Emilio Kosterlitzky was one of the most colorful characters to ever serve as a special agent.
A cultured, Russian-born man of the world, he spent four decades in the Russian and Mexican militaries, rising to the rank of brigadier general in Mexico.
To avoid the dangerous tribulations of the ongoing Mexican Revolution, he settled down in Los Angeles in 1914.
In 1917, the same year as the Bolshevik revolution in his native land, he joined the FBI. He was 63.
Kosterlitzky was appointed a “special employee,” like today’s investigative assistant but with more authority. And with his deep military experience and international flair (including strong connections throughout Mexico and the Southwest U.S. and the ability to speak, read, and write more than eight languages) he excelled at it. His work included not only translations but also undercover work.
On May 1, 1922, Kosterlitzky was appointed a Bureau special agent at a salary of six dollars a day. Because of his unique qualifications he was assigned to work border cases and to conduct liaison with various Mexican informants and officials. By all accounts, he showed exceptional diplomacy and skill.
In 1926, Kosterlitzky was ordered to report to the Bureau’s office in Phoenix but could not comply because of a serious heart condition. He resigned on September 4, 1926. Less than two years later this grand old gentleman died and was buried in Los Angeles.