Louis Anthony Pharao, 75, of Warrenton, Virginia, peacefully passed away surrounded by his children on June 8, 2021, after a courageous battle with cancer.
Mr. Pharao served in the United States Army from 1965 to 1967 as a Technical Sergeant where he earned the Good Conduct Medal and National Defense Service Medal. After being honorably discharged, he began his law enforcement career in 1968 with the New York City Police Department (NYPD). His assignments included the Tactical Patrol Force, Public Morals, and the Narcotics Division. During his time with the NYPD, he worked a joint narcotics case with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), which inspired him to become a federal agent. In 1980, Mr. Pharao entered on duty with DEA in the New York Field Division as a Special Agent. In 1987, Mr. Pharao was assigned to the West Palm Beach Resident Office. In 1988, he was promoted to Group Supervisor and assigned to the Fort Lauderdale District Office where he led the legendary Enforcement Group 22. In 1991, Mr. Pharao served as a Unit Chief for the Office of Training, and in 1995 he was reassigned to serve as an Inspector in the Office of Inspections. In the same year, Mr. Pharao was promoted to the position of Assistant Special Agent in Charge of the Office of Training. In 1998, Mr. Pharao served as the Special Assistant to the Chief of the Office of Domestic Operations and was the Executive Assistant to the Chief of Operations. In 2000, Mr. Pharao was promoted to the Senior Executive Service and held the position of Chief of Operations Management and Special Advisor to the Director, Office of National Drug Control Policy. In 2001, DEA Administrator Asa Hutchinson selected Mr. Pharao to be the first Associate Special Agent in Charge of the Washington Field Division. He retired from DEA in 2002 after 24 years of federal service.
Mr. Pharao loved law enforcement and worked a few high profile cases during his DEA career. One of his cases, known as “The Return of the French Connection” made the cover of Newsweek in 1987. This investigation spanned two continents and resulted in the break-up of the 225 million dollar heroin deal of the decade. In 2001, Mr. Pharao’s work on this case was also featured on the TV series Arrest and Trial where he travelled to Hollywood to reenact his role in the investigation.
After his retirement from DEA, Mr. Pharao became a high school teacher at Paul VI High School in Fairfax, Virginia. He taught U.S. Government, History, and Practical Law. His first love was his Practical Law class where he shared his NYPD and DEA stories with his students and brought real life scenarios to the classroom. He inspired many of his students to pursue careers in criminal justice. Despite his declining health, he continued to teach classes through April of this year. His love for his students and his perseverance to keep fighting was truly extraordinary.
Mr. Pharao was born in the Bronx, New York and was proud of his Italian heritage. He was well- known for cooking delicious Italian feasts for his family and friends. He is a graduate of Cardinal Hayes High School in the Bronx. He earned his undergraduate degree in Criminal Justice from the New York Institute of Technology, a master’s degree in Education from the University of Virginia, and a master’s degree in History from George Mason University.
Mr. Pharao spent 56 years of his life in public service and was an inspiration to everyone he knew. He was known as a man with a big heart and went out of his way to help others. He was highly respected and admired for his professionalism, leadership, fairness, and sense of humor, which made him a role model to others. He was a family man and loved his children and grandchildren unconditionally. He enjoyed traveling the globe with his family and made lasting memories. He leaves behind four beloved children, Anthony (Rosely), Kelleigh (Andrew), Erin (Manny), and Diana (Jonathan), six grandchildren (Julianna, Olivia, Adelyn, Jordan, Dylan, and Aidan), and countless friends, students, and colleagues who loved him.
Funeral services will be private, at his request. A memorial mass/celebration of his life will be scheduled in July 2021. Further details will be shared once they are available.
In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to the University of Kentucky, Markey Cancer Center in Mr. Pharao’s name for prostate cancer research. Donations can be made through one of the following options:
Send a check payable to UK College of Medicine with a note stating for “Prostate Cancer Research Fund in memory of Louis A. Pharao.” Checks should be mailed to: