As he heads back to Washington, Chicago’s FBI director reflects on time in Midwest

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CHICAGO — Chicago’s FBI director is leaving the Midwest for a bigger job back in Washington as the agency’s CFO.

It’s a big job in a career that has spanned 22 years after working in cities like Boston, New York and New Orleans.

For two years, Special Agent in Charge of the Chicago bureau, Jeff Sallet, 48, juggled mounting public corruption, inescapable street gang violence with the prospect of mass acts of violence in the Midwest.

“I do not like to take easy jobs,” he said. “I’ve been to some of the most ethically challenged government locations in the U.S., Chicago is an ethically and morally challenged government area.”

Sallet cut his teeth taking down organized crime on the East Coast investigating the Boston bombing and rooting out public corruption for the feds. It all prepared him for the two years of running Chicago’s field office.

“I think people in the City of Chicago are sick of being victimized by politicians,” he said. “Sick of paying to play. Sick of politicians not working for them and them having to work for the politicians.”

During his short time in Chicago, the city has watched Ald. Ed Burke get indicted, Ald. Carrie Austin become ensnared in a federal investigation, former Ald. Danny Solis cooperate with law enforcement and people close to Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan could find themselves in trouble with the law.

Sallet said one way to stop all of it is term limits — the longer politicians are in office, the more powerful they become. As for alleged conflicts of interest, a jury may have to later decide.

“If you’re an attorney and you represent people before these bodies, you are working for or with state  and local government that could be a potential conflict,” he said.

Sallet maintains people committing these crimes are well aware they are breaking the law.

“The ignorance defense in politics is absolutely absurd,” he said. “People are adults and often have legal backgrounds. For them to feign ignorance or innocence is absolutely outrageous.”

As for the mob in Chicago, Sallet said, “It is on fumes.” But organized crime is not off the FBI’s radar.

“Because the mob is like a cockroach, if you don’t keep them down they will regenerate,” he said.

Sallet’s brush with big cases are the ones America knows all too well.

“I was in Boston during the Boston bombing. I was also next to the North Tower when the South Tower fell in 2001,” he said.

In fact, he was running in the Boston Marathon in 2013 and at Mile 25 when the bombs went off. His wife and children were waiting at the finish line. He reconnected with them hours later, then immediately got to work on investigating that tragic day and the people behind it. It soon became personal for him.

But what keeps him up at night now is the gang shootings and mass acts of violence that he confirms are happening weekly.

Sallet leaves Chicago later this month to heads to Washington.

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