McLees was recently selected to assume command as special agent in charge of Homeland Security investigations for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in New Jersey. Born and raised in Philadelphia, he holds a bachelor of science accounting degree from LaSalle University.
Tell us about your Irish heritage.
“It is my understanding that my mother’s family came from Co. Kilkenny and my father’s family came to the United States from Co. Derry in the early 1840s, and several went on to fight for the Union in the Civil War. I have a letter written from one of my father’s ancestors while he was encamped in what is now Arlington National Cemetery, and he was commenting on the how majestic the U.S. Capitol looked as it was being re-constructed.
“In keeping with family tradition demonstrated by generations of McLees men away from home for the first time, he concludes the letter by requesting that money be sent for whiskey and tobacco.”
You were born and raised in Philadelphia. Were there a lot of Irish in your neighborhood?
“I was raised in a neighborhood just outside of Philadelphia that had a large Irish American population that maintained a great deal of pride and connectivity in their Irish heritage.”
Have you ever been to Ireland?
“I was married in January 1994, and my wife I decided to take a delayed honeymoon in Ireland that August. My friends thought it was such a great idea that they decided to join us for our visit. We had a tremendous time and really enjoyed the country; in particular, we had a wonderful stay in Kinsale.”
You were recently announced as the top investigator in New Jersey by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Tell us about your job.
“As the special agent in charge of Homeland Security investigations in New Jersey, I manage over 200 special agents who among other things are responsible to investigate transnational criminal organizations that smuggle narcotics and/or humans into the U.S., export military technology to sanctioned countries, violate intellectual property rights laws by counterfeiting goods that can create a risk to public health and safety, traffic in humans and exploit children. The office is responsible for the entire state of New Jersey and we work closely with our federal, state and local law enforcement partners.”
What stands out in your career so far?
“My career began in 1989 in Newark as a special agent where I spent nine years before moving to Washington, D.C. and then Philadelphia. I am very proud to return to Newark and represent the men and women of this office and the fine investigative work they perform.”
What is the most challenging aspect of your job?
“As the Department of Homeland Security is a relatively new department, one of the most challenging aspects of my job is educating people as to our roles and responsibilities in keeping the nation safe.”