Special agent Spider

May 18, 2021

Justice

By Cheryl Spain

Matthew DeSarno, ’95, was named special agent in charge of the FBI Dallas Field Office in May 2019. It was his next step in a career with an organization that he admired long before he joined it.

“I always knew I wanted to be in the FBI,” DeSarno said. “I had a familiarity with it. My father was an FBI agent, and I really looked up to him.”

DeSarno first applied to the bureau as a U.S. Army infantry officer stationed at Fort Hood, Texas. A hiring freeze led him to short stints in the private sector after his service obligation. In June 2002, he joined the FBI Academy.

“It typically takes some semblance of a successful career in order to get into the FBI,” he said. “I tried to make myself successful, build the skills that I thought I would need, and learn how to lead and operate in a professional environment. When it was time to come into the FBI, I jumped on it.”

DeSarno’s FBI work has focused on violent gang activity and counterterrorism, and he contributed to the arrest and prosecution of a high-ranking Mexican mafia member in San Diego and one of the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitives in Texas, among others. For the first half of 2021, he and his team have been working to identify and apprehend suspects in the Jan. 6 Capitol siege.

After 19 years with the FBI, DeSarno said the “privilege of leadership” and the ability to work with “some of the most talented people against some of the most depraved” continues to motivate him.

“My goal is to provide the type of leadership that I think my people deserve and, in some way, contribute to the success of the agents and analysts here in this office,” he said. “Sometimes that means removing obstacles. Sometimes that means trying new resources. Sometimes it means staying out of the way and letting them run.”