By Joe Gorman
Before he came to Youngstown, U.S. Marshal Dean Michael went just about everywhere.
There were trips to Ghana, Aruba and Jamaica — among others — to either bring back suspects or track criminals.
Domestically, there was the three-month hunt for a Mafia chieftian that was successful.
“I’ve been sent to some pretty crazy places,” Michael said.
Since 2004, he tracked down wanted felons in Northeast Ohio until last Friday, his last day on the job because of retirement.
Michael, 57, who headed the local U.S. Marshals Fugitive Task Force, was forced to retire because that is the retirement age for federal law-enforcement personnel.
His departure marks the end of a 34-year career in law enforcement. He has worked for the Marshals service since November 1985.
Michael is a native of Beaver County, Pa., and began his career in law enforcement as a member of the Ohioville Borough and Beaver County Sheriff’s Department before he landed on the Beaver Falls police force.
He was laid off twice from there, however, and the second time he began a nationwide search for employment that landed him with the U.S. Marshals office for Western Pennsylvania, which is headquartered in Pittsburgh.
He did a variety of services in Pittsburgh, such as escorting prisoners and picking up prisoners all over the world.
While there, he said the 1987 hunt and arrest of Alphonse “Allie Boy” Persico was the highlight of his career. Persico was a New York City mob boss who was indicted on several federal charges in 1980 and went on the lam.
Michael and another marshal from Connecticut were assigned to help other marshals on the case track Persico down. He said for the three months he was in on the hunt it consumed almost all of his time.
“We worked the case 24 hours a day,” Michael said.
Michael said when they found him, they tracked him to an apartment complex in West Hartford, Conn., and he was stirring sauce in the kitchen when marshals made entry.
Later, Michael looked out the window and saw the apartment complex he was living in at the time from a distance. He said he used to gaze out his window to where Persico was caught, never realizing he was there.
In April 2004, Michael came to Youngstown.
Since he started, the task force has cleared 11,067 warrants including 227 homicide warrants, but some of those were for other jurisdictions, Michael said.
Peter Elliot, the chief U.S. Marshal for the Northern District of Ohio, praised Michael’s work and said he will be tough to replace.
“He’s a quality guy. He will be greatly missed,” Elliot said. “Dean’s the kind of guy who never quits.”
Even after so many years in law enforcement, Michael said he made sure to never let his guard down.
Task force members do daily briefings. When getting ready to serve a warrant, they meet to go over who they are looking for and what the place they are going to is like.
“The safest thing to do is to consider them all dangerous,” Michael said.
When looking for someone, marshals get all the information on the person they can. They find out where family, friends and girlfriends or boyfriends are and visit, letting it be known that they are looking for them.
He said someone can elude them for awhile, but in the end they always end up being caught.
Michael said one thing that frustrates him is that the task force will arrest a dangerous criminal only to see that person back on the street right away making bond.
He said he tells task force members that even if they get someone off the streets for just a short time, at least that is time that someone is safe from being victimized.
He credits his wife of 34 years, Rebecca, and his two daughters for helping him, especially with the odd hours and call-outs at any time of the night.
Michael said he is looking for another job, maybe in corporate security, but he almost welled up with tears when he talked about how much he loves his job.
“Basically, this is all I know,” Michael said. “I’m going to miss it.”