FBI team honored for efforts to break up two N.Y. crime families

Tuesday - 8/20/2013, 12:14pm EDT

Seamus McElearney, supervisory special agent, FBI

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Busting up gangsters may be the stuff of a Hollywood blockbuster, but it's also the very serious — and dangerous — job of an FBI team known as C-38.

Led by Supervisory Special Agent Seamus McElearney, C-38 has been taking apart the notorious New York Colombo and Bonanno La Cosa Nostra crime families since 2008.

"The Colombo family has pretty much been decimated. They are in complete shambles and disarray," said Belle Chen, assistant special agent in charge at the FBI's New York Field Office. "The Bonanno family has been severely disrupted."

McElearney and his team, which is made up of one analyst and nine agents, spearheaded an undercover operation in January 2011 that led to the arrest of 60 members of the two crime families.

Seamus McElearney, supervisory special agent, FBI

Chen described McElearney as the linchpin of the FBI's investigation.

"His experience and knowledge of the families and their culture was a key to the success of this squad," she said.

For their efforts, the Partnership for Public Service named McElearney and his team as finalists for the 2013 Service to America Medal in the Homelande Security and Law Enforcement category. The medal honors a federal employee who has made significant contributions to the public in the areas of homeland security and law enforcement.

McElearney was recently interviewed by Federal News Radio's DoD reporter Jared Serbu on In Depth with Francis Rose. He also answered the following questions about himself and his career in the federal government

What three words best describe your leadership philosophy?
Delegate, Delegate, Delegate. I'm kidding. The three best words would be lead by example.

What's the best piece of advice (or words of wisdom) you've ever received and who gave it to you?
"Stand for something or you stand for nothing." My father always taught me to fight for what you believe is right.

Who is your biggest role model and why?
My parents. As teenagers, they immigrated to the U.S. from Ireland in the early 1960s with nothing. My father provided for his family and demonstrated a tremendous work ethic for my siblings to follow. After my father's death, my mom became a pillar of strength for the family. Because of my parents, I have been able to fulfill my dreams.

What's the last thing you read and what's next on your reading list?
My readings are work related. The last one was "We Are Going to Win This Thing" by Charles Brandt. My next reading will be "Vinny Gorgeous: The Ugly Rise and Fall of a New York Mobster" by Anthony DeStefano.

What's your favorite bureaucratic phrase?
We need to cut through "the layers of red tape." Constantly trying to overcome obstacles to get the job done in a quick efficient manner.

The Homeland Security and Law Enforcement Medal is just one of the Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medals (Sammies) presented annually by the Partnership for Public Service. View a gallery of all the Sammies nominees here.