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Retired DEA Officer Larry Forletta on Government Pension Changes & Techniques to Succeed in the Private Sector



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Today on the Heroic Investing show, Gary chats with former DEA officer and founder of FORLETTA, Larry Forletta. Larry discusses FORLETTAS services that help eliminate disputed information to provide clear, concise detail-oriented resolution for clients. He’s led many major criminal investigations both domestically and aboard. His conviction rate, 100%. The U.S. District and State Courts deem him as a judicial expert.

Announcer 0:04
Welcome to the heroic investing show. As first responders we risk our lives every day our financial security is under attack. Our pensions are in a state of emergency. A single on duty incident can alter or erase our earning potential instantly and forever. We are the heroes of society. We are self reliant and we need to take care of our own financial future. The heroic investing show is our toolkit of business and investing tactics on our mission to financial freedom.

Gary Pinkerton 0:39
Welcome to the heroic investing show, a podcast for first responders, members, the military, veterans and anyone looking to improve their financial future and gain some freedom with their time. We teach America’s heroes how to build passive income, build their startup business and safely grow wealth through real estate and other alternative investments. We have currently And prior first responders put protections systems and a team in place to help them build a life where they can focus on their passion, that service or product that they’re uniquely gifted to share with others, making the world a better place for all of us. My name is Gary Pinkerton and I co host this show with Jason Hartman. This is Episode 214 Episode 214. Today’s guest is Larry for letta. Larry is an investigative security consultant he runs a company that you can find out more on at fc is LLC calm. So Foxtrot, Charlie, India, Sierra llc.com and that was for all of you who didn’t think I remember the phonetic alphabet from my time in the military. So Larry is had spent time as a Maryland State Trooper he spent time as a DEA agent combined nearly 30 years of times And transitioned out to start his own business and has been operating that for 14 years very successfully in Pennsylvania in the Pittsburgh and Cleveland area. And he focuses on technical surveillance, countermeasures for that private investigation, workplace investigations, the things that you think successful investigative investigating, companies are out there to do and but what what he really brings to this audience today is a wealth of knowledge having operated with public servants or law enforcement individuals, specifically at the state level, and many individuals at the government level and during a period of time as we are we’re at the time transitioning pensions from the old. If you remember, federally at least the CSRS the old, defined benefit only type to the new fers, or Federal Employee Retirement System, and that one puts a little bit more burden on The the employee to save for their retirement as is the same trend in the corporate civilian public sector. So it was an interesting discussion there. But also he gave some great advice on how to leverage the skills, the culture that you have been immersed in during your time in service and how to market that and when to do it. When to make the transition, how to set yourself up for it. I think you’ll really appreciate Larry’s insight. And without further ado, ladies and gentlemen, here is Larry for a letter. Well, hello, investors. Welcome back. Thanks for joining us. today. I’ve got Larry for Latta on. And Larry is career DEA Drug Enforcement Agency representative officer and started his own practice about 14 years ago when transitioning out or retiring in 2006. So if you remember that period of time That’s the time when, or very shortly before we actually started this podcast not meet my involvement. But when Jason started this podcast, his intent was to help out. Members, service providers, first responders, mainly, as local pension systems were crumbling state pension systems were crumbling, thankfully that has because of a good economy really kind of stabilized right now. But hopefully people have taken the lessons that we continue to talk about here on the hook investing show, about figuring out you know, what you want to do after service providing some options, getting some investing in you know, real estate investing or something like that small business going on the side. So you keep options, because a lot of people felt like, didn’t have options and during that, that time, so what can Larry, tell us about? Well, how about starting a business? How about chasing what you’re really good at? How about, know what your skills are while you’re in government service, and then also he’s going to talk to us about that pension. We haven’t talked about That in several episodes, but I think it’ll be really good. And so help me in joining them. Larry, thank you so much for joining us here on heroic investing.

Larry Forletta 5:08
Well, thank you, Gary. Thank you for inviting me.

Gary Pinkerton 5:11
Absolutely. So, so Larry hails from Pennsylvania, just north of Pittsburgh, Newcastle. And that’s west of me here by a couple of hours. But nonetheless, pretty much here on the east coast. Larry, so did you grow up in in Pennsylvania or what what did you do before joining the EAA?

