While the Peace Corps might have pioneered the concept of “the toughest job you’ll ever love,” working as a federal prosecutor is a close runner-up.
“It’s the best job you could possibly have. There’s never a day when I wake up and don’t want to go to work,” said Minneapolis lawyer Lola Velasquez-Aguilu.
“Every day I get to do justice — fight for a just cause. Then there’s the process; how we collaborate with law enforcement and other people within the office is just amazing. And at the heart of what we do is solve a mystery,” she explained.
“Sometimes, we know exactly how something happened. But we still have to reconstruct history. We put the pieces of a puzzle together. It’s fascinating. What was someone thinking? Why did they do what they do? And then we get to tell that story to a jury.”
The job is particularly rewarding when the jury gets it right, as it did when Velasquez-Aguilu prosecuted Khemall Jokhoo in late 2013. It found him guilty of all charges, including aggravated identity theft, and bank, mail and wire fraud.
Jokhoo, a registered debt collector, owned a collection agency. He used his access to sensitive credit data, including Social Security numbers and bank account information, to harass and intimidate victims and demand payment to him for purported debts. When Jokhoo failed to convince victims to pay him, he impersonated victims, using their bank account and other identifying information to take over and steal directly from their accounts. All totaled, he stole over $700,000 from more than 60 persons.
Jokhoo was sentenced to 175 months in federal prison. “He targeted his victims viciously,” Velaquez-Aguilu said.
It’s not uncommon for Velasquez-Aguilu to get three hours’ sleep, sometimes for weeks on end, when she’s in trial.
“The stakes are incredibly high. We put everything into our work,” she said.
“It’s personality driven, more than circumstance.”