Robert Bacon has an incredibly unique story, from his youngest years all the way to his very non-standard career in the military and government work. You’ll get to hear firsthand about the experiences he’s had regarding business, work, and family in a rapidly evolving international environment.
So today I’m really pumped because we have Robert Bacon. Robert, he served in the Army. He’s served in the Army National Guard. And what’s really cool he was a criminal intelligence analyst through Army National Guard but serving with the NYPD and the DEA before launching his own venture Huxley Orion. And we’re going to dive all into the weeds on this stuff today. I’m excited to talk to Robert. And Robert, sir, I just want to thank you so much for joining the show today.
Thank you for having me. I’m very excited.
Oh, man. No, I’m thrilled. And so everybody understands, you are connected to me right now from Costa Rica. So I’ll gladly trade you spots, man, if you’d like to form a trade real quick.
Well, it’s beautiful. I’m moving from Costa Rica to New York City and Long Island and all of that. Costa Rica, it’s beautiful and big contrasts in my life right now.
Those are some stark contrast for sure.
Why don’t you just help us get to know you a little bit better. So share with us your story, your upbringing and then how you entered into the military.
Okay. Well, I have an interesting story. I was born in Massachusetts and my mother is originally from Costa Rica and she met my father in college up in Boston. So I lived there. I grew up there until I was close to my sixth year, and my parents moved to Costa Rica many years ago, back in ‘72. And I remember that as a child, I never wanted to leave the states. I told my parents. But here in the states, we have a military base. Fort Devens was very close and they have military parades and I’d like to see him. I don’t want to leave the states. And my parents told me, “Oh, don’t worry. In Costa Rica, they have military parades all the time.” Well, I come to Costa Rica, Costa doesn’t have an army. It was abolished in ‘48. So I never had my military connection. And that left a very big impression for the rest of my life that took me into the army. My grandfather was a Marine and I have an uncle who died in Second World War. So there’s some military tradition in my family, and that really left a mark.
So I get here for many years in Costa Rica. I worked for the government here in a special operations unit, but I needed to go back to the states. I did some operations once I commanded this special ops unit. I’m the only American working in the national police in Costa Rica. And I started doing work with DEA and I loved it. I built rapport. So back in the mid-90s, I get ready to come into the states and I started an application to go into the Drug Enforcement Administration. And they helped me out because I had a good experience, languages, education, whatever.
So I get there, and guess what happens? Government shut down, hiring freeze, everything. And I had a family to support and everything. So what did I do? Joined the Army. I went to see the recruiters. And I chose the Army because it had a little bigger inventory of jobs and it was a little more family oriented than the Marines. I was between Marines and Army. And I joined the Army and I loved them. Today, I love it. I love it with all my passion. And everybody, you, for serving as well. We’re a special community. So I go into the Army and while I was going into basic training, I started getting notifications in the mail that my application was going through, but I was already committed to the Army.
So I go to Fort Hood, Texas, you know, out there, Killeen and I loved it. Gigantic. It was a little hard. I was 30 when I joined and I had education and a lot of sergeants don’t like the meducated soldier there. So I just learned how to keep my mouth shut. I was able to go to school while in the field. And I got my master’s degree while being a full-time soldier in the field and doing everything. I wasn’t asking for special favors. Only one night I was pulled out of the field for a very special quest. I had a family. So I really busted my butt taking advantage of all the great benefits they offer me. So I got my degree in information systems. I was sent to become a – what do you call it? A recruiter. Put people in boots. That was part of probably my hardest assignment ever.
First, I grew up outside the United States. So I didn’t know the difference between a junior or a senior or a freshman, right? Then I’m in Texas recruiting and my sergeant major tells me, “Well, Bacon, what do you want? Or what do you know about the community? What do you know about football?” I didn’t know anything about football, so he would have grouchy, ugly face, he told me, “Well, you better learn” and imagine all the bad words about American football. Well, I got to be a very good recruiter. I became a Recruiter of the Year or whatever. I got my awards, whatever. And years later, I called my sergeant major and told him, “Hey, sergeant major, I still don’t know a damn about football,” but I did that.
