College of Law

Matthew Zito '05

from the prosecutor's office to the fbi

May 2, 2022

Matt Zito

Matthew Zito '05 is a Supervisory Special Agent for the Federal Bureau of Investigation who lives in Seattle, Washington. He oversees a team of FBI agents and federally deputized detectives from local police departments, along with intelligence analysts and other support staff. Matt's team is responsible for investigating violent crime, gang and drug trafficking organizations.

Matt grew up on the east side of Cleveland in Eastlake, Ohio. He attended Miami University and studied Political Science, with a minor in Criminology. During an internship with the Oxford Police Department between his junior and senior year, Matt met a Lieutenant who had just returned from the FBI's National Academy and remembers thinking his job was pretty cool. After graduating from Miami, Matt came to The University of Toledo for law school. He found law school to be a big lifestyle adjustment from his undergraduate experience. He also found law school to be challenging. Matt made several close friends and enjoyed getting to know his classmates through his role as Student Bar Association president. He took advantage of opportunities to get experience while in law school and had several jobs/internships that he credits with shaping his legal career.

After Matt passed the Ohio bar exam he began working at the Franklin County Prosecutor's Office in Columbus, Ohio in 2006. Chris Clark, the SBA President prior to Matt's term, was already a prosecutor there and helped get Matt the interview. While at the Prosecutor's Office he worked in the juvenile division, Grand Jury unit and criminal trial staff. After some time, he took a shot at applying for the FBI. Matt was selected for the FBI Academy and graduated from the Academy in early November 2012.

When he arrived at the Las Vegas field office, Matt was assigned to a white-collar crime squad and began working on fraud cases. Later, he moved to Los Angeles and worked in the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) Strike Force where he worked on wire investigations, targeting Mexican drug traffickers. Now he is supervising the Violent Crime squad in Seattle.

Matt obtained his B.A. from Miami University in Political Science (1998-2002) and a J.D. from the University of Toledo College of Law in 2005.

Q&A with Matt Zito

Do you have a favorite law school memory?
I made some lifelong friends while I was there, including Chris Marriott and Lindsay Navarre (they are now married and live in Toledo), and served as the Student Bar Association President which helped me get to know my classmates. I also became good friends with the previous SBA President, Chris Clark, who would later help me get my first real job as a lawyer.

How did Toledo Law help prepare you for your career?
I took advantage of opportunities to get experience while in law school: Reinberger Prosecutor's Clinic at the Lake County Prosecutor's Office near my hometown of Eastlake, Ohio; Monroe County, Michigan Prosecutor's Office (Prosecutor's clinic); Lucas County Public Defender's Office (legal intern at Maumee, Sylvania, and Oregon courts); and clerking with McManus & McManus, Toledo-area criminal defense attorneys.

What was your first job following law school?
After passing the bar exam in 2005, I was hired by the Franklin County Prosecutor's Office in Columbus, Ohio in 2006. Chris Clark (the SBA president who preceded me) was already a prosecutor there and he helped me get an interview. After being hired, I started in the juvenile division prosecuting all types of juvenile delinquency cases. After about two years, I moved into the Grand Jury unit, where I exclusively reviewed police investigations and presented cases to grand juries to obtain indictments. I then moved up to the criminal trial staff, where I did jury trials and worked on all types of felony cases, from low-level drug possession to aggravated murder. One case highlight for me was during a jury trial for aggravated murder. As a young prosecutor, I had many opportunities to work closely with the most seasoned trial attorneys in our office. I will always be appreciative of the senior attorneys I worked with for how willing they were to mentor me. I was invited to work on an aggravated murder trial with a well-respected senior trial attorney. When the case went to jury trial, I was offered the opportunity to cross-examine the defendant when he decided to testify. He was later convicted, and I remember feeling like I really was getting everything I wanted from being a lawyer.

What are some career decisions/pivot points that led you to where you are now?
After four years at the Franklin County Prosecutor's Office, I decided to try applying to the FBI. It was a hard decision, because I loved being a prosecutor, had great co-workers and a good network of friends in Columbus. However, I felt that if I spent much longer at the FCPO, I would become too invested to ever consider leaving. It seemed like if I was ever going to make a move to leave it was then or never. So, I applied online to the FBI and was surprised when they called me in for an initial interview. The applicant coordinator met with me and explained the lengthy application process and talked a little bit about what life was really like in the FBI. She warned me to be prepared that I could be sent anywhere. There were no guarantees about what kind of work I would get to do. If I was offered an Academy spot, I would go for five months and if I failed a test, I would be sent home with no job. It was intimidating but exciting, and I stayed with it. Over the next two years, I underwent written testing, interviews, fitness exams, a polygraph, and medical exams as part of the application process. The process was longer than usual because there was a hiring freeze for a period of time. Finally, in April 2012 I was notified that I was selected for the June FBI Academy class. I thanked my bosses and co-workers at the FCPO for six great years and an incredible experience as a young attorney. I moved all of my things into a storage unit and drove to the Quantico military base in Virginia, where the FBI Academy is located.

What has your path in the FBI looked like?
Upon being accepted to the FBI Academy, I spent the next five months learning the basics of FBI operations. I lived in a small dorm room I shared with another new agent trainee who I met on the first day. During the first week, I passed the first of three physical fitness exams. We had classroom instruction in all areas of investigations conducted by the FBI, including criminal investigations, counterterrorism, cyber, and counterintelligence. We had classes on defensive tactics where we learned self-defense, arrest techniques, and how to use less-than-lethal tools like pepper spray and ASP batons. We had four-hour blocks of firearms instruction several days per week, trained in tactical vehicle operations and ran practical training scenarios. Overall, the Academy was an interesting experience. I learned so much in such a short period of time, but it was a lot like drinking from a firehose. Every day there was a test of some kind, and it became exhausting. After five months, I was ready to graduate.

I graduated from the FBI Academy in early November 2012. I drove from Quantico to Columbus, picked up some things, and drove from there to Las Vegas. While in Vegas I was assigned to a white-collar crime squad and began working on fraud cases. After that, I moved to focus on transnational organized crime and focused on Mexican and South American organized crime. I was also selected for the SWAT team. After four years in Las Vegas, the FBI offered me the option to transfer to one of the FBI's top 15 largest field offices. Due to better employment opportunities for my now-wife, I transferred to the Los Angeles field office and was assigned to the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) Strike Force. There, I worked wire investigations targeting Mexican drug traffickers. It was in L.A. that I married my wife and a year later had a baby boy.

How did you make your way to Seattle?
After three years in L.A., my wife was offered a very good job in Seattle, and I asked the FBI to transfer me. Discretionary transfers are not easy to get, so we were very grateful when my request was approved.


DISCLAIMER: Please note that the above views are personal and do not represent those of the FBI.

Last Updated: 6/27/22