Married Secret Service Agents Worked Cases and Raised Family in O.C.

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Jim and Mary Davidson. Photo by Sean Teegarden.

On Mary Logue’s first day as a Secret Service agent in 1981, her supervisor showed her a series of graphic autopsy photographs of the last female agent hired in the Los Angeles office. Julie Cross was killed the previous year while she and her partner were investigating a counterfeiting operation near LAX. The supervisor then showed Logue the agents’ car, which was being held for evidence, with blood streaking the upholstery.

The next day, an agent drove Logue to the spot where Cross and her partner were parked staking out a house when two men approached. During a scuffle, one suspect managed to grab the agents’ shotgun that was on the front seat of their sedan and fired twice at Cross. The supervisor pointed out holes in the pavement from the shotgun blasts.

The office was a macho environment with more than 40 male agents and only one other woman—a former sheriff’s deputy. Logue was 22 and had just graduated from college. “This was a test,” she says. “They wanted to see my reaction. They wanted to see if I could handle it. I had a lot of tests in the beginning.”

In addition to protecting the nation’s leaders and foreign dignitaries, the majority of the agents’ work involves investigations, including counterfeiting and financial fraud. Logue’s first assignment was the “check squad,” which investigated stolen or counterfeit government checks. She made five arrests during her first month and was dubbed “Lock-Em-Up-Logue.” The tests soon stopped.

She married another agent, Jim Davidson, and took his last name. When she was assigned to the Santa Ana resident office, the couple moved to Laguna Niguel and later settled in San Juan Capistrano. Mary headed a number of major Orange County investigations, including a counterfeiting case in the late 1990s that stemmed from an arrest in Brea. That arrest resulted in busts in Colombia and the suppression of one-third of all counterfeit currency originating outside the U.S.

Before they started dating, Jim and Mary became accustomed to working together on the counterfeit squad.

“Suspects wouldn’t open the door for me,” Jim says. “They’d be too suspicious.”

“I’d come to the door with a flower delivery,” Mary says. “They’d open the door, and I’d tell them, ‘You need to sign this.’ They’d step outside …”

“And I’d come flying out of the bushes,” Jim interjects, “and cuff ’em.”

The couple raised their children in Orange County, two of whom graduated from JSerra Catholic High School in San Juan Capistrano. The Davidsons were always a hit at career day, and they still chuckle when they see the photo of their son wearing Mary’s bulletproof vest after she visited his first-grade class.

Jim was on the board of directors for the San Juan Capistrano Chamber of Commerce, and he spent 24 years in the Secret Service, where he protected presidents at work and at leisure. He rode horses with Ronald Reagan, skied with Gerald Ford, and jogged with Jimmy Carter. During his many undercover operations, he rode a chopper with the Mexican Mafia to track down a major counterfeiting operation. He also posed as a drug dealer from the South as part of a multi-agency federal task force. “I had to play the part, so I drove a little two-seater Mercedes and went to the tanning salon every morning,” he says, laughing. The investigation resulted in the arrest of 10 major cocaine traffickers who were smuggling dozens of kilos a week—sometimes a day—from Colombia.

After leaving the Secret Service in 1999, Jim obtained his private investigator’s license and specialized in asset recovery. He eventually expanded his scope and founded Davidson Global Security, which provides protection, investigation, and safety and surveillance services. Mary retired from the Secret Service in 2001, and the next year Jim took a leave from his business, sold the house, and the couple and their children spent a year traveling around the world, visiting 36 countries. They wanted to show their children some of the fascinating places they saw while working as agents.

When they returned to Orange County, Mary worked as a contractor for the Secret Service doing security clearance background investigations. She then spent 3½ years as NBC’s vice president of security operations for the West Coast, leaving the position last year. “The responsibilities were enormous and entailed overseeing day-to-day security operations at sites including Universal Studios and theme parks; security for all TV, film, and cable productions worldwide; and West Coast security for all NBC-owned news stations. I should have been two people,” she says. “The work was 24-7, and my phone was never turned off. I was at my office 12 to 15 hours every single day. After a while, I realized that my family was more important than my second career.”

Mary was a science major at the University of Maryland when she saw an intriguing elective course: criminal investigation. At the end of the semester, she was so fascinated she decided to change her major to criminal justice and pursue a career in law enforcement. As graduation approached in 1980, her adviser suggested she apply for a job with the federal government rather than a city police department. He said federal agencies were more open-minded toward women. Mary was considering the FBI, CIA, and Drug Enforcement Administration. When the adviser mentioned Secret Service, she wasn’t interested because she believed they were simply bodyguards. When she learned Secret Service was the law enforcement agency for the Department of the Treasury and agents had extensive investigative duties, she applied.

One of her biggest cases stemmed from when she was working as the duty agent on call in the Santa Ana office and she received a tip from the Brea Police Department. Two men were arrested trying to pass a counterfeit $100 bill at a pizza parlor in the Brea Mall. The men claimed they didn’t know the bill was counterfeit. Mary asked if she could search their vehicle—a BMW owned by the father of one of the men. In the glove compartment, she found a stack of counterfeit bills. Obviously, the men were lying.

“I seized the car and arrested him and his friend,” she says. “He ended up telling me everything. They were college dropouts, had wealthy parents, and heard about the availability of these bills from talk on the street and in bars. They figured the pizza parlor was dark, so it was a good place to pass the bills. They were just looking for a quick buck.”