But then, that took me into the Army. Then through different things of life, I ended up in New York trying to go to Fort Drum and joined the guard to get approved, reclassified back as Eleven Bravo infantry. And I got locked down to go to Afghanistan, which was wonderful. But now I needed a job because the guard wasn’t going to pay my bills. So I was offered based on my experience by my company commander, who was the commander for county drug task force in New York City a job as an analyst there. And I’m an infantry guy. Infantry, you know, we’re kind of forwarder. We can barely write our names. Well, whatever. But I was put to work with NYPD supervising a group of analysts. And it was beautiful. It was challenging. A new culture. Of course, NYPD is very paramilitary. They’re very like us very much. I love that.
Then I went to Afghanistan and I served there in security forces, whatever, and Kabul and Jalalabad, came back and I was reassigned to make a big study on pharmaceutical-related crime. So I went studying oxycodone. I wrote a very big, the manual for the government. It’s somewhere, probably one or two people read it, but I took two years studying pharmaceutical diversion, abuse of oxycodone, whatever. And I was also being prepared to become what’s called a counter threat finance analyst. That’s followed the money. It’s a new doctrine that the Department of Defense started incorporating, especially in special ops to curtail the enemy. Any organization is vulnerable to be exploited by us, the good people, when they do two things. When they communicate there’s NSA and signal intelligence and all of that or something new. When they make any financial transaction related to their operations. I became trained to deal with that. So once I got that training, guess where they send me to work? Exactly where I was originally gonna go to work in the United States or DEA.
So weird things of the world. Fate, destiny, passion for love, karma, whatever you want to call it. I started working and it was about 13 years with Drug Enforcement Administration in something called the FIT (Financial Investigations Team) in New York City. And what is New York City? It’s the epicenter of the world for all financial activity. Also, it’s the city that in Hollywood gets destroyed every week. We have hurricanes. We have the End of the World, Godzilla, King Kong. Everything happens in New York. So there I am in New York City, an infantry guy following the money and helping my DEA fellow comrades, the agents and the analysts, track down the money of very, very bad people of the cartels, all the cartels and from the local to the big.
And it was a wonderful community. And I have very dear friends. And I still have also other military people from the Counterdrug Task Force from New York City and New York state that are still working in that capacity. I communicate. And we did very well. Then my supervisors in DEA were very tough, right? Very good. You have to have practical results. So what I did, I thought like an infantry guy. In infantry, if you’re in downrange shooting the bad guys, you’re going to try to neutralize your biggest threat. So I use this kind of thinking and start developing skill sets to train new analysts. And I always liked teaching and training, developing skills even before I came back to the states, I worked for the University of Costa Rica and I had a lot of exposure to all of this. I loved teaching and all of that stuff.
So for many years, I worked as a Department of Defense funded instructor for criminal intelligence analyst, developing new analysts. And of course, I specialized in what’s called integrated investigations where you investigate a crime, but you also investigate the financial aspect of it. You put it together and you do the same thing cable companies do – bundle their packages. Well, I would help to bundle the charges. Because most of our enforcement, they think that all the money laundering or the illicit finance investigation, you need to be an accountant. And I told them, “No, I’m an infantry guy. I can barely write my name, right? All you have to know is add and subtract and what to look for, right?”
So I developed a lot of good training in this field, and I’ve been training people from all agencies – state, federal, and local, also with financial service businesses. I just finished a series of instruction with something called Section 2 Finance which we had a series for financial institutions, six very big deliveries. That’s why I understand about video production. And I also work with a very dear friend, Michael Loughnane, who has a company that’s dedicated to teaching scholars, bankers and everything in threat finance or money laundering. So I’ve been very active and all of these skillsets were provided by the military. And my leadership was also making sure that I would prepare for my transition into civilian life.
Oh, that’s great.
And certainly, they did. And I thought about that, you know, of course I joined when I was 30, so I had some ideas that were different from an 18-year old who joins. So I was always prepared for my transition to civilian life, everything. And I always had the support from my leadership. I was very loyal to them, very abnegated in my work. And they sent me all over the United States, outside the United States. I worked with police from many countries, teaching them. And guess what? Now that made me marketable. That gave me the credibility to be out here and to work with what I have passion. Because money is thicker than blood, really. Everything gravitates around money. And it’s a very good skill to have also. The United States, our country, many people outside the United States, for many reasons, despise us or like us or whatever, has add a leading role in setting the foundations, the legal, ethical foundations, law enforcement authorities to make the world a better place. And when did that start? 70s with the famous Bank Secrecy Act? Boring stuff. I’m making you fall asleep.
