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Christine John

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Alumnus enjoys long career fighting crime and teaching others within the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

After 25 years as a senior special agent for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, alumnus Ruben Garcia ’85, ’90 now uses his extensive field experience in the classroom, teaching and mentoring law enforcement officers from around the world. For Garcia and his students, examining law enforcement on a global scale from inside the DEA Training Academy not only helps them develop a competency for thinking bigger, but also prepares them for the many challenges they will face on the job.

“What I’ve loved about this job over the years are the challenges you have to overcome,” Garcia said. “No two cases are the same. Being able to overcome obstacles without getting frustrated is the key to success—not only in your professional career, but life itself.”

With a master’s degree in education from Northern Arizona University, along with hundreds of hours of judicial testimony in his wake, Garcia opened a new door. In 2016, his transition from senior special agent to program manager and instructor for the Sensitive Investigative Unit at the DEA Training Academy in Quantico, VA, meant supervising instructors and training domestic and foreign law enforcement officers from around the world with a greater purpose in mind: to share intelligence that brings criminals at the highest levels of organized crime to justice.

Garcia developed a curriculum that combines topics in ethics and corruption, surveillance, undercover investigation, money laundering, and rule of law, among others. Conspiracy law and investigations remain his favorite course to teach.

“I love hearing from my students months or even years after my training and learning how successful they have become in working their cases,” Garcia said. “No matter what country they are from, our goal is the same—making our countries safer by prosecuting violent organized crime members.”

Prior to his teaching days at the training academy, Garcia invested countless amounts of miles, hours, and grit living the life of what the entertainment industry depicts in movies and in the popular Netflix series Narcos, released in 2015. Throughout his career as senior special agent, Garcia served as the lead investigator in numerous complex domestic and international conspiracy investigations and is regarded as a conspiracy expert by his peers, who routinely seek his advice and mentorship.

Garcia’s high-profile assignments, and an active role from 2010 to 2016 in the legendary capture of the notorious cartel leader “El Chapo” (twice), only scratch the surface of a hectic and intense profession ideally suited for a person of his character—resourceful, precise, and calm, with an innate ability for decision-making and an unapologetic belief in the value of good humor.

While his career has taken him to many places near and far, his beginnings were humble. At the age of 5, Garcia moved from Cuba to the United States. He was raised by his mother, also a teacher, in South Florida. When Garcia turned 17, he joined the U.S. Air Force, becoming the second-youngest airman in boot camp at that time. It was during his time stationed at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, FL, that Garcia graduated cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in criminology from what was then Saint Leo College. This became the first of many doors that would open for Garcia, leading him to enjoy a robust and engaging career.

Today, Garcia is in the process of retiring from his work in law enforcement. His next move is to become an adjunct professor at a university in his hometown of Phoenix, opening yet another door to unleash his passion for teaching in even bigger ways.


Leaving a Legacy at Saint Leo

In 2012, Ruben Garcia’s wife, Dorothy, earned her MBA from the Tapia College of Business, and together they created the Ruben C. and Dorothy C. Garcia Endowed Scholarship in 2014. The fund helps make a Saint Leo University education possible for students studying criminal justice or business. If you are interested in joining the Garcias in starting a scholarship for Saint Leo University students, please contact Christopher Neher, director of principal gifts, at christopher.neher@saintleo.edu.