A Day in the Life of an FBI Agent

Osiel Cardenas during his capture in Mexico.
Osiel Cardenas during his capture in Mexico.

While on surveillance with an informant in Matamoros, Mexico, FBI Agent Daniel Fuentes and his DEA partner were forced off the road and surrounded by 15 members of the Gulf Cartel, AK-47s pointed at their heads.

The two agents had contacted Mexican Police, but none came to their aid. They were confronted by Osiel Cardenas, then head of the notorious Gulf Cartel, who repeatedly threatened to kill them during the 15 to 20 minute incident. When Fuentes identified himself as an FBI agent, Cardenas said he didn’t care and continued to shove weapons to the agents’ heads. The two federal officers kept talking, reminding Cardenas that he would face the wrath of federal law enforcement agencies if any harm came to them.

After the tense confrontation, Cardenas let the officers and informant go.

An agent's back with FBI on his jacket“That is just 400 miles from here,” said Fuentes who recently returned to his alma mater at Sam Houston State University to share his experience with high school students in the Criminal Justice Summer Camp. “The key here is to remain calm and not lose control. Losing control will get you hurt or possibly killed. Use your negotiation skills as a tool to get you out of a critical situation, but be smart in how you use them. Don’t antagonize your adversary.”

Several years after the incident, federal authorities tracked down Cardenas, and the military took him into custody in a hail of gunfire, not unlike the explosive battles seen in Iraq and Afghanistan. He pled guilty to five counts of drug dealing, money laundering and threatening federal agents and was sentenced to 25 years.

FBI agent practice getting a suspect out of a car.FBI agent practice getting a suspect out of a car.During his 25 year career in the FBI, Fuentes worked many types of investigations, including organized crime/drugs; violent crimes; intelligence collection in criminal and counterterrorism matters; and training in Mexico, Central and South America. He did undercover work, is a hostage/crisis negotiator, and was a member of the local FBI SWAT Team.

“In your career as an FBI Agent, most of the time your investigations and arrests go well without critical incidents,” said Fuentes. “However, you have to be prepared to make quick decisions if the situation goes bad.”

Now Fuentes, as a Training Coordinator, oversees the Training Program for his division. He ensures that the FBI employees receive the necessary training, including continuing education opportunities. A crucial aspect of his responsibilities includse providing training to the local law enforcement community, including participation in the prestigious FBI National Academy Program.

Participants at the FBI National Academy
Participants at the FBI National Academy
“It builds good relations with the local law enforcement community, and the byproduct of such is the successful resolution of criminal investigations,” said Fuentes. “Some of the training that we provide is geared towards executive management of local law enforcement agencies. The training strives to provide managers with the necessary tools to become better leaders within their agencies and their communities.”

Among the training he spearheads in his region are certification renewals, such as for agents who are accountants; interviewing and interrogation techniques; and intelligence collection and analysis, to name a few.

“We provide them with the training and resources to get the job done,” Fuentes said.

Before joining the FBI, Fuentes was a federal probation officer for the Eastern District of Texas in Tyler, handling a caseload of those convicted of federal offenses, including white-collar crimes, drugs, and bank robberies. He was hired by the agency after serving an internship in his senior year in pre-trial services, which collects background information and criminal histories which are used by the courts to determine bail.

FBI agents participate in a counterterrorism exercise.
FBI agents participate in a counterterrorism exercise.
“The job gave me really solid interviewing and interrogating skills for the FBI,” said Fuentes. “It also provided me with insight on how the criminal mind works.”

Fuentes credits Sam Houston State University with providing the internship in probation and the contact he made in his campus job in continuing education, where he served practitioners in the field at the college for training. Fuentes said his college education helped him mature and develop networks for success.

“I am very appreciative of the College for all the opportunities they provided to me,” said Fuentes.

Member of The Texas State University System