Nancy Kratzer, a 1979 SHSU alumna, was only the second woman in the country to be hired as a federal agent with the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare Investigations Office—one of a handful of women who were employed as federal agents during that time.
As Kratzer continued her career, she rose to become the deputy special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations in Dallas, an office that focuses on protecting the U.S. and promoting public safety.
"I have been where you are sitting 33 years ago," Kratzer told an audience of criminal justice students. "I wanted to be in law enforcement, and I wanted to be a federal agent. But this was a man's job. This was a man's world."
Kratzer, who retired from the Department of Homeland Security in 2010 to open her own private investigation firm, said a lot has changed since she graduated, including opportunities available for women. Kratzer returned to her alma mater in 2011 to participate in SHSU's "Let Talk," which provides small, group interactions with renowned experts, and to share her experiences with more than 150 students at the College of Criminal Justice.
Kratzer got her first lesson in criminal investigative techniques after being chosen for the first federal internship offered by the College of Criminal Justice. She worked for the Office of Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare, an agency charged with investigating health care violations and individuals committing fraud in the department.
After taking copious notes on emotions, gestures and reactions in the case of a federal employee accused of embezzlement, she learned it was only the facts that mattered. She spent nine years in the job, combining her love of investigations with a passion for medical science.
Kratzer transferred to the U.S. Customs Service, which was one of two federal agencies that merged into the Department of Homeland Security in 2003 following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
The department, the second largest federal law enforcement agency behind the FBI, has a broad mission, investigating financial/money laundering; human smuggling and trafficking; document, identity and benefit fraud; contraband smuggling; crimes against children; counter-proliferation investigations, such as weapons of mass destruction, the illegal weapon trades and high tech espionage; commercial fraud; worksite enforcement; and transnational gangs.
"It includes any person, people or things coming into or going out of the country," Kratzer said.
The Dallas Office of Homeland Security Investigations oversees 200 federal agents in 128 counties in Texas and Oklahoma. Over the years, Kratzer has been involved in cases covering all aspects of the agency's mission.
Kratzer demonstrated the many methods used to smuggle illegal drugs, goods and cash into the country, discussing how an internal body carrier swallows pellets filled with drugs and money, which are discovered with X-rays at local hospitals.
One man wrapped his body in bills trying to smuggle $149,360 into the country. Others packed their cars with drugs, which are detected by X-ray machines at the border. Some try to sneak drugs in the U.S. by hiding them in incoming merchandise, she said.
Kratzer recalled a case of concrete fence posts, each encapsulating six kilos of cocaine, that were shipped from Venezuela to Miami and then East Texas. Her office sat on the shipment on surveillance 24/7 for two months before the first of the fence posts were claimed and the cocaine was exposed.
The agency also looks for counterfeit goods coming from other countries. The agency has discovered illegal shipments of fake Stoli vodka as well as counterfeit batteries. The clue: a nine-volt battery packaged in a case for AAA batteries. They also seized cigarette lighters in the forms of guns, cell phones and miniature musical instruments because they lacked a safety switch to protect children.
"They will counterfeit anything that is popular," Kratzer said. "Anything the public wants, manufacturers produce."
The Dallas office also investigated the case of a longtime Boy Scouts of America official. He pled guilty to downloading multiple images of child pornography on his home computer.
Another aspect of the job is human trafficking and smuggling. While smuggling is the transportation of an individual or group across borders illegally with false or stolen documents, trafficking involves the use of coercion or force on individuals brought into the country illegal for work, services or the sex trade.
"You ask if slavery still occurs and, yes, it does," Kratzer said.
Kratzer also provided tips to criminal justice students on how to get a federal job. Kratzer said it is important to have a clean criminal record, not use drugs and always tell the truth.