No, it’s cool.
I make myself fall asleep with this stuff as well. What is that? It means that before 1970, and if you saw Scarface at a bank nobody really care where the money came from, just deposited in.
A bag of money, right?
Yeah, no questions asked. After that, you have to explain. That’s a great thing. Then in 1977, we have this Foreign Corrupt Practices Act where we tell the American people, US citizens and businesses, listen, if you’re going to do business around the world, you can’t bribe public officials or other – you have to do the right thing. The same standards in the United States out there. Then we have a beautiful law, again, boring stuff for most people, it’s the Anti-Money Laundering law of 1986. That law changed the world. That meant that if you did illicit activity or your gains are from illicit activity, you’re going to be charged not only for that illicit activity, but also your money is illicit, you have no claim to it. We’re going to take that away from you. That’s asset forfeiture. These are powerful things. Of course, where some social groups take that, they say, big brother, trying to take over, new world order. No, it’s not like that.
And we have other laws, and then there are quite a few others, but then when we have USA PATRIOT Act and which really brings financial transparency to the whole world to prevent criminal activity, right? And also, it does something very interesting. It transfers the burden of protecting national security from the laps of the government into the laps of the financial or private sector. They have to report. They have to be proactive. And these are phenomenal things and few other laws and whatever that make me very proud of being a US citizen and being able to have worked as an infantry man in all of this BSA, AMLC, things and all kinds of acronyms and weird things. And the Army gave that to me and I love it. And that’s what I do now.
What a wild ride that you’ve been on. And I’m just muting your mic real quick just for a background noise. But no, but what a wild ride. Because you grew up state side, but then you grew up in Costa Rica. And so instantly right there, you’re in a spot where you can jump in between two different cultures. You had to learn different cultures. And then by nature of the different roles that you’ve held, then you’ve had to kind of help connect other agencies and departments and people and all of these things, the other stuff. The focus of your career has been connecting people with each other.
And bridging a bunch of different cultural, organizational challenges. And so take us then through the process and the journey for you, with your leadership, as you were exiting the service, and then you go to actually start your own firm.
Okay. I started preparing five years before my exit. And I really started, they knew about it. And if I needed any training that was useful for the job at the moment and that would have been beneficial for me once I got out, they would approve it. They would approve it. They gave me all the instruments to manage a team financial, you know, made between Air Force and Army guards members in New York to make the best counter threat finance team in the whole country. And I think at certain time, we did have it, right? But they gave me the leadership experience. They gave me the chance to develop skills, to get the right training, to have the time to prepare myself like my studies. They enabled me to create a specialized library for our people within our organization. They spend thousands of dollars in books so we could train our people. They gave me everything to become a right leader.
Of course, then I became a first sergeant and I had to deal with all the logistics, beans and bullets. And that gave me a lot of capability to understand people, mentor young soldiers. I did this as a squad leader, as a platoon sergeant, as an instructor. So all of those things are focused also. They tell us from day one, prepare for whenever you get out to really enhance your career. And what could I say? It’s not that if I wanted a special course that was not relevant for my job, that they would approve it. No, but they made sure that I was building up the right credentials for my exit, and I’m still in contact with them and I’m waiting for others to retire to incorporate into this venture, to provide a good service and make our country better, the world better, and have fun and probably have coffee, let’s say in Bolivia. I don’t know. Because we’re teaching people how to do things correctly with good skill adapted to their reality and with better work ethics.
Yeah. Wow. Well, then, your business specifically deals with threats, intelligence, training, consulting. And it seems like you do a lot of international work as well. Is that right?
That’s correct. Yeah. It’s not only with my company. Like for example, I’m partnered up with a good retired colonel from special forces and DOD civilian as well. His name is Tim Holmsley. And I’ve been training police in Eastern Europe. And I also went there under government and as a military person to train enforcement. I traded with them. And then with one of my trainers, Michael Loughnane. I’m sorry, I was mispronouncing his name. He’s one of the original ones who work for DOD training me. Now we work together and he’s focused internationally. We just finished providing some seminars to Central America about financial crimes. And we have some other projects that we’re preparing for Panama and other countries.