Larry Forletta 5:31
Well, yeah, I grew up here in western Pennsylvania. My career in law enforcement actually started in Maryland. I started with the Maryland State Police. Okay. And we were there for almost 20 years before I moved back. And that would be Baltimore. Yes. The Baltimore metro area.

Gary Pinkerton 5:50
Got it. Got it. I spent several years there myself, Naval Academy, Washington DC in the military. So knew that what though that area lots of lots of very fond memory. Annapolis, Baltimore DC area, and some not so fun having to deal with traffic.

Larry Forletta 6:06
So you said how many years were you down in Maryland?

Gary Pinkerton 6:09
I’m close to 20 years. Okay.

Larry Forletta 6:11
Okay. And so your entire time, let’s say in public service before your own your own business. What does that span then?

Gary Pinkerton 6:20
I’d say close to 30 years. Okay. Because I started actually my career started in Maryland with the Maryland State Police, as I mentioned, and then after working and being involved in undercover drug investigations, I then transition from the mental state police to DEA.

Larry Forletta 6:42
Okay, got it. And so you probably have a combination. Were you able to like stack those pensions? You know, Maryland State did anything from that or did they like carry over?

Gary Pinkerton 6:54
No, it didn’t carry over because I didn’t that didn’t have the words. amount of time to be spent there. I was there for almost eight years. And at that time you needed 15 years to to be vested in a pension. Okay, so actually, from ground zero when I came into the government,

Larry Forletta 7:14
okay, and then in the DEA you did retire with I call it a full pension. I know there’s a swinging scale of pensions. Yes, I did.

Gary Pinkerton 7:24
I retired in October 2006.

Larry Forletta 7:28
Got it. And so when we were off air a little bit here before recording, you struck me as somebody who knows quite a bit about the different kinds of pensions, the impact, and you had some reflections that I thought would be useful on the kind of pension you had, as opposed to, you know, what is currently out there and you have a lot of friends and colleagues that are going through the new system. Could you just share a little bit of maybe maybe just a bit of the difference for people who don’t know what the old system was like? Well, actions.

Gary Pinkerton 7:57
Well, the old system was called The civil service system. And that had I thought, a lot of benefits for a lot of the government employees retiring. I came in the new system under what was called first. And this was all switched over in 1980 to 84 by President Reagan, trying to make changes in the retirement system for government employees. So that’s your federal employee. I think I missed. Yes, four employees retired. So I believe I missed out on the boat by a year and change. Because talking to colleagues who retired under the old system seemed to have a better pension in terms of you know, how much money they’re going to be getting a month, as opposed to the first because the first is a three tier system and the In a 401k, but even those that were in the old civil service system, were still able to invest their money in the first. So really, in my view, they benefited greatly from being stabilized in the old system and being able to invest in part of the new system.

Larry Forletta 9:22
Nice. And so I think the new system part that they could they could invest in, I believe, as mostly the 401k is part of it. Is that, is that true or? That’s correct. Yeah. And so the old one is CSRS, I think, civil service retirement system, and then CSRS converted over to fers Federal Employee Retirement System. And one of the other differences that’s sometimes overlooked is I believe, for most people in CSRS, they did not contribute to social security and therefore they don’t receive Social Security benefits. So and you know, most of you and probably most of us have probably voluntarily say, Yeah, I don’t want to contribute because It’s not the best return on investment for your dollars that are coming out of our paycheck, we don’t really have any choice in that. However, once you get out here and you’re a CSRS person who did not save the difference, you know, in someplace, it’s nice to get the bench or might nice to get the Social Security if you you know, like I said, if you didn’t keep the other difference if he spent it on vacations and stuff. So a little bit of for saving sometimes does work on our behalf. You know, I don’t know, which is better, of course, you know, a lot of a lot of state and local pensions, people who are relying on those and about the time that you were transitioning, or you were retiring and starting your own business. You know, a lot of those were going away completely, it wasn’t just about which is better or worse. You know, unlike the federal one and the same kind of federal pension that I have, which is very similar to fers. You know, those really pushed a lot some of the burden to you, and it’s becoming more and more so every year. There’s a new government or a new military version, it’s very similar. It’s even more or less First in that pushing the burden to the individual to save on their own to save in their own 401k because there’s not this, you know, traditional defined benefit pension system out there. And you know, it’s the same way as civilian world, right? We’re way behind what happened in the 70s and 80s. When pensions in the corporate world, really went away a long time ago. Do you have you have any like experience or friends or or colleagues that went through more of a local municipality, state government, maybe system?

