Scott Lawson, a storied FBI agent who helped break a multimillion dollar money laundering scheme by one of Mexico’s most notorious drug cartels, traces the roots of his career to Jackson State.
A basketball player, he wanted to further his athletic ambitions while taking basic undergrad courses. He hadn’t picked a major, so he felt Jackson State would be a good fit and a good bargain for the prerequisite classes he would need to take. After earning an associate degree in computer networking in 2002, he left for Middle Tennessee State University.
“JSCC did an excellent job both in preparing me for the workforce and preparing me to excel in my studies at a four-year university,” Lawson said. “My instructors at JSCC really took a hands-on approach, actively assisted in helping me obtain internships, and seemed concerned in my career progression.”
His transition from Jackson State to MTSU was flawless, he said, and all of his classes easily transferred. “The teachers at JSCC challenged me in a way that made me feel prepared to take the next step in my education. Also important to me was not wasting money at MTSU for the first two years of my degree while being unsure of what my future major would be.”
Lawson ultimately pursued a degree in criminal psychology at MTSU. His father was in law enforcement, and he decided he wanted to serve his community in a similar manner.
“My ambition guided me to the FBI because I wanted a professional atmosphere in which I could investigate and track the most heinous of perpetrators.”
His background at Jackson State gave him a well-rounded resume with computer science training, which is beneficial for federal employment. Jackson State also helped him land an internship that turned into a two-year position as a network administrator, which helped as he was recruited by the FBI.
After joining the FBI, Lawson was assigned to Laredo, Texas, on the Mexican border and tasked with investigating drug activity. In January 2010, Lawson was asked to check out a tip about the sale of a horse. It led to a massive investigation that exposed a money laundering scheme by the brutal drug cartel, Los Zetas.
Lawson helped determine that the cartel used the lucrative quarter horse racing industry to hide millions of dollars in drug money as it bought, bred and raced its horses. The cartel also fixed races.
The investigation resulted in the June 2012 arrest of Jose Trevino Morales, the brother of cartel leader Miguel Angel Trevino Morales, and the seizure of millions in assets from the Morales’s farm. Ten people, including Jose, were convicted on charges related to the case. Miguel was arrested by Mexican authorities a year later.
The success of the investigation garnered several national news stories and inspired a couple of books. A movie with actor Channing Tatum is also in development.