But yes, it is international. It’s a lot of training, hands-on training like we do in the military. It’s not overview training, no. We have to have a task condition standard, something like that. And we do that training for law enforcement, for bankers, for college’s scholars, non-for-profits, et cetera. And we also have different projects that can be some consulting in threat assessments or valuating policy and procedures.
One of the ventures I’m involved with which is called the Threat Finance Academy. I’m part of that group, right? Yeah. We work a lot with transactional analysis for bankers and it’s global. This month, I’m having an activity training people in Africa. So it’s wonderful. And I can do this because I have the credibility of provided by the Army and then DOD and Department of Justice and my immediate leadership in New York City and New York state.
Wow. Yeah. That’s terrific. I’d like to shift gears just ever so slightly. So there’s folks listening to this that are either involved in international business, or they’re just genuinely interested about international business. And I’ve personally had a little bit of experience when it comes to international business as well. And since been in this field for quite some time, what are some of the challenges involved with developing business internationally and forming contracts and doing things across border?
Okay. Their policies and procedures are very different. For example, if you have a meeting, what will take you and I to say, “Okay. This is the next step. Let’s do it” and put a date. In certain cultures, it can take two, three, four meetings. Everything is very ambiguous. And there’s a lot of social warming. So that’s a big challenge. Then there is the ethical component, right?
There is corruption or they are a little more relaxed. For example, I was trying to form a not-for-profit or I wanted to do that for a project that was going to work with one of my good friends, Michael Loughnane, and we needed to have a not-for-profit. So I was going to try to have one made here in Costa Rica. So it would take forever. And what does the attorney tell me? But if you give me extra money, we can make this be expedited. So if I’m, for example, creating an activity that’s anti-corruption and I use corrupt – so those are part of the challenges. And then you have, for example, language at times, but those are the two biggest ones.
Wow. Yeah, no, it’s a very, very unique challenge. I just enjoy hearing people’s experience when it comes to international business because it’s a very dynamic type of situation. And so it’s interesting to get your perspective on that. So share with us then the vision for the company. What have been some of the challenges that you’ve endured now in this pandemic-focused world that we’re all a part of? What has that done to your business?
Well, it cost me thousands of dollars. Back in March, I retired exactly – I became a civilian April 1st. By April 15th, I had lined up a training gig with what’s called Northwestern Counterdrug Task Force and I was going to go train analysts to do a financial investigation. So I had three or four different iterations of different things lined up, everything got canceled. And that was a big, big, big financial hit. And also, the networking. Because every time you go to a course and you have agents, let’s say from Homeland Security or from some big city or whatever, they might ask for your services, right? So I lost a lot of momentum that I had ready just to switch in. And one of the challenges was to make very practical courses into something that could be delivered using this distance, right? So I’ve been exploring with what’s called the LMSs or learning management systems and Section 2 Finance that I also work with the Threat Finance Academy. We use that. Then Michael Loughnane, he’s also my other partner. He’s developing that.
So we had to adapt. A lot instructors tried to wait out the pandemic and now there’s a change. It might be cost effective to do things, let’s say using platforms like Zoom or other similar ones. But it required also to re-engineer, for example, practical exercises because I don’t like that overview training. If we’re going to be talking about money laundering, I’m not just going to put PowerPoint that we’re all fed up with, right? I give the students the exercises. These are the documents, bank statements. So it’s very interactive. I’ve had to overcome that challenge and it’s very time consuming and it needs testings. So there’s a lot of testing error, doing things. So that’s set me back whatever time this pandemic has taken over for.
Yeah. It’s been a wild ride for a lot of people. And again, I’m just muting your mic. Again, just for background noise. But the pandemic has absolutely caused people to really take a step back and reevaluate what they’re doing, where they’re going. And you said something a minute ago that I think was a very concise description and explanation of what businesses are or are not doing. And you said, we’re going to either wait it out or we’re going to adapt. And I think that is a huge point because there’s been a ton of companies and a ton of industries, they’ve had to make that decision. Are we going to wait it out? Are we going to see if things are going to return to “normal”? Or are we going to go ahead and proactively kind of re-engineer what we’re doing? And I get it, right? Depending on your industry and your business, there may be a ton of costs associated with that of having to retool, maybe expand some capability and do a lot of different things. And so it sounds neat to me. And I’ll unmute you just, again, the background noise, but it’s interesting to me to hear how you are going through the process of creating something that doesn’t have to necessarily be a hundred percent in person, but it enables you to continue to grow your business and continue to step forward.
