"What the Pros Know"

What the Pros Know

When Patti Galupo ’77 joined the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) at age 23 in 1978, she was one of the first women to work in federal law enforcement as a special agent.

“I entered into an arena that only few women had walked before me,” Galupo says. “At the time, there weren’t more than 16 (out of 1,200 field agents) of us in the entire agency. I went in with the attitude that I was going to roll up my sleeves and get to work.”

Patti worked as a special agent for 25 years, beginning her career in Cleveland, and eventually being promoted to special agent in charge of the Miami Field Division, where she supervised more than 250 special agents, inspectors and support staff. She was the second woman in ATF to be named to that position.

Galupo retired in 2004 after 25 years of service and went into the private sector, working as the senior vice president of investigations for the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America). Her second career led her to become an expert in the prevention of music piracy.

Here, Galupo talks about blazing her own path, working on her highest profile cases, and finally, why you should always buy your music.

An Unexpected Career

I majored in psychology at Ursinus because I wanted to be a social worker and “save the world.” But soon after I graduated, a former student of my dad’s, a seasoned ATF special agent out of the local Camden, N.J., field office, approached me. He told me they were looking for qualified women to work in federal law enforcement and he thought I would be a good fit.

The more I thought about it, the idea of public service appealed to me. After going through extensive exams, interviews, and a background investigation, I reported for duty at the Cleveland District Office in November 1978.

Duty Calls

The majority of the investigations initiated by ATF involve the enforcement of the federal firearms and explosives laws. We targeted the worst of the worst—violent offenders who utilized firearms in furtherance of their criminal activities, like street-gang members, illegal firearms trafficking organizations and drug cartels who carried firearms to protect their illicit trade. We also investigated arson-for-profit schemes and conducted bombing investigations.

A Giant Leap of Faith

One of the ATF instructors in basic training left me with a lesson that I still carry with me to this day: “Know what you don’t know.” Unlike some of my classmates, I had no prior experience in law enforcement. I grew up on the Jersey shore and had worked summers since the age of 15, mostly in the food-service industry. It was time to grow up and take a real risk. The intense training, the willingness to learn and to depend on one another in life-and-death situations, creates a camaraderie and a bond that can’t be broken. We have a special brotherhood and sisterhood that I will cherish forever.

The Gut-Wrenching Cases

The most memorable cases are the ones where there is loss of life. ATF was asked to join an investigation with multiple law enforcement agencies against Jeffrey Lundgren—a mass murderer and fanatical cult leader in Ohio, who, among other illicit activity, was stockpiling firearms. I was there when we dug up the bodies of the victims: a family of five, including three young daughters. That is something you never forget. We worked around the clock on that case and I eventually testified at his trial in 1990. He was convicted of the murders and received the death penalty.

Patty Galupo works for the RIAA in Washington, DC.Patty Galupo works for the RIAA in Washington, DC.Time for a Change

I retired from ATF in 2004 after 25 years of service. A former director of ATF, Brad Buckles, had taken the job as EVP of the Anti-Piracy Division for the RIAA, a trade association representing the music industry. He asked me to join him as his deputy, eventually becoming the senior vice president of investigations. I supervised a small cadre of field investigators around the country—mostly retired law enforcement personnel themselves—in the fight against physical piracy.

The (Illegal) Sound of Music

When I first started working for the RIAA, I got a crash course on music piracy and what I learned was eye-opening. Piracy is not a victimless crime. All of those bootleg CDs and illegal file-sharing sites create a trickle-down effect that greatly damages all elements of the music industry. Young artists can’t make a living. Music distributors and retailers are put out of business. The tax revenue from these businesses is lost, which hurts the very communities in which we live. I tell young people now to be vigilant. If you’re downloading music for free, or buying bootleg CDs on the street for a couple of bucks, something is wrong. If it’s “too good be true,” it’s too good to be true.

The Ursinus Connection

The foundation I received in college allowed me to have the career that I did. Ursinus doesn’t have a criminal justice major. But my liberal arts education was such a great cultivator in learning how to think, how to write, how to move through the world. My career was so unintended, and hindsight offers a rare glimpse that morphs into insight. Being part of a sorority (Tau Sigma Gamma) and playing sports (basketball and softball) provided the seedlings to learn how to be part of a team. Teamwork is essential in everything, especially in law enforcement. And all of those nights when I came home safely from a high-risk operation, I was eternally grateful for having those guys by my side.

By Ellen Cosgrove Labrecque ’95