The office he holds is a stepping stone to political office and his former boss, Loretta Lynch, is the US attorney general. But at 40, Winston Paes who has a long career ahead of him, and is yet to decide the future.
Currently, the Goa-born lawyer, is heading the economic offences cell at the US Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York. Paes is very much a Goan boy with his parents, Winston hailing from Assolna and mother Bernadette from Nuvem. He did his early schooling in Don Bosco High School, Panjim, where his parents taught. His father was especially well-known being the school football coach besides teaching French and Maths. His mother taught the primary section. The family moved to the US after the sudden death of the father in 1983. Recently appointed to the office, Paes has already been featured by the US media that has not failed to mention another Indian-American Preet Bharara, the US attorney for the Southern District of New York, in the same report. In an email interview with Herald, Paes talks of his work, family and the future.
Herald: What does it entail being head of the business and securities fraud section in the New York US Attorney’s Office?
Winston Paes: The US Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York is one of the largest US Attorney’s Offices in the United States and handles some of the country’s most high-profile cases in terrorism, white-collar crime, public corruption, organized crime and international narcotics.
Herald: Does your jurisdiction extend over a city or a state?
Paes: My jurisdiction is a neither city nor state, but a federal district. The federal district, Eastern District of New York, comprises three of the five counties of New York City – Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island – and the counties of Nassau and Suffolk, the eastern suburbs of New York City. The federal system is considered more prestigious than the state or city system and the cases we handle on the federal level are more complex and high profile.
Herald: What kind of cases would you be dealing with?
Paes: As chief of the Office’s Business and Securities Fraud Section, I handle and supervise a section of 18 attorneys who work on white-collar cases like investment advisor fraud, corporate executive fraud, insider trading, commercial bribery, healthcare fraud, etc.
Herald: As a prosecutor you haven’t lost a case in more than six years. Will this position give you a better opportunity to further your career?
Paes: Yes, this is a very coveted position in the New York area, especially since New York is the financial capital of the US. As a result, it makes me very marketable if I want to go back to the private sector and can also be a good step for those wanting to advance careers in government or politics.
Herald: Your former boss Loretta Lynch is currently the US Attorney General. How was it working with Lynch?
Paes: Loretta Lynch was a terrific boss and someone I deeply respect and admire. We are incredibly proud of her accomplishments and her appointment as Attorney General.
Herald: Coming to your days in Goa, you lost your father when you were still young. This must have affected you and the family intensely. What memories of your father do you carry?
Paes: I was very close to my father and adored him, so his death was devastating to me, as it was to my mother and brothers. I was eight years old when he died. While I don't have a lot of memories of him, the few that I have are strong and vivid. I remember serious conversations he had with me about life and values, and also remember fun events like going to football matches with him and driving with him on his scooter to Assolna.
Herald: You were a teenager when the family moved to the US. How did the relocation work for you?
Paes: I was 18 when I moved to the US, which is a difficult time to make such a big transition. However, I was blessed to have a very supportive family. My uncles (mother’s brothers) and cousins, who lived in the US at that time, were particularly helpful in the relocation. In fact, we moved to the US because my mother’s brother, Joseph Fernandes, sponsored our move to the US after my dad died in 1983. We got our green cards in 1993. In addition, it helped that New York City is such a diverse, accepting and vibrant city.
Herald: How do you see your career grow from here? Are there any plans to enter into politics?
Paes: It’s hard to predict what happens next. It’s very likely that my next stop is at a large NY law firm for at least a few years and then I could return to government depending on the opportunities. I have no plans to enter into politics at this time, but I would be honored to return to the Department of Justice at some point.