The mayor's got their Executive Protection. But what about the people out there that have to get up and go to work or worry about their children being shot on the streets? So when I begin to look at that and then talking about DEA and what our core mission was, we're there to save people as well because of what's going on and all the poison that's coming into our country.


[00:30:40.970] - Larry Forletta

Fentanyl is out of control. We had it back in our day.


[00:30:43.730] - Steve Morreale

But it's not like today.


[00:30:46.110] - Larry Forletta

They're putting fentanyl and counterfeit pills, one pill kills. And people don't understand that. We've lost over 90-some thousand people last year due to overdose stuff. And it's coming from Mexico and China, right? We have to understand those realities. So I think through the process of being in law enforcement, it has helped educate me to what reality is all about and what real life issues are all about. And people have real life issues just like we do in law enforcement. I think that ending my career was a great way to end it.


[00:31:16.640] - Larry Forletta

I loved my job. I said I get up every morning looking forward to it because I knew my job was to put the bad guy, take them off the streets and put them in federal prison where he truly belong. You look back now. I heard a DC police chief on the other day talking about these marijuana guys they're violent. But we knew they were violent a long time ago. This isn't something new on the agenda because they're shooting and killing each other. There's all these different political extremes.


[00:31:41.560] - Larry Forletta

I think at the end of the day, I enjoyed my career. It made me a better person for it. And I think the relationships that we developed is more like a Brotherhood and a sisterhood and law enforcement. I can't thank the people enough who gave me the opportunity to have a great career in my life.


[00:31:57.400] - Steve Morreale

Well, I think in closing, one of the things that I was always quite proud of, and I think the same with you is the ability and the necessity of DEA, especially DEA, working with state and local, and not being arrogant and looking down on those partners. But coming into towns and cities, as you and I had done to say, hey, we're here. We've got resources. Tell us your problem child. Tell us what you've done so far. Let's work on ridding your community that way. We could never have done it individually as an agency.


[00:32:26.280] - Steve Morreale

Would you agree?


[00:32:26.960] - Larry Forletta

Absolutely. And I think that's what separates DEA from most of the federal law enforcement agencies. And I think you look back when DEA started, they formed the first task force in the United States in New York. And now it's a model because you hear all these different law enforcement agencies, you get a fugitive task force.


[00:32:46.430] - Steve Morreale

Gun task force, Homeland Security Task Force, JTTF goes on.


[00:32:52.450] - Larry Forletta

But really, DEA was the pioneers. And I think a lot of the people that came on a job, some of them were a lot of former law enforcement people who really shaped the agency.


[00:33:02.500] - Steve Morreale

That's a great point right there that I'm saying we for the collectively our time with DEA are one of the important elements in almost every class where there were a number of people who used to be local or state officers. And now they're federal agents, which is terrific, Larry.


[00:33:18.540] - Larry Forletta

Yes. Absolutely.


[00:33:19.510] - Steve Morreale

Last thing, you've got two plugs about your podcast and about your private investigations company. How do we get in touch with you?


[00:33:25.850] - Larry Forletta

Okay. Well, on my business side, the Forletta Investigative/Security Consultants, I have a website. It's My podcast is for Lead Investigates, and of course, we're on all those platforms, Apple Spotify, Google, et cetera, and on my own website. I have the podcast. So we're in, I guess our first-year. Series, two, begins in October to start fresh and bringing on more guests. So I'm always looking for the good guest, obviously. And we're going to be out researching again back in October.


[00:33:59.620] - Steve Morreale

Great. Well, thank you. We've had the pleasure of the honor of talking to a colleague in arms, Larry Forletta, who now is the owner of Forletta Investigative Services and the host of Forletta Investigates. Thanks so much for listening. You've been listening to The CopDoc Podcast I'm Steve Morreale from Boston. Been talking to Larry Forletta in Pittsburgh. Stand by for more episodes. And by the way, I want to tell you that we very much appreciate those of you who are doing the work, putting their time, their effort, especially in the noise of where law enforcement is.


[00:34:27.160] - Steve Morreale

They're coming out every day, putting their lives on the line, protecting people they don't even know. Thank you. We owe you a debt of gratitude. Stay tuned for other episodes and thanks for listening.


[00:34:37.890] - Outro

Thanks for listening to The CopDoc Podcast with Dr. Steve Morreale. Steve is a retired law enforcement practitioner and manager turned academic and scholar from Worcester State University. Please tune into The CopDoc Podcast for regular episodes of interviews with thought leaders in policing.