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Head of FBI in Boston announces retirement

Vincent Lisi, the head of the FBI in Boston, was flanked by Boston Mayor Marty Walsh and Boston Police Commissioner William Evans at a June press conference. Stephan Savoia/AP

Vincent B. Lisi, the head of the FBI in Boston, said Thursday that he will retire after 26 years with the agency, and two years after he was appointed to run the agency’s regional office.

Lisi, 51, said through a spokeswoman that he accepted a position as director of security with an unnamed firm in the private sector. His retirement is effective Aug. 31.

Though it is not uncommon for a special agent in charge to retire after serving as a regional bureau chief — Lisi’s predecessor, Richard DesLauriers, retired in 2013 after 26 years with the agency and also took a job in the private sector — Lisi’s announcement surprised many who had worked with him.


US Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz, who worked closely with Lisi, said in a statement, “Vince has worked tirelessly during his tenure . . . and the district has clearly benefited from his expertise and dogged work ethic. He truly exemplifies public service as evidenced by his long and impressive career.”

Boston Police Commissioner William Evans said he has worked with Lisi on high-profile cases including planning security for the Boston Marathon over the last two years, and most recently the investigation of the shooting by police of an alleged terrorist in Roslindale. He said that with Lisi “at the helm, you could always count on his help, support, and professionalism.”

“During his time in Boston, the already strong relationship between the FBI and the BPD only got stronger, and [Lisi] will be missed,” Evans said.

As special agent in charge in Boston, Lisi oversaw the bureau’s operations in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Maine, and New Hampshire. He was appointed to the position in July 2013, and quickly named the investigation of the Boston Marathon attack, which had occurred three months earlier, his priority.

Since then, the lone surviving bomber, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, was convicted and sentenced to death. His brother and coconspirator, Tamerlan, died in a confrontation with police. Lisi has said no one else was involved in carrying out the Marathon attacks, though many have questioned whether Tsarnaev’s sister-in-law, Katherine Russell Tsarnaeva, had known about the plot, and whether she should have been charged.


The bureau was also criticized for its handling of the investigation into the fatal shooting of Ibragim Todashev, an acquaintance of the Tsarnaev brothers, by an FBI agent. Todashev, 27, was shot and killed in Orlando in May 2013 when he allegedly wielded a pole at the agent during an interrogation. A Florida prosecutor later found that the shooting was justified self defense.

In his two years in office, Lisi has overseen a range of other operations, including the disruption of the Sinaloa Cartel, an international drug trafficking organization led by the notorious drug lord known as “El Chapo.” He also oversaw the investigation of corrupt Massachusetts state probation officials, and the investigation of Gordon Fox, the convicted former speaker of the Rhode Island House of Representatives.

A native of Pittsburgh, Lisi began working in the FBI’s Washington field office in 1989, investigating violent gang and drug matters. He has served as an FBI supervisory agent in the Office of Congressional Affairs at FBI headquarters; was assigned to an FBI unit in Yemen; and helped lead the investigation into the 2001 anthrax letter attacks. He later worked in counter-intelligence and as deputy assistant director of the FBI.


His replacement has not been named.

Milton J. Valencia can be reached at mvalencia@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @miltonvalencia.