Gary Pinkerton 11:32
Yes, I did. And I’ve had friends on the state side and a local side and I’m speaking with law enforcement agencies. And I can tell you here in Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania State Police, I believe, have a better pension system than the federal government does. That’s that’s my way I looked at things that I’ve talked to them. I know you know the type of money they’re making off of their pension, a lot of them don’t have to go get second jobs. The only ones that really get second jobs is to build up their social security. on the local level, though, it’s a lot more not financially beneficial to them. So they do have to work a second job. And a lot of the police officers on a local level, some of them are working two or three jobs.

Larry Forletta 12:29

Gary Pinkerton 12:30
Yeah. I know a lot of police officers had a lot of officers as clients that I’m fortunate to say and there’s a lot as a push to do a lot over time, right? I mean, those guys that are that are sitting at the construction sites, right. They’re all doing overtime, like you just said, while you were talking about additional jobs, but getting over time and spent a lot of time away from family to to handle that yet. On the other side. I also, you know, have people who are firefighters And get tremendous, tremendous pay in some states think California, right, is just incredible. That amount of pay for three, you know, 324 hour days a week with four off or something on that kind of a cycle. So, really like I you know, you said this at the beginning of your comments, there totally depends on who’s paying the bills. Right. Is it? Is it a well funded state? Is it a very liberal state that pays very high? Is it a municipality that, you know, a local government that can’t pay that high? Or is it the federal government that can print money to make sure that our pensions continue is very dependent on where in the United States your pension is coming from?

Larry Forletta 13:43
Yeah, that’s that’s right. I mean,

Gary Pinkerton 13:47
when you look at the big picture, I mean, obviously, most of our goals and law enforcement is to, you know, increase our not only our pay but in benefits But the type of work that we do, and that’s why you have a lot of local and state law enforcement officers going into the federal government, whether it’s DEA, FBI, ATF, or a host of them. That’s kind of what the the trend has been for quite some time.

Larry Forletta 14:18
And I think that’s good for those agencies, right? They’re bringing in very qualified individuals that are go getters Otherwise, they wouldn’t be looking to pursue something like that. As long as it’s not dead weight transitioning over, which is not my I mean, I don’t have personal experience, but I doubt that you would say that that’s the case. So you’re following in your footsteps, right?

Gary Pinkerton 14:39
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, there are a lot of good a lot of good quality people on a local and state level have come to work for the federal government. And I believe that the federal government benefits from their work ethic and the experience that they develop work. In a local and state system. Yeah,

Larry Forletta 15:02
yeah, I agree with you. So let’s, let’s jump back to, to your world now.

Gary Pinkerton 15:09
So you said

Larry Forletta 15:12
2006, you retired? And was that we retired in 2006 because that was the right time to retire or because you wanted to get moving on your own personal business.

Gary Pinkerton 15:24
Well, for me, it was the right time to retire. And, and it was time to move on. But the way I had approached that was originally I took a chance by retiring a little bit earlier because I retired at age 52. And in the federal government, you can stay till age 57. And then I also knew that somewhere in the middle at age 55, your marketing begins to go down after 55 So I decided to take the plunge took the chance, and went into my own business. And I left, I was looking at a job, I had a potential job offer, but I decided to do it to go on my own. And a lot of friends of mine, as I still hear from today, tell me how much they respected what I did, by just leaving and having nothing lined up, so to speak, and going into my own business.

Larry Forletta 16:33
That’s interesting. So they’re really they’re saying, Hey, you know, we wanted to do what you did didn’t have the courage to do it or didn’t have the confidence to do it.

Gary Pinkerton 16:41
I think it’s a little bit of both. Yeah.

