From Agent Trainee to Special Agent in Charge

Kenneth W. Cates

Kenneth W. Cates
Special Agent in Charge (Ret.), Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)


I began my career with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in 1975, hired under the Viet Nam Veterans Readjustment Act, but quickly transferred to the U.S. Treasury Department as a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms (ATF) Special Agent. I LOVED that job working in Dallas, Little Rock & Ft. Smith, AR, Sacramento, DC and finally in Los Angeles, CA in the gang suppression LA Metro Office. My partners and I put a LOT of violent firearms, arson and bombing violators in jail. I was also a member of the ATF National Response Team (forensics).

ATF Special Agent Basic TrainingATF Special Agent Basic Training

I transferred to the U.S. Customs Service, Office of Investigations in 1986 as a Senior Special Agent in San Antonio as a Counter Narcotics Investigator and Supervisory Special Agent. I then promoted rapidly to Asst. Special Agent in Charge (SAC), Deputy SAC, National Undercover Program Manager, Regional Special Agent in Charge, Internal Affairs and finally ended my career as the SAC Dallas, TX for the Department of Homeland Security, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)/Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) which was created from US Customs and the Immigration Service after the 9/11 Terrorist Attacks.

I saw much of the United States and the world in my career being posted in Dallas, Little Rock & Ft. Smith, AR, Sacramento, San Antonio, Seattle, San Diego, Los Angeles, San Juan, Puerto Rico and Washington, DC. I worked cases and saw history in Mexico, Central and South America, Europe, the Philippines, the former Soviet Union and Africa. I participated in the Waco,TX, Branch Davidian Response, the LA Riots, the Oklahoma City Federal Building Bombing and the NYC World Trade Center terrorist attack investigations. I worked in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina and San Juan, PR during Hurricane Georges.

Upon retirement, I was employed by the Dept. of Defense as an Armed Law Enforcement Professional/Sr. Ops Advisor to the U.S. Army’s Asymmetric Warfare Group employing my Special Agent/Criminal Investigator skills in Iraq and Afghanistan in the Global War on Terror. It was a GRAND way to make a living! I was blessed to be a federal Special Agent during a time when we could work as white collar investigators during the day, moving street surveillance agents in the evening and undercover agents buying guns and dope from gangsters and crooks at night. I made significant cases against border smugglers, gun traffickers, dope dealers, foreign government agents trying to illegally export technology, human traffickers, violent gang members and violent illegal aliens.

What a career I enjoyed…good and bad bosses, great partners, federal trials, search and arrest warrants, chasing fugitives, wire tap cases, prosecuting corruption, making and losing close friends on the job, late nights/early mornings, gallons of black coffee and a few cold beers now and then! All with the support of my family that backed me through 34 years of carrying a gun and a gold federal badge for a living!

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