Westport native wins investigative honors for bringing murder fugitive to justice
He's worked a presidential inauguration. He's traveled with former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright to China. He was the assistant regional security officer at the U.S. Embassy in Athens, Greece, for two years ahead of the 2004 Olympics.
Robert Kelty, a Westport native, clearly isn't stuck in a cubicle working 9 to 5.
In fact, he recently received, along with three other Diplomatic Security Service agents, the Investigative Excellence Award from the U.S. Marshals Service for helping bring to justice a fugitive murder suspect. Jamaican citizen Patrick Brown was wanted for allegedly stabbing a man to death in Boston in 1995, but had been hiding in southern Belize. Brown was once profiled on television's "America's Most Wanted."
Kelty, the regional security officer for the U.S. Embassy in Belize, is not unaccustomed to making "America's Most Wanted" the no-longer wanted.
Brown was the third fugitive featured on the John Walsh-hosted TV show over the past year that his office and the Belize Police Department captured and returned to U.S. soil. But the third time was the charm as far as earning something nice to put on display in his office.
"I appreciate the recognition from my colleagues in the U.S. Marshals Service," Kelty wrote in an e-mail interview. "But the greatest reward is the satisfaction that a dangerous fugitive will face justice in the U.S. after 15 years on the run and that the family of the victim may finally have closure after the tragedy they experienced."
Prior to laying low in Belize, Brown was living in Costa Rica, but Kelty, acting on a tip, partnered with colleagues in neighboring Costa Rica and Belize to investigate Brown's alleged connection to a drug gang in Costa Rica. When the heat was turned up by the Costa Rica investigation that began in September 2009, Brown fled to Belize. Kelty, with the help of the U.S. Marshals Service, picked up the trail and tracked Brown to southern Belize, where he was arrested by local authorities in February. Brown has since been flown to the United States, and is expected to stand trial for murder.
Kelty, Paul Trachtenberg, Wade DeWitt and Jason Meixner were the first Diplomatic Security Special Agents ever to be recognized and receive the Investigative Excellence Award by the U.S. Marshals Service.
Asked to cite the most challenging thing in bringing Brown to justice, Kelty responded, "Anytime an international fugitive is returned to the U.S., it is a complicated matter. It is extremely important that the proper coordination occurs within the Belize Police Department and the government of Belize, and that each step of the investigation, capture and subsequent return follows both U.S. and Belizean laws.
"Fortunately, Diplomatic Security has a tremendous amount of experience in this area as Diplomatic Security returned 136 international fugitives in 2009."
Kelty majored in political science at Colgate University after graduating from Staples High School, but it wasn't until the second semester of his senior year that he decided to pursue a government career, according to father, Frank, who still lives in Westport. That's when he spent a semester in Washington, D.C., as part of Colgate's Washington Study Group. He was an intern for both U.S. Sen. Christopher Dodd's office and the Drug Enforcement Administration.
"Participating in Colgate's Washington Study Group provided me with both the direction and work experience that was instrumental in getting my first job," said Kelty. "As my degree was in political science, I thought government service was something I was interested in, but it was the study group experience that really cemented that interest and helped me develop the contacts to get that first job."
Kelty's first job was as a contractor with the DEA in its asset forfeiture section. Then, in 1997, after two years in that role, he was hired by the DEA as an intelligence analyst and worked at the DEA's Washington field division until he was hired by Diplomatic Security in 1998.
As the regional security officer for the U.S. Embassy in Belize, Kelty's job is to make sure that the business of diplomacy is conducted safely and securely.
"That means -- first and foremost -- that I am responsible for protecting our ambassador, our diplomatic staff and the embassy from acts of terrorism, crime and even natural disasters," he said. "I am also responsible for investigating passport and visa fraud cases and the return of fugitives. Last year, my office worked with the Belize Police Department to return 19 fugitives back to the U.S."
Kelty may miss Westport and his mother's cooking, but he likes that his job gives him the opportunity to travel and live overseas. He added that Diplomatic Security's wide-ranging mission of security, protection and investigations "means that you can literally be in a new job every two to three years with each new assignment."
The hardest part, he said, is being away from family and friends during lengthy overseas assignments.
Kelty is truly a world traveler. He received his Investigative Excellence Award not in Belize or the U.S., but in Toronto, Canada. It just happened to be where the 12th Annual International Fugitive Investigators Conference was taking place. The award he was given "honors those members of the international law enforcement community who have performed in an exemplary manner and have made significant contributions to the efficient and effective administration of justice around the globe."