Larry Forletta 16:44
And because why do you think they don’t is it don’t understand the marketability of their skills?

Gary Pinkerton 16:51
Or? Well, I think it’s a combination of a lot of things. One, you know, they don’t understand the marketability of their skills and to when you’re used to getting paycheck, guaranteed to every two weeks, you have a comfort zone. So you know that you’re getting a paycheck. In business, it doesn’t work that way. You have to really work hard to earn it. And so that is where the challenge becomes. And that’s where a lot of people leaving government, most of them try to line up jobs. You know, prior to them leaving. I just decided that I didn’t want to work for anybody anymore. And give it my own. And

Larry Forletta 17:35
right, yeah, and I did the same thing. And I had this heroic investors are going to be rolling their eyes because I’ve told this story a couple times. But I remember vividly going to this job conference with a with a bunch of other senior military officers and it was they actually paid us to do some marketing research and they was a roundtable and they went around the table and asked this these questions and you know, as what what What’s most important about what type of work you do when you retire? what’s what’s most important about where you live? What’s most important about this and every time a majority of the people were saying, I don’t care, what matters to me is replacing the part of the income that’s not coming from my pension that I’m My family has become accustomed to living with. And it was that comfort, that poll for comfort, just literally did not care. were willing to do almost any kind of ethical legal job in any location in America to offset the pay that the pay loss that was coming by the retirement and, you know, so I always call comfort, the comfort drug because it really does Lewis into just like your buddies who reached out and said, Man, I really respected you for doing that. Or I envied you for doing that. Like you had the you had the guts to go against comfort drug.

Gary Pinkerton 18:48
Well, yeah, I mean, you know, at some point in time, when you do things dangerously for a living, you have to decide is it time to move on? Yeah. In an EMI becoming a burden in that world. And so,

Larry Forletta 19:06
you know, it’s even, yeah,

Gary Pinkerton 19:08
it’s, it’s a young man’s game to begin with. Yeah. But I think once you start hitting your 50s I think it’s time to make a change. And he’s,

Larry Forletta 19:19
yeah, you said your marketability at age 55. What did you mean by that?

Gary Pinkerton 19:26
Well, from what I gather from different experts about that retirement age that 55 they’re saying that your marketability is still good at that point. You know, once you decide to change jobs, as you age, once you hit 57 and above, it becomes a lot challenging. And it depends on what type of work you’re looking for a, you know, depending on on the demand,

Larry Forletta 19:59
okay, so talking about Like job hiring, for your, for your reinventing of yourself or whatever the next step is. Yeah,

Gary Pinkerton 20:06
yes. Okay, right. Mm hmm.

Larry Forletta 20:09
I’m sure there’s some stigma associated with that, too, that you know, if you’re over 57 you’re over the hill, you’re not not returnable. We’re not gonna get our investment back. I’m sure there’s lots of stuff like people still about recognizing that. You know, working into your 70s is just fine. Right? And speaking of that, so if I did my math right, your my quick math here, you’re 66 and running a company that’s running strong, and I’m good. I’m guessing or I’m gathering your, your hustle hustling out there just about as much as you did 14 years ago when you started this business?

Gary Pinkerton 20:42
Yeah, I well. You just put me You just made me one year older. I’m 65. Okay.

Larry Forletta 20:49
I did 52 plus 14.

Gary Pinkerton 20:54
So yeah, I’ll be 66 next year, and that’s you know, when So security won’t start kicking in. But I just felt that I needed to get in fine and do something where I could call the shots, so to speak. Okay. And I knew that I had the talent as an investigator. What I didn’t know, is having the talent as a business person. And I’m still learning 14 years later about running a business. So it’s every day is basically a challenge with working for yourself. Yeah.

Larry Forletta 21:39
And so you know, as we as we retire or transition, whatever the word we’re going to use, then we’re looking for what’s next. And you know, and you happen to, to shift into start a business. That directly was what you were doing military, some of us can’t do that not a lot of need for tank repairman out there. But you know, auto mechanic or you know, whatever. So there’s a way to transition your skills, but most of us were not doing those kind of skills, the skills that we’re transitioning or gets up on time reliable ethical shows up you can count on him you know, and if you know people that you’ve worked in service with that did you’ve then worked out in the industry or came across out and, and private sector, any other qualities that that you want to reinforce with the audience that Listen, this is what you have the comp, the competition, or the other people out there? Don’t have?