That is correct. And not only with training. Let’s say if I’m going to evaluate processes used by certain financial service businesses, how they deal with documents and things, a lot of it can be done online from the meetings to having access to documents. So we’re learning new ways, and yes, we have to adapt. Like in the military, we adapt. Like we say in the infantry, well, everybody, METT-TC. We can have the mission but the equipment, the enemy, terrain, time, weather, civilians in the battlefield, that’s going to determine the tactics you choose. And if you want to survive, you have to adapt. It’s simple. And the military teaches us that. We have to be flexible entities. If not, if we’re rigid, we’re going to become obsolete. No, no, I still have many years to go. I would re-enlist again. And I think I’d do better PT than what I did when at my first four years.
That’s awesome. Well, you’ve got great places to go too. I mean, I could just imagine what that would be like in Costa Rica too. But so tell us about your move back to the US. So what’s the story between Costa Rica and New York? What’s going on with all that?
Well, what can I say? My heart is torn. When I was a little older, before going back to the states, I would hear, for example, Neil Diamond sing, and I would get all emotional or Sweet Home Alabama, right? I would feel the soil of the United States and have the desire to be there. And Costa Rica is beautiful, right? Beautiful. And I spent my teenage years here. So when I listen to 80s music, it brings me to this to Costa Rica. But I’ve lived in New York. I’ve lived in Boston, Maryland and in Texas. And my accent in English as all screwed up. Of course, because of my mixture in Costa Rica, and I said I have accent in both languages. After making videos in production, I hear myself speak. It’s horrendous voice. I won’t listen to this video. I can’t stand my voice.
But I I’ve been torn into two different societies. Now that was a very big challenge for my top secret clearance at the time. Especially since I worked for the Costa Rican government. I was going through basic training back in ‘97. And I was still the commanding principal of a special ops unit here in Costa Rica police. So that was quite exotic. And then I go to school at the Americas in ‘91 sent by the US Embassy and the Costa Rican government to go through PSYOP school. And when I get down, they start sort of checking passports and I’m coming from Costa Rica and I give them an American passport. Holy cow. They didn’t know what to do with me.
I had a lot of fun. I didn’t have good military training back then. So sometimes our officer would walk by and I’ll just salute him with my left hand, just for the front of it. And since I was in a weird situation, I have a big truck going to front full of logs, probably illegal logging. Since I had a weird uniform, they didn’t know what to do. So my life has been quite difficult. Then when I traveled for the Costa Rican government, going to different Central American countries or South America, and I’d get down, I had an American passport. They didn’t – well, what is this? So everybody thought I was a spy all the time. And that was quite exotic. Nobody couldn’t – it was always weird. And that’s because of my parents, right? Two split countries. And I decided to get involved in Army and DEA and all of those things. So it’s been a very challenging at the social level and imagery part.
Yeah. I think imagery for sure. Because it reads like a spy novel, right? If we’re just going to be honest, right? It reads like that. And I’ve actually been careful not to ask certain questions. But no, I mean, it’s your story. It’s the way that your life has gone. I think it’s a very, very unique perspective and you’ve very presented incredibly unique opportunities. And so for those that are listening and watching and are curious about business and in a process that you went through to get things set up and started, I mean, what are some lessons learned? What’s some advice that you’d have for others that are wanting to follow either an international business or just business in general?
Okay. You have to be committed to a vision. You have to have a vision. And if you’re committed, you’re going to be willing to invest your time to make yourself better, to study, to rehearse, to become better. You need that discipline. But good discipline just doesn’t come out of the clear blue sky or having some very angry leader or soldier or sergeant yelling at you. No. It’s trying to understand a vision, what you really want. Of course, it can’t be a utopia. I’m going to go find unicorns. No. Something based on a good study. What are the real capabilities I have to do? And choose the right courses of action and pull through with almost military discipline, right? And commitment. But you have to commit to a cause. If you commit, then your passion comes. And if you have passion for doing whatever, it becomes so easy. We live only once. Let’s live it well. So my recommendation is find that mission that’s going to take you to fulfill a vision you have, a dream, whatever it is. Right now, I like cooking and I like art and I paint. And this one back here, that’s mine, the blue one, some smaller stuff.
