Alumnus Travels the World Fighting Drugs

Alumnus

Timothy A. Jones of the Drug Enforcement Administration traveled the world to stop the spread of drugs.

Timothy A. Jones (’79) received a degree in Agriculture from Sam Houston State University (SHSU), but he did not wind up as a rancher or agriculture teacher as he expected. Instead, his career turned to law enforcement and tracking money, drugs, and crime across the world.

“I always had a desire to get into agriculture by working a ranch or farm,” said Jones. “I thought I might be an ag teacher, but my dreams changed as life happened. I was so glad that I chose SHSU for my studies and if I had it to do all over again, I would have made criminal justice my major.”

Jones, who minored in Criminal Justice, spent 23 years working for the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), where he developed expertise in obtaining judicial wire intercepts in drug investigations and later in tracking the finances of those drug organizations.

In 2007, he was appointed as the DEA attaché for Russia, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan, tracing worldwide shipments of drugs from Afghanistan and Turkey to prevent them from coming to the United States. In 2011, he was transferred to Afghanistan and promoted to Director of the Afghan Threat Finance Cell, a unit consisting of representatives from the DEA, FBI, Department of the Treasury, Department of Homeland Security, and all branches of the military that utilized law enforcement tools as well as diplomatic and military solutions to target insurgents in the region.

In addition to targeting narcotics in the top opioid production area in the world, the unit dealt with other criminal activities, including trade-based, money laundering, corruption, kidnapping for ransom, and financial donations to those sympathetic to the insurgents. The unit made a difference, and Jones was recognized by the Chairman of the joint Chief of Staff with the Meritorious Civilian Service Award and with the Non-Article 5 NATO Medal for Service in relation to International Security Assistance Force operations.

“In my career, I shifted from only narcotic investigations more to the financial side to follow the money,” Jones said. “We codified the hidden assets, and traced those assets across the world. To take the money from a criminal organization impacts them more than seizing the product.”

After retiring from the DEA in 2014, Jones remained in Afghanistan working for the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR). His job was to identify fraud, waste, and abuse of U.S. reconstruction dollars. After completing his assignment in Afghanistan, Jones returned home to Texas and continues to work criminal investigations for SIGAR originating from Afghanistan.

“Working for DEA was a great privilege, and the opportunities that it afforded me working in so many different countries was more than I ever could have imagined when I began,” said Jones. “To transition from DEA to SIGAR was a true blessing to be able to take the skills I had learned and again put them to use against those that violate our laws and steal our money.”

While attending SHSU, Jones started his career as a corrections officer at the then Texas Department of Corrections where he worked in the Ellis and Wynne units. In just two years on the job, he had advanced to a Sergeant. He did a stint in the oilfield before taking a job at the Smith County Sheriff’s Department working his way up to detective. Jones was then given the opportunity to be assigned to a newly formed narcotics unit that was a joint venture of the Tyler Police Department and the Smith County Sheriff’s Department. This unit focused on street level drug sales that would often lead to methamphetamine drug labs. In this position, Jones met and worked with federal agents that gave him the thirst to join their ranks.

Jones joined the Texas Governor’s Task Force that focused on narcotic investigations. In this position, Jones helped to uncover and seize one of the largest ecstasy shipment rings of its time in the state through an undercover operation in Denton. In addition, the number of meth labs seized was increasing.

“Prosecution of individuals involved in drug labs was difficult in those years,” said Jones. “There were different state laws back then. Seizure of the lab had to be timed so that the solutions in the lab tested for amphetamine or methamphetamine; this was before the new pre-cursor chemical laws were enacted.”

In 1991, Jones began working for the DEA, first in Oklahoma and then returning to Tyler. He later was assigned as a supervisory agent for the Special Operations Division in Washington D.C. During his years with the DEA, he developed an expertise in building probable cause cases for wiretaps. He later would develop a knack for the financial side of the drug business, tracing money as it travelled the world.

Jones said that SHSU was “his beginning for achieving his goals. The instructors cared and helped you to understand, you were not just a number in the class. ” Over the years, he worked with other graduates who also realized SHSU was “one of the top criminal justice academic institutions” in the country. His daughter, Shelly Dawn Jones (Logan) also attended SHSU and earned a CJ degree. She went on to become a parole officer in Smith County.

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