Gary Pinkerton 22:43
Well, I think the number one rule for me is integrity. Um, because that carries over from, you know, working for government over the years and coming into the private sector. So that to me, is a One of the key elements of success in business, and because you want people to understand that the service that you are providing is that they’re getting the best for their money, and that you don’t overcharge or under charge, but you charge based on the type of case or type of investigation that’s needed. And I think that’s really key. Because as you know, in any industry, whether it’s government or private, there are some unscrupulous people. And so, that, to me is the key to success is the integrity part of it, so that people understand that you’re not just going to abuse their money and take advantage of them. I understand because people work hard for their money. And we do, as best of a case for investigation that we can for them. They Upon the budget we received from the client.

Larry Forletta 24:05
So yeah, so I like how you define integrity I do so as well, but I used to define in the nuclear submarine force I and and having gone through the Naval Academy very, very focused on honor. And we would would kind of always have this, you know, we would we would almost like in directly, like in integrity with honesty and basically truthfulness. And it’s more than that, right? The word integrity means being hold, like being 100%. And so, when you say that, you’re going to do X amount of work for an individual or you’re going to provide this level of results. You are what you say you’re going to do and you and you represent what you say and what you sign up for. And so I think that being hold in your business and your person delivering what you say you’re going to be somebody who can be counted on. That’s really what I like the term integrity to mean. And I believe that’s really what you’re saying.

Gary Pinkerton 25:08
Yeah, and then and really a another definition that I use as integrity is that rule integrity is when nobody’s really watching you. Yeah. And you’re able to perform the service that you’re telling them that you’re performing. And that’s what integrity is, is part of that definition. Yeah.

Larry Forletta 25:27
Yeah. Great, great addition to that, that discussion. And so, if you’re when you’re leaving service when you’re leaving, whether it’s civil service or military service, you know, ensure that you that integrity is not as on the front, front lines of whatever business or career you go into, whether it’s a W two job or your own business.

Gary Pinkerton 25:53
And then all the things that I said about being dependable and

Larry Forletta 25:58
can be counted on

Gary Pinkerton 26:00
Strong worth that work ethic. Any other advice for people who are coming up on a transition out?

Larry Forletta 26:10
Well, I would tell anybody keep an open mind. And really start preparing your skill set when you enter the private sector. A lot of times, you know, once you’re leaving government, you’re kind of leaving it on your own. There’s no role life preparation for you, once you leave. You know, we used to have some people come in, you know, and give some general talks about you know, what life is going to be in a different, you know, different worlds, so to speak after you leave government service. And I think education is coming in and telling people look, you have a ski hill said, here’s how you market that skill set. There are opportunities out there and people are always looking for good quality people and In my business now, I mean, when I use subcontractors, a lot of them are prior former prior law enforcement, and some of them are military people. And so I work with a whole, you know, different group of people. But again, I kind of work with people who have the same mentality as I do. Nice.

Gary Pinkerton 27:24
So, again, you transitioned or shifted directly into into a position that was directly related to what you were doing and in your government position. What if somebody doesn’t want to do that position or can’t do that that position? What do they look for? in you know, in their life and what they’ve been doing to find the clues for what to what to do next. Any any thoughts on that?

Larry Forletta 27:50
Well, that’s kind of difficult to say because everybody is different and there’s a lot of individuals individual preferences. For me, my skill set was as an investigator. So I wanted to expand off of being that investigator into a business person. And so what happened was the day that I retired, that wasn’t within a couple of days, I get a phone call from a local defense attorney who I’ve been up against in federal court hired me to do an investigation for him. And so that was all part of you know, your well established reputation, even with the, you know, the lawyers and the legal community. So that to me was an advantage in the sense that because most of my clients I could tell you are about 90% of plus are from lawyers and law firms. And the others are, you know, different types of companies, etc. So, that to me was the way I had approached it.