Oh, that’s awesome.
Yeah. So you have to live with passion. And if you have that, you’ll commit and you will follow through in a disciplined manner. It’s probably a bunch of rhetoric, but it’s the best I can say.
No, it’s good. I think that a lot of what you’re saying is to understand your why. Why are you doing what you do? What gets you excited? Because if you always remember what the vision is for the company that you’re forming, what big problem are you trying to solve in the marketplace or just even in your own personal life, what are you trying to accomplish? And what about why? Then it helps you get out of bed in the morning on the days that you don’t maybe feel like it. And I think that just goes back to the point that you’re making. So, no, rhetoric or not, I think it’s good.
Well, the why is going to give us the relevance, right? If it’s relevant, you have to go for it. Yes.
Yeah. I like that. Why is going to give us the relevance? That’s a great quote, man. I should try to quote that.
Well, that’s what I tell. I tell my students in classroom when, for example, you have young intelligence analysts and they see all of this data, or you have a banker who works in anti-money laundering and you say, “Well, what am I was? So what? Why should I know about Hezbollah? Why should I know about organized crime? I just want to do my job.” Well, you have to make them understand that if they do their job right, they’re going to have impact on that case that you’re dealing with. And there’s going to be secondary and tertiary orders of events. You have to be committed to something and understand why. And that’s exactly what I tell the students. All of this theory, all of this PowerPoint, okay, let’s try to bring it down to the practitioner level. Why is it good? How’s it going make you better? How is it going to make society better, your company better? That is the key, in my opinion.
It’s like the soldiers who I remember either in country or during training, they would put some soldiers out in a little place doing nothing. And those soldiers wanted the excitement of the battle drill, but sometimes a bad leader would not tell them. They would just tell him, “Just go and do this.” That doesn’t work. A good leader is going to provide not only direction but is going to provide a sense of purpose. “Okay. By being here, you’re going to block the capability of the enemy to infiltrate this way.” So if you provide direction – how to do things, what are you going to do, and you give them the overt purpose, motivation comes in and they will do it well. Even they’re sitting there during the battle drill and they’re not firing their weapons, but they might understand that that’s very important in the true battle field, right? Why are we here? So that is one of the key things that not only military but leadership fails to do. The sense purpose. Why are you here?
That’s so, so crucial. And it doesn’t matter what organization you’re in, what level of leadership you’re in, establishing the why and the why you’re here. I love that, Robert. I think that’s terrific. So as we kind of wind down here and start to close our time out, share with us just a little bit about Huxley Orion, how can people get ahold of you?
Okay. Well, Huxley Orion, you can just look it up online. Or I have either my regular web page, which would be www.huxleyorion.com or on Facebook or on LinkedIn. And before five, three, four years ago, I was completely untraceable for obvious reasons. Even my Facebook didn’t have my name or anything, right? Not even my picture. By the way, my Facebook date of birth is January 1st. And everybody sends me nice things, but it’s not true. But through those ways, you can contact me or just googling Bacon or Robert Bacon, drugs or Army or money laundering, it will come up. It will come up.
That’s crazy. Well, I think I’ll make for some good reading. But no, I just want to thank you, Robert. Again, thanks for connecting with me. Thank you again for sharing some time with me and for sharing your story. I’ve really, really enjoyed it.
I thank you. I’ve watched already quite a few of your productions. I really like them. And so as I was explaining to a friend, this is a beautiful anthology that is useful for many of our comrades who were about to leave. So I’m going to be sharing this in my social media. I mean, the other ones as well. I don’t want to show myself off too much because I don’t want to become a narcissist. But I think you’re doing something that is wonderful for the military. And the questions you asked about the transition, that is so important, especially the young soldiers. Well, many don’t get prepared for this transition and then they suffer a lot. So thank you.
Oh, man. I appreciate the kind words. I don’t have a show without some terrific guests. So again, thanks so much, Robert. Appreciate it.
Thank you. Be well and be happy and let goodwill prevail.