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Most people who leave the U.S. attorney’s office step into lucrative private practice as criminal defense lawyers. But the big-firm life isn’t exciting enough for the latest refugee, veteran federal organized-crime prosecutor Steven Gruel, who intends to give notice today. Gruel plans to start his own practice focusing on criminal defense, plaintiff work and immigration cases. But he’s also going to wear a second hat — presumably a fedora with matching trench coat — as head of his own private investigation business. His private-eye firm will be called Blue Colt Investigations. The name comes from his favorite childhood sports team, the Baltimore Colts, and the color of their jerseys. “I think that aspect of the work, being a gumshoe, is intriguing as hell,” said Gruel, adding that he looks forward to the “reward and thrill of putting together pieces of the puzzle.” He said there’s no financial incentive to doing private investigation in addition to the legal work. He simply wants to do both. Gruel has worked for the Department of Justice since 1986, when he was hired to handle cases for the Immigration and Naturalization Service. He began doing criminal immigration prosecutions for the Northern District U.S. attorney’s office in 1989. That job turned into a full-time gig as an assistant, and he joined the Organized Crime Strike Force in 1991. He served as chief of that unit from 2002 to 2004. Gruel handled 35 trials and a series of high-profile cases over the years, including the prosecution of organized smugglers of illegal Chinese immigrants and the recent prosecution of the Nuestra Familia prison gang. The gang prosecution, code-named “Operation Black Widow,” was Gruel’s last big case as a prosecutor. The matter appeared headed for trial but the last eight defendants pleaded out in September. Gruel said he wants to offer representation in both criminal and immigration matters, which normally have to be handled by two separate attorneys. His law practice and PI firm will be headquartered on Montgomery Street, though he plans to keep their operations separate. His last day as a prosecutor is scheduled to be Dec. 31.

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