Gary Pinkerton 28:58
Nice. So what do you Seeing your future when when 66 comes along. And and so security comes? have you built a business that you want to keep going without your direct involvement without doing the direct investigating? Do you? Are you looking to transition the business? You’re going to keep actually investigating until age 80? Or what? What is your thoughts?

Larry Forletta 29:20
Well, I don’t think I’ll be going out for

Gary Pinkerton 29:24
I don’t know yet. Because, you know, there are times when I’d like to say, you know, I’m done. There are other times when I want to keep going. And I think that’s always the hard decision that you have to make. Yes, I do would, I would like to sort of oversee things as opposed to be actually involved. And that’s one of the difficult things that you know, that I’m learning, because I can’t be everywhere to everybody. And I have to rely on others that, of course, that I trust. So yeah, I would like to transition From being right in the middle of things, and or just overseeing or managing them. I do public speaking, I do stuff, you know, I do some presentations for law firms or lawyers under the under the CLE classes. I’ve did some private things for different groups, fraud groups, women’s organizations. So though, those are the kind of things that I would like to focus on more, and then have the investigations sort of run

Larry Forletta 30:37
me overseeing them, but that’s kind of my goal.

Gary Pinkerton 30:40
Got it. So we have some organizations here, listening that perhaps you know, can use your services. So what’s the best way to find out about you know, your speaking topics, your your experience, in that role?

Larry Forletta 30:56
Well, the best way to look at us is by going to Our website, and it’s www dot f. c i s llc.com. Or you can go on a web, we’re definitely on the web, you can find us. And you can see the types of cases that we have been involved in. We have some video on our website that gives you the idea that type of investigations we have been involved with. And, and I’ve been on other podcasts, talking about school shootings and things of that nature. So that’s kind of where I’m looking at in a new direction. And then keeping the investigative side going.

Gary Pinkerton 31:41
Got it? Okay.

Larry Forletta 31:42
Well, Larry, what did I not ask that I should have asked to add benefit to either what your goals are out there with your company or for the audience, the first responders and military

Gary Pinkerton 31:55
Well, I would tell

Larry Forletta 32:00
Brothers and sisters out there in law enforcement in the military to begin thinking ahead of the curve, when you know that it’s time for you to leave, I think most of us, for the most part, understand when it’s time to go, although there have been others that I’ve worked with, and, you know, they scrape their fingernails off the wall leaving. And in, in, in that sense, you feel sorry for them, because they only do one thing in their life. And so you want to be able to have that transition. Because a lot of people have a hard time adjusting, leaving the military or leaving government leaving off forcement. And now, you know, you’ve you’ve left something that you truly loved. And now you’d have to do something different. And that’s where the difficult part is and trend in that transition. Coming to the private sector.

Gary Pinkerton 33:00
But that’s awesome. I really appreciate that feedback. I think that was a, that was an important nugget right there at the end. Don’t Don’t wait forever. Don’t wait too long. Have a plan. And but at least think about it right?

Larry Forletta 33:13
Oh, absolutely. You got to start thinking about it. You know, because the funny thing is, you know, even in the military or in government, you have a lot of leaders in the management, always giving you that rah rah chant. But, but at the end of the day, they’re already out there, making contacts to move and get thrown jobs. So I tell the grunts, so to speak, you got to do the same thing. Yeah. Because even though that they’re preaching one thing, they’re doing something else. And so

Gary Pinkerton 33:49
in addition to it, right, yeah, absolutely. Yeah, the opportunities are there, but you got to reach out.

Larry Forletta 33:54
Right. You have to and you got to make the connections. That’s the bottom line.

Gary Pinkerton 33:59
Yeah, I mean, he In today’s record low unemployment, there are still unemployed people and people who are frustrated trying to find jobs. But I think it’s because they’re not doing the things that the other people are out there doing. This is a great, great talk, Larry, I really appreciate the advice you given to those who haven’t yet taken those steps but are looking to follow in follow in your footsteps and just don’t know exactly how

Larry Forletta 34:21
I appreciate the time. Thank you, Gary.

Gary Pinkerton 34:23
Absolutely, sir. Take care.

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