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Profile of Joe Russo

Westchester Journal News

May 22, 2005

By Allan Drury

The Journal News

6 Questions: Joe Russo

Age: 47
Education: Bachelor's degree in criminal justice, Iona College
Grew up in: New Rochelle
Resides: Somers
Personal: Married to Toni Russo. They have three children.
On protecting presidents: “You have great relationships with them but you have to make sure you're doing your job and making proper
decisions out there based on the assessments, not based on your relationship.”


As a child what did you want to be when you grew up?
A professional football player or police officer.

What was your biggest professional obstacle?
The transition from local law enforcement to federal law enforcement. (Also), the relocation
of family.

What was the biggest challenge you've ever overcome, and how did you overcome it?
We lost our entire office on Sept. 11. The entire staff was naturally deeply affected. The challenge
of rebuilding the largest and busiest Secret Service office in the country was daunting. It was accomplished by the ultimate in teamwork with a tremendous management team and staff.

Who was the most influential person (or persons) in your life and how did they influence you?
My high school and college football coaches. They taught the meaning of sacrifice, discipline and teamwork.

What historical figure(s) do you admire?
Ronald Reagan, the first president I served with the U.S. Secret Service.

What would you like to accomplish in your lifetime?
Family security, happiness. Return to coaching football

 

Joe Russo’s young eyes would widen a bit when President Reagan or another world leader passed by him in New York’s Plaza Hotel where Russo worked a security job while waiting to join his hometown police department in New Rochelle.

One day a Secret Service officer, knowing that Russo had a degree in criminal justice from Iona College, handed him a recruiter’s card and suggested he call. Russo thought his chances of joining one of the world's most prestigious law enforcement agencies was far-fetched, but he took the card and went to a Secret Service office for a test.

“I never expected to be able to fit in,” says Russo, now 47. “A New Rochelle kid joining the
Secret Service, right?”

But he was in luck. A recruiter told him the Secret Service, which had about 1,500 agents, planned a hiring campaign that would bring in an additional 285.

Today, Russo, who retired from the Secret Service last year, has parlayed his career guarding presidents, vice presidents and other world leaders into a job with a company that protects the leaders of some of the largest and most powerful companies and famous celebrities in the world.

Russo, a Somers resident, is vice president of special operations for T&M Protection Resources, overseeing the company's explosive detection, technical security and executive protection operations.

From a 16th floor office overlooking lower Manhattan, Russo, a married father of three, commands a team of experts who use bomb-sniffing dogs to check Yankee Stadium, Shea Stadium and some of New York’s trophy high-rises for explosives.

Clients also call on Russo's army of detectives to sweep offices, boardrooms and other private areas for cameras or listening devices. If a company thinks a competitor is tailing its executives, Russo will have a crew follow those executives to see if anyone is spying on them.

The executive protection division provides private security officers to travel with corporate executives, protecting them against kidnapping and other nefarious plots.

T&M, established in 1981, does not seek to compete with large security firms that ring up hundreds of millions of dollars a year in sales by supplying low-wage security guards with little training to sit at front desks and entrances of office buildings, warehouses, factories and other businesses. “We’re a boutique company,” said chief executive Robert Tucker, who recruited Russo.

The company’s niche is supplying premium, high-end services to large companies. Tucker said the company expects about $30 million in sales this year, more than a 10 percent increase over last year. Located in the city’s Financial District, the company has 700 employees, about 200 of whom work under Russo.

In Russo, T&M got an executive with a rich resume. As a special agent in charge, Russo was responsible for protecting former President Clinton and U.S. Sen. Hilary Clinton after the couple left the White House in 2001. He helped design the plan for security at the couple's house in Chappaqua and the former president's office in Harlem.

He spent three years working the vice president's detail, protecting Dan Quayle during the last few months of his term, and then protecting Al Gore and his family during the first three years of Gore’s tenure.

Russo also put together the security plan for President Bush’s now famous visit to Ground Zero. The visit was just three days after Russo felt a bone-rattling jolt while in his office at 7 World Trade Center and saw the horrific sight of people tumbling out of the nearby Twin Towers the morning of Sept. 11, 2001.

Growing up on New Rochelle's Elm Street, Russo hoped to make a career out of hitting people, not protecting them. The son of a highly decorated World War II Army pilot, Russo thought he might have a shot at playing professional football.

He played linebacker for Blessed Sacrament High School and then for Iona College, where he was captain and the school's first ever all- American. That got him a tryout after graduation with the Dallas Cowboys, but his hopes of a football career died in the Irving, Texas, heat — along with the dreams of hundreds of other young men who attended the open tryout.

“I was too small and too slow,” Russo says. “That's what the guy (a Cowboys official) told me. It was, ‘Too small and too slow but thanks for coming down.’”

Fortunately, Russo had a degree he could put to use.

He spent a year patrolling streets, breaking up bar fights and investigating routine complaints for the New Rochelle police department while the Secret Service interviewed his colleagues, family, neighbors, former teachers and just about anyone else who knew him to see whether he was fit for hire.

The day after Christmas in 1983, Russo got a call telling him he would be sworn in as an agent the next day. He learned later that the agency was eager to have its new class of agents begin so they could qualify for retirement after 20 years. The system was about to change so that a newly hired agent would need 25 years.

He began in the New York field office, where he spent most of his first nine years, investigating counterfeit money and fraud involving U.S. Treasury checks and credit cards.

“Eighty percent of our time was investigations but on any given day they could call you and say, ‘Hey, put a suit on and go to the Waldorf. President Reagan’s going there,’ or ‘You have to travel,’” Russo says.

But after years of heavy travel, Russo is enjoying the switch to the private sector.

“I'm just an average guy who had a very rewarding career,” Russo says.

  

About T&M Protection Resources, LLC
Established in 1981, T&M Protection Resources is headquartered in New York and  provides high level security, executive protection and explosive detection services, technical security systems and countermeasures and consulting services to leading corporate, institutional and private clients with special concentration in financial services, commercial property management, major sports franchises and organizations that are part of our nation’s critical infrastructure.   Through its Forensic Investigative Associates (FIA) division, T&M also offers expertise in corporate due diligence, fraud and forensic investigations, compliance monitorships, litigation support, and global intelligence services.  For more information, please contact T&M Protection Resources at 212-422-0000 or visit our website at www.tandmprotection.com.

In November 2007, Pegasus Partners IV LP (“Pegasus”) became a minority partner of T&M. Pegasus is an affiliate of Pegasus Capital Advisors, LP, a private equity firm that manages close to $1.8 billion in assets through several private equity funds. The firm provides creative capital solutions to middle market companies across a wide variety of industries, with a particular interest in businesses that make a meaningful contribution to society by positively affecting the environment, contributing to sustainability and enabling healthy living. For more information, visit the firm’s website at www.pcalp.com.

For more information, please contact T&M Protection Resources at 212-422-0000 or visit our web site at www.tandmprotection.com.