She tracked down two men who had charged the passers in the BMW $50 for each counterfeit $100. They were brothers from Colombia, and Mary persuaded them to cooperate. They led her to a storage locker in Anaheim and showed her a hanging garment bag that was used when a mule traveled from Bogotá to the U.S. She cut it open and discovered $100,000 in counterfeit bills.   

“When I saw that, we were off to the races. I went to Bogotá with a group of agents and found the distributor. Then it was off to Cali, where the bills were being printed. They’d bleach genuine $1 bills and then print hundreds. I had an informant I would meet at a pew at a Cali church, and he told me when the next shipment was going out. We can’t make arrests outside the U.S., but we had phone taps and surveillance. The next mule with the bills sewn in the garment bag was arrested in Miami.

“It was a massive case, and it all started with one note in a Brea Mall pizza parlor.”

Another Orange County counterfeiting case stemmed from a discovery by a sharp-eyed cafeteria worker at Dana Hills High School. At the end of the day, the worker was counting money from the till when she noticed a crude counterfeit bill. The next day, she was on alert. When a football player attempted to pay for lunch with another phony bill, she shouted, “Hey, this isn’t real.” He attempted to run, but she chased him down and grabbed him. School officials called the Sheriff’s Department, who contacted Mary.

“He was arrested, and I worked with the vice principal to find the printer. He was a student who lived with his grandparents and had a very high-quality laser color printer in his bedroom with a hard lock on the door so they couldn’t get in. I made sure the cafeteria lady got a reward. I thought she was very brave.”

Jim recalls his years as an agent with shining eyes and great relish, laughing at the memories, the busts, the close calls, the foreign travel. But he didn’t start with his sights set there. He was a football star at Oregon State, an offensive lineman and team captain. Signed by the L.A. Rams as a free agent, he played in the preseason, but an injury ended his career. “Big Jim,” as he was known in the Secret Service, was 6-foot-4 and 270 pounds in his playing days. Now he’s a lean 218 but still has the build of an athlete.

Jim was involved in one of the Secret Service’s most complex cases—the investigation of “supernotes,” exceptionally high-quality $100 bills. “My supervisor came up to me one day and said, ‘Buy a ticket to Cyprus and don’t come back until you find the printer.’ ” The Secret Service mistakenly believed the supernote originated in the Middle East, and the agency had a task force based in Cyprus. Jim spent nine months away from home during the investigation, traveling to numerous countries, including Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Egypt, Ireland, and South Korea, in search of the source. “We go from distributor to distributor to distributor, until we get to the printer. We’re always aiming, ultimately, for the printer.”

The Davidsons were living in the Washington, D.C., area at the time and had young children. Mary, who was taking care of the kids and working as an agent, shakes her head and says, “That was one of the worst years.”

The Secret Service team eventually discovered who was manufacturing the supernotes. “It was the North Korean government, although they denied it,” Jim says. “I was in Korea, on the DMZ, interviewing two North Korean defectors. They drew a map to where the supernotes were being printed. The map went right to the government’s Bureau of Printing and Engraving—where they make their currency. I was able to determine the source. That’s my job. After that, all we could do was put pressure on China to put pressure on North Korea. It was in the diplomatic arena at that point.”

Jim is writing a book on the case and still running his firm. He and Mary live in the Palm Springs area. Mary advises a firm that provides security assessment to schools and works as a consultant for an agency that protects celebrities, some of whom are dealing with threats and stalkers. She is still nostalgic about her days as an agent.

“Every day when I came home from the job, I had the feeling that I did something important,” she says. “I may have kept a president alive, or I may have gotten a bad guy off the street who’d been committing identity theft or counterfeiting. I certainly wasn’t doing it for the money. Every day, I felt good because I was doing something for my country. I miss that.”


President Personalities

Mary & Jim visit former President Reagan at his office in Century City in the late 1990s.

 

Jim Davidson protected six U.S. presidents and former presidents, in addition to foreign dignitaries and heads of state during his 24 years with the Secret Service. He talks about their personalities and avoids elaborating on politics. The Secret Service’s unofficial motto is: “You elect ’em. We protect ’em.”

President Jimmy Carter: He was quite distant, Davidson says. He jogged with Carter five days a week for two years and never exchanged a word with him.

President Bill Clinton: The 42nd president enjoyed interacting with the agents and was happy to pose for pictures when Davidson was walking his nephew through the White House one weekend.

President Ronald Reagan: The former governor of California was the friendliest president toward the agents, Davidson says, and was a jokester. In 1981, after Reagan was shot and wounded, Davidson was with him while he was being treated in the emergency room. The doctors were discussing his condition when Reagan, who appeared unconscious and had a tube inserted in his throat, opened his eyes and motioned to an aide that he needed a pen and paper. He wrote a note that Davidson handed to Reagan’s chief of staff, who gave it to a doctor. The note read: “What do you mean this is it? I feel fine.” When Nancy Reagan arrived, Reagan quipped, “All those Westerns and I forgot to duck.”

When Reagan traveled to Tokyo, jittery Secret Service agents were having a security meeting at the hotel command post. Reagan stopped by the meeting and, hoping to reassure the agents, told them: “If the motorcade needs to be changed, change it. If there’s a site that has bad intelligence, drop it. Whatever I can do to make the security better, I’ll do it. I totally support whatever you need to do.” He then turned around and walked out the door. Pinned to the back of his jacket was a bull’s-eye.

When Davidson entered the Oval Office and told Reagan he was being transferred from Washington, D.C., Reagan asked him where he was going. “I told him California. He got up from behind his desk, put his arm around me, and said, ‘Take me with you.’ ”

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